Thursday, January 21, 2021

Why I Paired Cava With Football

My team the Buffalo Bills made the playoffs. I was so excited for game 1. I was thinking chicken wings and beer. But, quite frankly, beer fills me up and I wanted something I could drink and celebrate with, or drown my sorrows. I though bubbles in keeping with the carbonated beverage and Vilarnau Cava because even if they lost, their beautiful labels would keep me in a decent mood. I could sip cava, eat chicken wings and watch the game. Or so I thought.

I did ask Google what time the game began and I swear it said 4:25pm. About 4:15 I head to the TV and turned on the game to find out that there was 27 seconds left in the Bills game. I popped the cork and stood in front of the tv for the exciting last 27 seconds of the game. Yes, I was screaming and holding my glass of Cava. My dog thought I had gone nuts. Afterward I sat down and #sampled the Cava and made my chicken wings. All was good!

Why Cava? Cava is a beautiful sparkling wine from the Penedes region in Spain made in the Methode Champenoise where the second fermentation takes place in the bottle. Vilarnau Cava is exciting, beautiful and delicate and rich with history and so reasonably priced.


The first Cava with the Vilarnau name was produced in 1949 with grapes grown on the “Can Petit I Les Planes de Vilarnau” estate. This vineyard is 20 hectares with beautiful views of the Montserrat mountains, while only 30 kilometres away from the Mediterranean sea.

A little background, the Vilarnau family was of Spanish nobility and settled on this estate in the 12th century. Albert de Vilarnau was the single person responsible for increasing the family’s power in the 14th century. In 1982 Vilarnau was acquired by the Gonzalez Byass family of wineries.

The label which is a bottle wrap reflects the avant-garde imagery of Antoni Gaudi. Antoni was a famous Catalan architect known for his style that reflect freedom of form, voluptuous color and texture. His quote “ Color in certain places has the great value of making the outlines and structural planes seem more energetic.” As beautifully shown on the Vilarnau bottle.

The Cava

Vilarnau Brut Reserva NV SRP $14.99 - A blend of 50% Macabeo, 35% Parellada and 15% Xarel.lo. The wine is aged for 15 to 24 months in the bottle. The Cave featured elegant fine bubbles shooting their way up the glass. Nice acidity and fresh with notes of green apple and a hint of orange rind.

Vilarnau Brut Reserva Rose NV SRP $15.99 - This wine is a blend of 85% Garnacha and 15% Pinot Noir. The grapes come from the vineyards their Vilarneau d’Espiell” winery. The Pinot Noir was planted in 1991 and was one of the first vineyards in the Penedes planted with Pinot Noir. A beautiful pink color and fine bubbles. Notes of red fruit on the palate that shows freshness, yet elegance.

One note I do want to say is don’t save sparkling wine for a special occasion. Wines like Vilarnau Cava are wine that can be poured every day. Remember, there is always something to celebrate.

Listen to the Article 

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Winephabet Street Season 2 Episode 14- N is for Nebbiolo

Winephabet Street is a monthly series where Lori Budd of Draceana Wines and I work our way through the alphabet exploring wine and wine regions one letter at a time. The show is live on the third Monday at 8pm and is free, but you must register to attend. Put it on your calendar, pour yourself a glass of wine and hang out with us.

With no special guests this month, Lori and I talk to you about the Nebbiolo grape. The grape that is behind Barolo and Barbaresco. The only difference on whether you see Barolo, Barbaresco or Nebbiolo on the label is where the grape is grown as the region and soils have everything to do with the wine.

Nebbiolo is the grape of Piedmont. The word nebbia means fog, because the fog rolls into the hills where the vineyards are planted. The vineyards usually rises above the fog. Nebbiolo is a thick skin grape that is early to bud and late to ripen. It needs lots of sunlight. The wines that are produced from the grape are high in acid and tannins and are worth aging.

I do suggest opening the bottle and decanting it for at least 45 minutes prior to consuming.

For this episode I chose a Seghesio 2018 Langhe Nebbiolo. Seghesio is located in the heart of Langhe on the eastern side of Monforte d’Alba. They produce 5000 cases a year which include, Langhe Nebbiolo, Dolcetto d’Alba, Barbera d”Alba and Castelletto Barolo.

