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.

New Year's Even Sparkling Wine

New Year’s Eve Sparkling Wine and Champagne for Under $20

Any time is a great time to drink champagne or sparkling wine, but there’s no more festive way to celebrate the New Year than with a beautiful bottle of bubbles. Check out my latest spot on the Today Show where I talk about the best sparklers under $20 from around the world and my favorite splurge champagnes for that extra special New Year’s Eve celebration. Scroll down after the piece for the list.

 

 

 

 

Codorniu “Anna” Blanc de Blancs, Cava, Spain, $10, codorniu.comToday Show Sparklers New Years Eve Rotari

This crisp, juicy winter-white wine makes a stylish statement. While it might be priced like cotton, it drinks like cashmere. The Codorniu family traces its winemaking origins to 1551, but is on the leading edge of creating distinctly modern sparklers.

Mezza di Mezzacorona, Italy, $15, mezzacorona.it

I call this wine “glacial bubbles,” as the juicy, succulent sparkler hails from high altitude vineyards planted in the shadow of the snow-capped Italian Dolomite mountains. A blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco and Muller-Thurgau, this wine is as fun to drink as swishing down the slopes.

Enza Prosecco Extra-Dry, DOC, Italy, $15, enzaprosecco.com

 

Pull out the punch bowl — it’s party time. Enza’s festive fizz is an ideal choice to use as a base for a punch cocktail. The traditional pairing with Prosecco is peach puree, creating a drink called the Bellini. I pay homage to that classic combination with my Bellini Bowl:

Bellini Bowl

Ingredients:

  • 2 parts Prosecco
  • 1 part peach juice
  • 1 part ginger ale or ginger beer
  • Sliced peaches or oranges for decoration

Preparation:

Pour peach juice in a punch bowl with ice, sliced peaches and orange slices. Add ginger ale and top with Prosecco.

2013 Rotari Brut, TrentoDOC, Italy, $19, rotari.it

TrentoDOC (pronounced dock) is a world-class bubbly from Northern Italy made in the classic method with the second fermentation happening in bottle. Rotari is a leader in TrentoDOC production and their dry-styled sparkler showcases the purity of Chardonnay. It’s crisp, classy and a tremendous value worth seeking out.

Gratien & Meyer, Brut Rosé, Crémant de Loire, France, $15, gratienmeyer.com

Another sparkling category that is garnering attention for value and quality is Cremant de Loire. This is NOT Champagne, which is bubbly only made in the Champagne region of France. Rather, it’s a delicate sparkling wine from France’s Loire Valley. The historic producer, Gratien & Meyer, has been making wine since 1864. Crafted from the red Cabernet Franc grape, this pretty-in-pink bubbly is a wine you’ll want to buy by the case.

McBride Sisters Collection, Brut Rosé, Marlborough, New Zealand, $19, mcbridesisters.com

Made with primarily Pinot Noir grown in certified sustainable vineyards, this unique Kiwi bubbly is a wine to pour all year long. Rose-petal and red-fruit scented, it’s a refreshingly elegant bubbly that complements savory and sweet fare. As we say in the food and wine pairing business, pork and Pinot are a match made in culinary heaven.

Martini & Rossi Asti DOCG, Italy, $13, martini.com

Hailing from the Piedmont region of Italy and made with Moscato Bianco grapes, Asti is a low-alcohol, slightly sweet and delicately fizzy wine. Martini & Rossi is a producer known for Vermouth, but they have set the standard for delicious Asti. I call it a “magic” wine — it’s so appealingly light and fresh, everyone falls under its spell.


Worth the splurge: Stunners for up to $50

These two superstar sparklers — one from Champagne and the other California — are worth the splurge if you want to part with a bit more cash. They’re great for small gatherings or a romantic evening.

Champagne Taittinger, Brut La Française, Champagne, France, $48, taittinger.com

A classic blend of the three grapes of Champagne, this Chardonnay-led sparkler is aged almost four years in the bottle before release. This gives the La Française the signature creamy smoothness that I look for in a great Champagne. Drink a glass as a holiday gift to yourself.

