Thursday, December 18, 2014

2014 Holiday Gift Guide

Holidays are a great time, not just because often people are more cheerful, but also because we get and receive presents! From this year, here are some things that have made me happy and that I can suggest with the knowledge that the recipient of one of these gifts will be overjoyed.

Mionetto Prosecco

This has been my year for Prosecco (and I'm not alone). One brand you can't go wrong with is Mionetto Prosecco. Founded in 1887 by Francesco Mionetto in the small village of Valdobbiadene, Mionetto has an established reputation for quality, tradition and innovation. One thing I really appreciate is that quality extends across all their price points - these are great QPR! Add in that they have an organic Prosecco (hooray!) and I'm one happy sipper.

World Vision Prosperity Cinnamon

What's a better gift than helping someone in need? Donate to World Vision, they'll help someone in need, and you'll receive a gift to commemorate your action. You could help out a family and receive Prosperity Cinnamon: Each beautifully-carved cinnamon bark box contains 3 oz. of cinnamon and bears a common Asian character for prosperity. Vietnam's renowned sweet cinnamon is a renewable resource collected from the Cassia tree, sold to benefit generations of hard-working families. Not interested in cinnamon? Plenty of other options to choose from.


The Joseph Carr Winery in California works with small growers, coopers, and winemakers making tasty wines from across California, including Napa Valley, Sonoma, and Mendocino Counties and the Central Coast. Josh Cellars is Joseph Carr’s ‘Vin de Garage’ project, named in honor of his father. Josh Cellars doesn't just honor Carr's father, but actively supports our heroes through organizations like Operation Homefront and the Gary Sinise Foundation - drink wine and help others, a great combination!



Wine Bloggers Conference 2014

"The Wine Bloggers Conference Scholarship was founded in 2009 to provide well established “citizen bloggers” with a stipend so they can attend the wine bloggers conference, further their knowledge, their network, the wine blogging community and the wine industry as a whole." I was a recipient of a Wine Bloggers Conference Scholarship in 2013 and it was an amazing experience! I met so many people I'd only read before, was inspired to continue the blog, and traveled to a far off wine destination I didn't know existed and probably wouldn't have visited otherwise. That's where you come in - DONATE to the fund and send a blogger to the Conference. Even if we don't end up being chosen, from my experience last year I know it's an amazing opportunity, but it only happens from generous donors. Donate what you can - in previous years Tom Wark (Fermentation) and Amy Gross (VineSleuth) each matched donations, which was a huge boon. Every little bit helps.

Lodi Native Project

One of the coolest wine experiences of the year was tasting 6 Zinfandels from the The Lodi Native Project. This is a collaborative vision, with 6 winegrowers from the Lodi Wine Mokelumne River sub-AVA. The spotlight is on the region’s heritage plantings – minimalist winemaking, native yeasts, and no new oak. The initial focus has been on Zinfandel, though discussions are underway on other possibilities. Buying this 6 pack of wine will make any Old Vine Zin lover swoon and everybody else gain an appreciation for these wines.


Underground Cellar is a wine club, but not a wine club. Join for free, no monthly dues, yup, not a wine club. Underground Cellar offers limited-time deals on wines in an unusual way: pay one price, get wines of varying values. A twist is that every bottle of wine you order is eligible for a free random upgrade to a higher quality bottle of wine. If you're an active member and get lots of friends to join Underground Cellar, you have a better chance of getting an upgraded bottle of wine in your shipment.

2014 Chicago Food Bloggers Gift Guide

Need even more ideas? Check out the 2014 Chicago Food Bloggers Gift Guide!

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Bareburger, Columbus

I try to eat healthy every day, to the fullest extent possible. When I travel, I really make an effort, though, to be honest, it's pretty tough to find restaurants that really care within a reasonable distance. I was excited to discover Columbus' Bareburger, which was walking distance to my hotel. All of Bareburger's organic and all-natural, free-range meats are grass-fed and pasture raised. They also source organically grown fruits and vegetables. Right up my alley!

