5 Wines To Get You Through Thanksgiving Alive

Everyone knows alcohol helps pass the time spent with less-than-kindred kin during the holiday season. If bird is the word, that dried-out turkey might need some liquid support as much as you do. With mandatory imbibing in mind, we discuss different tactics involving wine to get over obstacles, emotional and physical, such as how to avoid unnecessary tableside political conversations and restroom getaway routes — all by way of holiday wine selections.

Partner in Wine: Cheap wine

Chances are you might not know your cousin’s husband’s brother-in-law who will be sitting at the 20-person-wide communal table this holiday, but chances are better that he doesn’t know you or your drink taste. Shop the discount section at large grocers — Kroger stores are notorious for marking down bottles that do not sell well, many of which might be insane deals if you look close enough. Or, instead of skimming the bottle shelf for dwellers even your stingy uncle knows is cheap, look one row up and select a teeth-staining, full-bodied Argentine Malbec for $7 instead.

Partner in Wine: High ABV bottles

No amount of wine can change the results of this election, but it can help to tune out the amount of nonsense you have to take an ear-full of from a relative that might not have the same POV as you. The aforementioned Malbec can do the trick if it’s coming from hot enough grape-growing regions but Zinfandel is a sure bet — anything from California’s wicked hot Lodi region will see alcohol by volume (ABV) percentages in the high 15s, 16s and even 17 percentiles. Just maybe avoid talking about the reason why that region is so hot in the first place…

Partner in Wine: Striking packaging

“Yes, Grandma, that is a naked woman on the label and no, she is not a friend of mine.” Stuck in an empty tête-à-tête with an in-law? Grab the nearest bottle and start discussing the abject expressionism of bottle art. Learn up on what you are pouring in your glass so you can rattle off a car-rehearsed canned speech on what makes your bottle worth filling vacant airspace with.

Partner in Wine: Mulled wine

Sugar and spice and everything nice, you are way too busy in the kitchen seasoning your multi-step, slow-cooked mulled wine to converse with anyone you do not want to. Hovering over your mom’s crockpot, wooden ladle in hand with the hood fan blowing a sweet breeze into your face, you are also nearly hard of hearing in this position: an unappealing counterpart for a heart-to-heart-seeking relative. Although most recipes really only require 20 minutes of “active” work, this recipe instructs for a watchful eye over a spices-stuffed cheesecloth bag and a splash of brandy for the win.

Partner in Wine: Large format bottles

This social pardon requires commitment — from lingering around a large format container of purple drank to loitering around the restroom regardless of who went in there last. Large formats — aka box wine, a 1.5-liter bottle or bigger — will only hit your bladder as fast as you hit that bottle, but we all know what happens once you break the seal. Position yourself and your bottle/box close to the restroom for a quick and easy closure to an undesirable exchange.

How to Drink Like the Founding Fathers This 4th of July

It should be well-known that the Founding Fathers, as well as most early Americans, were fond of a drink.  It wasn’t uncommon for citizens to start their day with a quart of hard cider and Benjamin Franklin himself noted some of his employees would take a pint in between each meal.  He would later record more than 200 synonyms for “drunk.”  Judging from the bar tab for a 1787 farewell party held for George Washington, those synonyms were used frequently.  Adjusted for inflation and converted to US dollars, the party cost roughly $15,400, which is a shit-ton of money to spend on alcohol.

With that, here’s how to drink just like the Founding Fathers this Fourth of July:


Currently, we’re in the middle of what feels like a craft beer renaissance, with breweries popping up on both coasts of the country and everywhere in between.  But what seems like uncharted territory is really just us returning to the 18th century and, in some respects, even earlier.  We think we like beer now, but consider this.  It’s currently illegal to stop a road trip and pick up more beer because you drank it all on the drive.  In 1620, that’s why the Pilgrims didn’t make it to Virginia.  The Mayflower was packed with more beer than water and it still wasn’t enough.  It may have been the single greatest booze cruise in the history of man and the Pilgrims, of all people, were so hardcore they founded a colony just to resupply for the trip back to England.

