I miss the metallic-popcorn pop of flashbulbs. The silent strobe of modern photographic lightning without that muffled report of miniature thunder is unnatural, as is the fake shutter ‘click’ of most modern cameras and iphones. So this Sunday, the only real ‘pops’ greeting the glitterati at the Annual Oscar festivities will come, of course, from bottles and bumpers and cases and carloads of Champagne. We haven’t invented a silent, digital Champagne bottle. Yet.
Why celebrate with Champagne? Now, that is like asking “Why is the Oscar gold, man?” Since humans discovered them, both have been treasured as luxury items, sought after, collected, and employed as the simple, elegant implements of achievement and success in this life. “Champagne Wishes and Caviar Dreams” is the battle cry of the Rich and Famous. No matter if it is acidic, lean, yeasty, bitter, and the fizz gets up your nose. Caviar is fish eggs, so there you go…
In 2006, the European Union reclaimed several wine names from general use, and took steps to reconnect them to places of origin within the EU: these include Burgundy, Claret, Chablis, Champagne, Chianti, Malaga, Marsala, Madeira, Moselle, Port, Retsina, Rhine Wine, Hock, Sauterne, Haut Sauterne, Sherry, and Tokay. Why? These names carry inherent value, and bear histories that can be expressed in a very specific monetary value. The French have been making laws regarding wine quality and purity for centuries, and this has led to increased prices for wines coming from recognized regions in France. Nowhere is this more obvious as in the case (pardon the pun) of Champagne.
As is true of other luxury items, the perceived monetary value of Champagne precedes the individual product. The inherent value, from strict production methods and quality control, is compounded by the intrinsic value of the terroir itself: unique amoung the AOCs of France, the appellation “Champagne” covers all the wines made there, and so every single prized bottle promotes the entire region, along with the producer, vintage, style, etc. – increasing Champagne’s value with every sale.
Still, half the sparkling wines produced in the US will have the word Champagne hiding somewhere on the label. Some have special permission from the French, as is the case with Korbel, who received this honor in the late 1800s; others will claim that the term is “semi-generic”, while using it to inflate their prices.
No matter. This Sunday, flutes and coupes will overrun with Champagne, all over Los Angeles. I am reminded of the words attributed to Bonaparte: I drink champagne when I win, to celebrate . . . and I drink champagne when I lose, to console myself. Champagne is perfect for the Oscars, then: in a room where few winners will be rubbing shoulders with an increasing number of “losers” as the night progresses, it can simultaneously celebrate and console table by table. “Champagne for real pain” as we say sometimes in the Valley.
Although if anyone has the gall to think themselves a loser while sitting in that room, well then, …he is one. Bring him a vodka-Redbull.
There is a word, Carneros and it means “The Ram” in Spanish. The name “Carneros,” or “Los Carneros,” is derived from the days when our region was home to sheepherders, dairy farms, fruit orchards and hayfields.+
Climate: Cool, with prevailing marine winds from the San Pablo Bay and through the Petaluma Gap to the west. High temperatures during summer rarely exceed 80°F (27°C) with less diurnal range variation.
Elevation: 15 to 400 ft. (4.6 to124 m)
Rainfall: Lowest in Napa Valley: 18 to 24 inches (7.2 to 9.6cm) annually.
Soils: Clay dominated, very shallow in general, with more loam and hillside alluvials in the northern section. Yields typically are restrained by the hard claypan subsoil, which prevents deep-rooting.++
+"Welcome - Carneros." Carneros Wine Alliance. Carneros Wine Alliance. Web. 21 Feb. 2012.
++"Science of Napa Valley." Napa Valley Appellations and Wine Grape Growing Regions. Napa Valley Vintners. Web. 21 Feb. 2012.
Are you a go-getter or a procrastinator when it comes to filing your taxes?
