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!

holiday Gift Guide - leslie Sbrocco

Holiday Gift Guide 2018

It’s the heart of the holiday season and if you’re still looking for gifts or bottles to pour at parties to ring in 2019, here are some of my favorites from a year of tasting and traveling.

Cheers!

 

Affordable Party Wines

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2016 Bodegas San Valero ‘Particular’ Cariñena, Spain $10

Not only is Cariñena one of Spain’s best value wine regions, it’s also the name of a grape variety. This spicy red is ideal for pairing with just about any food. Buy it by the case.

Pizzolato Fields Prosecco DOC, Treviso, Italy $10

Made with organically-grown Glera grapes, this is a bargain for bubbly drinkers.

2016 Cashmere Red Wine, California $15

From Sonoma’s Cline family comes a crowd-pleasing blend of red Rhone varieties. With a splash of holiday color, the packaging is stylish for gift-giving, too.

 

Splurge-Worthy Bubbly

 

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Palmer & Co Brut Reserve Champagne, France $60

If you love sparkling wine as much as I do, Palmer is a worthy discovery. Its class and complexity are apparent in every sip of this glorious Champagne.

Domaine Carneros ‘Jardin d’Hiver’ Ultra Brut, Carneros, California $59

The New World outpost of Champagne superstar, Taittinger, Domaine Carneros crafts bubbles that rank among the best in the world. This limited-edition sparkling is a treat for any time of the year.

 

Impress for Less than $25

 

 

J California Cuvée, California $25

A beautiful bubbly to span the seasons, the J is crisp and juicy. Ideal by itself to indulge before dinner, it’s layered and structured enough to pour throughout a meal.

2017 Susana Balbo ‘Brioso’, Valle de Uco-Mendoza, Argentina $24

Lush and full with a kiss of oak, this blend of Semillón, Torrontés and Sauvignon Blanc is a statuesque white that is imposing yet alluring.

2010 LAN Gran Reserva, Rioja, Spain $24

There is no better value in the red wine world than Gran Reserva Rioja. With years of aging, this smooth red is worth twice the price.

 

Diamonds of Napa Valley

 

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2015 Lyndenhurst Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California $85

This vibrantly supple wine offers chance to see why Spottswoode is one of Napa Valley’s classic stars and one of its iconic wine producers.

2016 Shafer Vineyards TD-9, Napa Valley, California $60

In an ode to the history of the famed winery, this lush blend is named for the TD-9 tractor John Shafer used when he started the iconic property in the 1970s. If you really want to splurge pick up a bottle of their Hillside Select ($295). It’s is one of my choices ‘Best Cabernet Sauvignon in the World’ status.

Listen to my podcast with Doug Shafer to find out more about their history (and mine).

2015 Groth’Reserve’ Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California $150

If I scored wine, this one would deserve a perfect 100 points. It has everything a world-class Cabernet should have – structure, dark-fruited intensity, cellar worthiness, and impeccable balance. Love.

Special Spirits

Pierre Ferrand ‘Ambré’ Premier Cru Cognac, France $80

As one of Cognac’s most celebrated producers, this silky, medium-bodied, aromatic version from Pierre Ferrand is an ideal way to begin exploring the beauty of Cognac.

Suntory Hibiki Whisky, Limited-Edition Bottle, Japan $115 

In my opinion, Hibiki is the pinnacle of Japanese whisky with its elegance and style. This stunning Limited-Edition bottle is a piece of art. Drink the whisky then save the bottle.

El Tesoro Añejo Tequila, Mexico $55 

I just returned from a visit to El Tesoro. What an amazing spot to see. Using traditional methods to craft tequila from the Jalisco Highlands, this creamy, vanilla-scented spirit with a touch of herbal freshness is aged in bourbon barrels for up to three years. Indulge yourself…you’re worth it.

Gift Sets

 

Have you ever tried wines from Virginia? You should. A historic wine region with a modern twist, it’s an emerging hot spot with wines that are garnering attention. One of the producers to look for is Early Mountain in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It’s a winery to watch.

2016 Early Mountain Vineyards, ‘Foothills’ blend, Virginia $27 

A supple red blend led by Merlot and Petit Verdot with a mélange of other varieties including the white grape, Petit Manseng. Delicious.

2017 Early Mountain Vineyards, Rosé, Virginia $25 

As a pink wine fan, I’m always on the hunt for swoon-worthy versions and found one in this delectable sipper. It’s like a ray of sunshine – drinking a glass just puts a smile on your face.

*****

“Eat Chocolate, Drink Wine”, Cliff Family Winery $75

This delectable bundle includes a bottle of the 2016 Gary’s Improv Zinfandel, as well as three tins of Cliff Family dark chocolate goodies. Let me tell you…the chocolate-covered Toffee Pistachios are fabulous (and I’m pretty sure they’re very good for you).

*****

The category of Cider is growing. The best versions are succulent, racy and complex. Eden Specialty Ciders from Vermont is creating excitement with their wide range of sips. Working with heritage apple varieties, their high-quality ciders even include a Rosé style. Sign me up.

