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Buying wines for your wedding - made easy!

This time of year in particular we get numerous inquiries from anxious brides and grooms who rightfully care about what wines they will serve at their wedding, but are stressed to the max about choosing them for their big day. While some weddings have specifications which call for a professional consult, many others are more streamlined. For the latter case, we thought it might be time to write up a few How To's to take the stress out of this project!  

The three most common criteria couples present to us:

1.  User-friendly: We want wines that everyone will enjoy, whether they are "usually" an X-wine drinker or not.

Tess
Tess

2.  Food-friendly: We want the wines to work with what we're serving, whether someone opted for the fish, chicken or tenderloin.

3.  Cost-effect: We don't want to serve anything "cheap", but if we could keep things under(?!) or around $15 per bottle, that would be great...

You can address all of these concerns in just a few steps:

TIP #1: Streamline your offerings

There are reasons (yes, plural) "His and Her Cocktails" are so popular... It's festive, for sure, and fewer options for guests tightens up your liquor order (read: budget), focuses consumption, AND expedites service! So approach wine offerings similarly and CHOOSE "HOUSE" WINES: by offering your sparkler plus a crowd-pleasing white and red (with maybe a beautiful dry rose thrown in for good measure), you will satisfy the majority (if not all!) of your guests. Remember, these three options offer enough variety themselves. So have fun with it! You could even come up with creative or personal names for each choice.

TIP #2: Pick a Perky White

Wines with higher acidity are food-friendly by nature; but their mouthwatering effect also comes in handy when your best friend just got stuck talking to crazy Aunt Edna or you've got dancing on the agenda. Sauvignon Blanc works, sure!, but one of our other "sneaky" tricks is to select grape varietals that guests may not have ever heard of, let alone tasted. Case in point: as popular as Austrian Gruner Veltliner and Spanish Albarino are becoming, these are not grapes that everyone knows (though they should!). Offering something people have no expectations about means they just simply sip and enjoy!

TIP #3: Select a Smooth Red

When it comes to selecting your red offering, you want something that strikes a middle ground - something not too bold and dry, and something not too light so that guests use that dreaded wine word "thin". You also want something that goes down smooooth - something with nice fruit and soft edges. Here again, a way to work around the grape varietal fatigue (aka I only drink California Cab...) is to choose wines that are named for their region, with no varietal labeling evident. Smart picks are red wines from the Cotes du Rhone (fabulous, food-friendly red blends) or wallet-friendly Spanish Rioja (the more expensive options often mean the wine has spent more time in oak barrels, which puts the wine into the "too bold" camp). Both of these regions have prolific, 100% delicious options that are exceptional values!

TIP #4: Bubbles!

Some say you should splurge in this category; we don't necessarily agree. While you certainly can splurge here, remember that the nuances that a higher priced bubbly offer are likely going to be lost in the equation. More often sparkling wine is consumed per tradition, or to add an additional festive flare.  And there are SO many great options from outside of Champagne, France that lend exactly the helping hand you desire, with plenty of Delight on offer at oh-so reasonable prices. For some suggestions beyond the happy usual suspects Cava and Prosecco, check out other alternatives here!

So now the question of quantity: how much is enough?

The good news is, there is a formula for this quandary! While consumption as a whole tapers off over the course of the festivities, some people will hit it harder as the evening progresses. Taper-ers tend to beat the Hard-hitters, but either way, if you assume one drink per person per hour* you'll have more than enough to go around.

There are five glasses of wine in every bottle, six when it comes to a sparkling wine toast.

So if you have 100 guests and a six hour event, figure 600 total drinks. Divide 600 by 5 to figure out how many bottles are needed (120) and then by twelve to get the number of cases needed (twelve bottles in a case) = 10 cases of wine. You can then decide how many cases of each wine you'd like to have on hand based on your knowledge of your guest list, wedding date and venue (e.g. more red wine drinkers than white, hot summer day under a tent vs. cold and wintery, etc.)

*Note:  This is number of DRINKS, not just wine. If you are serving beer, wine and liquor, estimate the number of wine drinkers and go from there to gauge your wine purchase. Alternatively, you can adjust the number of hours you think people will be drinking wine, e.g. cocktail hour (1.5 glasses) + dinner hour (1.5 glasses) + dancing (1 glass) = 4 wine drinks per person, or 400 total glasses = 80 bottles of wine = 7 cases (always round up).

With this approach you'll be setting yourself up for success! Now all you have to do is taste a few wines in each of these categories and make the final decision.