April 15 is Tax Day (or April 17 for those of you really running late!) so you better get a move on it, and plan to give yourself a nice reward for all of your hard work when you finish. Whoever you are, make this weekend a fun one and throw a Tax Day party to celebrate being done with your taxes! If you want to make a bigger bash of it, plan ahead for making the party next week so your friends who will be forcing the post office to stay open on Tuesday will be able to join in the fun!
Not that anyone needs an excuse for a good get-together, but a festive theme can always be fun to celebrate.
Pick up these perfect red & white wines for those who need to relax after just filing at the last minute and while you're at it, grab a bottle of bubbly for those who are ready to party the night away! Our picks for the occasion:
Want a signature drink for the night? Try out this fun mix we found at YumSugar.com
Income Tax Day Cocktail
In an ice-filled cocktail shaker, vigorously shake liquid ingredients. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with orange.
Decorate your place with fake monetary bills, chocolate coins and Americana décor of red, white and blue. For a little noise or something to do, keep a money-minded movie on in the background (we’re thinking either of the Wall Street movies or the sympathetic look into an IRS Auditors life in Stranger Than Fiction).
Need a Tax Day Party activity? We have a couple!
Guess Who: Not the board game, in this guessing game you should have each of your guests write down their perfect scenario of what they would spend a tax refund of $1M on!
Wall Street Movie Drinking Game: (Before we begin ALWAYS DRINK RESPONSIBLY this game is only for friends over 21 who are staying over!)
Drink every time…
Before you begin calling your friends, it’s probably best if your taxes are done before you start any games. Get to the post office soon and have a happy and safe weekend!
Many nights have passed with me sitting in my backyard, looking out at the Napa Valley, sipping a Cabernet and looking to the stars, wondering: "What is out there?" My parents always encouraged me to reach for the stars and think about the opportunities earthbound and beyond.
I can fondly remember April 12, 1981. I was on vacation with my parents. We went to south Florida and witnessed the first space shuttle launch. There have been many since, but I still get chills watching the shuttle blast off on television.
Sadly, the last space shuttle launch is scheduled for June 28. Knowing that, I began wondering: "Is there any connection between the wine industry and space? I'm sure astronauts have not been sipping a nice Cabernet in space ... or have they? What would be the best wine for space?"
After a little research, I learned that wine has indeed been consumed in space.
During the first Apollo moon landing in 1969, astronaut Buzz Aldrin (pictured) enjoyed wine while looking down to the earth. On the moon's surface, 250,000 miles from home, he opened little plastic packages holding bread and wine. He poured the wine into a chalice from his church; in one-sixth gravity, the wine curled up the side of the cup.
He then read the scripture: "I am the vine, and you are the branches. Whoever abides in me will bring forward much fruit. Apart from me you can do nothing." Few people heard this ceremony, because it was done during a radio blackout. Aldrin planned to read the passage aloud to the people of Earth, but at the time, NASA was already embroiled in a legal battle concerning the separation of church and state.
Of course, my question is: What wine did he pour? We may never know, but I am sure many a winery would love to claim that their wine was served at possibly the most memorable wine-tasting event in the galaxy.
I also learned that cork has played a vital role in the U.S. space program since the 1960's. Here's a brief timeline:
NASA began testing cork as a thermal protection material for the NASA Scout and RAM test flight vehicles.
1960's and 1970's
The Apollo command module had a protective covering of ablative cork and Teflon-impregnated glass cloth, supported by glass honeycomb in the upper portion.
1990’s to 2010
The nose cone of today's space shuttles is made with cork, along with the Delta 4 rockets.
2010 and Beyond
Cork is used as thermal insulating material in the next-generation Ariane 5 space rockets (pictured).
As you open your next fine Cabernet or Chardonnay, look up to the stars and know that you and the heavens above have shared the wonders of wine and its contribution to the history of the U.S space program.
To make a success of winemaking, it takes grape-growing expertise, strong management skills, sophisticated equipment and savvy selling. Then there's dealing with Mother Nature, government regulations ... the list goes on and on. And you'll need a whole lot of money up front before you see a dime of it in return (if any).
