Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Looking for something different to do with your turkey this Thanksgiving, how about Drunken Bird

As so many other families, my family has a traditional way of cooking our Thanksgiving turkey. It’s cooked on the grill and basted in red wine. It amazes me how many people never thought to cook a turkey on the grill. It’s a great way to reduce the amount of heat the oven puts out, especially here in Florida, and if you’re the one tending to the bird, gives you just a little bit of alone time. It’s just you, the bird and a bottle of wine.

We don’t use any particular wine, just something on the dry side and make sure you get enough for the basting of the bird as well as a few glasses for yourself. It’s really an easy process, put the turkey in a roasting pan, get the coals or gas up to temperature, pour enough wine in the pan to cover the bottom plus some additional to use for basting, close the lid and check back in about twenty minutes to baste. I’m not truly convinced the constant basting keeps the turkey any moister than if you didn’t baste that often but it does give you a few moments to clear your head. Let the turkey get to the appropriate cooking temperature and voila! Drunken Bird.

Speaking of Thanksgiving and wine, this is a great time to open a bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau. Since the wine may have experienced a little bottle shock, the additional week allowing the wine to settle may bring out some additional flavors that were not detected on last weeks release date.

When picking a wine for Thanksgiving you want to think about the side dishes you will be serving since these have the more complex flavors, textures and aromas. I prefer something a little on the light side like a Pinot Noir or Zinfandel, a big, bold Cabernet or Merlot may be just a little too heavy for this meal. A Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio is a good choice for white wine lovers. Sparkling wine is also a great choice and can be a phenomenal in food pairing.

How ever you choose to spend your Thanksgiving, take some time to reflect on all the wonderful things, big or small, you have to be thankful for in your life. Have a happy Thanksgiving.

2009© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Interview with Mark Adams from Amber Crest Winery

Recently I had the opportunity to interview Mark Adams owner of Amber Crest Winery located in Charlotte, North Carolina. Amber Crest was North Carolina’s first MicroWinery but recently made an innovative move in closing their tasting room and instead offering their own wines with your personalized wine labels. Mark also has fun with a webcast entitled Really Fun Wine Show.

Wine Chicks Guide - How did you get started in the wine business?
Mark Adams - I had made wine as a hobby for several years. One holiday season I gave wine with personalized labels to all of my family. Everyone seemed to really like the wine and especially the labels. In the next few days, I got requests to make wine with a custom business logo that could be used as staff gifts, wine for a wedding and requests for birthday and anniversary gifts. It wasn’t hard to see that personalized wine was fun to give and to get. I opened Amber Crest Winery about 3 months later.

WCG - The Amber Crest website states you are a custom winery and the first “virtual only” winery, can you explain what that means?
MA - Our wines are only available online at We make our wines specifically for personalization. The “virtual” part means that means you can sit at your computer in the comfort of your own home and design you labels using our custom label maker without ever setting foot in our winery. You then choose your variety. We then print and apply your labels and then ship your wine to you. It’s kind of like Build-A-Bear for adults…

WCG - Where does the name Amber Crest come from?
MA - From the high point on a family farm. Every fall the leaves in that area would turn gold first. So it became know as the “Amber Crest”

WCG - Any advice to people thinking about getting into winemaking, or the wine industry?
MA - I see the industry continuing to grow rapidly, so there is plenty of room for people to come into the industry. But in most states the biggest niches have already been filled. I think the opportunities will be in businesses that support the existing industry. For instance that could be in starting a company that specializes in wine tours, companies that specialize in marketing wineries or even companies that make barrels.

WCG - What wine trends to you see for the future?
MA - I think you will start to see an emphasis on local wines. You see many restaurants support and use local produce and other local products. But when it comes to wine, they still only offer wine from Europe or the west coast. I believe when people will start to discover how much fun it is to drink their local wines, this will change.

WCG - What were the deciding factors for closing down your tasting room and focusing on custom wine labels?
MA - We operated our winery as a traditional winery for over two years. But, by the end of the first year over 90% of our business had developed into custom labels. We had definitely found a niche. We were getting calls from all over the country asking if we could ship wine to them for weddings and special events. It was easy to see our future. Since those 90% of our customers were outside our area and were never going to set foot in our tasting room, I decided to shift our business to meet the demand. We are still working out a few things, but the shift has gone very well and business continues to grow rapidly. I am looking forward to 2010. We have many projects and improvements in development.