2011 Roederer Estate, L’Ermitage Brut, California, $48, roedererestate.com

An American icon in the sparkling wine business, Roederer Estate is nestled among towering redwoods in Mendocino’s Anderson Valley. Though California-born, this refined bubbly has a French heritage. Its parent property is the famed house of Louis Roederer Champagne. L’Ermitage is a world-class wine only made in special years and is truly a treat to sip.

Happy New Year!

 

“Wine” Down Summer – End of Summer Wine Picks

The end of summer is a little sad. The sun sets earlier, the kids are either back to school or gearing up for it and it feels like the freedom of summer has ended. But let’s be honest, the weather will still be gorgeous (or hot and humid depending on where you live) for weeks AFTER Labor Day, so take the time to enjoy it! Try these amazing end of summer wines that I’ve selected and enjoy the last days of summer, for at least the next month. 

BBQ BACKYARD “R & R”

Riesling and Rosé are sexy sippers and two of the best options for al fresco pairing. Go for Riesling with seared salmon and mango salsa and think pink with burgers hot off the grill.

 

2015 Eroica Riesling, Columbia Valley, Washington $22

The Eroica (named after a Beethoven Symphony) from Washington State is one of the country’s best examples of Riesling. With a whisper of sweetness, it’s a refreshingly succulent white. This joint project of Chateau Ste. Michelle and Germany’s Dr. Loosen is an ideal way to celebrate Washington Wine Month in August.

 

2016 Saved “Magic Maker” Rosé, California $20

Saved is a wine label from tattoo artist, Scott Campbell, and celebrates following your passions in life. This crisp, orange-peel scented, Grenache-based wine is a magical pink to drink year-round as it saddles up to summer fare as easily as cool-weather roast pork with chutney.

Tip: Slushy-style “Frosé” is getting attention, but you don’t need to do anything more than leave the cork (or screwcap) off and put the bottle in the freezer overnight.

 

Summer Party Circuit

Squeeze in every opportunity to celebrate the waning days of summer with these creative party ideas:

 

2014  Spellbound Petite Sirah, California $15

Even though the solar eclipse is over, you can celebrate the celestial by sipping Spellbound’s “Eclipse” label Petite Sirah, depicting the cycle of the moon. It’s a savory, full-bodied red that works with meat dishes as easily as chocolate. Give it a try with chocolate moon-pies for a whimsical dessert.

 

Cheese & Wine Pairing Party

With the long Labor Day weekend coming plan to have an end-of-summer interactive gathering pairing wine and cheese. Have each guest bring a different style of cheese and you provide a variety of wines to taste and mix and match. With this downloadable grid to hand out, it becomes a deliciously fun evening.

 

We all know how well hearty red wines like Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon go with aged, hard cheeses. Even Chardonnay is a star avec fromage, but what about showcasing SURPRISE SIPS that most folks don’t think about when pairing wine and cheese: Sparkling and Sauvignon Blanc.

 

Korbel Extra Dry sparkling, California $12

From the historic California sparkling wine producer, Korbel, comes a sporty, wave-inspired bottle that makes summer sipping easy. This one has a touch of sweetness that makes it a unique pick to pair alongside salty blue cheese with a drizzle of honey.

 

2016 Natura Sauvignon Blanc, Valle Central, Chile $12

Hailing from the cool reaches of Chile, this is zesty, dry white with tangy citrus flavors is made with organically-grown grapes. It’s an ideal match with fresh cheeses like feta, goat cheese and ricotta. Serve with a variety of jams like apricot and peach for cheese-pairing perfection.

 

SHOULDER SEASON WINES

Whether it’s back to school you’re celebrating or just settling into the fall routine, this duo of Italian wines will take you easily from hot days to cool nights.

 

2015 Carpineto “Dogajolo” Rosso, Toscano, Italy $15

The Dogajolo from famed Italian winery, Carpineto, is a fantastic value at under $15 and showcases an appealing label evoking images of fall leaves. Pronounced “doga-yolo” the name is inspired by the wood staves used in oak barrels. This smooth, spicy red from Tuscany is the ideal transition wine as it can be chilled slightly to serve on summer days or paired alongside braised meats and soups when fall kicks in.

2016 Carpineto “Dogajolo” Rosato, Toscano, Italy $15

A wine that’s the whole package – beautiful to look at and delicious to taste. This rosato made from Sangiovese (the red grape of Tuscany in Italy responsible for the great wines of the region) will carry you from summer to fall with ease. It’s one of the best new pink wines I’ve sampled all year. At this price, you should buy it by the case!

