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.

Best Winter Wines and Special Valentines Day Wines – Under $25

It’s always a fun time when I pair up with Ray Ilse from Food & Wine and we pick wines for the Today Show. With Valentine’s Day fast approaching and spring nowhere in sight (except at my house in California), we chose a few winter wines to enjoy for the rest of the cold season, and a few Valentine’s Day wines to snuggle up to your honey with. All of these wines are under $25 and watch the video following to see what delicious food to pair with some of them as well!

Winter Wines and the Perfect Valentines Day Wines

 

Winter Whites

 

Ray

2016 E. Guigal Côtes du Rhône Blanc, France, $17, Guigal

An affordable French white crafted with a blend of primarily Viognier with Roussanne and other Rhone white grapes, this is a top value from a storied Rhône Valley producer. With melon and citrus notes, it’s a winter white wine to serve with anything gracing the table.

Leslie

2016 Ponzi Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $19, Ponzi Vineyards

If this luscious yet crisp wine was an item of clothing, it would be a sleek winter-white dress that pairs with any occasion. The same is true for Ponzi’s Pinot Gris, which matches dishes from squash soup to grilled fish. The Ponzi sisters, Maria and Luisa, are wine mavens in charge of this classic Oregon winery. Their vibrant personalities are reflected in this joy-to-sip white.

Winter Reds

Ray

Medici Ermete I Quercioli “Secco” Lambrusco, Italy, $14, Kobrand Wine & Spirits

Yes, it’s deeply, intensely red in color, and it’s sparkling. But Medici’s I Quercioli Lambrusco isn’t sweet at all, and it’s a superb match for rich winter dishes. Pasta bolognese and this…you’re talking perfection.

Leslie

2015 Peachy Canyon “Incredible Red” blend, California, $15, Peachy Canyon

When winter weather is whirling outside, stay inside with a hearty dish and a big glass of something incredible. This juicy Zinfandel-based blend sports full-bodied flair, dark fruit flavors, and a peppery kick. Serve alongside braised meat dishes, mushroom risotto, or pulled pork.

The Perfect Valentine’s Day Wines

 

Ray

NV Mionetto “Cuvee Anniversario” Valdobiadenne Prosecco, Italy, $24, Mionetto USA

Kick off the romantic evening with this limited-release sparkler from one of the most well-known Prosecco producers in Italy. It’s history in a glass. Dry, crisp and lively, it’s great for a romantic toast. The bottle is stunning, too, making it the perfect gift for your Valentine.

Leslie

2016 Sanford Rosé, Sta. Rita Hills, California, $22, Sanford Winery

Not only is this rosé a delicious partner for most meals, it’s elegant and beautiful to look at…just like your Valentine. Crafted by one of California’s legendary producers with Pinot Noir from two estate vineyards, including the historic Sanford & Benedict Vineyard, this is a serious pink but also seriously fun to sip.

 

Romantic Dinner Wines

Ray

2015 Charles Smith Wines “Velvet Devil” Merlot, Washington, $14, Charles Smith Wines

When you want to walk on the wild side, look for wines from Charles Smith. This whimsical Washington red is a rich, luscious Merlot with dark berry fleshiness. Come on, who doesn’t want to get a little devilish on Valentine’s Day?

Leslie

Graham’s “Six Grapes” Reserve Port, Portugal, $24, Premium Port

End the evening in sultry style with this opulent yet elegant dessert sipper from one of the famed producers of Port. W. & J. Graham’s dates to 1820 and is a producer that marries tradition with innovation. I adore their Six Grapes Port for its high quality and affordable price. It’s a decadently smooth and lightly sweet wine to finish a meal in sexy style.

 

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!

 

 

 

 

Must-try Summer Wines: Bubbles, Rosé and More!

Looking for an amazing addition to your pool party, backyard bbq or summertime soiree? Check out my favorite picks then watch my time in the 8 o’clock hour at the Today Show!

Rosé All Day:

Americans have finally discovered the joy of rosé. Drinking pink is one of the hottest trends in wine with double-digit growth. These garnet-hued beauties can be made in myriad styles resulting in wines with a whisper of color or those more intensely pink. Most rosés are dry and crisp, while blush wines and those dubbed ‘white’ (as in white zinfandel) tend to be sweeter. With flavors ranging from delicate strawberry and citrus, to juicy red berry and spice, there’s a pink for everyone to drink.

2016 Minuty ‘M’ Rosé, Cotes du Provence, France $20

Packaged in a curvaceous, sexy bottle, this classic rosé hails from southern France’s Provence area. One of the top producers in the region with a rich history dating to the 19th century, Chateau Minuty is known for elegance, quality, and class. A pale-hued pink with floral aromas and peachy flavors, the ‘M’ is a Marvelous summer sip.

2016 Forty Ounce Rosé, France $16 (one liter)

A bang-for-your-buck bottling, this Gamay-based wine captures the essence of a sunny day in the French countryside, but with an American twist. New York-based sommelier, Patrick Cappiello, joined forces with French vintner, Julien Braud, to create this light-hearted pink that’s high on tongue-in-cheek style.

