Thursday, December 29, 2011

Bubbly Report 2011

Can you believe it; the Holiday Season is coming to a close. It seems like we spend so much time working up to those festive nights, only to have them fly by at the blink of an eye. While I advocate picking up a bottle of bubbly any time of year, there are many people who only bring it out for special occasions, New Year’s Eve being one of them. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to find a good bottle of bubbly and this time of year, many retailers have specials on sparkling wines, so it’s the perfect time to stock up.

Sparkling Wine info:
Classification: Extra Brut (extra dry), Brut (very dry), Extra Dry/Extra Sec (dry), Sec(semi-sweet), Demi Sec (sweet), Doux (very sweet)
Suggested Serving Temperature: 40-45ºF (to achieve this temperature, remove from fridge 30 minutes prior to serving. Or, if chilling from room temperature, place in ice bucket for about 30 minutes)
Wine Glass: The flute — the narrower the opening at the mouth, the longer the bubbles will last.

Produced in the Veneto region of Italy, I think this was one of my favorite samples this season. Delicate floral aromas combine with crisp and clean fruit, honey and floral flavors. Deliciously dry, the wine is made to drink young which means as soon as it hits the shelves, you can begin enjoying. Per the website, the name Avissi comes from the delightful fizzy sound the bubbles make as they happily rise in the glass. That description alone makes me want to seek out another bottle. SRP - $18.99

100% Chardonnay from the Russian River Valley, the grapes are harvested at a high acidity and fermented at low temps. Aromas of honey and lime while flavors are full of floral, apricot and a hint of yeast. Nice acidity and well balanced. Who can resist the romance and opulence the Biltmore Estate represents. While I may never live like a Vanderbilt, I can enjoy the wonderful wines the estate produces. SRP - $24.99

Touted as the go-to Sparkling white, as annoying as I find those new “go-to” commercials, I must admit, for the money, yellow tail Bubbles is a good option for a go-to sparkler. Abundance of fine bubbles and hint of floral in the aroma with crisp, tropical semi-sweet flavors make this a good option for NYE celebrating. The makers of Yellow Tail realize, sometimes you have to end the party a little early or maybe you’ve partied a little to hard and it’s time to hang up your glass. If you find yourself unable to finish a bottle of Yellow Tail Bubbles, never fear! The “cork”, called a Zork, is a re-sealable enclosure that allows the wonderful sound of the popping cork, yet allows you to seal and maintain gas pressure so you don’t lose any of those wonderful bubbles. I’ve used the Zork and stored sparkling wine for up to two days in my fridge and had ample bubbles.  SRP - $8-$12

Looking to mix up your sparkler, how about a “champagne” cocktail. Below are a few recipes sent to me using yellow tail but you could substitute your favorite sparkling wine.

Blackberry Fizz (served at Madison & Vine, NYC)
2 large fresh blackberries (or 1 oz. blackberry puree)
3/4 oz. fresh lemon juice
3/4 oz. simple syrup
2 oz.  Yellow Tail sparkling wine
1 oz. Lillet Blanc
1 oz. Gin
Directions: In a mixing glass muddle the blackberries (or add the puree), along with the lemon, simple, Lillet, and Gin. Then add ice and shake well. Strain into a chilled champagne flute and top off with the sparkling wine.
Garnish: blackberry on rim of glass

Ginger-Passion Sparkler (served at Bookmarks Lounge, NYC)
1/2 oz. ginger liqueur
1 oz. passionfruit juice
4 oz. Yellow Tail Sparkling Wine
Directions: Add ingredients directly to champagne flute.
Garnish: candied ginger on rim of glass

Food Pairings:
Hard cheese, both strong and mild make a beautiful pairing. My favorites are cave aged gruyere and clothbound cheddar. Both can be found at specialty cheese shops and Whole Foods.
Pair with Brix Chocolate for Wine for a special treat. Pair with the Smooth Dark Chocolate, which is best suited for sparkling wines.

So another year comes and goes. For a change, I look forward to what the new year will bring. For me it will be continued improvements to our new home, a wine room in what is now a plain and dull partial basement, Americana chickens and their colorful eggs and the hope of meeting new people who may become lifelong friends. One change I do not look forward to is the inevitable passing of my 19 year old cat, Katundra. The time is near, I know but in the meantime, we keep her warm, comfortable, well fed and very loved.

