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Face it—the standard cocktail party has been done to death. Why not host a party with a decidedly different slant? One that combines your love of entertaining with your love of wine? Sounds like the makings of a truly memorable night and it sounds like something you need to get on your social calendar ASAP!Follow our step-by-step tips and you’ll have a wine tasting event your friends will be talking about for months!The Guests:To get the most out of your event, this wine tasting will need to be somewhat intimate. We suggest inviting no more than eight couples (plus you and your plus one, of course). If your friends are mostly single, try not to have a total of more ten people since you don’t want to have more than 10 bottles at the tasting or it will be too many bottles to effectively taste.The Invites:This is one party that really does need an invitation, so whether you do an electronic or traditional invite make sure you send invitations to your guests. It’s the most effective way to explain the rules (which we will get to shortly) and also to stress the importance of being punctual. The format of this wine tasting really won’t work unless everyone arrives on time, so leave your perpetually tardy friends for another event.The Wines:When hosting this type of a wine tasting at home, it’s best to decide between a red wine or a white wine tasting rather than a mix of both. Red wine tastings are arguably more interesting to do; however, doing a white wine tasting in the warmer months could be a fun way to try some new white wine varietals. The Details:Ask each couple (or guest if your friends are single) to bring one bottle of their favorite red (or white) wine—no price requirement, no regional or country requirement, the only request is that it is either red or white depending on your instructions (wines will be poured for the tasting later and you don’t want to be mixing reds and whites in the same glass).The Food:Since you won’t know exactly which wines your guests will bring, stick with tried and true wine-pairing basics: cheese, crackers, dried meats, crusty bread and olives. If you want to provide more extensive food choices, keep them simple finger foods that don’t require you spending time in the kitchen while your party is in full swing.The Glasses:If you don’t have enough wine glasses to pull this off and you’re thinking about resorting to plastic cups—STOP! For a small investment you can get real wine glasses at your local dollar store that you’ll have on hand for parties for years to come. The Start:When guests arrive, take their bottle of wine before any other guest sees it. Place the bottle into a paper lunch bag, so only the neck of the bottle is visible, secure the top with a rubber band or tape and label the outside of the bag with a letter. Have an area set up for mingling and invite your guests to enjoy an assortment of light white wines (or maybe sparkling wine) you’ve provided for them. Flume Blanc, Chenin Blanc or Sauvignon Blanc are three light whites that come to mind or pop open a bottle of Prosecco or Champagne. Need help? Ask your local Wine Country Wine Pro for advice. The Rules:Once all of your guests have arrived and you’ve enjoyed some time with friends–and with white wine—it’s time to start the tasting!Give a two minute explanation of the process:• Keep pours small—about an ounce of wine. That’s it. It’s a tasting. Oh, and all wine pours are self serve.• Everyone gets a ballot with the lettered wine choices and a ranking for each from 1 to 5. Be sure to have enough pens/pencils on hand for everyone. • As guests taste—small tastes of each, please—they will rate the wine on a scale of 1 to 5 (5 being the best). Have a pour bucket on the table for guests to discreetly dispose of wines they don’t like.• When all wines have been tasted (generally no more than an hour), gather the tally sheets and do a simple averaging of the wine’s rankings and award the winner. The Winner:The wine having the highest average rating wins! Award a prize that is wine friendly. Might we suggest one of our exclusive Gift Box Pros wine gift boxes or you can buy a really special bottle of wine to award as the prize, it’s up to you.Congratulations! You’ve just hosted your very first wine tasting. Now enjoy the rest of the night with your good friends and a whole new assortment of wines you may have not tried before. Cheers!
While some rosé styles are quite distinct there are others where you might find it helpful to think of the nearest parallel in terms of white or red wine for a pairing. Here’s a round-up of the matches that work best
1) Light dry rosés - e.g. Most Provençal rosés, Pinot Noir based rosés from Burgundy and the Loire, and Italian Bardolino The nearest equivalent to this style of rosé is crisp dry white wines such as Pinot Grigio and they’ll go with similar food: principally light salads, light pasta and rice dishes, especially with seafood, raw and lightly cooked shellfish and grilled fish and goats’ cheeses. Perfect hot weather drinking.
2) Light off-dry rosés e.g. other Loire and traditional Portuguese rosés with a touch of sweetness such as Rosé d’Anjou and Mateus RoséPartly a question of taste. If you prefer this style to the one above you can drink it with similar foods though it will probably be more successful with salads than with raw fish. Can be useful with mildly spiced curries and rice dishes
3) Medium dry rosés - e.g. white Zinfandel and sparkling ZinThe category that used to be called blush. Again, if this is the style you like you’ll want to drink it with all the foods mentioned in 1) above. But those who prefer this style of rosé may also find it useful with spicy food and as a dessert wine (it’s spot on with unsweetened strawberries and not oversweet strawberry tarts)
4) Medium-bodied dry rosés e.g. Southern French (Rhône and Languedoc) and Spanish rosés from Rioja and NavarraA hugely versatile style that will stand up to big flavors such as anchovy, olives, garlic, saffron and pimenton. So, the ideal wine to drink with tapenade or a salade Niçoise, a paella or grilled chicken, fish or lamb with herbs. A good wine for barbecues if you don’t like your rosés as strong and sweet as 6) below. Also enjoyable with rustic pâtés and terrines, other charcuterie. ham and sheep's cheese.
5) Elegant, fruity rosés - e.g. Merlot-based Bordeaux rosé, More expensive Provençal rosés such as Bandol and PaletteClassy, grown-up rosés which I find it helpful to equate to Pinot Noir. Drink them with serious seafood such as lobster, seared salmon, tuna or duck and delicately cooked rare lamb. Good too with white-rinded cheeses such as Camembert and Brie so long as you don't let them get too ripe and runny.