Not that long after, beer was produced locally almost down to the household.  Families in rural America brewed their own beer in small amounts for home consumption while larger breweries supplied individual cities, rarely expanding.  It was, along with cider, served to everyone eating breakfast, including children.  And if you were traveling, tradition dictated you stop in for a drink at each tavern you passed, making every trip a bar crawl.

George Washington produced beer for the common people as well.  In a notebook he kept during the French and Indian War, George Washington included a recipe for small beer, a lower-quality, low-alcohol brew.  It’s not a complicated recipe and was meant for paid servants and possibly soldiers in the British Army.  The notebook includes details about Washington’s daily life in the Virginia militia, suggesting brewing was as commonplace to the guy on the one-dollar bill as a one-dollar bill is to us.

There was a tasting of a limited run of Washington’s brew done in midtown Manhattan this time last year.  Pete Taylor helped decipher the recipe and actually brewed the beer, which apparently turned out well and leaned toward the sweet side.  If you’re looking to get some for your July 4th, your best bet might be brewing your own, but Yards Brewing does make General Washington’s Tavern Porter, which was inspired by the writings of the General.

Thomas Jefferson was even more active in the brewing life.  Jefferson and his wife, as newly-weds, brewed fifteen-gallon batches of small beer every two weeks.  Eventually, Jefferson expanded his brewing and by 1814 there was a brewhouse in Monticello and Jefferson was malting his own grain.  Not long after, friends and neighbors were asking for Jefferson’s recipe and sending servants to train in his methods, so something right was happening at the Virginia estate.  If you want to sample something similar, Yards makes Thomas Jefferson’s Tavern Ale, based on when they worked with City Tavern in Philadelphia to recreate Jefferson’s recipe.  City Tavern’s been around in one form or another since before the Revolution and they’ve staked their reputation on being authentic to the time, so they’re a safe bet for drinking like a revolutionary.

If you’re indecisive or can’t pick a favorite president, Yards offers an Ales of the Revolution 12-pack.  You get the porter, the ale, and Poor Richard’s Tavern Spruce, based on Benjamin Franklin’s recipe.  Each beer has been around for a little while, with Poor Richard’s being the most recent addition in 2005, but it’s always worth calling attention to a good bit of alcoholic historical preservation.


Jefferson may have dominated the Founding Father beer market at Monticello, but Mount Vernon was the whiskey juggernaut.  In February of 1797, Washington’s first eighty gallons were produced and by June he was expanding.  Though, surprisingly, the man behind the success of the whiskey wasn’t Washington.  It was the Scotch-Irish John Anderson.  His recipe first called for only wheat, but eventually he moved to a mixture of rye, corn, and a little barley.

In fact, Anderson was so successful Washington trusted him to run the distillery, saying “Distillery is a business I am entirely unacquainted with,” and that it was Anderson’s confidence that even convinced Washington to go into the business in the first place.  Good thing he did too, because what started as a small batch distillation turned into the most successful commercial distillery in Virginia.

Mount Vernon is still distilling.  While the spirits aren’t cheap, they’re not the most expensive whiskies we’ve ever seen either.  If that’s not an option, American whiskey is a well-established practice by now, despite the interruption of the Temperance Movement.  Everyone has their favorites and the best practice for celebrating an American spirit is finding a batch that fits your tastes.  Luckily, we have a few articles to help you out there.


Cider’s going to be a hard one to nail down, especially if we’re adhering to what was available to the Founding Fathers.  This means toss out that Woodchuck and Angry Orchard, because the ciders available to, and often made by, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were dry, fruity ciders rather than the fizzing sugar-fests mass-produced today.