2016 Summer Water, Central Coast, California $19

A collaboration of Yes Way Rosé and Winc, the Summer Water is an easy-drinking pink that says it all with the name. I prefer to drink rosé over water on most summer afternoons anyway, and this wine pairs with dishes from grilled salmon to fruit salads. (If you join their wine club, the price goes to $15.)

2016 Tablas Creek ‘Patelin de Tablas’ Rosé, Paso Robles, California $24

Who said rosé can’t be a serious sipper? This one most certainly is. Primarily Grenache grapes blended with other Rhone varieties such as Mourvèdre and Syrah, it’s an aromatic, mineral-laden pink. Though Californian in birth, Tablas Creek is French at heart with the famed Perrin family of Chateau de Beaucastel involved.

 

Beach Bound or Poolside?

These selections are lower in alcohol than other wines offering quaffable fun in the sun.

 

Barefoot White Wine Spritzer, California $9 (four pack)

Barefoot Wine is among the top selling wine brands in the world. The reason? Good wine at great prices wrapped in a feel-good vibe.

Everyone wants to dump the shoes and walk barefoot in the sand. Now, you can do it with can in hand. This slightly fizzy tin-of-fun is a blend of Chenin Blanc and Symphony grapes topped with carbonated water, making it an ideal beach companion.

La Grande Courtâge Rosé and Brut, Sparkling Wine, France $7 (per 187 ml)

Want to upscale your outdoor imbibing? Reach for a mini from La Grande Courtâge. A French sparkler made by a Californian, Tawnya Falkner, the brand is an ode to the marriage of French and American culture. It’s a unique option for those wanting to indulge al fresco. Just add a straw, then sit back and relax.

Eppa Red Sangria, California $10

Ringing in at a mere 9 percent alcohol, this super-Sangria is organically-grown red wine blended with organic juices including pomegranate, blueberry, and blood orange. The refreshing red is ideal over ice with sliced fruit. Enjoy a pitcher poolside and let summer begin.

 

Global Grilling with Latin Flair:

From Spain to South America, these selections bring a little heat to dishes hot off the grill. There are no rules when it comes to pairing white wine with fish and red with meat, but if a spicy shrimp platter or Cajun-rubbed chicken breast is on the menu, reach for one of these two mouthwatering coastal whites to tame the fire.

 

2015 Ritual Sauvignon Blanc, Casablanca Valley, Chile $15

 

A classic pairing with fiery fare is Sauvignon Blanc. This citrus-scented version is made from grapes grown in cool-climate vineyards on Chile’s Pacific Coast. Made by the talented hands of Rodrigo Soto – one of the country’s acclaimed winemakers – the Ritual is a winner for not only warm-weather sipping, but year ‘round imbibing.

2015 Fillaboa Albariño, Rías Baixas, Spain $18

For an exotic take on crisp whites, head to Spain’s west coast to sample Albariño. An Iberian Peninsula grape variety, it explodes with orange blossom aromas and succulent fruit flavors. Fillaboa is one of my top-pick producers from the area of Galicia called Spain’s “land of the sea.” Don your shades and take a virtual vacation in a glass.

 

When barbecue ribs or perfectly-seared rib eye is served, think of these spicy reds to pair alongside.

2014 Clos de los Siete, Valle de Uco, Mendoza, Argentina $20

Made high in the Andes by noted French winemaker, Michel Rolland, this Malbec-driven blend combines Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon in a full-bodied, dark-fruited red that’s supple and alluring. Still sporting elegance, however, it’s an ideal match for steak, steak, and more steak.

 2008 Arinzano ‘La Casona’ Pago de Arinzano, Spain $40

Want to splurge on your next grilling red? Reach for this exceptional bottling from Arinzano. Noted as one of the top estates—or Pagos – in Spain, La Casona is made with the signature red grape Tempranillo rounded out with Merlot. A lush, age-worthy red, it’s a wine to drink with anything…or nothing at all.

 

Summer Holiday Celebrations, American Style:

From July 4th to Labor Day, these American wines with a story to tell are ones to share with a crowd.

 

2016 The Federalist Chardonnay, Mendocino County, California $17.76

With the smashing success of Broadway’s Hamilton, it’s no surprise there is a wine brand celebrating our Founding Fathers and

wine’s role in American history. This oak-kissed, smooth Chardonnay showcases Lady Liberty on the label making it fab for the 4th. The price is what else? $17.76.

2014 Purple Heart Red Wine, Napa Valley, California $20

You can do good and drink well during summer gatherings with Purple Heart. A rich red blend

that’s delicious to sip is one reason to buy the wine, but the other is that annual donations are
made to the Purple Heart Foundation in honor of American military veterans and their families.

Chandon ‘American Summer’ Brut sparkling wine, California $26

Wrapped in a seascape of red, white and blue, this limited-edition bottling from Chandon is a deliciously dry yet fruit-driven sparkling wine. Become part of the #chandonsquad and raise a glass. It’s a top way to toast summer.