Summer may be winding down and the kids are back to school, but enjoy the still-warm weekends with some incredible wines that will take you from your summer soiree all the way into your fall dinner parties. And check out the latest fun with Hoda and Kathie Lee on the Today Show!

 

 

 

 

Thanksgiving Wines for your Holiday Dinner

Hosting a feast this year? Or maybe just an intimate Turkey Dinner with a loved one? Are you attending a feast and need to bring an impressive bottle of wine for the table? Regardless of the numbers served, a traditional Thanksgiving Dinner with all of the fixings is going to need some special wine. A cacophony of flavors – sweet, salty and sour – mean that a variety of wines have a place at the table.

Bubbles

Always a great idea to start off your festivities with a bang (or a pop), bubbles always have a place at the table. Local, California sparklers, like Gloria Ferrer ($19) and Schramsberg ($27) top the list, along with a northern Italian pick called TrentoDOC. For value and quality, their vintage-dated Rosé, Rotari ($14) is a favorite. 

Whites

With such a mix of flavors in the meal, a big, oaky, buttery Chardonnay doesn’t quite fit in. But if you’re a Chardonnay lover, look for one with crisp, fresh fruit flavors, like New Zealand’s, Kumeu River ($35). The often under-appreciated white star of the show however is going to be Riesling. An ideal pick for the holidays, choose a medium-dry style to pair with everything. Napa Valley’s iconic Chateau Montelena winery makes a classy,aromatic Riesling ($25) that is sure to impress.

Reds

Just like avoiding the boldness of the Chardonnay, try to avoid reds that are heavy on the oaks and tannins, like CabernetSauvignon. A better, more well-rounded choice for the table would be a Beaujolais, or the best choice, Pinot Noir.

When picking a Beaujolais, the more complex Beaujolais Cru is the way to go. Look for choices from Georges Deboeuf, such as Morgon ($17) for it’s red berry freshness and medium-body softness.

When picking a Pinot Noir, look to both California and Oregon’s Willamette Valley for world class examples. Domaine Drouhin’s Pinot Noir from the Dundee Hills ($40) is an excellent example of a blend of Old World and New World, while Goldeneye Pinot Noir ($55), from the Anderson Valley, is an elegant choice.

lost colony virginia dare winery thanksgivingA great hostess gift for Thanksgiving has to be The Lost Colony ($28) from Virginia Dare Winery. A blend of Syrah, Malbec, and Cabernet Franc, it showcases dark berry fruitiness with soft and supple tannins. Tannic wine (think young Cabernet Sauvignon) conflicts with the spicy, often sweet and salty fare laid out at Thanksgiving. So, this juicy, full-bodied-but-balanced blend will work throughout the whole meal.

Rosé

Rosé is the perfect Thanksgiving wine, versatile and delicious, and a truly year-round wine. It goes well with almost all dishes and one of the best for the holiday drinking AND gift giving is Gifft from Kathie Lee Gifford. It is dry yet succulent with savory spice notes and at $15 a bottle is perfect to grab by the case! gifft rose thanksgiving wines

 

Dessert Wine

Don’t be afraid to open a dessert wine for your Thanksgiving guests. Serving apple and pumpkin pie? Skip the overly sweet wines and pour Schramsberg’s Cremant Demi-Sec sparkling wine ($40), or a Moscato D’Asti (the real Italian stuff).

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With all of these choices for your Thanksgiving table, you’ll be sure to impress and amaze your guests, whether there be 2 or 20.

Happy Thanksgiving!

For a more in-depth list of my favorite holiday wines, check out the piece I did for NorthBay Woman. (Look at page 44 for my article)

 

 

Spirit-tips-leslie-sbrocco

Cinco de Mayo | Drinking Tequila!

It’s Cinco de Mayo, do you know what you’re drinking? Most people choose margaritas and tequila as their go-to drink for this festive holiday, but do you know how that magical elixir actually got into that bottle? Watch as I explain the nuances of tequila and which ones you’ll want to drink straight (from the bottle??) or mix into your favorite festive cocktail.

 

Happy Cinco de Mayo!