This New Year’s raise a glass to both old friends and new friends who we may meet in the New Year and to the memories of friends and family we may have lost this year.


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2011© Kellie Stargaard.  All Rights Reserved.
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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Wine Tips for the Perfect Holiday Celebration

This Christmas my home won’t be filled with friends and family but nonetheless will be filled with lots of Christmas spirits. I’m not only referring to the happy and joyful feelings we carry around this time of year but of those fun and delightful libations. For those of you who will be doing a lot of entertaining this year, here are a few tips to help keep the drinks and party flowing.

Wine Temps
Everyone knows you serve red wine at room temperature. But what everyone doesn’t know is this refers to room temps between 54-65 degrees, not 75 degrees. White wines should be served a bit cooler at 41-50 degrees. I must add a note here, please do not store your red wines in the refrigerator unless this is a wine refrigerator. Standard kitchen fridge temps are kept just above the freezing mark. While your wine will not freeze, much of the flavor will be lost. If you do not have a wine fridge you can use chill packs that store in your freezer until you’re ready to use. Then you place over your bottle of wine. I typically keep one on for about 20 minutes, any longer and I find the wine becomes too cold. You can also do a quick chill in a bucket of water and ice. Again, just long enough to chill the wine not make it ice cold. The same method can be used for your kitchen fridge, just remember to pull the wine out after about 30-40 minutes. If you find the wine is too cold in the glass, cup your hands around the bowl to warm the wine.

Wine Order
If serving an array of wines through a dinner course, wine order is important. Serve dry wines before sweet wines and light wines before heavier. If serving both whites and reds, whites should precede the red wines. You can serve sparkling wines with either the appetizer or with the dessert, just be sure you’ve done your homework on pairing the weight and sweetness level of the wine to the dessert.
If you’re hosting an open house with appetizer and serve yourself foods, you have more leeway. Personally I say let guests drink what they want but if you want to offer some tips, start with colder wines (sparklers, rosés, whites) with the food and move to warmer wines when mingling. Maybe offer up a nightcap of Port to warm the bones before heading out in the frosty air.

Sparkling Wine
Celebrating with sparklers this season? Be sure to include a little bit of everything. Spumante for the sweet wine lovers, Prosecco (Italian) – fruity and dry, Cava (Spanish) -  light and fruity, Champagne (French but can only be called Champagne when from the region of the same name) – demi-sec (sweet) to brut (dry). I’ll cover more on these wines in my blog next week. 

Clean Up
At the end of the night if you should find your good linens with red wine stains, soak the stain in white wine, pour salt on the stain and rub gently. Use a sponge or cloth to then take up the salt and the wine. You can also purchase products made specifically to remove wine stains. I have used them in the past and they really do work.

Perhaps the most important responsibility as a host or hostess is to recognize when a guest has imbibed a bit too much. Nothing will put a bigger damper on your holiday or others than to learn of a friend or family member who has been jailed or worse because they drank too much and got in their car to drive. Have a few cab company numbers on hand. Or maybe one of your guests will volunteer to be chauffer to those who have had too much. I certainly wouldn’t want to shuttle a bunch of drunken people around but who knows, maybe someone will get a kick out of it.

Am I sad I won’t be with my family for Christmas this year, yes a little. It will be the first time I’ve been away from my family at this time of year, ever! But I have to look at it this way, it will give my husband and I a chance to start our own traditions and do things our way. We’ve already decided for Christmas Eve we’re doing it party style and each of us will be making two hors d'oeuvres to bring to our “party”. Christmas Day, we’re braising pork belly, something I know my family would not have any interest in eating.

Whether celebrating the season with many or a few, take the time to appreciate all you have and what the New Year may hold.


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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas at Biltmore® Wine 2011

Many of us carry an idyllic image of the perfect Christmas. Majestic tree reaching toward the sky, beautiful, gleaming ornaments, an abundance of food on a table set for royalty, snow kissed landscape, beautifully wrapped presents under the tree, surrounded by family and friends and of course plenty of spirits (err, the drinkable kind). While I may not have the type of ceilings that allow for an enormous tree or a table that seats sixty, I can still capture some of that Christmas cheer with my latest sample, Christmas at Biltmore® 2011.