6) Full-bodied fruity rosés - e.g. Syrah and Cabernet rosé from Chile, California and AustraliaNearer a full-bodied red than a rosé - big, bold and bursting with fruit. Often quite high in alcohol but it tends not to show because they’re not tannic and served chilled which makes them ideal for a barbecue and for drinking with spicy food such as curries. Also good with ripe peaches. Very much the modern rosé for contemporary food.
7) Sparkling rosé e.g. Cava, Australian and New Zealand sparkling roséCovers a range of styles from dry to medium dry. Lighter, drier ones make ideal party drinking (Cava rosado is good with tapas), sweeter ones could be poured with cakes, muffins and fruit tarts.
8) Rosé Champagne - Again there’s a variation in style between lighter and more full-bodied ones. Lighter styles suit canapés and the type of foods mentioned in 1) above, more substantial vintage rosé Champagne can take on grilled lobster and grilled meats.
Lately, the big trend in wine production is "green." Sustainable vineyards with a focus on conserving natural resources—reclamation and reuse of water, solar power, limiting the use of harmful pesticides, and promoting the viability of the agricultural community for generations to come. In sustainable growing, synthetic substances are kept to an absolute minimum and are replaced with age-old methods, like natural predators instead of pesticides to help prevent insects and animals from harming the vines. Just a few examples include:• Predator mites, often placed on leaves by hand, feed on harmful mites.• Owl boxes invite owls and other raptors to roost and keep the rodent population in check.• Even special leafhopper tape, traps invasive pests to keep them from damaging vinesThe result? Better soil and plant health, higher quality fruit and ultimately a better bottle of wine.Intrigued? We’ve got a few “green” wines you should try:Rutherford Ranch Sauvignon Blanc What the Winemaker Says:Fresh flavors of grapefruit, fig and mango with crisp and clean acidity and long, lingering finish.Why We Like It:Bright, fruity with a citrusy kick of grapefruit and lemon. Chill and pair with creamy goat cheese, grilled shrimp or spicy Thai or Indian food.Rutherford Ranch Cabernet SauvignonWhat the Winemaker Says:Full-bodied with soft tannins, velvety mouthfeel and a long, lingering finish.Why We Like It:The softer side of Cab. Light, soft, smooth & delicious, it’s an easy drinking wine that’s as comfortable on its now as it is paired with food.Predator Cabernet SauvignonWhat the Winemaker Says:An intense, full-bodied wine with flavors of dark berries and spice. A smoky finish with firm yet refined tannins.Why We Like It:Like a jam explosion with lush blackberry flavors that coat your mouth. We shared this wine with strangers at a restaurant. Now they’re friends.Predator Old Vine ZinfandelWhat the Winemaker Says:An intense, full-bodied wine with dark berries, dried herbs and spice. Silky tannins over a long, smoky finish.Why We Like It:A great crossover Zinfandel for Cab lovers, this unique Zin has a hint of pepper and when you breathe it it, you just may catch a hint of smoky bacon flavor, too.Visit your neighborhood Wine Country or Wine & Whiskey Country store and ask one of our Wine Pros to recommend a “green” wine for you! Then, come back and let us know what you think on our Facebook page @WineCountryStores.
"When in Rome,
do as the Romans do." So goes the old adage. In Italy, where it's
customary to bookend one's meals with a pre-dinner aperitivo or a post-dinner digestivo, Italian liqueurs such as amari, sambuca and limoncello are as much a part of the dining
culture as the meal itself.
What is a liqueur?
Liqueurs are alcoholic beverages that have a
relatively low alcohol content, typically ranging somewhere between 15 to 30%
ABV. These distilled spirits are sweetened with sugar or other
sweeteners and flavored using different ingredients ranging from fruits (e.g. Chambord) to chocolate (e.g. Mozart), coffee (e.g. Tia Maria), flowers (e.g. St-Germain), nuts (e.g. Amaretto), honey (e.g. Drambuie), herbs and spices (e.g. Galliano), whiskey (e.g. Irish Mist), cream (e.g. Amarula) or even
vegetables such as artichoke (eg. Cynar). There are also several crème liqueurs such as crème de cassis and crème de banane, which tend to contain lower
amounts of alcohol, around 15%, which puts the in different category
The word 'liqueur' is thought to be derived from the Italian word
'liquefare,' which means 'to liquefy.' During the Middle Ages, tinctures were
concocted by monks as remedies to cure or treat various ailments. Dried
herbs and other medicinal flora were infused in alcohol to release their
essential oils. Sugar was also added to these early liqueurs to make them more
Sambuca is similar to anisette but made from a distillation of star
Sambuca 'con la mosca,' which means 'with the fly' in Italian, traditionally
comes with three coffee beans floating on top to symbolize health, wealth and good luck. To add
to the fun, the sambuca's surface is briefly set on fire before serving to
toast the beans, then extinguished just before drinking. Others prefer to
dilute this sweet liqueur with chilled water. Molinari is the world's most popular brand of sambuca and has been in
operation since 1945, a testament to its tastiness and effectiveness as a digestive
Campari, the signature bright red
bitter, is most commonly served with tonic water, or with equal parts sweet
vermouth and gin as a Negroni. You can also enjoy this
sweet, syrupy liqueur on the rocks, or as a refreshing spritz by simply adding white or sparkling wine. Campari was originally
produced in the late 1800s in the Piedmont region of Italy, but today's recipe
now calls for 60 different ingredients, including orange
peels, bergamot, rhubarb, ginseng and herbs.
Frangelico is easily recognizable with its distinctive Franciscan friar-shaped
bottle. Named after the Piemontese hermit monk who is believed to have lived in
the region during the 18th century, the recipe for this sweet dessert liqueur
goes back centuries. Tonda Gentile hazelnuts are soaked in a base spirit together with coffee, cocoa, vanilla
bean and other herbs. The resulting liqueur is then filtered,
sweetened and bottled.