WCG - Do you still make the wine for the custom wine label bottles?
MA - Absolutely, that part has not changed. We import our grapes from major grape growing areas from around the world such as the Napa Valley, Spain, France, Italy and others. We then ferment and produce our wine in our Charlotte winery. This method not only allows us to offer custom wine at under $10 a bottle in many cases, but it allows us to use the very best grapes available and make some really good tasting wine.

WCG - What type of response have you received to your webcasts?
MA - Fortunately, we have received nothing but positive responses from our viewers on our web TV show, the Our audience is growing by double digit percentages each week. It has certainly been fun to do. I think people are responding to the idea that you can learn about wine and laugh a little, too. Where else are you going to find references to wine and Elvis in one place!

WCG - Do you ever look for value wines ($9.99 and under) for everyday drinking, if so what do you recommend?
MA - There are many excellent wines available in this price range. BTW, California is not the only place that makes excellent wine. Every state has some really good wineries, now. The first place I would go would be your local winery and do a tasting. I bet they will have a wine you’ll like. You can find many bottles under $10 and have an experience that no national wine can match.

WCG - Anything else you want to let the readers know?
MA - Thank you for drinking wine! I hope you can take a look at our website and if you have any questions about custom wine, please feel free to give us a call at 704-708-9463.

Checkout the Amber Crest Winery and design your own labels for that special occasion or just for fun wine!

2009© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Vampire Cabernet Sauvignon, the perfect accompany for the New Moon release

Before you and your girlfriends or significant other head out to the latest Twilight saga, New Moon, start off with a bottle of Vampire wine. Vampire — like its counterpart, Dracula Wine — was at one time made in Transylvania, but has now moved operations to Paso Robles; that just bites, no pun intended.
Half the fun of drinking Vampire was the storied location where it was made. Thankfully, the change in venue has not resulted in ghastly juice.
I’m first enticed by the aromas of blood-red, ripe fruit. The scent calls to me and I can’t resist taking a small nibble, er, sip of the garnet colored liquid swirling in the glass. On the first taste I’m hit with a lip smacking, succulent flavor, with a finish leaving me wanting more. Just one thing to do: Join the ranks of the other vampires and finish the glass.
Vampire Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from the Paso Robles region of California’s Central Coast. Moderate day time temperatures and cool night time temperatures provide for an extended growing season. Mix in the perfect soil composition, and the region provides optimum growing conditions.
The winery’s head bloodsucker is entertainment attorney Michael Machat, who began branding the Vampire label in 1985 as a syrah. In 1989, the first 500 bottles were sold to Alice Cooper and MCA records in London. Sangiovese (Italian for blood of Jove) grapes were planted as well, and more than 600 bottles were shipped to the Anne Rice Fan Club in New Orleans.
Since 1985 Vampire has continued to expand and now produces eight different varietals. In addition to the cabernet sauvignon, Goth wine fans can suck on merlot, pinot noir, syrah, chardonnay, pinot grigio, and white or regular zinfandel. The winery doesn’t divulge the lead winemaker’s name, but one of its wines recently received an impressive 96 rating from the Wine Spectator.
Location of production moved several times from France to Italy, then to Transylvania, and finally to its present home in Paso Robles, CA. The most recent move has made the wine available year round, but I must confess I save Vampire for Halloween.
Pair this wine with steak and garlic knots and I’m sure you’ll survive to see the sun another day, if you can wake up in time for work if attending the midnight showing.
2009© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

Celebrate the day with the release of Beaujolais Nouveau

While everyone knows the 4th Thursday in November is Thanksgiving, how many know the 3rd Thursday of November signifies the release of France's Beaujolais Nouveau? This is the week Beaujolais wine producers and distributors race to be the first to get their vintages to various markets for the official release date, this year that date is Thursday November 19.