Stuck or have a bigger wedding wine quandry? Give us a shout! We'd be happy to help you navigate this component. Rebecca@Pour-Favor.com

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"impossible" pairing - nein?!

Is there such a thing as an "impossible" food/wine pairing? Some say Yes, others No. I'm of the mind that nothing's impossible! Sure there are a few tricky foods in the wine-o-sphere: asparagus, artichokes and eggs, come to mind immediately.

But trial and error proves time and again that for eggs there is always sparkling wine (and the higher the acid, and finer the bubbles the better, me thinks). For asparagus you can try Albarino, the Spanish white varietal that is low in alcohol, high in acid and lanolin-like in texture and is as food-loving as they come. In fact, this is my usual go-to for trickier pairings like super spicy fare or a redmeat-centric dish that would really do better with a red wine or even a rose, but where a white is required.

In my mind, artichokes are actually the biggest wine challenge - and in truth, this is probably a pre-conceived notion that I have because as much as I absolutely love them, they are such a pain to work with that I rarely prepare them myself.  Leave it to my good friend, a wonderful cook, to invite me over for dinner and make them! Fortunately she gave me the heads up so I could ponder the pairing for a little bit. She also told me that the main protein would be monkfish - so my playing field was happily narrowed: a white wine would be the best route to take.

As alluded  above, bubbly is certainly a safe bet when it comes to tricky pairings. But I wasn't in the mood for full-throttle bubbles or too much toasty richness; and Prosecco doesn't strike me as a sparkling with enough pungency or pizazz to fight back in the Table-side Food Challenge Throwdown that was presented. Something with tang seemed more like it.  Something that had enough 'muscle' to stand up to the 'choke was needed.

Tocai came to mind, but didn't win me over. So did New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and Torrontes - but I wondered if their pungency would actually be too much.  And I really do think a little bubble and low alcohol goes a long way, so I perused my esoteric bubbly wine options instead. A lightly Sparkling Gruner called PUNKT was tempting, but I wasn't sure the fruit and tang would come through enough to stand its ground. Then my eye caught sight of this bizarre and awesome wine called La Tosa.

La Tosa has historically been the ultimate zesty, fresh white wine with  just a hint of sparkle. But last vintage the twin brothers who make it decided to go full-on in the bubble department - and the new version of its former self is killer. Still a blend of Malvasia, Trebbiano, and Ortrugo grapes, lemon-lime flavors absolutely pop on the palate and an awesome fresh herbal note adds intrigue. Lively acidity brings it all on home. I thought, what  the heck?, and grabbed a bottle to chill.

Once around the table with my pasta bowl in front of me, I dove right in to the supposed wine-killer: the artichokes. Then I saddled up to my wine glass, breathed in the fresh bouquet and took a big sip. It was delicious! Each element stood its ground in ideal harmony - the artichokes danced while the wine sang. VICTORY.

What wasn't so hot was the La Tosa with dessert: Gummi Bears. It was down right foul. I took a mental note to save that challenge for another day!

What would you pair with Gummi Bears?

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is there such a thing as the "perfect" wine?

I never really thought there was such a thing as a "perfect" wine. Sure, there are different 'categories' of wine consumption, from the nature/scale of an event in terms of fanciness, food (or not) involved, etc. to that 1 magical bottle that lives forever in your mind. But last weekend I truly think I happened upon a white wine that is a realistic kind of perfect - for any occasion, any time of year, with any group of friends, with food or without. Casale del Giglio's 2009 "Satrico" hails from Lazio, Italy. It is an expertly crafted white blend of equal parts Chardonnay (roundness, soft edges, fleshiness - plus light honeydew melon), Sauvignon Blanc (zip and lift at the hand of terrific citrus fruit flavors and light grassy notes) and Trebbiano (which adds mouthwatering, food friendly acidity and crushed hazelnut nuance).

What made this wine "perfect" to me?

It's approachability - anyone who enjoys wine will find something about this wine that excites them; it's intriguing because it is complex, but it is so well integrated you don't get bogged down thinking about what makes you happy to just sip it. It's texture is also noteworthy - it has a silky entry and a zippy finish.

It's versatility - you can drink this wine all on its own or have it with just about any kind of food (even if you're having steak, I'm willing to bet the corn on the cob and salad accompaniments, for example, would bring the whole meal together while sipping this wine).

It's Italian-ness drives the wine home - so subtle in this particular wine, I love that little bit of satisfying nuttiness that sneaks in there and makes you smile when you realize it's there.