A sip of limoncello is a taste of pure sunshine. In Italy, this delicious digestivo is
served in ice-cold shot glasses. Made from lemon rindsthat are fermented and then
macerated in alcohol, limoncello is often associated with the Amalfi Coast in
towns like Sorrento, where the large, fragrant lemons grow in abundance. Its
tangy, refreshing taste makes it the perfect summer liqueur.
Amaretto is frequently used in desserts and cocktails. Depending upon the
brand, this dark, sweet almond liqueur is flavored using various ingredients such as: almond
kernel oil, herbs and other botanicals. The name 'amaretto' means
'little bitter' in Italian, although the liqueur itself is traditionally sweet. Disaronno is the best known brand of amaretto, produced in the town of
Saronno. Those who prefer a slightly more bitter tasting almond liqueur should
try Averna, a Sicilian maker of amaretto.
The intensely fragrant Fernet-Branca is a bitter herbal digestivo that was invented in 1945. This
Milanese bitters is made from a secret blend of 27
different herbs and other flowers, roots and plants that are said to aid digestion and help settle the stomach.
Fernet-Branca is most often consumed neat and served in a cordial glass, but it
can also be combined with gin and sweet vermouth
The Luxardo brand of Maraschino traces its storied past back six generations to the founding of its
original distillery in 1821. Made from a true distillation of sour Marasca
cherries and crushed pits, this clear Italian liqueur is a must-try. Its subtle,
bitter almond flavor will work wonders when it comes
to enhancing your cocktails. After all, it's not every liqueur that can boast
the "Privilegiata Fabrica Maraschino Excelsior" denomination, a
distinction that the Emperor of Austria awarded the Luxardo family's Maraschino
liqueur in 1829.
Wondering which wine to serve with your Easter dinner? Of course it depends on what you like… and what you’re serving.If you’re making one of the traditional Easter main course dishes — ham, turkey or lamb — there are three wine varietals that really stand out to us not only because they work so well with traditional Easter foods but because they work with the season itself — namely they are perfect-for-spring.We highlight our picks in three groups with three different attributes:Weekend Wines — If you want something more than an everyday wineWine Discoveries — If you want something unexpectedWines to Impress — If You Want a Wow WineIt’s the perfect way to experiment with your wine choices and try something new!ChardonnayThere’s good reason why Chardonnay is the one of the world’s most popular white wines. One of the few white wines that gets better with age, some Chardonnays won’t reach their peak of flavor for five to eight years. The aging process, done mostly in oak barrels, give buttery and toasty flavors to the wine and adds complexity often thought to belong exclusively to red wines. Each wine varietal has its own unique personality but Chardonnay has many. Based on its growing region, oak or non-oak aging, and flavor elements, Chardonnay can be oaky, buttery, citrusy, florally or even tropical in taste. Chardonnay is perfect with Turkey… Weekend Wines: J Lohr Estates Riverstone Chardonnay - $13.99We really love a buttery Chardonnay and this is one of the best we’ve tried at any price—let alone for under $15. It’s consistent and reliable, year after year. The nose hits you right in the face—open it, swirl it in your glass, we’re sure you’ll agree. It’s our “go-to white.” Wine Discoveries: Joel Gott Unoaked Chardonnay - $15.99By fermenting in stainless steel tanks, rather than oak barrels, this California white retains all the characteristics and acidity of the Chardonnay grape without a trace of oakiness.Wines to Impress: Flowers Sonoma Coast Chardonnay - $43.99With lively aromas of citrus zest and honeysuckle, this coastal Chardonnay is one of our favorite high-end whites from California. Perfect levels of acidity carry right through to the finish. It’s a truly impressive wine.RoséLighter and fresher than heavy reds, but with a tinge of color that gives it more personality than white, rosé wine is actually made when red grapes are lightly crushed and left to soak with their red skins. The longer the skins sit in the wine, anywhere from a few hours to a few days, the “pinker” the finished wine will be and the stronger the tannic characteristics will develop.Rosé wines are predominantly blends, made from multiple grapes, and are meant to be enjoyed right away, usually within 2-3 years after the label date. And, since they are made from many grape varietals, which can include: Pinot Noir, Grenache, Cinsault, Carigan, Mourvèdre, Sangiovese and Syrah, you’ll be able to find rosé wines that span the taste scale from quite dry to refreshing and fruity. Basically, a rosé for every taste.Rosé is perfect with Turkey or Ham…Weekend Wines: Montes Syrah Cherub Rosé - $13.99A good choice if you’re just starting to appreciate rosé. A seductive, elegant, dry wine, with an intense cherry-pink color, it shows distinct Syrah character: spiciness and hints of strawberry, rose and orange peel. Wine Discoveries: Flam Rosé - $29.99An Israeli wine may not be your first thought for Easter Sunday, but this is a really good rosé wine. From the first sip, you’ll be hooked. Dry, refreshing and crisp, it pairs well with just about any food, and has enough confidence for sipping all on its own.Wines to Impress: Flowers Rosé of Pinot Noir - $30.99Flowers vineyard has been wowing wine drinkers for years with their extraordinary Pinot Noirs and this rosé version is every bit as memorable. Brilliant coral-salmon hue with fresh, fruity and wonderfully balanced flavors.Pinot NoirPerhaps the most romanticized red wine in the world. Why? Well, for one thing, Pinot Noir grapes are exceptionally hard to grow, making a great bottle of Pinot Noir a pretty rare find. Without question the world’s finest Pinot Noirs come from the Burgundy region of France—age-worthy, earthy reds, that are usually pretty costly. You can; however, find some affordable Pinot Noirs from California and Oregon, as well as New Zealand, Australia and Chile, but they are typical more fruit forward, or lighter than their French counterparts.As Pinot Noir is grown in so many different regions around the world and since it is very much a reflection of where it is grown, it is hard to really pin down just one personality; however, typically Pinot Noir is delicate and fresh, with very soft tannins. Fruity aromatics of cherry, strawberry and plum, often paired with rustic notes of damp earth, worn leather and tea-leaf.Pinot Noir is perfect with Turkey, Ham or Lamb…Weekend Wines: Rodney Strong Pinot Noir - $23.99A lighter, friendlier red than your typical California Cab, this Pinot Noir is medium bodied, wonderfully aromatic and has crisp fruit and spice flavors that work beautifully with so many foods.Wine Discoveries: Meiomi Pinot Noir - $24.99A distinctive California Pinot Noir with a world-class taste. Rich ruby hue with lush, fruity aromas and hints of vanilla, mocha and toasty oak. Silky texture and wonderfully balanced.Wines to Impress: Flowers Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast - $43.99Deep garnet hue. Incredibly complex and ultra smooth, this is one of our favorite Pinot Noirs from California. Easy drinking and a wonderful partner with food this is American Pinot Noir at its very finest. Pick up these or any of our other #WeekendWines #WineDiscoveries or #WinesToImpress wines at your local Wine Country or Wine & Whiskey Country store and get ready to wow your guests on Easter.