Beaujolais Nouveau is made with Gamay grapes and must come from the Beaujolais region. The wine is the most popular nouveau (young wine) and is the first wine release of the season. The flavors are light with very little tannins as they were only fermented for a few weeks. The wine is intended to be consumed immediately but most experts say good wines can survive up to a year or a little longer in proper storage. This is definitely not a wine you buy as an investment and put in your cellar for a decade or so.

Beaujolais Nouveau has been around for some time but the frenzy and hype that follows the release is a relatively recent trend. The marketing can be attributed to William Deutsch, a wine importer who paired up with Beaujolais wine maker, Georges Duboeuf.
In 1982 Deutsch imported just 55 cases of Beaujolais Nouveau, by the 2007 he imported 200,000 cases of Duboueuf’s Beaujolais Nouveau.

Look in your area and there may be many events focused on the release of these young wines. Wine Hubby and I are spending the evening at Toasted Pheasant (813) 265-6700) for their Beaujolais Nouveau release dinner consisting of a 3 course meal and a glass of Beaujolais Nouveau for $20 per person. Reservations are required and yesterday there was still some availability.

So raise your glass and enjoy the new releases as this day only comes around once a year.

2009© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Twists and turns in the road of life

Tonight’s wine selection, Turner Road Shiraz 2003, reminds me of all the twists and turns my life has taken this year. I got married in May at a doughnut shop (it was great!), hours at work reduced to part time and I took up writing about wine. As I make my way down this new path, I take time to reflect on not only my past experiences but what new ones lie ahead. In the next few weeks, be sure to check out the new Wine Chicks Guide website (assuming I can figure out how to set it up) and all the new info that will be part of the site.

I promise I’m not scouting these wines out but Turner Road was once a division of Sebastiani Vineyards prior to being sold to Constellation Brands. This is just getting scary, what winery hasn’t a member of the Sebastiani family run? Constellation acquired the brand in 2001. Unfortunately Constellation does not provide any info on how the wine was produced or where the vineyards are located.

The aromas consist of oak and blackberries. The flavors are uncharacteristically dry for a Shiraz. Generally I find Shiraz to be a little sweet and sometimes taste like grape jam. This Shiraz was closer to an Italian wine and was quite pleasing to drink.

I was surprised to see a Lodi, California wine with the Shiraz label as the US along with many other countries typically use the name Syrah for this grape varietal. Shiraz is generally used by Australians even though they are the same grape. I can tell you Wine Specator gave the 2003 vintage 79 points.

This is one wine I’ll definitely add to my regular rotation of great tasting inexpensive wines.

2009© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Aquinas Cabernet Sauvignon

Last week as the banana leaves were shredded due to Hurricane Ida’s passing by, we were forced to stay indoors; not because of any rain as that was much appreciated and needed in the Bay area but rather we may have been blown away, kind of how I feel about Aquinas Cabernet Sauvignon, blown away.

The wine is a deep rich red with plum hues. Aromas are full of ripe fruits, spice and oak. Flavors of cassis, coffee and black currant along with a lingering finish make this wine smooth and very easy drinking.

Aquinas is produced by Don Sebastiani & Sons who established the Three Loose Screws winery. Don Sebastiani and his family were profiled in the Green Acres review last week. Don along with sons Donny and August, run Three Loose Screws as well as The Other Guys winery. Three Loose Screws was established in 2004 and caters to upscale yet moderately priced wines while The Other Guys portfolio is focused on a direct and personal approach to the consumers and wine. The grapes used for Aquinas are grown in one of their Napa Valley vineyards.

It was purely accidental that I selected this wine after just having written about the Sebastiani’s family and the demise of their 100 year old winery. The first two wines have been memorable and as I look at the Three Loose Screws portfolio, I notice I have another Don Sebastiani & Sons wine just waiting to be consumed. I’m truly looking forward to that tasting too.

This wine can be found at your local wine shop for around $8.99.

2009© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Diabetes and red wine

Are you wine lover who is looking to reduce your sugar intake? Try dry red wines which metabolize the sugar more and have little to no residual sugar as the sugar in red dry wines has been eaten by the yeasts during fermentation and converted into alcohol. White wines, Dessert, Ice, or Late Harvest wines tend to have more sugar as the yeasts are killed prior to the sugar being used, leaving more residual sugars.

