Summer Sipping with Hoda Kotb and The Today Show

You know I always love a trip to NYC and the Today Show to hang with my ladies, Kathie Lee and Hoda Kotb. This time, I was with my old partner in crime, Ray Isle from Food and Wine, and we showcased our favorite summertime wines. From sparkling wine in a can and day drinking whites to sultry summer night reds and even wine in a box, we have something for everyone when the temperatures soar.

 

Day Drinking

Ray’s pick: Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay, Livermore Valley, California, $18, Wente Vineyards

This peachy, full-bodied Chardonnay from America’s oldest, continuously operated family-owned winery (founded in 1883) stays crisp thanks to the cool growing season in California’s Livermore Valley.

 

Leslie’s pick: 2017 Mar de Frades ‘Albarino Atlantico’, Rias Baixas, Spain, $20, Mar de Frades

This is one of my top summer whites because it’s the epitome of refreshing. Made with northwestern Spain’s famed Albariño grape variety and features floral aromas and a crisp citrusy flavor. An alluring ocean-blue bottle makes it as attractive to look at, as it is delicious to drink. Pair it with fresh fish to capture the feel of being alongside the water.

 

Night Sipper

Ray’s pick: Cosentino ‘The Dark’ red blend, Lodi, California, $20, Cosentino Winery

A rich red from Lodi, this peppery, plummy blend of Petite Sarah, Petit Verdot and Cabernet is dark (appropriate, given the name) and luscious, ideal for a date-night dinner.

 

Leslie’s pick: 2015 Shooting Star Zinfandel, Lake County, California, $14, Steele Wines

Winemaker Jed Steele has been crafting top Golden State wines for nearly 50 years and his experience shows in this affordable yet complex red. Hearty and full-bodied with a spicy kick, it’s the wine to ease into night when served alongside grilled meats and rich pasta dishes.

Beach Refresher

Ray’s pick: Ah-So Rosé, Spain, $19 for 4 cans, Ah-So Wines

Spain’s Navarra region produces the Garnacha grapes for this vibrant, refreshing rosé. Chill down a few four-packs of these cheeky pink cans for your next beach party — or for anywhere that glass bottles aren’t welcome.

Leslie’s pick: House Wine Brut Bubbles, American wine, $6 per can, House Wine

How often do you take bubbles to the beach? Now you can with House Wines sparkling in a can. Easy to quaff with juicy flavors that are crafted in a dry-style, this fizz is pure fun.

BBQ Pairing

Ray’s pick: Beso de Sol Sangria, Spain, $20 for a 3-liter box, Beso Del Sol Sangria

Sangria in the summer is one of Spain’s great contributions to the world! Made from Tempranillo together with the flavors of Spanish oranges, lemons and a touch of cinnamon, this juicy, all-natural sangria — delicious over ice — is also low in alcohol than regular wine (about 8.5 percent) and in calories, too (only 74 per serving).

Leslie’s pick: Bota Box Dry Rosé, California $25 for a 3-liter box, Bota Box

M. J. Wickham

This is the first boxed wine that I’ve truly fallen in love with sipping. Usually, I drink wines-in-box for the convenience, but this wine is simply succulent. Dry yet fruity with pink grapefruit and strawberry notes, it’s a wine to pair with everything … or nothing at all. The 3-liter box size stays fresh for up to a month and containing the equivalent of four bottles per box, it’s a value at around $6 per bottle. You’ll want a box in your refrigerator the whole summer long.

Aspen Food and Wine: Portugal’s Perfect Pours

Even if you can’t be with me for my Aspen Food and Wine Classic Class, check out a list of the beautiful Portuguese wines that I poured!

*****

 

 

NV Luis Pato Rosé Baga Bruto, Bairrada, Portugal ($20)

 

2017 Soalheiro Alvarino, Melgaço, Monção, Portugal ($13)

 

 

2014 Esporão Reserva Red, DOC Alentejo, Portugal ($25)

 

2014 Prats & Symington Chryseia, Duoro, Portugal ($74) 

 

 

 

2010 JM da Fonseca Alambre Moscatel, Setúbal Peninsula DOC ($22) 

 

 

Graham’s Quinta dos Malvedos 2004 Vintage Port ($62) 

 

A Match Made in Heaven: Chocolate & Wine

There are times when my job just seems so, so hard.

