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Posts Tagged ‘Chardonnay’

Don’t Call It A Comeback

Well, how you doin’?  I know, I know…it’s been forever since my last post.  I could provide you with a host of excuses for my mysterious disappearance -  some interesting and others not so interesting – but what’s the point?  Let’s move on and talk about LOVE!  What about it, you ask??

The simple truth of the matter is that I’ve fallen in L-O-V-E:  not with one, but with 2 very special things since the start of 2012.

I’ll describe my first love of 2012 as restoration from devastation.  After 15 years with our beloved cats, they both passed away within weeks of one another at the end of 2011.  Noodle, our terrific alley cat who loved Fancy Dinner Friday and a big old plate of spaghetti and meatballs, passed away just before Thanksgiving.  Then to our complete shock (just a few weeks later) Noodle’s housemate and our soft and cuddly roomie, Church (who bore a striking resemblance to the cat from Pet Sematery), also passed away.  We bawled and then bawled some more all the way through the holidays. 

Shortly after the first of the year, my kids pulled me aside to ask the question, “Dad, can we have another pet?”  “What do you have in mind…a kitten…a litter of kittens?” I asked.  “No. Can we have a DOG this time?”  I did what every good father would do in this instance:  I turned to them and said, “Umm…I dunno, talk to your mother.”

A few mornings later, as we were waking up, my wife asked, “Can we get the kids a dog?”

I couldn’t believe it?!  They got to her.  The person who said that we would NEVER have another pet.  BRAINWASHED.  My immediate response:  “Are YOU going to get up at 4:30 in the morning to take it out?”  As far as she was concerned, that was the end of the conversation.

Later that day, something came over me and I thought to myself that it wouldn’t hurt to check out some cute dogs on  I sent my wife a couple links of some cute dogs, and that was the end of it:  A Mom’s love for her boys kicked into full gear.

It sure didn’t take her very long to track down the cutest, sweetest little doggie in the whole wide world to join our family and fill that open void in our hearts.  Nothing like gushing and being a proud new daddy (and all it took was a little coaxing :) )…

Meet the newest addition to our family, Billie.

Look at that cutie! 

We adopted Billie from Paula’s Dog House, a dog rescue in Mount Olive, NJ.  She was aptly named by the people at the rescue:  she has the cutest underbite that sort of makes her look like a little billy goat.  We’re not quite sure what breed she is, but whatever she is there might be some bunny rabbit mixed in since she loves to hop up and down the stairs!  ;)    What else can I say  – she’s adorable, super friendly, and a great new addition to our family!  Something tells me that you’ll be seeing and hearing a lot more about Billie. :)

Not a pet person?  Well I have another true love that has recently entered my life.  The second love is a kitchen super-tool that every aspiring master or top chef needs:  a pressure cooker!! 

After watching countless episodes of cooking shows last year, I decided that I needed to take my Poor Man’s Chef Creations to a whole new level.  I became infatuated with pressure cookers and begged my wife and friends for one of these nifty kitchen devices.  So what makes a pressure cooker so damn great you ask?  Well, imagine cooking something in an hour (or less!) that would take a crockpot/slow cooker all day. 

Ask and you shall receive!  The pressure cooker that I received as a gift was the Fagor Futuro 10-Qt. Stovetop Pressure Cooker.  One word for you – AMAZING!!

It’s even inspired my wife to get down, MasterChef Style!  It’s dishes like this one that make us want to use it nearly every night of the week.  Chicken Adobo!

Here’s a link to the recipe.

I decided to give our chicken adobo dish a go with two different wines:  the 2010 Morro Bay Split Oak Vineyard Sur Lie Chardonnay from California (Sample, MSRP: $11 US) and the 2009 Los Vascos Grande Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile (Sample, MSRP: $16 US).  I figured the sweetness of the molasses would be a good fit for a Chardonnay.  Why the Cabernet Sauvignon?  Well…just because I was feelin’ Cabernet.