Sugars in wine are not an added product but rather are stored in the grape itself. The varietal of grape and environment dictates how much sugar is in the grape. The primary sugars found in grapes are glucose and fructose. There are no US regulations on labeling sugar content in wine but you can look for some key words to determine which wines have more or less sugar. “Dry” indicates less sugar while “semi-dry” will be sweeter. If the wine is European, up to 4 grams of sugar per liter of wine can use the label “dry” or “sec”. Wines with sugar levels between 4 and 12 g/L are labeled “medium-dry” or “demi-dry”.

Always check with your doctor or nutritionist before making changes to your diet, especially if you are a diabetic. Luckily there is good news for type 2 diabetics who are wine lovers. Researchers have found the Resveratrol, an antioxidant found in red wine, not only improves cardiac health and cholesterol levels but has been shown to reduce insulin resistance in mice. The antioxidants may slow the passage of glucose through the small intestine and into the blood stream. This finding has prompted researchers to try to replicate Resveratrol in a drug form.

If you are diabetic frequent blood sugar testing can tell you if red wine affects your insulin levels. After checking with your doctor, you may be able to enjoy a glass or two a day with no ill effects.

For more information on wine and sugars, you can search by Red Wine on the USDA website.

2009© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Green Acres Ranch is the place for me

Halloween has just passed but you would be hard pressed to find many traces of the remaining fall season and the still to come Thanksgiving. The stores have already decked the halls, Digital Music is playing holiday music but I’m still looking at pumpkins.

Since I’m in no hurry to rush through the season, think I’ll linger awhile in the present with a bottle of Green Acres Zinfandel. Colors in the glass are dark red with purple hues. The aromas burst of oak, black pepper and spice. The flavors are smooth and well balanced with plums, raspberry, black pepper with easy, pronounced tannins. As I read the label, I realize I just read about the wine’s makers, the Sebastiani family, today in Wine Spectator.

The winery was founded by Samuel Sebastiani who left Northern Italy in 1895 at the age of 21 and set off for America arriving first in New York and making his way to California. Green Acres Ranch is located in Lodi, CA and was originally used as an aviary. Samuel established the winery in 1904 and began selling wine door-to-door for a nickel a ladle.

Shockwaves rocked the wine community last December when the family announced the winery had been sold. The winery is among the oldest wineries in continuous operation in California making the news of the sale even more stunning. Seems none of the Sebastiani heirs wanted to continue in the business and none of the other family members wanted in, or they were unable to buy out the heirs out. Some of the wineries better known wines, Vendange and Talus had already been sold in 2000.

Since the death of their father, August Sebastiani, siblings Don, Sam and Mary Ann have each had their turn at running the winery. A much publicized squabble ousted Sam from the helm and Don stepped in but later stepped down allowing Mary Ann to take control. The family concedes they did not want to let the family business go but this does give family members the opportunity to redirect their focuses.

The sale went to William Foley Wine Group who has added the acquisition to his collection of wineries. It saddens me to hear of so many California wineries being sold to either big conglomerates or individuals to put another feather in their cap. Unfortunately it seems to be a trend as wine maker’s age, economic shifts affect sales and a multitude of other reasons that I think will be saved for another article.

I recommend grabbing a couple of bottles of Green Acres Ranch while you can. I found this at a local wine & liquor store for $7.99. Check local stores to see if they carry.

2009© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Forgive me Father, for I have Zinned

The Hedonism of Halloween has subsided and the gluttony of the upcoming holidays is before us but before any repenting is done, I think it’s time to take part in some 7 Deadly Zins.

Who can resist the naughty label with its blood red almost Devilish lettering and Angel’s halo. First sip, there are no regrets or guilt, this wine is all good, with not an ounce of evil to be found.
Aromas boasting of rich plums, black pepper and oak tantalize the senses. Lustful fruit forward and complex flavors consisting of raspberry, cinnamon and pepper lazily glide down the palate leaving me wanting more. Not just another glass, I want another bottle, just for myself. If my husband knows what’s good for him, he would be wise to step away from the bottle.