Like that time I had to visually admire and then subsequently taste through an exquisite box of chocolates, then pair them with some even more exquisite wine.

But I do it, just for you, and for the class I’m teaching at the Aspen Food and Wine Classic this weekend.

You’re welcome.

*****

It’s easy to feel spoiled when you start off with beautiful chocolates. Each of these chocolates from Delysia Chocolatiers was a work of art and almost too beautiful to eat.

Almost.

You may notice a missing chocolate in the corner… whoops.

 

The Pairings

Wine:

2009 Rotari “Flavio” Riserva, Trentodoc, Italy ($50)

Chocolate:

White peach balsamic chocolate truffle : White chocolate infused with sage, white peach balsamic vinegar, and bits of dried Texas peaches.

Gianduja:  Rare Italian confection. Layers of white, milk, and dark chocolate blended with hazelnut and almond marzipan.

*****

 

Wine:

2016 Patz & Hall Zio Tony, Green Valley, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County ($70) 

Chocolate:

Lemon cream chocolate truffle: Bittersweet  chocolate enrobed around a lemon cream white chocolate center infused with orange zest and candied ginger.

*****

Wine:

2017 Mt. Beautiful Rosé, North Canterbury, New Zealand ($16)

Chocolate:

Candied butterscotch chocolate truffle: White chocolate blended with butterscotch, then studded with bits of candied ginger, hazelnuts, and orange in a dark chocolate shell.

*****

Wine:

2015 Stemmari ‘Hedonis’ Riserva, Sicilia DOC, Italy ($40) 

Chocolate:

Raspberry hibiscus rose chocolate truffle: Milk chocolate infused with rosehips, hibiscus, and raspberries, infused with a piece of hibiscus petal in its center.

*****

Wine:

2014 Chateau de Pibarnon Bandol, Provence, France ($35)

Chocolate:

Pecan cayenne dark chocolate bark: Dark chocolate blended with Texas grown pecans and spicy cayenne peppers.

*****

Wine:

2015 Quinta do Vale Meão Porto, Douro, Portugal ($100)

Chocolate:

Spiced wine berries chocolate truffle: Featuring the Vintage Porto used for this pairing, bittersweet chocolate spiked with Quinta do Vale Meao Vintage Porto, spices of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, and bits dried blueberries, cherries, and cranberries.

Coffee dark chocolate bark: Bittersweet chocolate blended with coarsely ground arabica coffee.

Sipping Smarts 2018 – Classic Sips and Creative Bites – Wine Tasting Class

In case you missed it, March 24th was a fun day of wine tasting. My class – Classic Sips and Creative Bites was the largest class we’ve ever had and thanks to the impressive crew at Sessions at the Presidio, it was another ROUSING success. The wines flowed like water, Chef Bilger prepared sumptuous nibbles for us to enjoy and Jordan Spaulding, Sessions’ Cicerone, proved to us that beer is as complex as any glass of wine.

sessions presidio leslie sbrocco wine tasting beer bubbles

We tasted wines from around the globe and as usual I was changing the wine list up until the very last minute… there’s just so much to taste. We started with a variety of bubbles, matched with my favorite pairing, popcorn. Nothing complements a beautiful glass of sparkling wine better than the salty bite of popcorn, especially since Chef Bilger created three types of popcorn that were to die for. A Francophile, with thyme butter and truffle salt, the Iberian, with olive oil, lemon zest and pimenton and the Mumbai with madras curry and ghee.

I selected five different bubbles, but two favorites included the affordable, crisp and elegant Gratien & Meyer, Brut Rosé, Cremant de Loire, France ($15) and the crowd-pleasing Mionetto Brut Prosecco, Treviso DOC, Italy (in magnum $30). Our other super-star sparklers were the elegant J Rosé , Sonoma County, California $45 and the surprising New Mexico bubbly from French wine producer Gruet $17.

The beer chosen by Jordan, the Magnolia – Aliciella – Botanical ESB, was an herbaceous contrast that paired amazingly with all of the snacks, but especially with the spices in the Mumbai Popcorn.