Oh, there are certainly success stories like Kathryn Kennedy, who produced award-winning wines from her own back yard, but there's no doubt that starting with cash helps. So it makes sense that celebrities would have the capital needed to start and run a winery.
According to the Nielsen Company, celebrity wine sales jumped 19% in grocery stores in 2007 alone. It basically comes down to marketing leverage, something these musicians, actors and athletes had when they jumped into the game.
Madonna and her father, Silvio "Tony" Ciccone, collaborated on a handful of wines bearing the superstar's name for Ciccone Vineyard & Winery. Each of the five labels incorporates artwork from Madonna's 2005 album Confessions on a Dance Floor.
Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac fame is drumming up sales with his Mick Fleetwood Private Cellars.
Bob Dylan has bottled an Italian wine blend of Montepulciano and Merlot from Le Terrazze complete with his signature called "Planet Waves", the name of his 1974 album.
Dave Matthews founded Blenheim Vineyards in 2000 near his home in Charlottesville, Virginia. The winery itself was designed by Matthews himself, with the intention to have minimal environmental impact.
Canadian actor Dan Aykroyd launched his Discovery Series of wines in 2007, which are inspired by his travels to wineries around the globe.
Paul Newman has extended his brand from food products like salad dressing and lemonade into wine with the help of Rebel Wine Co. As with his other products, all profits and royalties after taxes are donated to charity.
French actor Gerard Depardieu has been making wines since the 1980's and owns vineyards in France, Italy, Morocco and Algeria. His Chateau de Tigne produces reds, whites and roses bearing his face and signature.
Peggy Fleming, a gold medal skater at the 1968 Olympics owns Fleming Jenkins Winery and Vineyards of Santa Cruz with husband and winemaker, Greg.
Mike Ditka, former NFL coach, has partnered with Mendocino Wine Company to create his lineup of wines which includes a "Kick Ass Red".
Mario Andretti founded Andretti Winery in Napa Valley in 1996 with longtime friend Joe Antonini, former Chairman and CEO of KMart.
Greg Norman has gone from golf to producing red, white and sparkling wines from some of the finest growing regions in Australia and California.
Fellow golfer Ernie Els has a winery in South Africa, and Arnold Palmer is collaborating with Luna Vineyards in the Napa Valley.
Wine is just one of many agents employed over history to help the course of true love run smooth. Aphrodisiacs (named after the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite) like oysters, strawberries, and of course, chocolate will also do the trick.
Photo by Hector Garcia
Set the mood with these food and wine pairings that make ideal marrying partners. Start slow with a single glass as an aperitif to stimulate your appetite, and you're on your way.
You can have everyday elegance in a fairytale way with a simple appetizer of oysters on the half shell and sparkling wine. Choose Champagne, Cremant d'Alsace or a home-grown version from California.
Champagne is undeniably the world's most romantic beverage. Its seductive power is legendary. But if you're on a budget, you can have the same heart-fluttering experience at the end of your meal with a frizzante (lightly effervescent) like Moscato d'Asti, with a mildly sweet fruit pastry.
Photo by Steve Ryan
Indulge yourself with red crushed velvet in a glass in the form of Pinot Noir, alongside a slice of chocolate cake. Or try a tempting Tempranillo from Ribera del Duero, a sinfully delicious alternative in a lighter red.
In the Pink
Toast your rosé colored glasses with chocolate-dipped strawberries and a Tavel from the southern Rhône.
Say It With Chocolate
Merlot and soft truffles are a heavenly match because of the smooth texture in each.
Cabernet Sauvignon and Raisinettes ... why didn't I think of that sooner? Raisins are just dried grapes, so that's logical. Cab is also good with anything infused with berries or dark chocolate.
Shiraz is a fuller red, good with dark chocolate and anything infused with berry, orange or mocha to echo these more subtle flavors in the wine.
