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Archive for May, 2009

Wine Tip – Decanting, what is it?

decanterHave you ever “decanted” a wine before?  What is it, you ask?  “Decanting” just means to pour a wine from its bottle into another glass container.


Decanting wine does a few things:

First, transferring wine from its bottle into another glass container, like a carafe, separates the wine from any “sediment” (the gunk or crystallized deposits that sits at the bottom of some red and white wines).  Separating the wine and the gunk will prevent you from getting a mouthful of wine crud.

Second, transferring it to another glass container aerates the wine, or in other terms, it allows the wine to “breathe” a bit before drinking it.  The trick is to pour the wine slowly into the decanter and not let the gunk end up in the decanting glass.  I have found that using a coffee filter over the glass decanter is very helpful in the separation process, especially if you don’t own a fancy funnel like this one:  WMF Vino Stainless Steel Funnel.

However, the main technical reason for “decanting” a wine is to soften it up a bit.  Some folks swear that it will take out the bitterness and any “alcoholly”, or astringent, tastes that a wine might have.

 Here are a few tips if you decide to use a decanter:

1.)  Older red wines (5 years or longer past their vintage or “born on date”) should only be decanted 30 minutes or so before drinking.  Too much air on an older wine is not good because it speeds up the oxidation process.

2.) Younger red wines (and yes, even white wines) can be decanted an hour or more before serving.

One more tip about handling an older bottle of wine – set the bottle upright for a day or more before you plan on opening it.  This will allow the crud to settle at the bottom of the bottle and make it easier for you to separate the wine from the sediment while decanting. 

The one reason why I like to use a glass decanter is just for the aesthetics.  Glass decanters come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.  Placing a beautiful glass decanter on your dining-room table makes any meal feel more special and festive over a plain old bottle.  Here are just a few interesting ones to choose from:

WMF Easy Pour Decanter

Riedel Amadeo Decanter

Riedel Duck Decanter


Poor Man’s Chef – 10 Dinner Saving Essentials

As the “Poor Man’s Chef” of our household, there are a few dinner saving ingredients that I like to have around to offer me inspiration in the most bleak of evenings.


1.)    Make sure you have more than just salt and pepper in your spice cabinet.  This will allow you to discover how great spices, like coriander and fennel, can pair with a wide variety of foods from luncheon meats to grilled salmon and tuna.  With a decent spice cabinet, you can turn anything into a gourmet masterpiece.  Trust me. 


2.)    Canned chick peas (i.e., garbanzo beans).  I’ve made countless poor recipes with this lifesaver bean.  Garbanzo beans are very cheap and versatile. 


3.)    Canned tomatoes.  Like the garbanzo bean, a can of diced tomatoes offers up a lot of interesting possibilities for just pennies. 


4.)    Brown or white Rice.  Rice is cheap and it can be used in a variety of different meals. 


5.)    A bag of frozen mixed vegetables, frozen peppers, or frozen spinach.  If you’ve got more than just salt and pepper in your spice cabinet, then you have a good chance of making something terrific with a little bit of these frozen vegetables. 


6.)    Jar of chopped garlic.  I don’t have the time or the money for whole garlic cloves.  So I always keep a jar of chopped garlic in the fridge.  


7.)    Some sort of meat or fish is always helpful, but not essential.  It doesn’t matter if its lunchmeat, breakfast sausage, or frozen fish sticks. If you’ve got some sort of protein in the house, then consider yourself a lucky Poor Man’s Chef, my friend.  


8.)    Salted Butter.  Why?  Because sweet salted butter can make anything taste good.  


9.)    Olive Oil.  Unlike butter, a little bit of olive oil goes a long way in adding and enhancing flavor.


10.) A bottle of wine.  Why you ask?  Because a bottle of wine can make any imaginative meal seem more special than it actually is.


There you have it!  10 Dinner Saving Ingredients to help you to become the most creative Poor Man’s Chef that you can be!  Best of luck! 

Wine Review – 2007 Cono Sur Cabernet Sauvignon / Carmenere

cono-sur-cabernet-sauvignon-carmenere-2007From: Chile

Price: $11.50


I was beginning to think that the folks at Cono Sur could do no wrong.  Earlier this year, I raved about how good their Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling white wines tasted.  After having terrific experiences with two white wines from Cono Sur, I was eager to try their red wine offerings to see if they would be just as good.  Unfortunately, I do not have the same praise to give for my first reviewed red wine from Cono Sur.  The 2007 Cono Sur Cabernet Sauvignon / Carmenere blend consists of 60% Cab and 40% Carmenere, and is made from certified organically grown grapes.


Overall, the 2007 Cono Sur Cab / Carmenere was disappointing.  This wine tasted very “green” to me.  What I mean by tasting “green” is that the red grapes used to make this wine tasted as if they were picked and crushed way too early in the season.  It also had a smoky tobacco taste that I didn’t particularly care for, much like some South African red wines.  Finally, this wine was rather boring to me.  The blend offered my taste buds very little excitement.


This red wine is not awful, but it just seemed as though the winemakers at Cono Sur were too eager to pick the grapes, get the wine made, and on the shelves.  A little patience and some crafting, similar to their Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling, may have produced another hit from this Chilean Winery. 


WineLife365 Rating: 2-Star

Book Review – Cheese: Selecting, Tasting, and Serving the World’s Finest (Alix Baboin-Jaubert)

cheese-selecting-tasting-and-serving-the-worlds-finestI picked up this tasty looking morsel at my local public library.  The only thing that I forgot to do before checking it out was to skim through it.  Because even though Cheese: Selecting, Tasting, and Serving the World’s Finest was translated in English, its 100% French. 

I was drawn to this book for two primary reasons.  The first is pretty obvious – I like cheese.  The second, was the delicious looking cover of some brie-type cheeses and a loaf of crunchy rye bread, just begging to be eaten.  As I was contemplating stopping at the store and trying to mimic what was being displayed on this book’s cover, I should have been busy flipping through it.  When I got home and started flipping through the pages, I immediately noticed that this book was a guide to primarily French cheeses…more specifically, all of the wonderful cheeses that are made in or around Burgundy, France.  There is, however, some brief mention given to cheeses made outside of France, but it’s really only meant to demonstrate the vast production differences between France and the other cheese producing countries in EuropeFrance is by far the number one cheese producer in the world.  If you’re looking for any honorable mention to be given to Velveeta or any US-grade cheeses, you’re not going to find it here.  Mr. Jaubert is a French journalist who works for a variety of different French cooking magazines, and this book is meant more as a European course in fine cheeses.

Nonetheless, I did find this book fascinating.  Before picking it up, I had no clue that so many different cheeses were being made in Burgundy.  It also introduced me to a lot of cheeses that I had personally never heard of.   Cheese: Selecting, Tasting, and Serving the World’s Finest does showcase over 365 varieties of European made cheeses, along with suggestions and tips on how to pair them with different wines and serving them to guests.  But, if you live in the United States like me, you’ll probably never have an opportunity to taste most of these different cheeses unless you’re planning a trip to France, or another destination in Europe.  I did, however, learn two tidbits and one new word. 

Tidbit 1: There are three kinds of milk;

Tidbit 2: There are eight major cheese families;

My new vocabulary word, Fromage:  “Cheese-man”, to you and I.

And that, my cheese-head friends, was pretty cool and interesting, even though most of this book just went over my head.    




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