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Archive for June, 2010

Looking For Fireworks

“Just give me one more chance” seemed to be the message that the 2007 Concannon Central Coast Shiraz was trying to send me by the second sip on night #1.  It wasn’t too long ago that I was in a similar situation with another Concannon Vineyard red wine.  However, on that occasion the Concannon Conservancy Petite Sirah had won my taste buds over by the third night.  Could lightning strike twice?

Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the 2007 Concannon Central Coast Shiraz.  I held out hope over a two day period for a similar rousing experience.  Sadly though, that something special that happens when a wine hits your tongue and fills your mouth, so that you almost don’t want to spoil the moment by swallowing it, just didn’t happen with this American Shiraz. 

The 2007 Concannon Central Coast Shiraz delivers a one-dimensional upfront dosage of moderately sweet red berries, partnered with lots of toasted vanilla-oak flavors, and struggles to display any fireworks on its finish.

2 Stars out of 4. 

SRP: $10.00

Who Wouldn’t Want To Receive One?

They’re fun, edible, and people absolutely love giving and receiving them on all sorts of special occasions.  No, not a Chia Herb Garden, but rather a beautiful gourmet gift basket filled with a mountain of goodies that’ll keep a smile on your face and make you do a happy dance until the last tasty morsel is gone.

I was fortunate enough to have been a recipient of a Ravenswood Red Wine Gift Basket from the nice peeps at

Ravenswood Red Wine Gift Basket from

Rather than keeping the goodies for myself, I thought it would be more fun to give my little basket of joy to a friend in exchange for her answering a few questions for me.  Besides agreeing to provide her thoughts, she paid it forward and shared the love with some of her friends as well.   Here’s a little Q &A about the Ravenswood Red Wine Gift Basket with Val and company:

After placing an order with, how soon would you expect to receive the gift basket?  In other words, how long is an acceptable amount of time from the time you place your order to the time it’s sitting on your or the intended recipient’s doorstep? 

2-3 days max. 

Bingo!  The shipment only took 2 days to receive. 

What was your initial opinion of the packaging?   

Pleasant to the eye.  The coloring and decor of the box was very nice.

How well did pack/protect the contents of the gift basket? 

The additional packing fit nicely with the basket in the box, ensuring that it didn’t move around in transit. 

When you took the gift basket out of the shipping package, was anything noticeably broken or damaged? 

No, everything looked as expected. 

What was your initial reaction of how the gift basket looked?  Were you impressed by its appearance? 

My initial reaction was that I was very impressed that everything fit so nicely in the basket. 

When you took the bow and plastic wrapping off was there anything broken? 

Everything was intact, however it was a little difficult to separate the products from the glue and the decorations.

What kinds of items did the gift basket contain? 

A bottle of wine, smoked cheese, sausage, crackers, wine biscuits and bruschetta. 

Did you like the items that were inside the gift basket? 

I very much enjoyed the items.  I brought it to a girl’s night at a friend’s house and it was perfect for snacking.   

What was your favorite item? 

Unexpectedly, it was the bruschetta, it was “rock star” to say the least!    

Would you send this gift basket to someone that you know? 


What would you expect to pay for this wine gift basket?


(Actual price: $69.99) 

On a scale of 1 to 10, how impressed were you by the gift basket?

Thanks so much Val for sharing your thoughts on the Ravenswood Red Wine Gift Basket.  I’m glad everyone enjoyed it!

Stay tuned for details on a chance to win your very own gourmet gift basket from the folks at GourmetGiftBaskets.comYou can also checkout all of the other delicious gift baskets that has to offer by visiting their site.

Trust The Pour

Wait for it, wait for it, wait for it…Stop.  A perfect pour every time!

One of the most helpful wine gadgets that I’ve had the pleasure of using over and over again this past year have been these terrific portion controlled pourers from

These little babies are fantastic for conducting any size wine tasting.  Can I tell you how many tastings that I’ve been to where I’ve been poured practically an entire glass of wine?!  Not a bad thing when I like the wine, but otherwise wasteful.  The greatest beneficiaries, though, of this gadget are definitely any commercial businesses that serve wine and spirits that are interested in controlling over-pours in their establishment.

It’s simple:  You just push the pourer into the neck of the bottle, tip the bottle so that the bottom is turned to a 1-2 o’clock position, and pour.  The liquid flows out and stops when it’s reached the right amount based on the pourer size you’ve selected.  Another excellent feature about these super accurate pourers is that they’re also great for drip and spill control.  FYI, I’ve been using the 1 oz. pourers, but there are several different measurement sizes (and colors!) available.

Well, enough of my rambling and on with the show!  Checkout the “Hi-Profit-Pour” in action for yourself:

If you’d like to learn more, please visit  If you’re interested in purchasing these dandy little pourers, don’t forget to use coupon code D005 to get a 5% discount on orders up to $150 and coupon code D010 to get a 10% discount on all orders over $150.

3 Wishes Granted

Photo Courtesy of the News Journal

I had a dream…a wildly crazy dream of putting together the baddest, most bombastic and over the top blind wine tasting party ever attempted; but I had a few things (make that lots of things) to overcome in order to make my sweet dream a reality.  Things like…I had no place, no wine, and no food.  I knew I needed a pretty, idyllic, and beautiful venue, enough wine to satisfy several army platoons, and some great food.  To sum it up in a nutshell, I needed a whole lot of everything if I was going to make this party one for the record books.    

I could only hope that a genie would fly out of one of my wine bottles to grant me three wishes, or maybe I just needed to pray for some divine intervention!  Well, guess what?  Dreams and wishes do come true – you just need to say the two magic words:  HELP and PLEASE.     