 

 

Our first pairing after we got everyone to sit down and I finished telling everyone about my broken ribs… a long but funny story, just ask me some day… we paired a decadent pork belly with a 2016 Bodegas Ramon Bilbao Rosado, Rioja Spain  ($18 – 20) and the 2014 The Calling Chardonnay, Sullivan Vineyard, Dutton Ranch, Sonoma ($44 – 46) as well as Jordan’s pick, the Ninkasi – Dawn of the Red – Red IPA

These tastings paired beautifully with the richness of the pork and the citrusy tang of the kumquats.

Our next course we experimented with a farmhouse cheese plate and another rosé, the 2016 Benovia Rosé of Pinot Noir, Russian River, Sonoma ($22 – 24). We also had the privilege of tasting the 2014 Goldeneye Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley, Napa ($84 – 86) and the Modern Times – Lomaland – Farmhouse Saison.

They complemented and contrasted with the freshness of certain cheeses and the strong flavors of the others.

 

 

Steak tartare was to follow, paired with delicious wines, and another rosé! I was on quite the pink kick, and showcasing the different varietals that rosé can be made from and how it changes the complexity and flavors of the wine, especially with food! The 2014 Addendum, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa ($90 – 94) was an elegant choice and the 2016 Chateau Bonnet Rosé of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux ($16 – 18) actually went so fast on the tables that we couldn’t even get a picture of it. Our beer selection with the tartare was the Bosteels – Tripel Karmeliet – Belgian Tripel.

 

Portobello Arancini, paired with a 2014 Clos de los Siete Red Blend from Argentina ($18 – 20) and the intensely different Original Schlenkerla Smokebeer finished the savory selections.

 

The true masterpiece of the evening though was Chef Bilger’s Stilton Cheesecake. Sweet yet savory it paired amazingly well with the Taylor Fladgate 325th Anniversary Port, Portugal ($30 – 32) and a Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale from Cicerone Spaulding.

 

The party continued as Sessions helped make reservations on a busy Saturday night for our class-goers but as usual with this crowd there wasn’t a single.drop.left at the end of the night. Uber certainly made some money off of us!

 

Did you have fun at the event? Were you bummed to miss it? Then come spend a week with me in SPAIN!! I’ll be hosting my first international Vino Voyages in September and I’d love to have you along!

 

Want to see more Leslie and Jordan?

Valentine’s Day Getaways – Sneak Away to a Romantic Destination

We are all looking for that romantic getaway for Valentine’s Day. Whether it’s to escape for the weekend with your honey from the ice and snow of winter, to cozy up together in a rustic cabin or just even to get away for the night to take a well-needed break, we all would love to sneak away to a romantic destination. Enjoy my list of some of the most romantic destinations in the country, along with some incredible Valentine’s Day bubbles to pair with your stay!

 

The Biltmore Estate – Asheville, NC

biltmore estate valentines day package

The Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC is one of the most romantic destinations in the country on any given day but during the month of February, the Biltmore turns the romance up a notch. With their Valentine’s Day Package, you and your sweetie can enjoy the ultimate romantic getaway. Enjoy a 3 course meal in the The Dining Room, the Estate’s most exclusive dining experience or even take dinner in the privacy of your own room! Roses, chocolates, and wine complete the romantic experience in the historic home of the iconic Vanderbilt Family. Call 866-336-1245 or book online here. 

Moet & Chandon 2008 Grand Vintage Rosé, $69

With an actual vintage year, the Moet & Chandon 2008 Grand Vintage Rosé is a unique bottle of champagne and an example of the best of that year’s harvest. This “pink” champagne is actually more gold in color and has a powerful aroma of tropical fruits and nectarines. Finish up with a refreshing taste of grapefruit and ginger and this pink champagne is going to have you and your significant other sipping pretty, in pink.