Everyone loves gifting (and getting) bottles of wine or spirits, but, when it comes to presenting them as a gift, you’re left with virtually one option… the gift bag. And, if you are sending a bottle of wine or whiskey to someone, the options are even less appealing. Until now.Gift Box Pros, a subsidiary of Wine Country, has an exclusive line of gift boxes that were made to do one thing really, really well — that is to make your wine or spirit gift as enjoyable to look at as it is to drink. It starts with choosing a box that suits the occasion. We have designs for all the standard events that come up throughout the year from birthdays to congratulations to new homes and new jobs, plus special holiday boxes that are limited offerings just for the season. They aren’t just ordinary boxes. They’re richly colored, beautifully designed and sturdy enough that your gift recipient will probably find a way to use the box again long after the wine has been enjoyed. Once you’ve selected the perfect box, the fun really starts. You can browse the inventory of wines available on our website and choose the ones that you think your friend will really love. You can even let us choose for you, with special pre-selected offerings in every price range. Choose up to two bottles (standard 750ml size work best) and we’ll add a novelty stemless wine glass that goes perfectly for the occasion — with happy birthday wishes, congratulations, funny sayings… you get the idea.The boxes include customized dividers so the bottles won’t break in transit and we’ll add colorful paper fill for adding cushioning. Everything gets neatly finished with a festive box and the end result is nothing short of spectacular. They’ll love it. You’ll get all the credit.Corporate Gifting — Because Wine is Way Better Than a Personalized Monthly Planner!Forget the typical engraved pens or golf balls and send a gift they’ll actually be excited to receive — namely, wine! For corporate gifting, we can customize the stemless glass with your company logo or event name. Your clients or employees will think of you whenever they use it (that’s long after the wine is just a fond memory)! You can pick up a Gift Box Pro gift box at your neighborhood Wine Country or Wine & Whiskey Country store, or you can order online, and we’ll send the gift out for you. What could be simpler than that?Gift Box Pros… boxes so pretty, so unique, there’s no need for wrapping paper!
It’s been 13 years, but the impact of a single line tossed casually in a movie set in the California wine region continues to reverberate to this day. The 2004 comedy, Sideways, earned Director Alexander Payne an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, but little did he know that his writing would help shape the way Americans drink wine for years to come. In the film, Jack (played by Thomas Hayden Church) tries to get his wine snob friend Milo (played by Paul Giamattii) to join him in drinking a glass of Merlot. Milo’s reply was classic: "If anyone orders Merlot, I'm leaving, I am NOT drinking any (expletive) Merlot!”That’s it. That’s the line that almost did in one of America’s favorite red wines. After the movie’s debut, Merlot sales (which truth be told had already begun to slide) fell at a rate of 1.4% each year. Simply put, it became “uncool” to drink Merlot.By contrast, sales of Pinot Noir, which is highly touted throughout the film, spiked 16% in the months following the movie’s release and have continued to increase at a rate of 9% each year since. "People called it the 'Sideways effect on Merlot,' " says Steven S. Cuellar, chair of the department of economics at Sonoma State University. "Here in wine country when you speak to people who produce Merlot, there is a lot of conventional wisdom and folklore about declining Merlot sales after Sideways.”Merlot — the easiest drinking red there is!But, there’s so much more to Merlot than being the punch line in a movie. After Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot is the most popular varietal in the U.S (even with the “Sideways Effect”). An easy drinking red that’s soft, ripe and elegant, Merlot is a great starter wine for newer red wine drinkers. French for “The Little Blackbird,” the Merlot grape became known in Bordeaux for its ability to add softness and luscious fruit when combined with the region’s favorite grape, Cabernet Sauvignon.When the grape first arrived in California in the mid-nineteenth century, American winemakers put their own spin on things and began making wines using 100% Merlot. The idea really paid off—American wine drinkers loved the softness and low tannin levels of Merlot wine.One of, if not the, easiest drinking red wines, Merlot has a pleasant plummy taste and chocolate notes. It is traditionally a bit more affordable than your typical Cabernet and it’s meant to drink now. Right now. No need to cellar—buy it, pour it, enjoy it.Today, one of California’s biggest winemakers, Rodney Strong Vineyards, producers of one of the best selling Merlots sold in the U.S. is trying to help break the “Sideways Effect” and save this noble grape varietal once and for all. Pick up a bottle of Merlot (we recommend Rodney Strong), give it a try with dinner, rediscover the joys of this wonderfully rich red wine and help us Save Merlot… one bottle at a time.