Moscato d’Asti is a lighter alcohol dessert wine that goes with anything orange because of the mandarin orange aromas and flavors in the wine.
Photo by Davidlohr Bueso
If you're an avid Oscars fan, why not host a wine tasting "cocktail hour" of your own? This type of event focuses on the anticipation of the evening and still allows you to take in the awards ceremony uninterrupted. Rate the red carpet entrances as you sip champagne (and still get to bed at a reasonable hour).
Here are a few ideas to get your party started:
Send invitations in the shape of wine glasses or a clapboard. Roll out your own red carpet (or at least a red table runner.) Dress up! It's time to break out the rhinestones and tuxes.
Pull out your best stemware, or borrow a set of 12-24 from a friend. Better yet, make your event "BYOG" (Bring Your Own Glass), with an award for the most elaborately decorated awards night glass.
If you're providing the stemware, bedazzle your wine glasses with charms of all sorts. You know they're hiding in there ... way in the back of your wine cabinet. If you don't use them on Oscar night, when will you use them?
Photo by Ryan McFarland
Serve sparkling wine or a celebrity wine like the Francis Ford Coppola series. Don't forget a few buckets of buttered popcorn for your buttery Chardonnay! Serve dessert in Champagne flutes too ... parfaits, assorted chocolates ... use your imagination!
Print out our Wine in Cinematography Trivia tidbits and spread them around the room for fun. In lieu of acceptance speeches, prompt your guests to come up with the craziest, wordiest descriptions for the wines they taste. Award prizes for Best Dressed, Best Supporting Spouse, Best Wine Description, Best at Wine Movie Trivia ... winners receive a bottle of wine.
When the 83rd annual Academy Awards air on Sunday, Feb. 27, we'll be doing a little stargazing of our own.
Winetasting.com and the Napa Valley Unity League will sponsor the Napa Valley Academy Awards Gala, hosted at Robert Mondavi Winery. The event will benefit the CARE Network's HIV/AIDS and cancer programs at the Queen of the Valley Hospital.
Tickets are on sale now!
Hosting an Academy Awards viewing party? Use these wine movie tidbits to play a trivia game between red carpet arrivals and during commercials.
Call out the movie and the year, and ask your guests to loosely describe the plot, including how wine played a part in the movie. Click the images below to get more movie info at IMDb.com.
Two middle-aged men embark on a bachelor party road trip through California's wine country (and a quest for the ultimate Pinot Noir). Starring Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church.
A Good Year (2006)
A romantic comedy about a workaholic who inherits a vineyard in Provence, where he discovers a more laid-back way of life. Starring Russell Crowe and Marion Cotillard.
A documentary that examines the globalization of wine and how critics like Robert Parker have reportedly caused a "sameness" of fruit-forward wines.
They Knew What They Wanted (1940)
A story of love and deception set against the backdrop of Napa Valley in the early years, with a focus on Italian-American wine culture. Starring Charles Laughton and Carole Lombard.
This Earth is Mine (1959)
Filmed at the former Inglebrook estate and set at the end of Prohibition, this melodrama looks at the issues dividing Napa Valley in the early 1930's. Starring Rock Hudson and Jean Simmons.
French Kiss (1995)
A romantic comedy about the prodigal son of a French winemaking family, and the neurotic American woman who unwittingly becomes his accomplice in crime. Starring Meg Ryan and Kevin Kline.
Bottle Shock (2008)
The story behind the infamous 1976 "Judgment of Paris", in which a Napa Valley Cabernet and Chardonnay beat all French wines in blind tastings. Starring Alan Rickman and Bill Pullman.
Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)
A man discovers that his two beloved elderly aunts are murderers, who kill lonely old men with poisoned elderberry wine and bury them in the cellar. Starring Cary Grant.
Francis Ford Coppola lives on the old Inglenook estate (now known as Rubicon Estate) in the house that served as the setting for 1974's made-for-television movie Killer Bees. The Napa Valley family depicted in the movie specializes in sweet wines.