There are a few reasons for the difficulty in finding an authentic cider.  Even though its popularity has exploded lately, cider’s still not as popular as beer and, like we said before, a lot of the most popular ciders are super-sweet and don’t hold true to those early, dry ciders.  A lot of availability depends on region.  So if you’re reading this in California, it’s probably going to be harder for you to find a faithful bottle than, say, a guy in New England.

Plus, a lot of the apple varieties and methods used by colonists and early patriots were lost, killed by German immigration and Prohibition. It’s only just starting to re-emerge, although not always in pure strains and verbatim recipes.  Cross-breeding and reinterpretation are common, as well as the experimentation craft brewers are so fond of, so cider’s recovery is less like a recovery and more like a rebirth.

It also seems like a good rule of thumb, and this is just us making an educated guess, but more traditional ciders are packaged like wine, in big 750 mL bottles, instead of six packs.

All that being said, it’s not impossible to find an authentic American cider, or at least an homage to it.  Ablemarle Cider Works have a cider called the Royal Pippin, made from Jefferson’s favorite apple, the Ablemarle Pippin.  They also have the 1817, based on a recipe found in A View of the Cultivation of Fruit Trees and the Management of Orchards and Cider by William Coxe, published in 1817.  It looks like it’s sold out for this year, but it’s worth mentioning, as it’s the most authentic variety we’ve been able to find.


It says something about the United States when, at a party thrown only days before the framers signed off on the Constitution, everyone drank two bottles of wine and that wasn’t the end of the night.  John Adams was so enthusiastic about wine he once attempted to smuggle 500 bottles of French Bordeaux into the country so he didn’t have to pay import taxes.  When he failed, he made Thomas Jefferson do it for him.  By God, John Adams was going to do two things.  He was going to break off from the tyranny of England and then was going to get blitzed out of his mind.

The Adamses once shocked a French dignitary by hosting a dinner where everyone drank so much they, by the sounds of it, puked in night tables and vases for the sole purpose of being able to “hold a greater amount of liquor.”  There’s a puke-and-rally joke to be made here, but we’re too preoccupied by the image of patriot-vomit-filled end tables to think of a good one.

Luckily, wine similar to what they drank in the 18th century might be the easiest thing on this list to find.  Madeira and claret wines are still being made in the same regions they were back then, so finding a good bottle is going to be as simple as heading to your local liquor store.  Although, for added authenticity, you could always pull a John Adams.

Alcoholic Punch

This one is hard to make more specific.  The tab doesn’t go deeper into detail, so all we can do is guess at what they drank.  We have a few punch recipes and from the looks of them when the Founding Fathers asked for punch, really what they meant was “all that stuff you’ve got on the middle shelf, plus a couples lemons or whatever.”

Our first punch is Philadelphia Fish House Punch, first made by rebellious colonists in the Schuylkill Fishing Company of Pennsylvania.  They may have taken the spirit of the Revolution a little far and declared the organization itself a sovereign state, which may or may not be treason, we have to check.  Although, the reason they haven’t been tried for treason may be that the punch decimates anyone’s desire to do anything other than lay down face first on 18th century floorboards.

Stone Fence is another that sounds promising and summery.  We haven’t talked too much about rum, but rest assured, the colonists, especially Ethan Allen, leader of The Green Mountain Boys, loved it.  Stories about Allen being carted away after nights of hard drinking are common.  It’s a simple drink, taking two ounces of rum and topping it off with hard cider.  It also heavily suggests The Green Mountain Boys were thoroughly stitched for their climb up to Fort Ticonderoga.

Our last one has been destroying livers presumably since people have had access to rum, porter, and the idea of mixing.  The ominously but strangely encouragingly named Rattle-Skull hits a lot of the autumnal tastes the mid-September party would have wanted, but we don’t like to think of skull-rattling as a seasonal activity.  More of a patriotic one.  In this drink in particular, measurements vary, so feel free to play with the amount of rum and brandy you want to include.