Ettore Seghesio worked as a tenant farmer and saved his money so that one day he can purchase the farm, which is exactly what he did in 1964. Their philosophy is to craft wine that reflects the terroir where the grape is grown. They are committed to protecting the environment and are SONPI(Integrated Crop Management National Quality System.) SONPI is a certification for integrated farming that aims to increase product quality while protecting the environment. In the vineyard they use environmentally sustainable plant protection products.

Seghesio 2018 Langhe Nebbiolo - a wonderful delicious wine that keeps you sipping. Lovely notes of sour cherry and elegant red licorice on the finish with puckering tannins throughout.

For more episodes of Winephabet Street visit

Watch the Webinar

Listen to the Podcast

Thursday, January 7, 2021

They Have Grapes in Colorado

I have skied all over Colorado. Vail, Breckenridge, Steamboat Springs but I never knew they grew grapes in Colorado. I do remember a trip to Colorado Springs for a conference and noted how different the climate was there than in Denver. Extremely different, like desert different. 

Colorado has been growing grapes since 1890. The first modern Colorado winery, Ivancie Winery opened in 1968. His winemaker was the famous Warren Winiarski who was hired away from Mondavi Vineyards in California. (He then returned to California and founded Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars) Since then, there has been a large growth in the 1970s and again in the 1990s.

The vineyards sit 4500 feet to over 7000 above sea level. This makes them the highest vineyards in North America. The grape-growing regions sit on the west side as the east faces the extreme weather you think of when you think of Colorado. There are two designated AVA’s:

  • The Grand Valley AVA sits along the Colorado River forty miles east of Utah.
  • The West Elks AVA follows the North Fork of the Gunnison River through Delta County on the western slope of Colorado. The West Elks AVA has the highest elevation at 7000 feet above sea level.

There are other areas in Colorado that grow grapes but aren’t designated AVA’s by the TTB. They are:

  • McElmo Canyon and Montezuma County
  • Surface Creek or South Grand Mesa
  • Fremont County
  • Olathe and Montrose Counties
  • The Front Range

The growing season lasts approximately 180 days of warm days and cool nights with breezes that on cool days warm the vines and on hot days cool the vines. This works great at preserving the acidity in the grapes.

Curious about what they grow in Colorado? In the vineyards, there are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Riesling, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Chardonnay, Viognier, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris to name a few.

Buckel Family Wines

I had the opportunity to taste Buckel Family Wines Cabernet Franc for Cabernet Franc Day on December 4th. It was the first time I have tasted a wine grown and made in Colorado. Impressed I was.

Buckel Family wines is a small family-owned winery in Gunnison, Colorado. They source their grapes from the vineyards on the Western Slopes of Colorado.

Their mission “ To fulfill the appetite of the adventurous wine drinker with wine that expresses the absolute best of the land, climate and growers in Colorado.”

Joe Buckel, co-founder and winemaker gained his experience working as an enologist at Flowers Vineyard and Winery as well as BR Cohn Winery before becoming the winemaker at Sutcliffe Vineyards in Cortez Colorado then opening his own winery. Hi partner Shamai is a nutritionist who shares her knowledge through pairing their wines with good home-cooked meals.

They produce Cabernet Franc, Cinsault, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pet Nat, Rose, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc all with 100% Colorado grapes.

2018 Buckel Family Wines Cabernet Franc - unfiltered and unfined. The wine show notes of red plum, black cherry with chewy tannins and a green peppercorn spice that explodes in your mouth on the finish.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Wine and Yoga: A Perfect Pairing

Wine and Yoga a perfect pairing!

Yes they are and last week I participated in a virtual wine and yoga class hosted by Morgan Perry founder of Vino Vinyasa with wines from Famille Quiot in the Rhone Valley. We were joined by Florence Quiot the 13th generation at the helm. Yes, it was 2 am her time, and I thank her for staying up so late to chat with us.

This class was a reminder for me how much I enjoy yoga and how relaxing it is for the mind, body and soul. Add a glass of wine to that and life is good.

Morgan led us through about 40 minutes of yoga while educating us on the wines from the Quiot Family. That is multi-tasking at its best, as I could only concentrate on the yoga poses and balance, let alone trying to hold a conversation.

The Famille Quiot has been making wine in the Rhone Valley since 1748. Today they produce wines from the Rhone Valley and Provence. The wines are fruit-forward, balanced, exciting and easy-drinking with class, just what is needed as we head into the winter pandemic months.

Two of the wines were from Chateauneuf-du-Pape Domaine Du Vieux Lazaret which is the vineyard that began their story in 1748 with 8 hectares and today is more than 100 hectares.