For wine tips, news and special offers, follow us on Facebook @WineCountryStores
If it’s Spring, it must be the start of Rosé season! With colors that range from the palest salmon pink to bright and happy berry hues, Rosé is like springtime in a glass. Not as heavy as wintery reds and with more personality than whites, in recent years Rosé has become the darling of wine lovers from Provence, France to the Hampton beaches.“Rosé sales are booming," said Scott Maybaum, President, Wine Country Management. “Today, we’re seeing rosé varietals from some of the best vineyards and from virtually every wine region.”So why is Rosé taking the wine industry by storm?Rosé is wonderfully refreshing, pairs beautifully with food and because there are so many different varietal blends to choose from, there’s a rosé wine for every taste. And, it’s surprisingly multi-dimensional. In fact, whatever flavor profile you enjoy in your red wines, you’ll also enjoy it in a rosé, only it will be lighter and more refreshing—wonderful year round and just about perfect for warmer weather.Made from red grapes which are lightly crushed and then left to macerate with their red skins. The longer the skins sit in the juice, the darker pink the finished rosé will be and the more it will develop those tannic characteristics of red wine. Most rosé wines are blends which can include different varietals such as: Cinsault, Carigan, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Syrah and others and can range in taste from extra dry to crisp and fruity, giving rosé one of most versatile, expansive flavor profiles of any other wine varietal.If that isn’t enough, rosé is one of the most affordable wines around. Because they are relatively inexpensive to make and don’t require aging, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a greater value than rosé wine. In short, rosé wines are as kind to your wallet as they are to your tastebuds.And, with Easter right around the corner, Rosé is a delicious choice to pair with your holiday ham or turkey!Want to see what all of the rosé buzz is all about? Your local Wine Country or Wine & Whiskey Country store have a dozen fresh-picked rosés you just have to try. For daily wine news, facts and special offers you won’t find anywhere else, be sure to like our Facebook Page @WineCountryStores.
At Wine Country we like to make wine shopping as easy as possible so you can start enjoying your wine that much sooner. With literally thousands of wines to choose from it can be a bit intimidating when you’re looking to make a purchase, so we’ve selected a handful of our favorites to spotlight and we’ll tell you exactly what makes them so special. Like our Wines to Impress. Special-occasion wines for life’s most memorable moments or that hard-to-please friend. Top-level choices for people who know about wine.Want to “wow” someone with your wine choice? Try a few of our recommendations from our featured winemaker, Huneeus Wines. Vintner Agustin Huneeus has been discovering great vineyards of the world throughout a career in wine spanning five decades and 15 countries. After years in the global wine business, Agustin, along with his wife Valeria, founded the Quintessa estate in the Rutherford District of Napa Valley in 1990, establishing a portfolio of wines that represent the finest vineyard estates, appellations and wines in both North and South America.Along with the Quintessa Estate, the Huneeus Wine portfolio includes Faust Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and Illumination Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc.In 2009, the Huneeus family forged a partnership with Flowers Vineyards & Winery, producing world-class Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Coast.We are extremely impressed with the assortment of wines offered by Huneeus. A few of our favorites include:Illumination Sauvignon BlancWhy We Love It: The white wine offering from highly renowned Quintessa, it’s a Sauvignon Blanc that’s alive with exotic stone fruits, lemon zest and a hint of mineralogy with a fresh, flavorful finish. Incredibly aromatic, you’ll notice hints of white peach, lemon, fresh herbs and honey. Delightful from the very first sip. Flowers Sonoma Coast Rosé of Pinot NoirWhy We Love It: Definitely not your typical Rosé. This premiere Pinot Noir Rosé is from one of the finest Pinot Noir growers in Sonoma. Luscious, coral-salmon hue with aromas of strawberry, raspberry, white nectarine, and pink grapefruit and a surprisingly complex flavor profile. You’ll crave this one, all summer long.
Flowers Sonoma Coast Pinot NoirWhy We Love It: We fell in love with this Pinot Noir the first time we tried it. Rich garnet hue, beautifully fragrant nose of wild strawberries, cranberry, violets and herbs, with soft tannins, brilliant acidity and a memorable finish. In a word: spectacular!Faust Cabernet SauvignonWhy We Love It: The kind of wine that you gift someone to ensure you’ll get invited back. Pricey, but worth every penny. A big wine, with big flavor, a great bouquet and incredible legs. It’s what we call a WOW wine. QuintessaWhy We Love It: An absolutely amazing red blend from Napa Valley. Organically grown, a vivid blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Carménère. It’s bright, fruity, beautifully structured, exhibits unbelievable suppleness and has an ultra-smooth finish that goes on and on. Ready to drink now, only gets better with age. Huneeus Wines are truly impressive. But, don’t take our word for it, taste them for yourself at the New Jersey Wine & Food Festival Grand Tasting at Crystal Springs Resort on Saturday, April 1st 7:00 - 10:00PM and then pick up a few at your neighborhood WineCountry or Wine & Whiskey Country store or online at www.4wineandwhiskey.comDon’t have a ticket yet to the Wine & Food Festival yet? Reserve yours today before they’re all gone!