Obviously, we have a lot to live up to when it comes to the signers of the Declaration but we can take some direction from this John Adams quote: “If the ancients drank as our people drink rum and cider, it is no wonder we hear of so many possessed with devils.”  In other words, “Greeks and Romans were either satanic or drunk, and I’m going with drunk.”  So, this Fourth of July, get out there and make your forefathers proud.

5 Highly-Rated Wines That Are Perfect for Valentine’s Day

So, you want to impress your valentine with a fancy bottle of wine, but you’re not sure where to start. The thought of sifting through the countless bottles of wine at your local liquor store seems like a daunting task. Plus, what do you look for? You can ask a clerk, but they can only help you if you have an idea of what you’re looking for. Luckily for you, we’ve amassed a list of the 12 perfect wines for Valentine’s Day. Each has a rating of at least 90 from Wine Spectator and range in price from $45 to $195.

Au Paradise Cabernet Sauvignon

From Peter Michael Winery, in Napa Valley, Au Paradise is Wine Spectator’s best wine of 2015. This well-balanced cabernet sauvignon has flavors of cherries, berries and the perfect amount of acidity to tannins. Rating: 96

Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino

This Tuscan wine is rich and full of strong flavors including: cherries, plums, tobacco and licorice. It’s an extremely balanced wine and a great value for $85. Rating: 95

Evening Land Pinot Noir Eola-Amity Hills, Seven Springs Vineyard, La Source

Well known for their fertile soil, Oregon’s Evening Land brings us this 2012 vintage Pinot Noir. This wine comes from an area in Seven Springs Vineyard referred to as La Source. The flavors are smooth and rich with hints of berries, spices and plums. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better rated wine at such a low price. Rating: 98

Bodegas Aalto Ribera del Duero

This red wine is from Aalto Bodegas y Viñedos in Valladolid, Spain. The flavors are strong and rich with berries, chocolate and licorice being the most prevalent. Rating: 94

Rattlesnake Ridge Petite Syrah

This Syrah comes from Turley Wine Cellars in California. This wine starts with flavors of spicy pepper and cinnamon spices and finishes with tart raspberries and blackberries. Rating: 95

Coffee, Beer, Wine and Chocolate May Become Extinct Due to Climate Change

Animals are not the only ones affected by climate change. Scientists say climate change can also make certain foods extinct.

If the climate change phenomenon continues at its current pace, the world may soon live without some of its tastiest fare, such as chocolate, wine, beer, coffee, apple, rice, beans, seafood and guacamole. Research undertaken in recent years indicates it could even lead to the extinction of peanut butter, French fries and potato chips.

While water scarcity is likely to lead to shortage of beer, temperate fruit and nut trees such as apple are getting affected by the gradual disappearance of the winter chill. The aggravating climate change situation could also cause chocolate to become extinct due to decline in cocoa production, the Mirror UK reported in December 2015.

Coffee is also on the danger list, which is being affected by deadly fungus and disease resulting from higher temperatures. With grape yields hit by the rising temperatures, wine is also under threat of extinction, as are many other foods, over the next few decades.

A study, published in the Public Library of Science in 2011, had suggested that the increasing temperatures and weather fluctuations are adversely affecting food production systems around the world. The next few decades may thus see some of the popular food become extinct, it said.

An October 2015 report in The Guardian described the effect of climate change on agriculture as a matter of concern. It quoted David Lobell, deputy director of the Center on Food Security and the Environment, Stanford University, saying that factors such as availability of water, temperature swings and the impact of stress on plant health would cause several foods to become extinct.

Labor-Free Cocktails for Labor Day Weekend

If your summer cocktails have included muddled fresh herbs picked from your garden, shrubs from berries gathered at a pick-your-own farm, and juice hand-squeezed right before each drink is made, you’ve been working hard for your refreshment. You might want to take a break from the hard labor this Labor Day weekend and create cocktails that can be put together with just a few pours.