7 Deadly Zins is produced in Lodi, CA by Michael~David Winery. Brothers, Michael and David Phillips, represent the fifth generation of growers, specializing in Rhone varietals as well as Old Vine Zinfandels. The Phillips originally planted a variety of fruit which included 15 wine varietals. During Prohibition the grapes were shipped throughout the country with instructions on “how not to have the grapes turn into wine”. This method helped the Phillips to sell their grapes as many families continued the tradition of making wine at home to be consumed with meals.

The wine’s name is a combination of the brother’s Catholic upbringing and the seven Old Vine Zinfandels blended in the wine. While the vineyard is not completely Organic, the brothers do strive towards Green Growing using natural methods for pest management, trellising, leaf pulling and using natural methods to control mildew.

The only sin committed here is my inability to enjoy this wine more often. With a price tag of $17.99 this wine is out of my everyday drinking wine price range.

I paired this wine with an extra large pizza with a double order of breadsticks.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Reserve St. Martin Pinot Noir 2008

I can’t seem to get used to how dark it gets before 6:30 P.M. even rolls around. It really is putting a damper on my ability to sit by the Koi pond and drink some wine and just when the temps are getting tolerable. It’s time to grab the cat and head inside for tonight’s wine offering a bottle of Reserve St. Martin Pinot Noir.

The aromas are very fruity and a little on the grapey side. Flavors feel thin, dry and I’m picking up a hint of metallic. May just be my taste buds are off tonight as Wine Hubby seems to really enjoy his glass.

Reserve St. Martin Pinot Noir is produced by Les Vignerons du Val d'Orbieu, one of the largest wine producers in the world. The winery located in France plants over 37,050 acres has 17 cooperative cellars and produces 3.5m cases. After the grapes are harvested they are crushed but not de-stalked. They are then fermented in temperature controlled vats for 12 days.

Grape Varieties : 100% Pinot Noir
Finished Alcohol: 13%
Residual Sugar: 4 g/L
Acidity: 3.25 g/L
pH: 3.66

Looks like the early darkness and this wine have something in common, both leave me wanting a little more sunshine and brightness. I will give this wine another try just to see if it was me that was off tonight versus the wine.

2009© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Tall Horse Cabernet

A recent quest for wine had two requirements; one is must be inexpensive, two it has to have a screw cap. The screw cap requirement was actually for wine hubby’s brewing venture. Wine hubby brews his own beer and is bottling hard cider this week. With one beer batch fermenting, one ready to be bottled along with the hard cider, we are in need of bottles. I spy Tall Horse Cabernet on my local retailer's shelf and the bottle will be perfect for the hard cider.

The wine in the glass is a deep purple color with great berry and spicy aromas. The fruity berries carry over to the flavors along with vanilla and oak making for a smooth and well rounded finish. The screw cap indicates the wine is drinkable from the time bottled for up to two years. I find I never store anything with a screw cap and rarely store synthetic corked wines. Synthetic corks don’t expand like natural corks and over time can allow oxygen in the wine.

Tall Horse is produced in South Africa where the grapes are grown in a variety of macroclimates from warmer temperatures on the Southern slopes, with long hours of sunlight to cooler regions where the African breezes off the ocean provide optimum growing climates. Unlike the Northern Hemisphere where the majority of grapes are harvested July through September, depending upon relation of the equator, the grapes in the Southern Hemisphere are harvested in February through April. After harvest the grapes are fermented for seven days then pressed. After pressing the wine is placed on French oak staves for three months then filtered before bottling.

Oak Staves:
Alternative to oak barrels, less expensive oak staves can be used in stainless steel tanks to give wine exposure to oak.
2009© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Seven deadly wine sins

1) Don’t cook your wine. Wine retailers will always tell you save your wine shopping as your last errand and don’t place the wine in your trunk. This always makes me wonder, well how did the wine make it to the store? To my knowledge most wines are not shipped on special refrigerated trucks and then there are the non-climate controlled warehouses where many wines spend time before being placed on another truck before arriving at your local wine retailer. Still as a wine lover, do try to be kind to the wine once purchased. For wine moving tips check out Mayflower Moving company’s website regarding the moving and transporting of wine.