Long story short, I have a feeling I'm going to be playing favorites this summer, even though I don't officially have any...

Do you believe in the perfect wine?

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A Tale of Two Wine Vintages

Bonne BouchesEver grown particularly attached to a particular vintage of a particular wine? The good (and sometimes sad) news about wine is it is often changing! It is not a genre where you can rest on your laurels; the juice will run out – and the best ones often do sooner than later. Fortunately, this reality is part of what makes wine romantic. Nostalgia is a big part of the wine equation! Pop on over to Wicked Local today to read about my recent experience tasting two vintages of the same wine. (The outcome might surprise you!)

Which wine changed vintages - and lost your affections as a result? Which wine offers a comforting consistency year to year?

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Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc

Mid-bottle enjoyment... Kim Crawford Sauvignon BlancIt's not often I talk about what I consider "main stream" wine: wine you can get just about anywhere, no matter how large or small the shop.  In our case, we are so small every wine slot counts. We have to be even more choosey when it comes to our selection. We are equally careful not to pack our shelves with things you CAN, in fact, get anywhere; our brand is built around finding unique, harder to find, boutique selections. Except when it comes to the Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc. This is a wine I have no issue 'giving up' a slot to. I think it is absolutely delicious. The fact that the price came down a couple of dollars this year makes me even more gleeful about it - it was pushing my limits previously at $19.99.

I had the pleasure of meeting the man behind the magic, Mr. Crawford himself, just about a year ago. I tasted through every wine available in the MA market. And there are a LOT. I could appreciate and enjoy most, with a couple of rare exceptions that were just a bit too weird, honestly. Yet at the end of the day, for the value, I still think the basic level Sauvi is the way to go.

It offers up a beautiful bouquet of gooseberries, sunflowers and freshly cut grass. The palate is rich for a Saugivnon Blanc - maybe at a 4 on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being water and 10 being a glass milk. The gooseberry, pink grapefruit, lemon-lime and grassy flavors coalesce in your mouth. I particularly enjoy the somewhat briney, sea-like and deliciously long finish.

Try pairing this bad boy with any kind of fish, summer salad or... grilled chicken. Just a couple of days ago I whipped up a quick, off-the-cuff recipe of grilled chicken (marinated in plain yogurt, paprika and a dash of red pepper), topped with a soft nectarine salsa. Stupendous.

This is a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with flare. Lots of it.

How does the Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc stack up in your wine world?

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June's Wicked (Good) Wines Uncorked!

June 09 Wicked Wines!I can hardly believe it is already June - 6 months of 2009 are behind us and only 6 more to go!  Time to officially get our beach chairs out of storage and fill up a second propane tank as "back up" for those terrific nights of grilling ahead. The only thing needed is a few good ideas for what to uncork this month... Head on over to Wicked Local today to get the skinny on four great wines you should give a (s)wirl. Some are a party all in themselves; others will help get it started (without breaking the bank).

What other wines have you tucked into this month? Any destined to become your official summer "house" wines?

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A trip to Gascony for a killer white wine

Gascony: www.my-french-property.fr/sold.phpEvery time a wine from Gascony, France comes across the tasting table, Disney's Beauty and the Beast comes to mind. I have no idea why. I've never even been to Gascony! Perhaps there is something about the history of that region (think Vikings, Duchies, Joan of Arc and the 100 Years War) that transports me to Belle's little village.  Of course, it doesn't help this part of the world is most famous for one of my favorite evening night caps:  Armanac. I can just see myself sitting in the Beast's big leather armchair enjoying a little sippy sip before turning in.... One of the still wines I most appreciate from that area - a Peter Weygandt selection - is quaint like Belle's village, too. It is so in all the best senses of the word. Indeed, it is "skillfully" crafted, and delightfully "unusual in an interesting, pleasing, or amusing way". It has  easy-quaffing, mouth-filling, zippy pizazz.

What is this wine I speak of? Domaine de Cassagnoles' Gros Manseng. Gros Manseng is a white varietal grown exclusively in the southwest of France. As hinted above, it is better known for its role in the creation of Armagnac. But it is not often a major player in the world of still wines - or at least not in terms of export, I imagine.  (If my suspicion is correct, then kudos to Mr. Weygandt. He's got something special on his hands!)