The makers of Ménage à Trois Vodka sent me labor-free cocktail ideas, and I shook a couple of them together in my kitchen the other night to see just how easy they were to make and how they tasted. I enjoyed both of these easy-to-make cocktails. Ménage à Trois’ vodkas are gluten free, and their fruit-flavored vodkas are made from all natural ingredients and real fruit, most of which comes from California where the vodkas are distilled.



  • 1 1/2 parts citrus vodka
  • 3/4 part blood orange juice (or regular orange juice if you want to buy it instead of squeezing your own to make it extra labor-free)
  • 3/4 part sparkling wine


  1. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and add vodka and juice.
  2. Shake and strain into a fluted glass.
  3. Top with sparkling wine.
  4. Garnish with an orange twist, if desired.

Midsummer Martini


  • 3 parts berry vodka
  • Extra-dry Vermouth
  • 3 fresh raspberries


  1. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and add vodka and two dashes of vermouth.
  2. Shake and strain into a chilled martini glass.
  3. Garnish with raspberries.

‘Wine O’Clock’ is Officially a Thing, Says Oxford

As a word nerd, I love it when new words are added to dictionaries. Oxford Dictionaries released a list of the words just added to its website, and it’s a testament to technology, social media and pop culture. Words added to the dictionary include “butt-dial,” “Redditor,” and “MacGyver” as a verb. (How has it taken more than 20 years for that to be officially included?)

I’m particularly interested in the words connected to food and beverages, and there are plenty of them. “Wine o’clock” and “beer o’clock” are now officially words, referring to an appropriate time of the day to start drinking wine or beer.

“Hangry,” a mashup of the words hungry and angry made the list. This is a word I’m very familiar with. If my 13-year-old doesn’t take the time to eat, he becomes “hangry” personified. When he gets that way, I’ll reach for anything that’s “snackable” — another new dictionary word — to take the edge off.

The new words “cheffy” and “melty” mean what exactly what you think they mean (related to a chef and able to melt.) But “cidery” doesn’t mean tasting like cider. It’s a noun that means the place where cider is made.

“Cakeage” has also been added to the dictionary. It’s a fee that a restaurant charges you to serve you a cake that you brought yourself, and it’s a take on the word “corkage,” a fee a restaurant charges you to open a bottle of wine that you brought with you.

“Cupcakery” (a bakery that specializes in cupcakes), “cat cafe” (a cafe with cats in it), and “barmaid’s blush” (typically red wine mixed with lemonade or beer mixed with raspberry cordial) are all now dictionary words.

One fairly gross word on the list is “fatberg.” A fatberg is a very large mass of solid waste in a sewer system that contains congealed fat and personal hygiene products that have been flushed down toilets. Two years ago, London had a 15-ton fatberg that was a combination of food fat and baby wipes that clogged its sewer system. Fatbergs are manmade, and their existence should remind us not to pour grease down the sink or flush anything down the toilet but human waste and toilet paper.

I don’t want to leave you on a disgusting note, though, so I’ll end with a word my boys have been using for years: “pwned.” It’s a term that began with online gamers and it means utterly defeated. It exists only because the “P’ and the “O” are next to each other on the keyboard. It came about from winning gamers bragging to the losers and saying “I own you.” but making a typo and typing “I pwn you.”

Thirsty Thursday: 20 White Wines Under $25

It’s the middle of summer. It’s hot. And you’d like something to drink. There’s no need to spend an entire paycheck on something to sip on. In fact, you can score quite a few fantastic white whites – perfect for summer — for under $25.

My current draft picks for whites that won’t slaughter your budget goes way beyond the obligatory Chardonnay (in fact, a killer Napa Chard is what you are not going to get for under $25) and reaches into some very familiar and some less familiar varietals and regions. All are obtainable without a ton of trouble, though some producers are larger and some smaller, and some will be likely to grace the chilled section of your supermarket beverage aisle while others you might have to order (if it’s one of the less ubiquitous ones it is internet-orderable and worth it; no one has to high tail it to the Basque Country or a remote corner of Slovakia for any of these). Keep an eye out for these guys.

