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.

Today Show Valentine’s Day (and night) with Chef Ryan Scott and Leslie Sbrocco

From start to finish you can create a memorable meal on Valentine’s Day whether it’s for someone special or a special group of friends. And, forget white wine, this is a holiday for pink and red. These options – from steal to splurge – will make Cupid smile.  

Bubbly to begin

J Vineyards & Winery Brut Rosé, Russian River Valley, California $40

A pink to indulge your Valentine. As one of the country’s top sparkling wine producers, J Vineyards crafts bubbly to rival the best from around the globe.  Their elegant Brut Rosé from winemaker, Nicole Hitchcock, is a blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Meunier grapes from California’s Russian River Valley.Vibrant and juicy, it’s a pairing for spicy or salty dishes.

Cleto Chiarli Brut de Noir Rosé, Emilia-Romagna, Italy $16

A pretty-in-pink sparkling that’s worth twice the price. Stylishly packaged with fabulous fizz inside, it’s ideal to share with friends or someone special. Made by the historic house of Chiarli founded in 1860, the wine is crafted mostly from red Grasparossa grapes grown in Italy’s Emilia Romagna region. Red berry succulence is complemented with crispness making it ideal to pour day or night.  

TIP: For a swoon-worthy splurge, look to Rosé Champagne from France. Seek out two magnificent bottles sure to impress: From a 200-year-old, family-run house, Champagne Henriot Rosé is complex and classy. A coveted French bubbly newly-introduced to the United States, Champagne Palmer & Co Rosé Réserve is sparkling seduction. (Approximately $75 each)

Rich reds for romance

2015 Bellacosa Cabernet Sauvignon, North Coast, California $25

Could there be a more aptly named wine for Valentine’s Day? Bellacosa means ‘beautiful thing’ creating the perfect sentiment for uncorking a bottle this heart-filled holiday. Made with Cabernet Sauvignon grapes hailing from California’s Napa Valley and Sonoma and Lake Counties, vintner Dan Cohn began the project to craft wines with flavor, character, and affordability. That’s a beautiful thing.

2017 Cusumano Nero D’Avola, Sicily, Italy $12

Swathed in a rich red label and topped with a glass stopper, this is an impress-for-less wine you’ll want to stock up on for Valentine’s Day and beyond. A family affair, Cusumano winery is run by two brothers along with their father. Nero d’Avola is Sicily’s signature red with fruit-driven flavors and a kick of peppery spice. It’s a wine with freshness that pairs as easily with fish as it does chicken or meat dishes. An all-around winner.

TIP: Red wine-stained teeth don’t have to prevent you from kissing your Valentine. I discovered an easy remedy with Wine Nots. Just pop one of the effervescent tablets in your mouth and let it dissolve. Your teeth (and breath) are ready for Cupid’s arrow. (Box of 12 tablets $13)

Sweets for the Sweet

Taylor Fladgate First Estate Reserve Port, Portugal $20

When chocolate is on the menu, there’s no better match than a sumptuous Port from Portugal. Taylor Fladgate is one of the icons of the wine business and this bottling pays homage to the house’s history commemorating their first property purchase in 1744. Sweet berry flavors are balanced with racy vibrancy in a Port priced to please.

2014 Linden Late Harvest Petit Manseng, Virginia $28 (half bottle)

Virginia is the birthplace of wine in America and in my opinion, is one of the most exciting regions to explore. Not only is it a place to find world-class reds and Chardonnay, it’s a go-to destination for unique whites made from a French white grape, Petit Manseng.  Linden Vineyards is one of the state’s superstars and winemaker, Jim Law, has created a sweet wine that nears perfection. Grapes are frozen and pressed to create this liquid gold. Sipping it is like biting into a ripe golden raisin with a pleasing ping of tartness. A stunner.

TIP: Wondering how to pair wines with dessert? Think about color matching. Dark, rich reds match the intensity and smoothness of chocolate dishes while zesty, sweet whites with freshness complement the flavors of with fruit-based treats.

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) 

 

Ho, Ho, Holiday Gift Ideas sure to please : 2017 Gift Guide

‘Twas just days before Christmas and shopping’s not done?

Alas, these suggestions are second to none

 

From online to retail, you can spend all your cash

And make others happy with gifts full of flash

 

Whatever you choose – books, whisky or wine

Your holiday season is sure to shine!

 

WHITE WINES

These two wines are ideal whites for your holiday sipping.

2015 Flora Springs Dashaway Chardonnay $45

Flora Springs has fun with holidays. Whether Halloween or Christmas, their creative labels and etched bottles always make me smile. The wine inside is delicious, as well. This full-bodied Chardonnay with a wintery potpourri of brown spice aromas, is a white to uncork this holiday season.