The Domain Cassagnoles Gros Manseng is a delicious, paradox white. It strikes my fancy in the same way that some lesser known (or appreciated?) Italian whites appeal to me (e.g. Friulano, from Italy). It is a bit on the fuller, richer-textured side of the equation, but comes no where close to being a good alternative to a full bodied, oaked Chardonnay. (Egad!) It has too much lift in the mid palate and the fruit flavors are distinct. They are reminiscent of just-ripe, white peaches, quince and apricots - fruit-forward, but not juices-running-down-your-arm sweet. The citrus component is present just enough to provide that levity and zip, without being a grapefruit or lime-bomb of acidity often found in Sauvignon Blanc. A touch of minerality gives it a sense of place; you know it must be an Old World offering. This wine is like a little girl who's a bit more "grown up" than her peers - powerful and opinionated, but still having a welcome, youthful charm.

Ah... Much like Belle, no?

If you haven't sought out Gros Manseng, please do! It is such a versatile white ready for quaffing or pairing with fresh, spring/summer dishes.

Are you familiar with (still) Gros Manseng? How about Armagnac?

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H1N1... Wines?

mexico (wine) fevahOk. Bad joke. (I can't take full credit as one of my best friends, fellow foodie and wine lover actually fed it to me.) What can I say? Sometimes a little levity is needed!And it was Cinco de Mayo yesterday.... Mexico is actually the oldest wine producing country in the New World. Who knew? (Jancis Robinson and Hugh Johnson, apparently. There are two full columns dedicated to Mexico in their most recent edition of the World Atlas of Wine.) I was intrigued - but not surprised - to learn the Spaniards got the ball rolling in the 1500s; but there was a significant interruption in 1699 when "the King of Spain banned new vineyards in Mexico, fearing competition to Spain's wine industry, thus halting the development of a wine culture in Mexico for three centuries." Egad! 3 C's? No wonder no one really knows about Mexican wine - and the country is better known for tequila and refreshing cerveza.

It wasn't until the 18th Century that vines started to get a little local love. Grenache, Carignan and even Pedro Ximenez (used in the production of a yummy, rich Sherry) varietals landed on the scene. Somehow, someway, "they" also figured out that Baja, Mexico was quintessential vine country, er... wine country. Only 10 miles from the Pacific Ocean, Baja has a terrific climate and mineral-rich soil ideal for viticulture. Today innovation seems to be setting in - albeit slowly.

If you caught the recent "Diary of a Foodie" episode on PBS, a work of Gourmet magazine, none of this is news to you. Rather, Casa de Piedra Winery is synonymous with innovative, tasty Mexican vino.  Piedra plants a range of "uncommon" Mexican varietals and their philosophy is to keep yields small while employing a "simple technique". The episode reports they plant Grenache and Mission grapes for the reds, and Palomino for the whites. Further research on their website suggests their repertoire of varietals is much greater: Tempranillo, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel are additional red varietals planted; Chenin Blanc, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon are some of the whites grown. That's certainly a diverse lot! I applaud their willingness to experiment.

Unfortunately I've never had the (dis?)pleasure of sipping on a Mexican wine offering. But by Robinson's account, while "Mexican tastes and drinking habits have long lagged behind the increasingly exciting achievements of Mexico's modern vineyards and wineries", they are worth checking out.

Are Mexican wines even available in your market? Have you had a chance to sample them?

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Open That Bottle Night wine report

The OTBN Line-up!I hope you and yours had a wonderful time popping a cork or two last Saturday night for Open That Bottle Night. For my part, a handful of my closest friends descended on my place for a wonderful meal of braised paprika chicken, orzo and lemon-garlic asparagus. We started with an appetizer of oysters, a small aperitif of exceptional Dolin Dry Vermouth and a glass of white Bordeaux ('06 Ch. le Tucau, Graves). Then with dinner we moved on to our "serious" wines - those we had been saving for whatever special occasion had yet to materialize. I wasn't exactly sure what my bottle of Spanish wine from Terra Alta, Spain would bring - but I had high hopes, too. This isn't a region you often see here in the States; my bottle was actually hand-carried back from Barcelona by my best friend after her wedding there.

The Terra Alta D.O. boasts only 28 vineyards. The region is characterized by its Mediterranean & Continental climate (very cold winters, very hot summers), steep slopes and valley floors, and its proximity to its better known neighbor, Priorat. The cierzo breezes from the northeast do their part to keep the grapes dry, preventing rot. Terra Alta is considered an up and coming region, with many winemakers experimenting with better known grape varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, which have been permitted since 1995. More often you'll find native grapes Garnacha Tinta and Carinena as well as Garnacha Peluda and Morenillo, as far as the reds go.