Abbazia di Novacella Alto Adige Kerner ($19)

Anyone keeping score at home will have noticed that I have a bit of a fetish for the Alto Adige region of northeastern Italy. This Kerner is one reason why. A German grape with some Riesling parentage, good Kerners have a crisp, dry, appley nature and are green-gold in the glass. This one’s a beauty, with a peach note and a good balance between opulence and restraint. Which is what we’re all looking for, aren’t we?

Albastrele Sauvignon Blanc ($15)

This yellow-gold, bracing wine hails from Moldova (but trust me, you don’t have to fly there to get it.) Like New Zealand, Chile and South Africa, Moldova has serious wine at amazing prices for the value. This is an example. Citrusy, grassy, lightly mineral. Perfect summer afternoon sip.

Alois Lageder Chardonnay ($17)

Pretty sure you hate Chardonnay? Don’t be too sure. Chardonnay’s one of the great shapeshifters of the grape world and this one, another pick from my pals in Alto Adige, is lively, but soft and rounded, without that buttercream thing. Unoaked. White peach, honeysuckle, tangerine zest. Long happy finish.

Champalou Vouvray ($22)

Vouvray wines come from the Loire Valley and are made from Chenin Blanc grapes. It is fruity, layered, and I don’t want to say off-dry but it has a teensy little bit of a sweet finish. Not syrupy. Yummy. Heady floral nose, orange and a touch of hazelnut. Super versatile and food friendly, also wonderful all by itself because it is 5:06 on a Tuesday.

Coeur de Terre Pinot Gris ($17)

Oregon’s main exports may be timber and ironic beards, but their wine scene is on the move. This Willamette Valley Pinot Gris is a playful wine that doesn’t take itself too seriously even though it could be forgiven for doing so. Great depth, unfolding notes of grapefruit, melon and tangerine, wonderful balanced acidity. A killer picnic wine.

Donkey and Goat Grenache Blanc ($24)

One of my favorite grapes from one of my favorite Bay Area producers: Donkey and Goat is a small shop and depending where you live, you might encounter it in your local Whole Foods or it might be on the “You need to order it” list, but for heaven’s sake do it. Supple, sexy, and bone dry, this wine’s a paean to stone fruits and honey. Great minerality. Lots of personality. So good.

D’orta e Concilliis Falanghina ($24.99)

I’ve written about this amazing Campanian white before, but it bears repeating. A sultry light bodied, pale wine, it delivers an amazing bouquet of peaches and nectarines and pretty white flowers but when you taste it, there’s virtually no fruit on the palate. Medium bodied and highly mineral, with notes of sea air. If you see it anywhere, grab it.

FEL pinot Gris ($25)

Pinot Gris is a beautiful grape with many wonderful expressions – this one delivers a nice bouquet of apple, pear and quince and segues into a tangerine sort of thing with a good deal of something granite-like. Lingering. But it will not linger at your dinner table.

Frescobaldi Pomino Bianco ($15)

The white Supertuscan! This is a very well-thought-out blend of chardonnay and pinot bianco that brings out the best in both. Straw-hued with a slight green reflex. Substantial but not heavy, with typical Pinot apple notes and typical tropical notes of Chardonnay. There’s a bit of neroli or bergamot, a bit of oak but not too much, great minerality. A steal at the price and a really unique wine.

Gundlach Bunschu 2013 Gewurtztraminer ($22.50)

It is a testament to how much I love “Gun-Bun” that I am calling out a Gewurztraminer on this list at all – I rarely find one I like. This Sonoma take on what is often a cloying mess of a grape is gorgeously aromatic – put it to your nose and you’ll be hit with everything from jasmine to ginger and allspice. From there it’s mostly a tangerine and lychee affair with a tiny bit of nectarine. Yum.