Brimming with tropical fruits such as fig, papaya and pineapples, the 2010 Morro Bay Split Oak Vineyard Sur Lie Chardonnay had bright acidity with a touch of sweet spices that was a perfect complement to this chicken adobo recipe. 

3 Stars out of 4 for the 2010 Morro Bay Split Oak Vineyard Sur Lie ChardonnayNot oaky in the least – it worked perfectly with this chicken dish, but would have been just as enjoyable all by itself.

For the red wine, I opted for the 2009 Los Vascos Grande Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon for no other reason besides wanting a Cabernet – you know how that goes.  :)

I’ve reviewed several Los Vascos wines before and have found them to be reliable, go-to wines.  However, there was something different about the 2009 Los Vascos Grande Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.  It was the first Cabernet Sauvignon that I’ve tasted from Los Vascos that teetered a little too much (for me) into that juicy-sweet New World style.  The 2009 Los Vascos Grande Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon delivers a sweet flow of cherries, blackberries, cinnamon and chocolate flavors from start to finish.

2 Stars out of 4 for the 2009 Los Vascos Grande Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.  I tasted this Cab over the course of three days with similar results:  it made me want to search through cabinets looking for the half-eaten Whitman’s Sampler that was leftover from the holidays.

Here’s to great new beginnings!



It all started around 9 o’clock, while kicking back on the couch, listening to Cuban music and enjoying a gin and tonic with my resident hottie.  My wife and I were home all alone, enjoying our stay-cation this past 4th of July weekend, while our sons were away having fun at the beach with their grandparents.  So there we were, kid-free, having a lovely evening when all of the sudden, like a deranged Arthur Spooner, I shouted:  I WANT SOFT-SHELL CRABS!

For the record, I haven’t a clue why I yelled out like a mental patient, frothing from the mouth, wanting soft shell crabs.  To be honest with you, I can’t even remember the last time I even had them.  Whatever it was, the thought of succulent soft shell crabs was securely cemented in my screwy head.

I sprang from the couch and called every seafood joint that I could find within a 15 mile radius. Unfortunately, neither fisherman, market, nor restaurant could be found at this hour (and this far inland) to come to my emotional food rescue.

Out of this burning, yearning feeling, deep down inside of me came Plan B:  this poached egg concoction made on-the-fly, two different ways.

Here’s the stuff you’ll need:

  • Soft shell tortillas
  • Red onion
  • Capers
  • Fully cooked bacon (Oscar Mayer, Hormel etc…)
  • Manchego Cheese
  • Small package of smoked salmon
  • Eggs
  • Olive oil
  • Garlic salt
  • Fresh cracked black pepper

To assemble:  Our soft tortilla shells were larger than we wanted, so my wife pulled out a small funnel from the cabinet and cut out cute little circles – just large enough to rest a poached egg on top.

  The next steps, you’ll really have to time accordingly:

  • Boil a pot of water for your eggs.  Don’t put your eggs in just yet!!
  • While your water is starting to boil, dice up some red onions, slice some small pieces of Manchego cheese and smoked salmon.  Tear up some small pieces of the fully cooked bacon and have the capers out and ready.
  • Turning your attention back to your naked shells, drizzle or pat olive oil on the top only.  Sprinkle tops with garlic salt and black pepper.  Add a small slice of the Manchego cheese, a little bit of chopped red onions, capers and some bacon.  Place in toaster oven until melted.
  • While this is in the toaster oven, it’s time to poach the eggs.  Don’t worry if you’ve never poached an egg before, here’s an easy way.

To finish:  Either place the poached egg right on top, or lay down a slice of smoked salmon and then top with the poached egg.  Both ways are delicious!

As for the wine pairing, you can go in several interesting directions with this creation – depending on what you’re feeling.  How about a bubbly from Bordeaux?  Say what??  Yup, Crémant de Bordeaux.  The Chateau de Lisennes Brut, Crémant de Bordeaux (Sample, MSRP $17) is a blend of 80 percent Semillon, 10 percent Muscadelle and 10 percent Sauvignon.  It’s brewing in tiny bubbles and charms with its crisp lemon and orange-zesty flavors.


