100+ degree wine…Pinot Grigio IS THE definitive summer sipper.

Please don't put ice cubes in perfectly good wine

Please don’t put ice cubes in perfectly good wine

HEAT WAVE: A heat wave is a prolonged period of excessively hot weather, which may be accompanied by high humidity. When the weather tops 100 degrees you need to turn to a crisp, light boded white wine, ideally with lower alcohol. One of my favorite summer wines is Pinot Grigio.

Pinot Grigio or “gray pinot” is the same grape as Pinot Gris, just depends upon where it is grown, and how it is described by the locals.

There are many different styles, and wines, made from Pinot Grigio, but some are better than others. The more “important” Pinot Grigio’s have some (grape) skin contact, which gives them a copper hue.

Here are some of my favorite Pinot Grigio’s (all Italian):

Vie di Romans makes clean, expressive white wines. Their Sauvignon (Blanc) would rival some of the finest Sancerres from France. The Pinot Grigio, has more substance than most, but is crisp, refreshing and enjoyable with/without food. Splurge- Around $30


Incredible VALUEBarone Fini Pinot Grigio– easy to drink, easy to find. Between $10-$15..


Livio Felluga, Another classic from NE italy. This is my go to Pinot Grigio. Hey, Howard Stern is worth more than $500 million but when he went to visit Jennifer Aniston in the Hamptons, he and wife Beth took this wine to her house. Around $20.


Please share your favorite Pinot Grigio…


Turn and Face the Strange…Changes in Wine Laws

headacheSelling alcoholic beverages in the United States is extremely complicated. Blame it on prohibition…but when it comes to the sale of Beer, Wine or Spirits, it is often said that we are like 52 different “countries” as the laws are slightly different in each.

Why 52?– 50 states + Washington D.C. & Montgomery County, MD (which both have their own special requirements).

Additionally there is the concept of Control States. As of July 2016, seventeen states* and jurisdictions in Alaska, Maryland, Minnesota and South Dakota adopted forms of the “Control” model. These 17* have state monopoly over the wholesaling or retailing of some or all categories of alcoholic beverages, such as beer, wine, and distilled spirits.

As a wine, beer or spirits consumer, “Why do I care?”

Because sometimes the laws change, and when they do, it has a direct effect on the available selection, and the price you pay, for “adult beverages.”

Pennsylvania was previously one of the most important Control States, with the PLCB (Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board) being one of the top 10 purchasers of wine & spirits in the country. 

Starting August 8, 2016 with Pennsylvania law HB1690 going into effect, the monopoly will be broken up, giving some state control out to the private sector.

Although no one knows how this will shake out, my initial opinion is that this will result in few winners but many more losers. Based on what I have read this is not going to bode well for consumers who like to try unique, hard to find wines- as the margins will be too thin to support carrying them. I am one of these types of consumers so I am glad I don’t live in Pennsylvania  right now. If you think the old model was broken…this could be worse.

I would love to hear your thoughts…

Some articles that I read to form my opinion




* After August 8, 2016 there will only be 16 Control States.


Obvious wine choices for Valentine’s Day

Rather than being obscure, I am going to be obvious. Here are some easy choices for selecting wines for Valentine’s Day, or any other romantic occasion…

RosesRosé- Pink wines are easy to drink, and sexy, whether they are still or sparkling.

First, the 3 basic ways of making Rosé wine:

ALL grape juice is virtually colorless, it is the grape skins that give a finished wine their color.

  1. Skin maceration- leaving crushed grapes in contact with their skins (maceration) gives the wine depth of flavor, and of course color. Red grapes with short maceration can produce rosé wines, white grapes can produce orange wines. My favorite still wines are created this way as they they are the intended final product (see alternative saignée method below)
  2. “Bleed off” red wine that is fermenting to create a lighter red (rosé) wine. This is called the saignée method in France and most of these wines are created as a byproduct to make use of grapes intended for finished red wines
  3. Miix red and white grape juice before final fermentation. This method,used to for rosé Champagne, is allowed for some wine production but not all.

roseintheglassMixing finished red and white wine, to make a pink wine is not a generally accepted method to create rosé wine and is therefore not legal in most wine producing regions.

My favorite Rosés are from Provence, France or the Loire Valley (Sancerre Rouge).

Dessert wines

2005CoteauxduLayonDessert wines are wines intentionally finished with residual sugar and are meant to be drunk after dinner. These wines can be paired with sweet foods, cheeses, or drunk alone, as dessert. Some of the most famous examples of dessert wine from around the world. Some of my favorite dessert wines, to drink solo, are Coteaux du Layon, from the Loire Valley or Italian Vin Santo. Because they have high acidity, in addition to sugar, they are not overly syrupy or cloying.

Splurge wines- $$$

2000CalonSegur 2000CalonSegurcorkCult Napa Cabs (USA), Burgundy, Bordeaux (France), Barolo, Barbaresco, Brunello, Amarone (Italy), and Rioja (Spain) are all classic wines. They are expensive to produce, and/or need a long time to develop, and are therefore usually very pricey. One of my favorites is Calon Ségur.