2) Don’t cook with wine you wouldn’t drink. We’ve all been there, you open a bottle of wine and just can’t palate the taste yet this is not the opportunity to use the wine in recipes. Close your eyes and pour the offending wine down the sink and find an inexpensive wine you don’t mind drinking to use in your dish.

3) Don’t send wine back at a restaurant only because you don’t like the taste. The only reason one should ever send wine back is if it’s truly flawed. Then you should ask the sommelier or waiter to see if they detect any flaws in the wine. A service has been provided to you and under no other circumstances should you send the wine back.
In addition when the wine is presented at the table, do not sniff the cork. There is absolutely nothing you will learn about the wine from the cork.

4) Don’t buy fancy, over complicated corkscrews. How many of us have fallen victim to seeing the latest and greatest corkscrew, purchasing said corkscrew, fighting and eventually tossing the thing in the trash. One such experiment was with the Co2 cartridge opener, the wine stains are still on the ceiling, don’t ask. One wine club membership included a monstrosity that sat on the counter top taking up much needed space and broke within a month or two. The plastic opener that you position on top of the wine bottle and turn, works to some extent but the synthetic corks always got stuck and required needle nose pliers to extract. Seems the Winged corkscrew may be one of the more popular in homes but this will mutilate your cork and leave bits of cork floating in your wine. The Rabbit seems like a good choice, my budget only allows me to purchase the knock off and they are pretty reliable but you have to replace the corkscrew periodically. Best bet, the simple waiters friend also known as a sommelier knife. No muss, no fuss and nothing to ever replace. My favorite of these is the one with the hinged handle-lever.

5) Don’t think white wine has to go with fish and white meat and red wine with red meat. This is an old school belief and the wine should be chosen on your individual tastes, not something dictated. So drink what you like and what tastes good to you.

6) Don’t serve wine at the wrong temperature. This also covers not storing wine in your refrigerator, near a window with direct light near a fireplace or any other source of heat. Wine Enthusiast recommends storing all wines at 55 degrees and serving red wines at 65 and whites at 47 degrees. These are not the temperatures to use for long term storing but for consumption in a few months this should be fine.

7) Don’t expect the wine you bring to a dinner party or as a hostess gift to be served that night. When invited to a home whether for a dinner party or just a get together, many hosts will already have the wine menu planned. If bringing a bottle of wine, don’t expect and don’t be upset if that wine is not served that night. Many wine enthusiasts will incorporate the wine menu into the dinner menu or just want to serve their guests some of their favorite wines. The wine is always welcomed but may be served at a later time.
I hope these tips help you to enjoy wine even more.

2009© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Facing and conquering my wine fears….Chardonnay

If it’s not an Ice Wine or Sparkling I just can’t seem to drink and enjoy white wines. The mere thought of drinking a white wine leaves my taste buds screaming in terror, my palms sweating and a knot in the pit of my stomach. This comes after years of wine tastings, where a tiny sip of wine does not truly reveal itself, buying said bottle, opening at home only to discover the wine is not to my liking.Tonight I face the bane of all my wine drinking experiences, the Chardonnay.

I chose Oak Grove Chardonnay, knowing how well balanced their line of reds taste. As I hesitantly bring the glass to my lips, I’m not sure if I can go through with my wine experiment but I’m determined to press on. The aromas are filled with tropical fruit flavors and sweet apples. The flavors are surprisingly smooth and not a hint of that buttery Chardonnay flavor that typically leaves me running for the nearest bottle of red. The balance between the sweetness and the taste of apple reminds me of an adult version of apple juice.

Appellation - 100% California
Alcohol - 13.8%
pH - 3.53
T.A. - 0.66
R.S. - 0.6%
Case production - 30,000 cases

Since most people prefer whites in the heat of the summer, I think I’m a little off since this is the first of November. While I only managed to drink two small glasses before switching to a red, I will continue to face my fears and hope to bring you a variety of white wine reviews in the future.
I picked up my bottle of Oak Grove Chardonnay at Total Wine for $7.99.
2009© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.