Doing my best to navigate the Catalan description on the back of the bottle, I anticipated the Ede Aria 2003 would be a big boy, with need of decanting.  The wine was a blend of three grapes: Garnacha Peluda (40%), Syrah (35The Ete Aria%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (25%). My inspiration for the paprika braised chicken was distinct from the wine I knew I would have on offer, so decanting was a priority to soften any rough edges and remove the sediment the wine was likely to throw. Since I know my friend prefers fruit-forward wines to uber-dry ones, I hoped this wine would deliver a nice silky mouthfeel, with both red and black fruits apparent. Finally, given the region's proximity to the Priorat, I hoped it would have a gentle herbaceousness and a touch of earthy leather. I was pleased to discover it delivered on all of the above!

The other two wines we opened Saturday night were the 2004 Stevenot Tempranillo (Sierra Foothills, California) and the 2004 Villa Antinori Toscana (Tuscany, Italy).

Yes, Saturday evening I traveled the world with my friends! It was a pleasure to do so.

What wine(s) did you open for OTBN? Any highlights or disappointments in the mix?

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Wine Blogging Wednesday: Sileni all-star summer

Yes, it's Wine Blogging Wednesday again! Since I knew it was coming up right after my fourth of July getaway, I sneakily packed a few wines in my Survival Kit that fit with this month's theme: Wines Brought to you by the Letter 'S'. I also packed two wines which have come to mean Amazing Summer Sipping as far as I'm concerned - and both have an 'S' component. I've decided to share my thoughts today on the one I realized I just barely favor over the other. (It is only fair I share in the greatest goodness with those who come to read my musings!) Enter the 2007 Sileni Estates Sauvignon Blanc.

I wasn't much of a white wine drinker even as little as two years ago. I had been burned one too many times by (oaky) Chardonnay or overly tart (to my taste some years ago) Sauvignon Blanc, arguably the two white varietals you come across most often here in the US. I was only experimenting with half the possibilities and a true wine adventurer needs to at least know what the heck white is all about. So I solicited a little help from my local wine shop. Whenever I wanted a case of wine in the warmer months, I asked the wine manager to throw in a few whites, too. Soon enough I was hooked! The summer months became a fun time to focus on finding new white varietals to beat the heat; the winter could be reserved for my red addiction. Fair is fair.

Why this side story now? Well, the Sileni Sauvignon Blanc is one of those amazing wines I find many palates (red and white drinkers alike) can appreciate, or as in my case, saddle right on up to with an empty glass. Sauvignon Blanc from warmer climates can take on more tropical flavors of banana and pineapple - of course backed by characteristically citrus (lemon/lime) goodness. Sauvignon Blanc from cooler climates (e.g. New Zealand) errs on the grassier, super zesty grapefruit side. Either way it is an intense, lively, herbal, often zippy little number with great acidity to quench thirst on the hottest of summer days. What can I say, cheesy as it may sound, an image of a tall reed of grass blowing in the sea breeze now comes to mind when I find myself sipping Sauvignon Blanc.

Semillon on its own can take on fuller, rich, almost honeyed flavors. It is widely produced in France, particularly in Bordeaux and used in Sauternes. Australia is also becoming a big producer of the grape. When it is blended with the lean, zesty-tart Sauvignon Blanc, this varietal works some serious magic. The best winemakers know just a little bit goes a long way. Without strong-arming, a drop or two of semillon produces lovely, fleshy and refreshing white wines.

What about the Sileni offering, you ask urgently now that I've wet your whistle??

I'm always amazed by the color of the Sileni. It is a fairly light, almost star-bright color - when I always anticipate it being more honeyed in color, because of it's gorgeous richness on the palate. Indeed, while the label doesn't indicate as much, the winemaker blends in just a touch of tasty Semillon. The result is a fuller bodied Sauvignon Blanc. I find nice tropical fruits, gooseberry freshness and some minerality leap from the glass and similar flavors emerge on the midpalate. Its more typically New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc grapefruit flavors show on the finish. It is so well integrated, the wine's components dance together harmoniously. We paired it with fresh Swordfish steak, corn on the cob and an apple-cider vinegar coleslaw. The weight of the wine complemented the steakier fish perfectly, and the sweetness of the corn and slaw were brilliantly off-set by the fresh acidity of the wine. Yum, indeed!

What wine with the Letter 'S' tickled your tastebuds and fancy this holiday weekend?

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