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Archive for June, 2011


Have you ever hosted a wine tasting party at home?  If not, you and your friends are missing out on lots of fun and excitement!  I’ve hosted a number of wine parties with different games or themes, and it always puts a smile on my face to see people enjoying themselves, comparing tasting notes, telling dirty jokes and ultimately leaving with a sense of enlightenment. 

Here are some ideas for your own party!

Start with the “Eyes-Wide-Shut” Game. 


This is a great ice-breaker for any wine party.  No, no – it’s not what you’re thinking!  All you need is a blindfold, a bottle of white wine (room temperature), a bottle of red wine (room temperature), and a group of friends who aren’t afraid of the dark!  :)

The object of the game is to see if everyone can tell the difference between white and red wine when they’re blind-folded and when both wines are served at room temperature.  Before the experiment, you hear a lot of people saying, “Oh, I’ll definitely know the difference between a red and white wine!”

How quickly their confidence turns once the blindfold goes over their eyes and they’re left all alone in the dark with only their sense of smell and taste with two room temperature wines!  The comments sound more like, “I have no f*ckin’ clue what I’m drinking!” 

Move onto “You Think You’ve Got This ‘In The Bag’?” Game.

I love blind tasting!  It takes out any bias: name recognition, pretty labels and of course – price.  Although this is typically done for rating wines, you can add a twist:  Grab three of the most popular, single varietal white and red wines on the planet.  On the white team you can pick Chardonnay, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc; and on the red team, pick up a Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir.  Bag all of them, number the whites from 1 -3 and number the reds from 1-3. 

Here’s where the fun and head-trip begins…besides the tasting notes and ratings, ask them to guess the varietal!

Do you think that you can spot a Chardonnay in a blind line-up of three whites?  How about Pinot Noir amongst three reds?  Are you sure??

To give all your friends a little extra help on the quiz, consider creating a cheat sheet with characteristics of the varietals, so everybody has a chance to score a 100%.  For a little incentive and to spur on some friendly competition, have a prize for the person with the most correct answers.  A bottle of wine makes a great grand prize!

Make sure all your guests have a separate scorecard with plenty of room for tasting notes, with enough space to write down the varietal they think they’re drinking.  Finally, when everyone has had a chance to write down their notes and mark down what they think they’re drinking, collect everyone’s tasting sheets for the Big Reveal.

Did everyone get them correct – even with a CHEAT SHEET

I think you’ll be surprised by the results.  Not to mention, it’s always a great source of amusement to read some of the tasting notes out loud.  Get a little wine in some folks and the hilarity ensues!

Some of my favorite quotes from these parties:

  • “It’s the color of pee and has a strong pee wood flavor .  So it has to be a Sauvignon Blanc!”
  • “Red Wine #2 tastes like it would be nice with chocolate cake, so I’ll say Merlot – I think?!”
  • “Smells like my grandma’s basement.”

One last piece of advice:  be sure to have plenty of great food and lots of water on hand, or it’ll be lights out on the da floor for you and all your pals!  :)

Bottoms up and happy tasting!  Let me know if you have any great ideas for wine parties!

Late Night ‘Strange’

Let’s face it – crazy things can happen in the wee hours of the night:  spontaneous, wild acts that are better left forgotten and definitely never mentioned the next day.  You know exactly what I’m talking about – the kind of night that when you wake up the next morning, rub your eyes, half open them and say to yourself, “What the hell happened last night?!” 

I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m no angel – I’ve definitely had my fair share of rude awakenings!  In most cases, I generally abide by the code of silence that is expected after these nights; but every now and then, shouldn’t a little late night “strange” be shared with others?


It usually begins with a long talk that goes deep into the late hours.  In this particular case, it was pretty late when my wife said, “But I’m not ready for bed yet.”  Next, comes the familiar phrase, “So, what do you have in mind?”

Standing at the Crossroad

On this particular late night, my wife asked, “Can you make us a snack and grab a bottle of red?” 

I had two options here:  I could suggest that we call it a night or I could throw caution to the wind and see where this goes.

I’m a gambling man, so I said, “Sure.”  I thought to myself, “I can either keep things under control or I can take a turn so sinful and dirty that it might require asking for forgiveness the next morning.”

What do you think I did?

The Dirty

This little ‘unmentionable’ consisted of diced, (leftover) grilled Chorizo with sautéed corn, chopped bacon, chopped pecans, crumbled Gorgonzola cheese, fresh raspberries, with a scoop of sour cream and a handful of fresh cilantro.

Before you go judging my little late night indiscretions, I did take some prudence when picking the wine to go with this naughtiness.  This would require a red wine gutsy enough to contend with any “wrongness” that was happening on the plate.

I decided to go with the 2007 Wyndham Estate Shiraz George Wyndham Founder’s Reserve – that’s a mouthful!  :)   (Sample, MSRP: $20).  Chief winemaker, Nigel Dolan does a fine job of reigning in super-ripe black fruit, coupled with a tonsil-clinging nutty characteristic (reminiscent of a port wine), and knows precisely when to apply the brakes on the alcohol level.  It’s a Shiraz that offers up a lot of “impact” on the finish – which ain’t a bad thing if you’re gonna do ‘The Dirty’. 