 

2016 Vietti – Roero Arneis $23

Not only are Vietti’s wines world-class, this unique white evokes a feeling of holiday spirit just from looking at the beautiful label. Arneis is a star grape in northern Italy and this crisp white sports savory complexity.

white wines holiday gift guide

 

WHISKY GIFTS

Like the perfect novel, the Bowmore Vintner’s Trilogy has the perfect beginning, middle and end.

For that discerning whisky drinker in your life, try the Bowmore Vintner’s Trilogy, a new series of limited edition whiskies that have been aged in a variety of ex-wine, sherry and port casks at Bowmore’s famed No. 1 Vaults. Just in time for holiday gifting season, they are launching two of the three in the trilogy, with the third and final 27 Years Old bottling to be released in Fall 2018.

Bowmore 18 Years Old Double Matured Manzanilla which is matured in both ex-bourbon barrels and ex-manzanilla sherry barrels. It has a suggested price of $127 for 750ml.

Bowmore 26 Years Old Wine Barriques Matured which spent its first 13 years in ex-bourbon barrels before a second maturation of 13 years in wine barriques. This full-bodied whisky has a suggested retail price of $540 for 750ml.

Bowmore 27 Years Old will be released in fall of 2018 and will complete the collection.

 

 

Suntory Whisky Toki $35

This beautiful Japanese Whisky is elegant and stylish. With a slightly sweet and peppery finish, this whisky is a perfect gift for that libation lover in your life.

RED AND GREEN

Taylor Fladgate 325 $35

If sipping a smooth Port fireside is your thing, then drinking Taylor Fladgate’s “325” Port is right up your alley. A blend of aged tawny ports, “325” celebrates the 325 years since Jon Bearsely sailed to Portugal to begin his wine business. The rest, as they say, is history.

i Quercioli Lambrusco Secco $11

i Quercioli Lambrusco Dolce  $11

These two Lambruscos from the house of Medici Ermete come in both dry (secco) and sweet (dolce) styles. The slightly fizzy nature of the ruby-hued Lambrusco adds a festive sparkle to any holiday party or gift!

 

SUPPORT NAPA AND SONOMA

With the tragedies of the Wine Country Wildfires this year, it’s important to continue to support the local Napa and Sonoma wineries. Their success depends on your business and support. Try out these holiday wines and gift sets from some of the best.

 

Flora Springs – Joy to the World Red Blend $65

This blend from the ever-festive Flora Springs, is part of a holiday tradition that began as an exclusive offering to wine club members and has since become a staple of their holiday celebrations. Each year they create new holiday artwork to provide unique, limited-edition Napa Valley wines to use as gifts, share with friends or add to your collection. This red blend is features the Joyful Angel, herald of the holidays.

 

B.R.Cohn 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon Olive Hill Estate Vineyard $58

Celebrate the bounty of Sonoma County with this delicious Cabernet Sauvignon. A ripe, dark fruit and deep flavored Cab, it pairs remarkably well with another one of B.R. Cohn’s finest, their estate olive oil. Get the oil and vinegar set to create the perfect Sonoma County gift basket.

 

 

 

SILVER AND GOLD

Nothing says the holidays like bubbles. But where many think exclusively sparkling wine, I’ve included an decadent beer in this category, as well. And with all of them wrapped in holiday decor, you can’t go wrong.

 

Martini & Rossi Prosecco  $12

An affordable option for holiday gift giving, wrapped up in gorgeous packaging.

 

Moet Imperial $50

A slightly higher price point but Moët Impérial is the House’s iconic champagne. Created in 1869, it embodies Moët & Chandon’s style.

 

Le Grand Courtage Blanc de Blanc – Brut $50

Want some bling with your bubbles? Le Grand Courtage comes bedazzled, just for the holiday season.

 

Rodenbach Grand Cru Red Ale 2015 $11

This Rodenbach Red Ale is a unique Flemish red-brown ale that is matured for 2 years in oak casks.

 

READING FROM THE VINE

Why not get a bottle and a book for the wine lover in your life? Here are some of my favorite releases of 2017

 

 

Red Wine – The Comprehensive Guide to the 50 Essential Varieties and Style- Kevin Zraly, Mike DeSimone and Jeff Jennsen $20

Rosé All Day – The Essential Guide to your New Favorite Wine $18 – Katherine Cole

Cork Dork: A Wine-Fueled Adventure Among the Obsessive Sommeliers, Big Bottle Hunters, and Rogue Scientists Who Taught Me to Live for Taste – Bianca Bosker $30

The Vineyard Years – A Memoir with Recipes – Susan Sokol Blosser $30

Drink Pink – A Celebration of Rosé – Victoria James and Lyle Railsback $12 

 

FREEBIES

Buying for the holidays can get exhausting, and expensive! So one last little gift that will cost you absolutely nothing. Grab this app, some colored pencils and a bottle of wine!