Eden Heirloom Blend Ice Cider $25

Eden’s Heirloom Ice Cider takes up to three years to produce and you can taste the care that goes into this decadently delicious drink.

Eden Dry Sparkling Heritage Cider, Extra Sec $15

As a lover of all things bubbly, this sparkling Cider won my heart. It’s tangy and dry with a juicy kick. A wonderful way to begin your Cider journey.

 

Stocking Stuffers and More!

 

 

Traveling Vineyards ‘Three Hearts’ Rosé, Pays d’Oc, France $19

The result of my partnership with Traveling Vineyard is a dry pink wine named for the special relationship I share with my mom and daughter. Who are your three hearts? Share a bottle with them this season!

Repour Winesaver $9 

This wine preserver is easy to use and effective. It’s a must-have for any wine drinker.

Wine Nots $10

Who wants wine stains on their teeth? You don’t need to worry about that with stocking-stuffer worthy Wine Nots.

Marin Cheese Company, Baked Brie en Croute $15

When I tasted this creamy round of deliciousness, I was ready to eat the whole thing myself! You will too.

 

Boozy Books

Last but not least, if you want to read about wine as WELL as drink it, try these two awesome reads.

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Get Your Boo-ze On with these Halloween Wine Picks

It’s Halloween so let’s get our BOO-ze on!!

 

D.I.P – 2014 Drink in Peace Merlot – Flora Springs, Napa Valley $130

Flora Springs is known for their spectacular Halloween-themed wines and this year’s Drink in Peace does not disappoint. Housed in a spooky casket, this darkly saturated, plum-colored Merlot from Rutherford offers a black currant and raspberry-scented nose and a palate dominated by rich black cherry fruit, spicy oak, toasty vanilla and cedary smoke.  This is a full-bodied, seamlessly styled Merlot that will drink well for the next 10-15 years.

 

2016 Ghost Winery Malbec, Flora Springs, Napa Valley $60

 Flora Springs has the distinction of being home to one of Napa Valley’s original “ghost wineries” – wineries built between 1860 and 1900 but abandoned in the early 20th century due to the triple threat of the vine disease phylloxera, the Great Depression, and of course Prohibition.

This Malbec offers a cauldron of forward black cherry, blackberry and blueberry along with spellbinding notes of leather, coffee and tobacco. A trickster’s treat for Halloween!

 

2015 LVE Red – Legend Vineyard Exclusive, Napa Valley $50

The LVE Red Blend has rich aromas of Santa Rosa plum, Bing cherry and a hint of pepper. The harmonious blend of weighty tannins with the a fruity suppleness creates a complete wine with length and persistence on the palate. Notes of cocoa nibs and coffee accent the finish on this dark and mysterious Halloween pick.

 

 

2015 Rabble Red Wine, Rabble Wine Company, Paso Robles $16

 “We cannot command nature except by obeying her.” This red blend is a blend of carefully sourced grapes from the wine region of Paso Robles, CA and is truly a terrifying tempest.

 

2017 Casillero del Diablo – Red Blend – Concha Y Toro, Chile $10

 Concha y Toro presents another date with the devil for Halloween this year, with their 2017 Red Blend. This wine has a velvety smooth and balanced texture, highlighting mild tannins with hints of toast and spice, followed by a satisfying finish.

 

2013 Alba de Domus, Miapo Valley, Chile $20

This Chilean blend offers chocolate and orange zest, underscored with leather and balsamic hints to create a spookily delicious finish.

 

Brut Sparkling Wine, Dark Horse, CA $13

 It’s not a Halloween party with a bottle of bubbles. These are deliciously dry with citrus undertones, yet are housed in a dark and mysterious bottle. A perfect toast on a dark and stormy Halloween night.

 

2017 9 Lives Reserve Sauvignon Blanc , San Pedro, Chile $10

 El Gato Negro -the black cat- has prowled the vineyards of Viña San Pedro for years. In homage, the winemakers toasted the mysterious feline with their 9 Lives Reserve Blend, a bright and citrusy Sauvignon Blanc that is frighteningly well-balanced.

 

2017 Pinot Grigio, Ecco Domani, Italy $10 

Dressed up for Halloween in robber’s stripes, Alice + Olivia have designed the signature spooky look for the 2017 Pinot Grigio bottle. The exotic fruit notes and lush tropical nature of the wine make this wine an absolute crime if you miss it.

 

2017 Pam’s Un-Oaked Chardonnay, Ron Rubin Winery, CA

 Another bottle dressed up for Halloween hides away inside a refreshingly fruity and light-bodied chardonnay, with a beautifully transparent, pale yellow color. It has showy fruit aromas of Asian pear and Golden Delicious apple; and, ripe citrus, like key lime and tangerine. Grab a bottle!

 

Never tricks and always treats, my wine picks will have you celebrating a truly spooky Halloween night!