With Passover around the corner, we get many inquiries as to which wines are best to drink for the Seder. People ask that question all the time because:1. They're confused, they walk into wine stores or go online but can't make up their mind which wines to buy.2. We drink 4 cups for the Seder, and there are 2 Sedarim, first and second, night so that's potentially 8 different types of wine.3. Drinking that much wine, they are concerned with getting drunk.4. The wine of the 4 cups should be drunk quickly, people do not always want to "waste" expensive wine if it has to be gulped down.5. So which wines can be enjoyed and are relatively easy to drink without having 15% alcohol?With taking all the above into account, here are 3 new wines that we recommend for the 4 cups:Carmel, Kayoumi, Riesling 2013:Many people make a point of using exclusively red wines for the Passover Seder. However, there also people who do not care and those that have the custom of drinking white wines only for the Seder, mainly Jews of German heritage (also known as "yekke"). Speaking of Germany, Riesling is one of the noble grape varieties and probably the one that represents German wines the most. While the Carmel is obviously an Israeli wine, this Riesling gives quite a fight against its German peers, despite the vastly different and hotter climate . As opposed to previous vintages, this one is bone dry and features the typical characteristics of the variety such as aromas of spring flowers, green apple peels as well as hints of petrol. The acidity is bracing and this is certainly one of our better white wines. Truly a tremendous value as it retails under $25, and it has a reasonable Abv of 12.5%.Goose Bay Reserve Fumé 2014 :This is kind of the big brother of the Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc. The main difference here is the aging in oak barrels. Aging a delicate variety such as Sauvignon Blanc in oak barrel requires high quality fruit as well as expert hands in white winemaking. Something that Goose Bay and winemaker Phil Jones never fail to deliver! Indeed, there is always a concern that the oak may overpower the fruit, resulting in a wine with overly bitter notes. However, included among some of the world's best wines are the great whites from Bordeaux, particularly those from the Graves region, home to the Pessac-Léognan appellation. Most those wines are based on Sauvignon Blanc and are aged in oak barrels, often for an extensive amount of time. New Zealand also has one of the best terroirs in the New World for growing Sauvignon Blanc and it shows clearly in this wine. Light to medium-bodied with notes of lime, grapefruit as well as freshly cut grass, the oak aging adds subtle yet lovely notes of toast and roasted almonds that are kept in check thanks to the mouth-watering, well-balanced acidity. A beautiful wine.Château Yon-Figeac, Les Roches de Yon-Figeac, Saint-Emilion 2014:Royal used to have the first wine, the Grand Vin, of this renown estate in Saint-Emilion, in the right bank of Bordeaux. This is the second kosher run of their second wine, however it is not second at all in quality. This delightful wine is based on Merlot with a smaller percentage of Cabernet Franc. One of its most redeeming qualities is its approachability at a rather young age while having the structure to age for about a decade or so. It is also not too heavy and very aromatic. Featuring notes of red berry fruit as well as spices and tobacco, this medium-bodied and elegant wine is a food wine par excellence, as its tannins are soft and the acidity provides the backbone necessary to match a vast array of dishes. For instance, I would pair it with a 12-hour sous-vide seared duck breast served with a raspberry sauce. Talk about a match made in heaven.Enjoy, l'chaim!
At Wine Country we like to make wine shopping as easy as possible so you can start enjoying your wine that much sooner. With literally thousands of wines to choose from it can be a bit intimidating when you’re looking to make a purchase, so we’ve selected a handful of our favorites to spotlight and we’ll tell you exactly what makes them so special. Today, we’re focusing on Wine Discoveries. They’re the wines that are truly unique, great to own, and fabulous to drink. When we discover wines this special, we just love passing them on to you and you’ll love sharing them with your favorite wine friends.Still searching for that wine “find”? Discover some of ours from our featured winemaker, The Prisoner Wine Company. With over a decade of winemaking experience at Paso Robles' prestigious Wild Horse Winery, The Prisoner winemaking team, led by Winemaker Chrissy Wittmann, work along with a family of growers to craft a selection of distinctly stylistic wines.According to Consulting Winemaker, Jen Beloz, “Our scope is unlimited — we source fun varietals and get to work with passionate, devoted growers. Ultimately it’s about making unique wines that we want to drink.” We are totally hooked on The Prisoner Wine Company’s products and here’s why:The Prisoner Red BlendWhy We Love It: An unusual five-grape blend, leading with Zinfandel (and we love Zinfandel), this Napa red is packed with power. A wonderful smooth blend, with higher than usual alcohol content, this is one of our absolute favorite red blends, with incredible, complex flavors and a lasting finish that’s hard to resist. Really hard. In a word: wow Saldo ZinfandelWhy We Love It: Dark and intense with fruit and a hint of clove in the bouquet. It’s full and juicy, with enveloping tastes of chocolate, cherry and vanilla (what a combo). Ultra smooth, with a pleasing lengthy finish..The Blindfold White BlendWhy We Love It: The perfect white wine companion to the classic Prisoner Red Blend. A base of classic Chardonnay, blended with aromatic white varietals including: Roussanne, Viognier, Grenache Blanc, Chenin Blanc, and Marsanne results in a surprisingly complex white with bright acidity and a wonderful creamy finish. Cuttings Cabernet SauvignonWhy We Love It: Awarded a 91+ ranking from The Wine Advocate, this uniquely special blend is primarily Cabernet but gets its intensity and structure from the introduction of Petite Sirah and Syrah grapes. Even the label is unique, inspired by the age-old method of using cuttings from a vineyard to propagate new vines. You’ll love this one.Thorn Merlot Why We Love It: From one of the last remaining Merlot vineyards in Napa, this wine is a beautiful example of how expert blending creates the most amazing and unique wines. The addition of Syrah and Malbec gives this Merlot its savory, spicy aromas and surprisingly robust finish. The Prisoner Wine Company wines are truly unique. But, don’t take our word for it, taste them for yourself at the New Jersey Wine & Food Festival Grand Tasting at Crystal Springs Resort on Saturday, April 1st 7:00 - 10:00PM and then pick up a few at your neighborhood WineCountry or Wine & Whiskey Country store or online at www.4wineandwhiskey.comDon’t have a ticket yet to the Wine & Food Festival yet? Reserve yours today before they’re all gone!