Hendry Albarino ($20)

Napa is not known for acidic, aromatic whites, so I am happy to note that Hendry’s going for it with this Spanish mainstay. Lemon, lemon and lemon, with some peppery notes and a nice florality (I get lime blossom). Light, acidic, food friendly. There are a ton of wonderful Albarinos from Spain – it’s just so nice to see one coming out of Napa at an affordable price point I had to say something.

J Vineyards Russian River Valley Chardonnay ($25)

An elegant Chardonnay from an AVA where they tend to avoid the butterbomb effect that puts a lot of people off. Nice balance of creaminess and acidity, lots of tropical tones but balanced. These guys have a hard time making a bad wine and most of their bottles are above this price point. Accessible and totally worth it.

Mulderbosch Chenin Blanc ($12)

South Africa has some wine superstars and Mulderbosch is one of them. Chenin Blanc is the signature grape of the Cape region and this is a lovely expression of it. Pale green in the glass, this wine is lively, youthful and light, with a nice floral nose and subtle hints of mango and pineapple. A steal.

Preston “Madam Preston” White Rhone Blend ($30)

Yes, it’s over 25 bucks. I had to include it, though, because I love it so much. This blend of Rhone whites (Viognier, Rousanne, Grenache Blanc and Marsanne) is epically delicious, rich and curvaceous, sunny, and extremely layered and complex. Peaches, lime zest, pear, honeysuckle, aromatic herbs and a tiny hint of nuttiness. If you’re going to go over your budget, go here.

Quivira 2013 Fig Tree Sauvignon Blanc ($24)

I’ve said it before and I will say it many more times: Quivira rules. These Dry Creek stars are sustainability-forward and prove that you do not sacrifice quality when you’re paying attention to your footprint. This is an unusual Sauvignon Blanc for California. Often they’re a pretty uncomplicated citrus-fest with a faint grassiness – and they’re great warm-weather wines. This one has a stony finish – in the best way – and hints of melon along with the citrus notes. I wish I could figure out if the power of suggestion accounts for the fact that I actually smell figs.

Round Pond Rutherford Sauvignon Blanc ($24)

This is another wonderful Sauv Blanc, bright and very nuanced, with pronounced acidity and a heady floral bouquet. Peach and apricot, lemongrass, and a hint of melon. Pure pleasure.

Tangent Grenache Blanc ($17)

Folks, I recently went wine tasting in San Luis Obispo and I am here to tell you that this region gives you serious bang for your buck. They lack the cachet pricing of Napa Valley and you will not miss it. Tangent’s Grenache Blanc is light and lovely and reminds you that apples and roses are related. Silky-smooth and balanced, with the hallmark stoniness that pervades SLO wines. This bottle is an amazing value. It’s delicious.

Tangent Viognier ($17)

In fact, while you’re on the hunt for wines from Tangent, try their Viognier. This grape, handled properly, can be sublime, and these folks understand aromatic whites. This one has a strong, persistent peach note, and a lot of floral notes on the finish (honeysuckle dominates). Full-bodied and rich, creamy mouthfeel, great acidity.

Wild Horse Viognier ($17)

Another lovely viognier at a great price point, with an almost gewurtztraminer-like lychee note on the nose in addition to the classic peach scent. Medium body, peachy and lemony on the palate.

Zocker Gruner Velitliner ($18)

Another central coast, cool climate white. White pepper and steel, a bit of melon, and something ineffably earthy. This is the kind of wine you have to be careful with because you could drink it all day. And you might.