There are many different types of wine tasting parties you can conduct right in your own living room. The main goals of any wine tasting are to learn more about the wine and where it came from, learn more about your own palate, compare notes with fellow wine lovers and have FUN!
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Generally, your "flight" should consist of three to five wines. If you are serving full-bodied reds like Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, open the bottles about an hour before you expect to sample the wine to let it breathe.
Here are a few basic methods for comparing wines to one another:
Most tastings involve random wines. For a formal, more traditional approach to wine tasting, follow the five S's:
With this approach, you’ll have a glass for each sample of wine. Smell each wine and make notes. Taste each wine and make notes. Each person reports on each wine. Then unveil the bottle.
Guests may be unfamiliar or intimidated by "technical" tasting terms, so encourage them to describe wine in their own terms. Call us and we’ll send you a free "aroma wheel" with a list of basic descriptors for popular wines.
For a more light-hearted approach to your tasting, begin with an educational ice breaker. Ask your guests to take a jelly bean from a small bowl you provide with an assortment of colors (without looking!) Have them plug their nose first and place the jelly bean in their mouth. Ask them to describe the flavor. Then tell them to unplug their nose and describe the flavor.
This game plays up the connection between the olfactory nerve and the brain. Most people will respond, "Sweet, but unidentifiable" for a flavor description with their nose plugged. Only once their nose is unplugged are they able to describe the actual flavor (i.e. lemon, lime, etc.) After tasting the candy, be sure to cleanse the palate before sampling the wine.
Have each guest to draw a card from a basket with questions like, "If this wine were an animal, which would it be and why?” Taste each wine and comment back to the group. Award prizes for the most creative answers: wine charms, coasters, or a bottle of wine (unopened, of course!)
|Photo by Steve Copley|
Finally! A New Year's resolution you can keep!
Don't concern yourself with resolutions like going to the gym or cleaning the spare bedroom closet. This year, resolve to expand your wine knowledge and experiences. Here are a few tasteful wine-loving experiences to add to your "to do" list.
1. Host your own wine tasting party.
Trying new wines in a festive setting is much better than by yourself one bottle at a time. With a wine tasting party you can compare and contrast several wines amongst friends without wasting a drop.
2. Take a wine-related trip.
Who says you need to visit Bordeaux or Tuscany? Sonoma and Paso Robles are great weekend wine destinations right here in California. Or, try a hidden gem like McMinnville in Oregon, or Washington's Yakima Valley. Be sure to take advantage of Winetasting.com's concierge services when you're in Napa and Sonoma counties. Call (800) 435-2225 for more information.
|Wine tasting with friends in Sonoma - Photo by Eric Chan|
3. Talk to a sommelier at a local restaurant.
Sommeliers receive loads of training and speak to wine-loving patrons on a regular basis. They are experts in their field and often an untapped resource for wine information. Their brainpower and palate are yours for the taking.
4. Drink outside the box.
Try a wine from a different region than you normally choose. Taste an Argentine Malbec or sample a Shiraz from South Africa. Think local, too. East Coast vineyards in the New York areas of the Finger Lakes, Long Island, or even Virginia might offer an interesting change of pace.
Expand your horizons with 6 wines from around the world
International Wine Collection (KIT146)
5. Introduce a friend to your favorite wine.
Make an occasion of opening or trading a bottle with a fellow wine lover. The best way to stretch your wine dollar is to share bargain hunting tips and learn about wines to avoid. (We've all tasted a few duds in our time.)
6. Scope out a nearby "bring your own wine" restaurant.
Most major cities have them, and you stand to save some serious cash by bringing your own beverage. Restaurants wines can be three times distributor's cost and twice that of retail. Be prepared to pay a corkage fee of $10-15 in most cases (and tip accordingly.) Chat it up with fellow patrons. Chances are, if they brought their own vino, they're as hot on wine as you are. Offer the waitstaff a glass if you are bringing something high end.