WISH #1Where was I gonna hold this beautifully conceived blind wine tasting?  In my mind, I wanted the tasting to have a warm, relaxed feeling in a home – not in some rented church hall or at the local moose lodge.  I really wanted a place where people could just kick off their shoes, sit back, and try a few wines in a comfortable, intimate setting.  You know, just the picture-perfect place where guests could feel right at home.   But as I thought about the potential number of wine lovers attending this little shindig, I quickly began to realize that my slice of home-heaven was not going to accommodate the number of guests that was floating around in my dizzy wine-soaked brain.  So I wished and wished, asked for HELP, and said the magic word PLEASE.  And guess what?  It worked!    

WISH #1 GRANTED:  My wife phoned our good friends Rob and Candice Holden and asked them if they would be willing to open up their gorgeous early 20th century home to nearly 100 winos eager to sip, swirl, swallow, and spit (maybe not so much of the spitting part) a bunch of brown-bagged wines.   

And you know what?  They said, “YES”!  Candice & Rob, you guys are the best!  Thank you both for your immense generosity and all of the work that each of you put into making this party a huge success!     

WISH #2How in the world was I going to assemble enough wines to put into this blind tasting?  I was hoping for enough variety, with price points ranging from Boone’s to Dom, that would thoroughly floor this thirsty crowd and send them into a total wine euphoria.  So I wished and wished, asked for HELP, and said the magic word PLEASE.  And guess what?  It worked again!     

WISH #2 GRANTED:  I knew that I was going to have to call in some pros that have lots of experience conducting blind-tastings.  So I picked up the phone and called my friends over at “The Wine Trials” and asked them if they might be willing to take a road trip to the home of tax-free shopping – Delaware.     

(From left) Tyce Walters, Coco Owens, Robin Goldstein, Mark Walker and Alexis Herschkowitsch at the tasting in Wilmington. The News Journal GINGER WALL

They graciously agreed to participate and brought with them a ‘Baskin-Robbins’ array of wines, priced low to high.  Heck, they were even nice enough to bag and number all 72 of them ahead of time!  For that – Alexis, Robin, Tyce and Coco:  Thank you for bringing enough wine for an army and for giving these Delaware wine lovers an opportunity to participate in the Wine Trials.  We’re looking forward to the 2011 edition with great anticipation!  


But wait!  Can you believe that after 6 flights, which included 72 wines, guests were still thirsty for more!  Here comes my good friend Oscar Zelaya, owner of Ward’s Fine Wines in Wilmington, Delaware, to the rescue.  He conducted his own special wine tasting, pouring some of his own personal favorites (under $20) from his shop.    


Oscar, thank you my friend for calling St. Peter and guaranteeing us a perfect rain-free evening and for not choosing the World Cup over the party.    

WISH #3Food!  What was I going to do about food?  We certainly have to offer up something for our guests to eat in order to soak up all of that wine that was going to be consumed, right?  Two of the 4 hosts were beginning to think that the only things that would be served at the party would be breadsticks and the Kraft singles that were in the fridge.  So I wished and wished, asked for HELP, and said the magic word PLEASE.  And guess what?  Well, this one required some divine intervention.  We needed a very brave individual with nerves of steel (who also happens to be an outstanding chef) to pull this together with very little notice.      

WISH #3 GRANTEDTalk about a spread that was as beautiful as it was bountiful.  Wow!  Major “big ups” go out to one of Delaware’s Masters of Gastronomy, Matthew Curtis, Owner and Chef of Wilmington’s Union City Grille.     

Photo Courtesy of Union City Grill

A few of the tasty morsels he prepared, included:  

Roquefort grapes – grapes dredged in Roquefort and dusted with Pistachio Crumbles
Spicy tuna tartar with mint served on a cucumber
Thai chicken skewers
Thinly sliced “Blackened Beef” on crostini with gorgonzola mascarpone
Warm phyllo cups with chorizo, roasted peppers and cheddar
Curried crab salad on cumin toasted pita crisps
Scallop Ceviche with toasted tostada chips   


I’m still in awe of Chef Curtis and the amazing spread he put together in such a short period of time.  Thank you for keeping your cool, while some of us were beginning to lose it.    

I almost forgot – Dessert!  When throwing a party, you’ve got an obligation to offer your party guests a little dessert, right?  A very special thank you goes out to my dear MUM for slaving in a hot kitchen for 100 people she didn’t even know.  My own mom got into the WineLife action and cranked out several of her naughty brownie creations for guests to nibble on.  Thanks Mom!  No doubt, you make a mean brownie and now a few others know it too – including Chef Curtis.  

Final Parting Words:    

What more can I tell you about this spectacular evening besides, it doesn’t take a genie to make magic.  It just takes some fantastic people who are willing to help!    

I think this swanky soirée was best summed up by one of our guests as they were leaving:    

“Hey, can we do this all over again in about 2 weeks?”  And I replied back, “Why, two weeks?”  And they said, “It’s about the amount of time I’ll need to recoup from this one!”  

Cheers to everyone that participated in The Delaware Wine Trials…let’s do it again!  



If you’d like to read more about the party or see more pictures, checkout these links:    

Fine on the Palate, Easy on the Wallet“  News Journal – June 16, 2010
The Wine Trials:  Wilmington Edition“  Second Helpings – June 16, 2010
Delaware Wine Trials Album“  WineLife365 FaceBook Page – June 19, 2010
The Delaware Wine Trials Album“  The Wine Trials FaceBook Page – June 14, 2010

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