2018 Domaine Du Vieux Lazaret Chateauneuf-du-Pape White Rhone SRP $44.99 - A blend of Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Bourboulenc and Roussanne. This is a really nice winter white wine. Beautiful floral aromas with a hint of pineapple and pear lead to a palate full of stone fruit and ripe pineapple. The Roussanne that is aged in oak then blended into the wine really adds to the weight of the wine. Perfect to warm you up on a cold winter evening.

2017 Domaine Du Vieux Lazaret Chateauneuf-du-Pape Red SRP $37.99 - A blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault, Carignan, Counoise, Terret Noir, Picoup, Muscardin, Picardin, Bourboulenc, Clairette and Roussanne from 38 parcels in Chateauneuf grown in 3 major soil types. Full of juicy red fruit, vanilla, mouth-drying tannins, raspberry and black licorice spice on the finish. This wine is a nice elegant wine that will pair with many of your winter roasts.

2018 Chateau du Trignon Cotes-du-Rhone Rhone Rouge SRP $18.99 - A blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre (GSM) from 160 acres throughout six villages and Cotes du Rhone (Gigondas, Vacqueyras, Rasteau, Sablet, Plan de Dieu and Beaumes de Venise.) Fresh raspberries and strawberries with some cocoa and dark chocolate and a finish of black pepper. A nice everyday wine to wind down with.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Winephabet Street M is for Monastrell with Nicholas Hammeken

Winephabet Street is a monthly series where Lori Budd of Draceana Wines and I work our way through the alphabet exploring wine and wine regions one letter at a time. The show is live on the third Monday at 8pm and is free, but you must register to attend. Put it on your calendar, pour yourself a glass of wine and hang out with us.

We were so excited in this episode to have Nicholas Hammeken from Hammeken Cellars in Spain to talk all things Monastrell and a little background on himself and how he got into wine. Nicholas started out in wine in Denmark as a cellar master and landed in the UK working for Seagrams. It was here where he learned about what the consumers need. His wife who is a dentist, got a job in Spain in 1996 and Nicholas got a job in a winery in Jumilla and the rest is history.

Nicholas founded Hammeken Cellars in the early 2000s and its foundation is Monastrell. They believe that Spanish wines should be crafted with the focus on the fruit with freshness and pure expression of the varietal sometimes with oak sometimes without oak.

Nicholas talks about Monastrell, the history, and how 2 regions in Spain are responsible for all the Monastrell produced in the country. It’s a fascinating discussion as he talks about the types of wine the grape produces and what you have to be careful of from the vineyard to the winery, from the old bush vines to the younger vines.

I don’t want to give away the entire conversation. I do want to say it was awesome and we learned a lot about Monastrell and Spain. I can’t wait to visit there one day. Give the webinar watch or the podcast a listen.

We did get to sample three of Hammeken’s wines. All three were different and wonderful. I love the saying on the bottle of Creencia

“Creencia: trust, faith, confidence

Belief in powerful balance of the Monastrell varietal

Belief in the dry farming, that brings out the best of the grape

Belief in this wine, that will linger in your memory forever”

2015 Hammeken Cellars Creencia con Actitud - 100% Monastrell from 45+-year-old vines at an altitude of 700 - 900 meters. The wine spent 12 months in 100% French Oak barrels. This was a very difficult vintage and kudos to the wine team. The wine is dark red in color with complex aromas of blackberry, violet, toasted oak and mocha. The palate is smooth and structured. It’s a full bodied wine that as wonderful minerality and soft velvety tannins with hints of black licorice on the finish. SRP $22.95

2017 Hammeken Cellars Creencia con Juventud - This is a younger style wine. It is dry-farmed and comes from ungrafted vines 35 years old. They maintain the freshness and acidity much more. They use small French Oak barrels new and used oak for 6 months. Beautiful red color, Nice freshness and acidity and wine dances on your palate. Nice deep dark red with aromas of black cherries, fig, and rosemary. The palate is fresh with nice balanced acidity, firm tannins with a hint of black pepper on the finish. SRP $14.95

2018 Hammeken Cellars Pasas Gran Pasas DO Yecia - This wine is made to revive an old tradition to harvest in late October when the grapes have the highest concentration of flavors and begin to shrivel up. The wine spent 6 months in French oak barrels. The wine is very fresh and well balanced. Dark red in color with aromas of blackberry, ripe black cherry, dark chocolate and wild herbs. The palate has a sweetness to it, and so well balanced with the acidity. Big concentration of red and black fruit on the palate with hints of dark chocolate. SRP $14.95

Watch the Webinar

Listen to the Podcast

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Yes There Is Wine in Campania: Donnachiara Wines

On the first Friday in November, Happy Hour came early at 3pm with Donnachiara wines and Ilaria Petitto on Winestudio.