At Wine Country we like to make wine shopping as easy as possible so you can start enjoying your wine that much faster. With literally thousands of wines to choose from it can be a bit confusing when you’re looking to make a purchase, so we’ve selected a handful of our favorites to spotlight and we’ll tell you exactly what makes them so special. Today’s focus is on what we like to call “Weekend Wines.” They’re a step above your typical “everyday” wines and, like a Friday night, they’re the ones you look forward to all week long. The ones you bring with you to your favorite BYOB or pull out when friends are coming over — because they go perfectly with your favorite foods…and your favorite people. Don’t have any weekend wines of your own? Try a few of our favorites from our featured winemaker, Rodney Strong. An early pioneer in Sonoma County, Rod Strong was the first to craft a single vineyard Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, one of the first to plant Pinot Noir in the Russian River Valley and the first to produce a Chalk Hill Chardonnay. Today, Winemaker Rick Sayre and the Klein family continue their drive for innovation and devotion to Sonoma County, with 14 exceptional estate vineyards representing an exquisite range of varietal selection and regional terroir. Sonoma County MerlotWhy We Love It: Easy drinking Merlot. Really easy drinking. Ultra smooth, with lush fruit flavors and a touch of cocoa and vanilla in the finish. Fabulous with Italian pasta dishes, grilled sausages, big and bold foods. Sonoma Coast ChardonnayWhy We Love It: If you love a good buttery chardonnay this one should do the trick. Aging for 10 months in new French oak barrels creates toasty vanilla and spice complexity and a long finish. We enjoyed this Chardonnay at a great beachside café luncheon of crab cakes and grilled chicken. Fantastic.Sonoma Coast Pinot NoirWhy We Love It: A lighter, friendlier red than your typical California Cab, this Pinot Noir is medium bodied, wonderfully aromatic and has crisp fruit and spice flavors that work beautifully with so many weekend-worthy foods, including grilled salmon (yes, it’s ok to pair red wine with seafood).Charlotte’s Home Sauvignon BlancWhy We Love It: We think that Sauvignon Blanc is the absolute perfect warm-weather white because it’s so incredibly light. But, unlike some other Sauvignon Blancs out there, this one has some backbone to it, some real flavor. You’ll taste hints of citrus, ripe honeydew and fresh herbs which make the perfect meal starter pairing with creamy cheeses, grilled vegetables and light seafood dishes. Alexander Valley Cabernet Why We Love It: In our opinion, the Cabernets from the Alexander Valley region are some of the finest in the world and this one really measures up. It's round, it's mouth-coating, it's everything you want in a hearty California Cab. Deep ruby/purple color, with a sweet kiss of black currants and cherries and a distinctive earthiness. Dry, but not overly dry. Just a really good wine. Like, REALLY good.The wines from Rodney Strong are truly memorable. But, don’t take our word for it, taste them for yourself at the New Jersey Wine & Food Festival Grand Tasting at Crystal Springs Resort on Saturday, April 1st 7:00 - 10:00PM and then pick up a few at your neighborhood WineCountry or Wine & Whiskey Country store or online at www.4wineandwhiskey.comDon’t have a ticket to the Wine & Food Festival yet? Reserve yours today before they’re all gone!
If you’re a wine lover (and who isn’t?), sooner or later you’re going to find yourself at a wine tasting event. There’s a big one coming up in New Jersey, actually it’s arguably the biggest — and best — wine tasting event in New Jersey all year. The 9th Annual New Jersey Wine & Food Festival at Crystal Springs Resort in Hamburg, New Jersey. If you’re going — good for you! If you’re not, there’s still time to get your tickets. It’s three days of events dedicated to all things food and wine, with special wine and food pairing dinners, breakout sessions, a champagne brunch and more. But the big event, the one you cannot miss is the Grand Tasting being held on Saturday night, April 1st. More than 30 top chefs from NJ and NYC join leading wineries and distilleries from around the world in this showcase event. Taste over 100 varieties of wine from esteemed wineries including Hall Wines, Walt Wines, Hess Estates, Bodega Colome, Artezin Wines, Amalaya Vineyards, Rodney Strong Vineyards, Illumination, Faust, Flowers Vineyards, Quintessa, Beringer Vineyards, Domaine Sainte Marie, Stags' Leap Winery, Trinchero Family Vineyards, Joel Gott Wines, The Prisoner Wine Company, Husic Vineyards, Macallan Single Malt, Partida Tequila, Virginia Highland Malt Whiskey and New Belgium Brewing Company. It’s like a dream come true for wine aficionados, but without a game plan you could miss out on the wines you really want to try and end up drinking way more than you should. Luckily, we’re pros at attending these sorts of events and we’ll help you plan your way to the best night of wine tasting you’ve ever had and all it takes is five simple steps:1. You can’t drink everything (no really, you can’t)There are more than 100 different wines to try and no matter what you might think, that’s not something anyone could possibly tackle in a single night. Each table will have a variety (or flight) of wines to try — some with different varietals, some with different levels of the same varietals and it’s ok not to try every wine offered at every table. It’s also ok to take a sip of wine and either pour out or spit the extra into the provided buckets at each table (it’s ok, it’s perfectly acceptable to spit in public at these types of events).2. Make a game plan.When you arrive, you’ll be handed a brochure with a map of the event, including the winemakers and varieties offered at each table. Take a few moments to map out a strategy to make sure you get to sample the wines that most appeal to you. It’s easy to be side-tracked as you walk around and see all of those beautiful aromatic wines just begging to be tried, but before you go off track make sure you visit the ones you’ve been dying to try.3. Hydrate and eat throughout the nightIt’s called the FOOD & Wine Festival for a reason. There is going to be food. Incredible gourmet food from some of the best NYC and NJ restaurants and you need to try some. Not only because it’s delicious, but also because you cannot drink all night on an empty stomach and feel good the following morning. And water. Make sure you drink plenty of water throughout the night. Your head will thank you for it the next morning.4. Take notes on the wines you like!As much as you think you’ll remember what you liked, you won’t. There are just too many amazing wines available that night. Bringing a notebook along is one idea, but since just about everyone has a smartphone, take photos of the wine labels of the ones that you really, really liked so you’ll remember which ones you are going to want to buy. And speaking of buying… every wine, every spirit, every craft beer you taste is offered for sale at local Wine Country and Wine & Whiskey Country stores throughout New Jersey and online at 4wineandwhiskey.com. There’s even handy order forms at each table if you want to fill one out as you go!5. Don’t drink and driveThere is absolutely no excuse for drinking and driving. None. Plan ahead and ensure you can enjoy every single moment of this event and can safely enjoy future wine tasting events to come. We’ve got three suggestions:• Bring along a Designated Driver. You may end up owing them a HUGE favor, but getting home safe and sound is worth whatever hard bargaining is involved.• Utilize Uber or Lyft or a good old-fashioned taxi company, that’s what they are there to do. • Book a room at Crystal Springs Grand Cascade Lodge or Mineral Springs Resort. One hotel is on the property of the event itself, the other is a short distance away and provides free shuttle service to and from the event. Problem solved and you’ve just made a great weekend getaway for yourself.Now that you’ve got your plan in place, the only thing left to do is get your tickets before they sell out. Hope to see you there!