Bare Burger Columbus

They have other things on the menu, but if you're going to a place with burger in the name, why would you order anything else? Decently sized, they can be ordered on a variety of breads or as a "salad" topping (one suggestion to them would be to chop both the lettuce underneath and on top if someone doesn't order bread - would have made it a LOT easier to eat everything together). They also carry local craft beers, which is my go-to if there aren't local wines or if beer would go better with the meal.  In this case it was definitely the right choice. I don't often eat onion rings anymore, but these are worth ordering for sure, as are the sweet potato fries. Order the Supreme and you'll get both as toppings. For dessert, the flour less chocolate cake was really tasty, but the cherry compote on the side elevated it well beyond others I've tried.

Bare Burger Columbus

The restaurant sits in what appears to be an old space, with tall ceilings of pressed tin (or a facsimile). It's comfortable, with tables, booths, and bar stools for sitting.
"Almost everything in our Bareburger restaurants are built from a sustainable and reclaimed material. The tabletops are crafted from trees felled by storms. Our booths are made from recycled, post consumer vinyl. Our ceilings are paneled with reclaimed tin siding from deconstructed barns. Most of our takeout products are made with plant resin or recycled paper products, and all of them (even the bags) are biodegradable. We are proud the animals that supply our meat have been treated humanely and with respect.
Bareburger is a chain with locations in New York, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Ohio. If I find myself in any of those locations, Bareburger will be an option I'll definitely search out.

Bareburger on Urbanspoon

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Windows on the World Complete Wine Course

Windows on the World Complete Wine Course

Almost 30 years ago, when I first became interested in wine, there were not a lot of wine books around, especially for a complete neophyte like myself. Like many others, I turned to Kevin Zraly's Windows on the World Complete Wine Course (2014, Sterling Epicure), not only reading the book for education, but also dreaming of eating in the restaurant stop the World Trade Center. Alas, the horrific events of 9/11 made that dream unreachable.

With the World Trade Centers Memorial opening this year, Zraly created a special 30th Anniversary Edition of his resourceful tome, updating it with newer information and adding a special section in remembrance of that famous restaurant, Windows on the World.

Chock full of useful information, maps, labels, and so much more, this book deserves a place in your wine library. If you own it, consider giving this as a gift to one who doesn't, especially a beginning wine enthusiast, who would certainly spend many pleasant hours tipping a glass and turning these pages.

This book was provided for review purposes - all opinions are my own.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Wines of Uruguay Tasting Tour

This summer, I was invited to, but missed, the Wines of Uruguay tasting tour. Happily, the good folks at Charles Communications sent me some wines to taste after the fact. It’s taken us some time to taste through the selections, red and white, but haste makes waste, and we definitely wanted to give these wines their due.

Wines of Uruguay Tasting Tour

Uruguay is located in the same latitudes as winegrowing regions in Argentina, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Producing 10 million cases of wine annually (from i22,000 acres of vines). Uruguayan wine is not well-known for its wines internationally, due to the fact that 95% of the wine is consumed domestically.

Many Uruguayan vineyards are small in size, allowing careful attention both during the growing season, when many are dry farmed, through to the harvest, when many of the grapes are picked by hand. When I think of Uruguayan wines, I think of Tannat. since the country is the world’s largest producer of Tannat with approximately 7,200 acres planted. Red varietals make up the bulk of plantings, with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon the most popular after Tannat. Other reds include Cabernet Franc,Tempranillo, Syrah, Zinfandel, Petit Verdot, Sangiovese, Pinot Noir, Nebbiolo, and Marselan. Though not as commonly planted, white varietals include Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Semillón, with Viognier, Albariño, Petit Manseng, and Roussanne also represented.

After having tasted a few wines at the 2013 Wine Bloggers Conference, I had hoped to get a chance to taste more, so this was an amazing opportunity. Having tasted through the dozen bottles sent to us, I can see that a lot more tasting is in order. From those two sampling opportunities, I can say a few generalities about Uruguayan wines. The reds show plenty of dark fruit, forest and earth components, with flashes of both dark and red berries. There are plenty of tannins, though usually soft and integrated, so these reds drink respectably now and should reward cellaring for a few years or more. In either case, I highly recommend decanting these wines to allow them to open more quickly. If you haven't had the opportunity to taste wines of Uruguay, they are well worth searching out for their unique qualities and good taste.

For more information on the wineries represented on the tour, check out the Wines of Uruguay tour website.

Wines provided for tasting purposes - all opinions are my own.

Founded in 2003, Charles Communications Associates, LLC is an independent creative marketing communications and public relations firm based in San Francisco, California, that helps local and global companies create, build and launch brands.

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