3 Stars out of 4 for the 2007 Wyndham Estate Shiraz George Wyndham Founder’s Reserve.  The combination of flavors between the snack and wine was almost as good as an impromptu basement burlesque show…from what I hear! :)

“‘Cause you set my expectations so high!” Tales from the Poor Man’s Chef

Personally, I could grab a box of crackers out of the cabinet and top it with some cheddar cheese and bacon, then wash it all down with some good swill and call it dinner.  However, because I’ve set my wife’s expectations so high with my creative cooking, she’s come to expect great things to emerge from our little kitchen with only a few ingredients lying around.

I confess:  I’m not a big fan of the grocery store and I don’t know shit about technical cooking.  I’m just a simpleton who hates to waste food and is armed with a bit of imagination.

I digress:  the other night things were so bare in our fridge and cabinets that I resorted to ‘borrowing’ two ingredients that our friend brought over for a dinner that she was planning to make for us in two days.  I thought to myself, what the hell!!  It’s not like she needs these two things tomorrow, so why not use them tonight – so I did!!

Here’s what I ‘stole’:

  • 1 Spaghetti Squash
  • 1 pkg of Chorizo (Spanish pork sausage)

 My stuff:

  • 1 medium Yellow Onion
  • 1 can Green Giant “Mexicorn”
  • 1 jar Fire Roasted Red Peppers
  • 1 – 4.5 oz. can of Old El Paso chopped green chiles
  • 1 – 2.25oz can of Black Pearls sliced ripe black olives
  • A generous helping of my beloved Stubb’s Chile-Lime Spice Rub
  • 1 cup of red wine – funny how we never run out of that!  :)

Here’s my one pot method:  chop up your onion and sauté a bit in your pot with olive oil.  Dice up the Chorizo and toss it into the pot.  While this is cooking, poke some holes with a knife into your spaghetti squash.  Place spaghetti squash in microwave for 10 -11 minutes. 

Turning your attention back to your pot, start tossing in the rest of your ingredients:  fire roasted red peppers, Old El Paso chopped green chiles, Black Pearls sliced ripe black olives.

Now the fun part:  go to town sprinkling your little creation with Stubb’s Chile-Lime Spice Rub and add 1 cup of red wine. 

In this case, I used a really tasty 2009 Apaltagua Estate Grown Carmenère (Sample, MSRP:  $11).  It’s a great little number beaming in spicy, smoky black cherry, plum, tea, green pepper, with a minty herbal note.  Very well balanced and nicely put together.  3 Stars out of 4! 

Back to dinner.

After bringing everything in your pot to a boil, bring it down to a mellow simmer to allow all of the great flavors to mingle.  Then take your spaghetti squash, split it in half and scoop out the seeds.  Finally, make a nice presentation by putting it on a nice plate like this…

…sprinkle the  spaghetti squash with a little salt and pepper (maybe some butter) and you’re all set!

Oh, and don’t forget the Carmenère to wash it all down!

“Oh man, that’s good!” Mrs. WineLife365

Until the next time we run out of food…Enjoy!!

The Breakfast of Champions!

Have you ever seen a bottle of wine that made you laugh?  Maybe it was the funny name on the label or perhaps the ‘interesting’ choice for artwork…or possibly both!

I have to admit that when I received a few samples from Clif Family Winery, I chuckled quite a bit.  No, I’m not going insane – and you’re right, there’s nothing funny about the name or the label.  However, you might recognize the ‘Clif’ name if you’ve ever purchased an energy bar or two… 

Wait the same people behind Clif Bar make wine too!?  Yep, those very same people are now making wine. 

Still don’t quite get the point of my amusement?  The reason behind what seemed to be the unprovoked laughter of a mad man was that I started thinking about doing a Clif Bar and wine pairing review.  Another scenario that kept swirling around in my head was to do a 70’s breakfast commercial that would go a little something like this: 

“Some people like to start their day off with a nice big bowl of Wheaties,


while others love the sweet taste of little chocolate donuts in morning.

But for me, nothing gets me up and at’em like a tall glass of Clif Family Winery “The Climber” Red 2009 (Sample, MSRP: $13) from California and a giant bowl of my ‘special’ cereal:

  • A bottom layer of chopped pecans speckled with fresh cracked black pepper
  • Then drizzled with pure honey
  • Add a layer of crumbled Gorgonzola Cheese
  • Finally, top with fresh, ripe raspberries sprinkled lightly with sugar

This tasty combination gives me that energy boost I need to start my day off right.  It’s also a great choice to help refuel after a long workout!  :)   Clif Red – The Breakfast of Champions!”

Ok, I’m probably jumping the shark with this review, so I’ll simply say:  this is a terrific and versatile red blend made from fruit that comes from sustainably farmed vineyards, located in Mendocino and Lodi.  The Climber Red lifted my taste buds with its big, juicy splash of Zinfandel (63%) along with its blend of 21% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Syrah, 2% Petite Sirah and 2% Merlot.  It’s full of deliciously sweet red fruit, intertwined with mellow spices with a bit of chocolate on the finish.

3 Stars out of 4 for Clif Family Winery “The Climber” Red 2009.  It packs a lot of natural punch at a great price!  :)

Now what I’d really love to try is the Climber Pouch!  Cheers to the great outdoors!!

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