For a white pick, you can’t go wrong with the 2009 Foppiano Vineyards Estate Bottled Chardonnay (Sample, MSRP $22).  Winemaker, Natalie West, demonstrates that you can achieve a creamy, full-bodied Cali Chard that doesn’t beat your chops with a 2×4 (BTW – she also makes a killer Petite Sirah, too!). 

Finally, if you’re in the red zone, consider this bangin’ red from Chile – 2009 Apaltagua Envero Gran Reserva Carménère (Sample, MSRP $15).  Made from vines that are over 50 years old, this estate grown Carménère (93%), with a splash of Cabernet Sauvignon (7%), is like a deep pool of dark fruit, with oak and spice flavors floating throughout – the flavors seems as if they will linger all summer long.

And to think, this all started with a hankering for a little soft-shell crab…


It’s Alive!!!

Chardonnay.  No other wine has experienced the sweet smell of success and the bitter taste of disdain from wine consumers over the years.  Things got really hot and heavy for this varietal in the 80s, and the love affair continued well into the 90s.  Everywhere you turned, you could hear the echoing sound of, “I’ll have a glass of Chardonnay, please.”  Consumers and restaurateurs cheered this super wine from coast to coast.  Then suddenly the party came to a screeching halt as a revolt ensued against this once noble grape from a group known as the ABC Crowd (Anything But Chardonnay).  This alliance was fed up with the Dr. Frankensteins who were churning out over-oaked, butter monsters that destroyed the most important component:  the fruit.

“Did I request thee, Maker from my clay
to mould me man?
Did I solicit thee,
from darkness to promote me?” John Milton’s Paradise Lost

 Fast forward to current times.

Over the past few years, more and more Chardonnays have been getting “Naked” or “Unoaked,” as they say on the label.  Increasingly, more producers are leaving the timber in the forest and embracing a more au naturale approach to allow the fruit to shine through.  This technique is creating more balanced and interesting expressions than ever before, and has begun drawing wine lovers back to this storied grape.  

Apaltagua Winery, located in the Apalta region in Chile’s Colchagua Valley is known for making outstanding Carménère, but after a recent experience with the winery’s 2010 “Unoaked” Chardonnay, I’d say that winemaker, Alvaro Espinoza, also knows a thing or two about producing delicious Chardonnay as well.

Imported by Global Vineyard Importers, the 2010 Apaltagua Reserva Unoaked Chardonnay (MSRP: $12, Sample) is packed with crisp, juicy and refreshing grapefruit, lemon, lime and other tropical fruit flavors.  The fruit flavors were bursting with so much crisp acidity that it reminded me more of a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc than a Chardonnay.  This Chard is pretty darn tasty and perfect for light dishes, salads and sunny days.  And yes, you gotta love that all of this lovely goodness was not soaked in a vat of oak chips and mixed with a tub of butter before bottling.  :)

3 Stars out of 4 for 2010 Apaltagua Reserva Unoaked Chardonnay.  Lots of creativity without the mad science.

Keep Your Eye on the Blonde Headed Step Child!

I said it once and I’ll say it again:  Concannon Vineyard, in the heart of California’s Livermore Valley, is turning out some very solid (and affordable) Chardonnay! 

Known by many for their Petite Sirah, this winery’s expanding line-up has hit the sweet spot with its 2009 Glen Ellen Proprietor’s Reserve Chardonnay, especially when looking at it from a quality/price standpoint.  For $9.99/1.5L (Sample), Chardonnay lovers are greeted to a harmonious combination of apple, pear and butterscotch flavors – with just the right amount of oak that doesn’t leave you with the lingering aftertaste of tree bark in your mouth.  :)

3 Stars out of 4 for the 2009 Glen Ellen Proprietor’s Reserve Chardonnay.  There’s more to like at Concannon Vineyards these days than just the Petite Sirah…

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