This estate came to be owned by Nicolas-Alexandre, marquis de Ségur who also owned Chateau Latour and Chateau Lafite. Despite his ownership of these two First Growths, the Marquis said that “I make wine at Lafitte (spelling) and Latour but my heart is at Calon Segur.” The wine’s label today includes a drawing of a heart around the Chateau’s name.




Authentic Extra Virgin Olive Oil


Yes, it’s Olive Oil in the glass

From time to time I try and post non related wine information if I think it is relevant, and will help others. I recently read a shocking article about counterfeit Italian olive oil. Basically, we are being ripped off. The vast majority of what you find on U.S. store shelves is not the quality that you thought you purchased.

More troubling is the possibility that criminals are diluting the oil with seed based products that could be deady to those with nut allergies. In addition, other cheap chemicals, that you wouldn’t want to consume on their own, are added to help fool the buyer.

What you can do to ensure that you purchase the real thing…

• Purchase products from Libera Terra, the organization that is trying to combat Italian criminal agriculture tampering. Unfortunately the home page is in English but ordering is all in Italian…

Buy direct from Italian producers. Expensive, but you get what you pay for…

2 very small Italian producers I know personally, and can recommend- Tolerant Taster approved!

Pamela Sheldon Johns

Rebecca Wine

Buy Domestic Oil– there are some excellent producers here, in the U.S.A, and 9 out of 10 passed quality tests run by UC Davis.

Here are two that passed labratory testing:

KirklandEVOOKirkland Organic EVOO (at Costco)

California  Olive Ranch– buy direct from the producer.




• Purchase Oliive Oil from other countries

OandCoO & Co.- one of our favorite gifts to give and receive. Their oils are produced around the Mediterranean- Green label- Italy, Blue label-France, Red label-Portugal and they are individually tested.

Portugese Olive Oil– suggested by a friend and local wine aficionado because as he says, “who would bother to counterfeit it?”


If you have any trusted recommendations please share and I will post them for others.


Southern Italy…interesting wines

SouthernItalianThe wines of Southern Italy tend to be a little more fruit forward, higher in alcohol, and slightly lower in acid, when compared to the Northern regions. This is predominately due to the warmer climate and extra days of sunshine which produces riper grapes and therefore higher sugar for fermentation. When selecting wines for my Southern Italy class I wanted to select some unique wines. These two perfectly demonstrate what the South is capable of producing, interesting, yet very drinkable wines that consumers should be seeking out.

Wine #1-

Calabretta IGT Nerello Mascalese Vigne Vecchie [Etna Rosso] 2005- $25.

This wine is pre-aged before release, and can still be found in retail although it has 10 years of age. The aging helps to let the tannins soften as well as tame the grapes naturally high acidity. It is produced with “Vigne Vecchie” or old vines, (some plants over 100 years old) on the black volcanic ash slopes of Mt. Etna. Predominately Nerello Mascalese grapes but also some Nerello Cappuccio. Nerello wines have a crunchy minerality, along with some complex spice and earthy components. This wine is traditionally aged in large Slavonian oak casts resulting in a wine of structure but yet it is also very elegant, think Burgundy/Barolo.

The Calabretta portfolio of wines is very interesting and the wine descriptions will make you smile.

COSWine #2-

COS Nero di Lupo (Nero d’Avola)- 2013-$30

Notice the shorter squat bottle, that is more common for wines from Sicilia (Sicily). This wine is produced in the Vittoria region- home to the only DOCG, Cerasuolo di Vittoria (always a blend of Frappato and Nero d’Avola). Most Nero d’Avola is riper and more concentrated but this 100% beauty is aged in cement which produces a lighter Pinot Noir-like  wine. COS is A biodynamic winery that uses no chemical products, the wines of COS are clean and so easy to drink…


Central Italy- the top 2 grapes


The two most widely grown red grapes of Italy are:

#1 Sangiovese– mostly grown  in central Italy (Tuscany, Emilia Romania).

#2 Montepulciano– mostly grown on the Adriatic Coast (Abruzzo, Apulia, Marche).

The wines selected to showcase their differences, similarites:

2010 Scopone L’Olivare – This wine is a bit on the modern side (produced in smaller barrels with shorter maceration which produces an earlier drinking wine).

Sangiovese is a high acid grape with what some call “gravely” tannins. The name translates to “blood of Jove” and many believe it’s highest expression comes from the specific Brunello clone isolated by Clemente Santi (Biondi Santi ancestor).

It has red fruit flavors along with distinctive flavors of orange peel, tomato leaf and balsamic. The more “serious” Sangiovese wines that are made for aging have pronounced earthy qualities as well.

Brunello di Montalcino, by law is 100% Sangiovese. 2010 is a phenomenal vintage and prices are reasonable but they will need some time to develop. If you want to drink now decant for a few hours beforehand.

2009 Umanchi Ronchi, Cumaro, Rosso Conero– Umani Ronch is a fairly new winery owned by the a Bianchi-Bernetti since 1959 and Cumaro’s first vintage was 1985. This is 100% Montepulciano fermented with natural yeasts and hand picked.

Montepulciano has some riper red and black fruit flavors like plum and (sour) cherry. The wines can also have a boysenberry flavor which I happily associate with childhood camping trips.

Lower in acidity than Sangiovese the wines are also a little softer and easier to drink, especially Montepulciano d’Abruzzo which I often suggest to the closet Merlot drinkers.