If you’re Irish (or even if you’re not) everyone knows that St. Patrick’s Day is the Holy Grail of Irish holidays. To really get into the spirit you need to keep a few things in mind:• Wear green (although certainly cute, green underwear doesn’t really count)• Start your day with a bright green bagel (you can go carb-free the rest of the week)• Enjoy your favorite Irish foods—whether it be corned beef and cabbage, Irish soda bread or a big pot of boiled potatoes—some hearty Irish fare is just what’s called for on March 17th• Sip your favorite beer, with a side of green. Don’t fear the dye, it’s the only day all year that it’s acceptable to drink emerald suds• Toast to Ireland with your favorite Irish Whiskey. Beautiful, amber colored liquid gold in your glass. Smooth, aromatic, with an ultra long silky finish.What? You don’t have any Irish Whiskey? Read on about some of our favorites and then come in and get yours:Bushmills Original Irish WhiskeyA blend of their own unique triple distilled malt whiskey and a lighter grain whiskey. You’ll notice it’s rich, smooth warming taste almost instantly. It’s an easy drinking, versatile whiskey that can be enjoyed neat, over ice or with your favorite mixer.Tullamore D.E.W. Original Irish WhiskeyBorn in the heart of Ireland in 1829, with a complex taste derived from three types of grain, triple distillation and the blend of all three Irish whiskeys. Early fresh fruit leads to a definite light spike followed by some toasted wood which evolves into a delicious vanilla sweetness in this whiskey.Kilbeggan Traditional Irish WhiskeyEasy going and approachable, but with its own distinctive style. The finest grain and malt whiskeys are blended together for a smooth, sweet taste and lovely malt finish, a characteristic of our pot still that is over 180 year old and still at the heart of Kilbeggan Irish whiskey.Jameson Irish Whiskey Black Barrel Select Reserve 80°Twice charred for a good measure, it’s a triple distilled blend of rich pot still and grain whiskey that is matured in a mixture of sherry casks and bourbon barrels. The flavor is intense and enhanced – the grain whiskey in specially flame charred bourbon barrels delivers more concentrated spice, nutty notes and vanilla sweetness, while the pot still whiskey in sherry casks adds sherry fruit flavors and a rich finish.Green Spot Irish Whiskey Pot StillCrafted in the heart of Ireland from malted and un-malted barley, which are milled and mashed before being distilled through a traditional pot still. An aroma of butterscotch, caramel, honeyed oak, pine and orange that gives way to notes of citrus, tart apples, plums and apricots on the palate. The finish is smooth yet slightly spicy, with a touch of cinnamon and ginger.Tyrconnell Single Malt Irish WhiskeyDistilled in the old Irish tradition this pure pot still single malt whiskey uses only the most natural Irish ingredients of barley and fresh spring water. The resulting whiskey is then left to peacefully mature in oak casks stored in 200-year-old granite warehouses allowing it to develop its full flavor and character. Find them—and dozens of others—at your nearest Wine Country Stores or Wine and Whiskey Country Stores or online at www.4wineandwhiskey.com
Monday, March 13th, there’s really only one place to be… the Taste of South Plainfield. A place to sample the finest local cuisine from the area’s best restaurants, including gourmet and ethnic specialities and even decadent desserts. And with all of the incredible food — even more incredible wine and spirits, courtesy of South Plainfield’s Wine Country Store.Wine Country is thrilled to be sponsoring six separate tables at the event, each offering a unique assortment of liquid temptations. Of course, all of the wine and beer showcased is available for purchase through Wine Country.Table 1: Valenzano Family WineryValenzano Winery maintains 88 vineyard acres in the Shamong, New Jersey. Stop by Table 1 to try these unique Garden State wines, including Peach Pinot Grigio, Blackberry Syrah, Shamong Red & White and their very own Sangria. Extraordinary tastes, at everyday wine pricing.Table 2: J.P. ChenetVivacious sparkling wines for all of life’s best celebrations. JP Chenet is a French wine brand, that’s easily identified by the curved necks of its bottles. Be sure to sample the Ice Editions, an entirely new approach to sparkling wines, they are at their best when served over ice!Table 3: Organic WineIt’s one of the biggest trends in wine production today. A focus on conserving natural resources, reclamation and reuse of water, solar power and limited, or none at all, pesticides. The resulting wines? Amazing. But, don’t take our word for it… visit us at Table 3! Table 4: The Wines of SpainWith more than 2.9 million acres of vineyards, Spain holds the distinction of being the world’s most widely-planted wine producing nation. The wines of Spain are distinctive and delicious, from crisp Albarino to full-bodied Rioja Rosado — be sure to stop by for a taste.Table 5: Wines of Italy & FranceSpain has more growing acreage, but France and Italy produce more wine than anywhere else in the world. Visit Table 5 and taste some of the best-known varietal blends from these regions, including Chanti, Rosé and Cotes de Rhone.Table 6: Riverhorse Because man cannot live by wine alone… stop by the Riverhorse table and try a flight of unique beers from New Jersey’s coolest craft brewery. It’s the place to be on March 13th from 6:00 to 9:00 at the South Plainfield Senior Center, 90 Maple Avenue, South Plainfield.Advance sale tickets can be purchased for $20 at the South Plainfield Observer, 1110 Hamilton Blvd., Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m or at the door the night of the event for $25 each.
Hope to see you there!