Winestudio is a program I have had the privilege to participate in for many years. It has been so instrumental in my wine journey. It has allowed me to to learn, taste and understand wines that I would have never reached for as well as meet winemakers and winery owners. This in turn has allowed me to share this knowledge with you.

This beautiful Friday afternoon I sat out on my deck sipping on two of Donnachiara wines while chatting with Ilaria Petitto and learning about her wine journey and wines.

Donnachiara is located in the province of Avellino in the Campania region of southern Italy. The winery was founded in 2005 by Ilaria’s mother Chiara producing wine from ancient vineyards. In 2008 Ilaria left her Italian Notary position (attorney) and joined her mother taking the winery from 10,000 bottle production to 200,000 bottle production today. (16,666 cases)

The road wasn’t always easy, working with your mother can be difficult. Two headstrong women, Ilaria ideas on the wine business, labels and policy were different than her mothers. In the end, love and respect win out. Today Ilaria is the face of the winery and you can just see the love and passion in her face and expressions. She also talks about the challenges she faces. It’s not all fun and wine. “Making wine is challenging because you are working with nature. Weather is changing a lot, we are getting hail and frost every year. Can’t control the weather.” It is something facing may wine regions.

The winery focus is producing DOCG wines, the highest classification in Italy, on the slopes of Montefalcione. They produce Fiano di Avellino, Greco di Tufo and Taurasi. These wines are worth seeking out! What I really love about the two wines I got to sample (besides how good they were) was the word cloud on the label. That tells you so much about the wine! Best is these wines are under $20, both the reds and the whites. The two below are the white wines I sampled.

2019 Empatia - Fiano do Avellino DOCG - What a beautiful fresh wine with nice minerality full of tropical fruit and white citrus. Very soft and creamy on the palate with bright acidity.

2018 Aletheia Greco di Tufo DOCG - This wine is their best seller! The wine does age on its lees for a year. A little bit more full-bodied with strong mineral notes and flavors of pear and pineapple fill your palate.

Donnachiara exports 60% of their wine production and you can find it at Total Wine.

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Cabernet Franc Misunderstood: Get To Know It December 4!

Cabernet Franc so misunderstood. Once only used as a blending grape doesn’t get much fan fare. In reality it really is the Big Daddy of all grapes!

Cabernet Franc is the father of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Carmenere. Yes he got around during his time! It is one of the blending grapes in Bordeaux wine yet it wasn’t until recently that it’s been brought to the forefront as a stand alone wine.

My Cabernet Franc AHA Moment

When I began on my wine journey I didn’t know much about Cabernet Franc. I tasted it at Whitecliff Vineyards in Gardiner, New York and was wowed! It is during this time of year as Cabernet Franc day is celebrated that I reflect back on the grape and my Aha moment with it.

For me it was the strawberry, black raspberry, plum and dark fruit that finished with an explosion of black pepper. I was in love but didn’t realize the grape was an under-dog. The more wine tasting the more I realized that the grape is used in some percentage in other red blends all around, not just in New York but all over. As you get to know Cabernet Franc, you can pick it out of the blend. It is so much more than a blending grape.

Make sure you taste Cabernet Franc wines produced in different parts of the world. Taste and aroma will vary, some more fruity, some more minerally and some more herbaceous all based on the terroir of the region.

Cabernet Franc Pairing

Cabernet Franc pairs with so much food. Try it with your burger, roasted pork, grilled pork chop, pork belly, meatballs, turkey, lamb, venison, cheese, lentils, beans and more. Such a food friendly wine!

Cabernet Franc Day - December 4

This Friday is Cabernet Franc Day, the day you have no excuse not to try a wine made with the Big Daddy of grapes. Cabernet Franc Day was started by Lori & Michael Budd of Dracaena Wines to celebrate this underdog of grapes.

Every year Lori works her butt off to put together a great program featuring Cabernet Franc and the people that produce the wines. Join us on Twitter and follow the hashtag #CabFrancDay. The conversation begins at 8pm ET / 5pm PT. You can interact with Cabernet Franc lovers and winemakers from all over the world.