 

The Today Show – Save or Splurge: 8 great red, white, rosé and sparkling wines for any budget

Whether you want to splurge on a beautiful bottle of vino to celebrate the waning days of summer or save your cash for back-to-school supplies, these wines offer options for all. These red, white, sparkling and rosé selections are perfect for any occasion, no matter how upscale or laid-back. check out my video from my appearance last week on the Today Show and then read the tasting notes on the wines below!

 

 

 

Sparkling

In a perfect world, I would have a bottle of sparkling wine every night. With Prosecco, that is possible. It’s not only one of the top places to snag affordable bubbly; the northern Italian region is home to world-class sparkling worthy of hefty price tags.

2017 Bisol ‘Cartizze’ Prosecco, Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze DOCG, Italy, $45, Bisol

Bisol is history in a glass. A producer with more than a 500-year history, they know how to craft sparkling wine. Prosecco is made with a grape named Glera and most of it is easy-drinking and enjoyable bubbly. Some, however, carrying the Superiore DOCG designation are worthy of sitting with the best in the world. This wine is made with grapes grown on the coveted hill of Cartizze and is a classy and classic sparkler.

Riondo ‘Spago Nero’ Extra Dry Prosecco DOC, Italy, $15, Riondo

One of Italy’s top-selling Proseccos has made it to America. I have to say, I have tasted a slew of affordable Prosecco, and it ranks as one of my favorites. Light and lively with a whisper of sweetness, it’s a wine to have on hand for everyday (and every night) drinking. I highly recommend buying it by the case.

Rosé

France is known as the premier producer of dry pink wines, but these two bottles show top-notch roses are made all over the globe.

2017 Gran Moraine Rosé of Pinot Noir, Yamhill-Carlton, Oregon, $28, Gran Moraine

Oregon’s Willamette Valley — and the Yamhill-Carlton area within it — is home to world-class Pinot Noir. This expressive pink captures an ethereal lightness and delicate floral spiciness that could only come from Pinot Noir. Gran Moraine refers to the landscape carved by devastating floods that took place in the region during the last Ice Age. In its wake was left a place that would ultimately be ideal for growing grapes. After I tasted Gran Moraine’s roster of wines, I knew this one was special.

2017 Planeta Rosé, Sicila DOC, $15, Planeta

Sicily is magical. Ancient, modern, rugged and chic are all words I use to describe this remarkable island. Wines from Sicily can be thought of in the same way. They are a juxtaposition of light and dark, savory and sweet, spicy and fruity. The famous red grape hailing from Sicily is Nero d’Avola, which produces hearty reds. But in this dry, dark-cherry scented pink, Nero d’Avola’s lighter side shines through. Paired with Syrah, it becomes a zesty, mouth-watering rosé that makes summer come alive, Sicilian-style.

Red

These two wines go head-to-head for a battle of the best barbecue reds from Golden State. One is a coveted favorite and the other from a favored and famed California family.

2016 The Prisoner red blend, Napa Valley, California, $45, The Prisoner Wine Company

With a unique label inspired by the Spanish artist Goya, this big, bold red ranks among cult favorites of California. Blending grapes from Cabernet Sauvignon to Charbono and Zinfandel to Petite Sirah, this is a fruit-driven powerhouse ideal with spicy and sweet barbecue ribs. Their newly built tasting room, The Tasting Lounge and The Makery, is sure to become a Napa destination.

2016 J. Lohr Estates ‘Los Osos’ Merlot, Paso Robles, California, $15, J. Lohr

With more than five decades of grape growing on the Central Coast and wine-making from Napa Valley to Paso Robles, the Lohr family is iconic in California. They boast a wide portfolio of wines from pricey to value-driven. This structured yet plush Merlot captures their expertise in making affordable wines taste like they cost twice the price. Delicious alongside sizzling steak, it’s a steal worth stocking up on for summer (and fall) sipping.

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White

Chardonnay is America’s favorite white wine — and for good reason! It can be made in many styles and places worldwide. These two picks highlight high quality whether it’s a splurge or steal.

2016 Jordan Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, California, $33, Jordan Winery

Jordan is a California showpiece. With its tastefully stylish, vine-covered winery and extensive estate vineyards, the property evokes the feel of a French chateau. Known for Cabernet Sauvignon, they also craft age-worthy Chardonnay. Their elegant bottling reminds me of how California whites can successfully be French-inspired while maintaining their New World roots. This Chardonnay is crisp yet smooth with a kiss of spicy oak. A balanced beauty.

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2016 Caves de Lugny, ‘Les Charmes’ Chardonnay, Macon-Villages, France, $15, Caves de Lugny

When Chardonnay lovers crave a succulent, citrus-scented, wine-sporting freshness and complexity, I direct them to the wines of Caves de Lugny. Hailing from southern Burgundy in the Maconnais, the Caves de Lugny is a cooperative of more than 100 growers with a focus on quality. For the price, this wine simply cannot be beat. I consider “Les Charmes” the best-value Chardonnay on the market. Period.