Recipe of the Week: Bacon-Wrapped Gulf Shrimp with Blue Cheese Butter and Port Reduction

Port Reduction
  • 1 ½ cups sweet red port wine
  • ⅓ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
  • 2 medium sprigs fresh rosemary
Blue Cheese Butter
  • 4 tablespoons butter, softened
  • ¼ cup blue cheese, crumbled (or use Stilton as used in the original recipe if available)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, chopped very fine
  • 1 tablespoon bacon fat
Wrapped Shrimp
  • 1 pound thin cut bacon (16 slices per pound or one ounce each slice)
  • 2 pounds 16-20 count Gulf shrimp, peeled, deveined and with tail left on
  • 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  1. In a small sauce pan, place all port reduction ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook down to ½ cup, about 15 minutes. Strain liquid and discard solids. Set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, mix softened butter, blue cheese and chopped rosemary. Set aside.
  3. In a large pan or griddle, cook bacon over medium high heat just until it starts to turn brown and transfer to paper towels to drain. The bacon and shrimp cook at two different times so the bacon needs to be partially cooked first before wrapping raw shrimp. Do not cook the bacon too long or it will not be pliable enough to wrap around raw shrimp.
  4. Take one tablespoon of bacon fat and add to blue cheese butter and mix thoroughly. Save remaining bacon fat for other recipes.
  5. Place butter mixture in a small pastry bag with an open round tip (one big enough to accept small pieces of blue cheese without getting clogged). Set aside.
  6. On a cutting board, cut each strip of bacon in half across the center which will give you 32 pieces. That should also be the count in the two pounds of shrimp. Leftover shrimp if any, use for other recipes.
  7. Take each half strip of bacon and wrap once around each shrimp and secure with a toothpick coming in from the side so the shrimp will cook flat. Repeat for all 32 pieces.
  8. Using the same griddle, clean and heat to medium to medium high.
  9. Add oil and once hot, place all of the bacon wrapped shrimp down onto the pan on their sides. If the pan is too crowded, cook in two batches or cook with two pans at once on two burners.
  10. Cook for about two minutes or until they start to turn pink. Flip and repeat for other side. Do not overcook. If you are not sure, pull one out to test.
  11. Shut off burner and with pastry bag, pipe blue cheese butter over each one then immediately remove shrimp to a platter leaving fat and residue in pan.
  12. Just before serving, drizzle with port reduction or serve port reduction on the side.

Starbucks launching mobile ordering, will add beer, wine and snacks

Starbucks Corp, aiming to give cooling U.S. traffic a jolt, on Thursday announced it will add beer, wine, and evening snacks to thousands of domestic cafes, widen lunch offerings and roll out mobile ordering.

Such efforts are part of the world’s biggest coffee chain’s plan to broaden its appeal as a destination with consumers who are spending more time shopping online rather than in malls and Main Street stores.

The company, which is hosting its biennial investor meeting in Seattle, said it would lay out its five-year plans to double U.S. food revenue to over $4 billion by expanding food choices, particularly during lunch hours.

Starbucks plans to reap about $1 billion in new sales from the addition of evening menus, including beer, wine and food, at nearly 3,000 of its 11,900 cafes in the United States.

The company also will detail the launch of a new mobile ordering and payment system that it says will make getting a coffee fix even more convenient. That same technology will underpin deliveries in select U.S. markets next year.

Additionally, in coming months, it will debut express stores, coffee trucks and upscale “reserve” shops, which will offer premium specialized coffee sourced from small farms.

Starbucks’ U.S.-dominated Americas unit had a traffic gain of 1 percent in the latest quarter, versus the 5 percent jump in the year-earlier period. An increase in sales of food, such as croissants and breakfast sandwiches, has helped offset slowing traffic in the last three quarters.

Chief Executive Howard Schultz in January warned that a “seismic” shift to online shopping was taking a bite out of traffic to U.S. brick-and-mortar stores.

That, executives said, contributed to a moderate slowdown in traffic in December 2013.

Traffic softened earlier this year than last and the weakness is expected to continue through the holiday season, said Steven Barr, who leads PwC’s U.S. retail and consumer practice.

The chain, which has 21,000 shops worldwide serving 70 million customers weekly, forecast fiscal 2019 revenue of nearly $30 billion, up from $16 billion in the fiscal 2014 ended Sept. 28.

Plans for the Asia-Pacific region include doubling its cafes in China to over 3,000 by 2019.