*****

Baron’s Cove – Sag Harbor, NY

romantic getaways barons cove sag harbor

 

Named one of the romantic towns in the US, don’t let winter in Sag Harbor, NY fool you. Once a thriving port, it is now known for its waterfront resort qualities, meandering tree-lined streets, 18th and 19th century architecture and casually sophisticated way of life. On foot, stroll up and down Main Street to discover singular boutiques, galleries, and local museums, or dine at the most widely-acclaimed restaurants in the Hamptons. By boat, explore the stunning local waterways, coves, and marinas. Or drive just minutes to a surprisingly deep array of wineries.

Baron’s Cove provides a romantic escape harborside with their To Sag Harbor with Love package that includes a romantic dinner, champagne, chocolate and deluxe accommodations in this award winning waterside resort. Cozy up fireside and enjoy all that this quaint harbor town has to offer!

Ruinart Rosé $78

This gorgeous champagne is intensely fruity and aromatic, due to it’s blending of french Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. A little spice paired with floral notes make this worth the splurge.

*****

Middlebury Inn – Middlebury, VT

For those that are looking for some snuggle time and maybe some together time on the slopes as well, Middlebury, VT is the place to go. Middlebury is also home to several breweries and wineries so watch the snow fall over a glass of wine or IPA. The Middlebury Inn celebrates love and snuggling with their Romance in New England package that includes champagne and chocolate covered strawberries, an intimate breakfast for two and a candlelit dinner. Cozy up in the cold weather and enjoy New England at it’s snow-covered finest.

Chandon, Rosé $24

A deal at $24 a bottle, this elegant sparkling rosé is a delightful pink color with berry, cherry and watermelon flavors. This sparkling wine is also excellent in cocktails, like the Rose Rosa Rosé!

*****

St. Regis, Mexico City

If you’re looking to heat things up a little, head down south to the St. Regis, Mexico City. Set in an urban oasis located in one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, the hotel has several romance themed packages to share with your loved one.

For a quick getaway, the hotel’s “Celebrate Love” package includes a one night stay, a 60-minute couple’s massage, a romantic dinner for two with Möet Chandon Rosé, and in-room breakfast with a mimosa. They also offer incredible romantic dining packages, like the La Vie en Rose, which includes a 4 course menu paired with what else, rosé!

 

Charles Heidsieck, Champagne Rosé Reserve $89

Charles Heidseick’s Rosé Reserve is a classic example of pink champagne. A dusty pink color with a delicate sparkle, this gorgeous wine smells of fresh strawberries and gingerbread. This wine is powerful and stylish, as anything French must be.

*****

The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa

It’s all about romance in Wine Country – And the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa has hearts all a flutter: Inspired overnight packages, rejuvenating spa treatments and amorous dining adventures are sure to send any relationship into over-drive. The romantic Inn celebrates with a sweetheart of a deal; the unmatched Wine, Roses and Romance package.  Bon vivants will bubble over unparalleled romance-inspired accommodations, sparkling wine and chocolate covered strawberries amenity, rose petal turndown, complimentary sparkling wine tasting passes for two at Gloria Ferrer Winery and breakfast either at the resort or in the privacy of your room or suite. Take advantage of the Willow Stream Spa and their Valentine’s Day themed offers, such as a Chocolate Facial or a Chocolate Chardonnay Pedicure!

 

Alfred Gratien, Champagne, Brut Rosé $50

Alfred Gratien Brut Rosé is the definition of erotic. With floral notes that invoke rose petals strewn across a bed, it sparkles energetically, making it perfect to sip and savor in front of a roaring fire. Watch those bubbles sparkle in the firelight as you enjoy it’s slightly smoky finish. This is perfect to enjoy on Valentine’s Day, savoring the wine and the one you love.

#OjaiLove

Last and certainly not least, show a different kind of love this Valentine’s Day. During the California Wildfires the town of Ojai was saved by heroic firefighters from the devastation. As they welcome visitors back to their beautiful valley, the hotels of Ojai have banded together to raise money for those who have been impacted by the Thomas Fire. By booking the Ojai Love package at any of the participating hotels, you’ll receive 10% OFF the best available rate & exclusive discounted access to some of Ojai’s best restaurants, shops & activities! Plus a $10 donation per night will be made in your name to help those who have been affected.

 

Either west coast or east coast, warm weather or snow, wherever you choose to celebrate this Valentine’s Day, make sure to do it with a delicious glass of bubbles and someone you love.