Nose is full of orange blossom, rose and honey notes. Flavors of sweet honeysuckle and apricot make way for a delicate citrus finish. The wine is a little on the sweet side but sipping fireside it was a delight and at $11.99, you don’t have to be a multi-millionaire to enjoy. We paired the wine with Brix Chocolate for Wine Milk Chocolate for a lovely decadent combo.

Varietals – Gewürztraminer, Muscat Canelli, Chenin Blanc and Riesling
Region – California
pH – 3.38
TA – 0.58
RS – 4%
Alcohol – 12.5%

One of these Christmases, I’m going to make the pilgrimage to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC. The estate and grounds are full of magic and wonder bringing you back to a scene out of America’s Castles. George Vanderbilt opened the Biltmore home to family and friends on Christmas Eve 1895. Guests were greeted by a large Christmas tree placed in the Banquet Hall. The oversized table held a feast that could probably feed a small country and after dinner, George's mom read stories to the children. I wonder if George had maps made so no one would get lost on their way to the bathroom or there beds.

Last year I’m told it snowed on Christmas Eve here in the Georgia Mountains. Yesterday the high was sixty-five and I have to admit, I found it delightfully warm as I ran from store to store taking care of a little Christmas shopping for both myself and my husband. Never thought I would be visiting Tractor Supply for presents but they do have a little bit of everything. I suppose in the spring when we have our first round of chickens, I’ll be spending even more time and money at good ole’ Tractor Supply!

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah and while we’re at it, Happy Festivus, All Ya’ll!

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2011© Kellie Stargaard.  All Rights Reserved.

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Friday, December 9, 2011

Zonin Prosecco and Brix Chocolate for Wine

It’s that time of year again; time to pop open the holiday bubbly! As I’ve mentioned in past bubbly blogs, I don’t wait for special occasions to delight in the effervescent wine, any occasion will do like; it’s Monday, I woke up that day, the day ends in a “y”, etc. I do most of my bubbly drinking after dinner but sparklers can lend themselves to food, you just have to do your homework. I recently received a sample of Zonin Prosecco and a new edition to the Brix Chocolate for Wine collection, Smooth Dark Chocolate.

Now my friends know that I’m not a lover of sweets. For birthdays, I ask the office celebration be with cheese and crackers versus the lard like butter cream sheet cake from the local supermarket. Over the years I’ve learned, it’s not that I don’t like chocolate, I just don’t care for the cheaply made chocolate widely available. I do however enjoy chocolates that have been made with carefully selected cocoa, the kind that can be eaten on its own or paired with a bottle of wine. In this case, I paired with a bottle of Zonin Prosecco.

Prosecco is a dry sparkling wine but seems many American and Italian producers still produce overly sweet varieties.  Zonin Prosecco does not follow that train of thought. The wine is dry and tantalizing with loads of fruity flavors. Paired with the Brix Smooth Chocolate, both were divine but even on its own, the tiny little bubbles made just sitting at home on the couch a little more festive.

Casa Vinicola Zonin S.p.a., Italy’s largest privately held wine company, prides themselves on producing quality Prosecco. Their intention is to make all of life’s little moments more enjoyable with a glass or even a bottle of Zonin Prosecco. The Prosecco grape is native to the Veneto region where the Zonin family just happens to own the largest Prosecco vineyards in Italy.

So what do cocoa and wine have in common? Tannins. Brix has four flavors to accompany different wine varietals, the darkest reds, fruitier reds, lightest reds and dessert wines. The natural tannins in the cocoa prepare the palate for the tannins in the wine. Brix uses single-origin chocolate from Ghana, chosen for the bright, fruit forward flavors complement the complex flavors in wine. The Smooth  Dark Chocolate pairs best with Champagne, Prosecco, Riesling and Moscato.

So there you have it, the perfect pair, Zonin Prosecco and Brix Smooth Dark Chocolate. Raise a glass, break a piece off and enjoy!

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2011© Kellie Stargaard.  All Rights Reserved.

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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Clif Family Winery Kit’s Killer Cab Cabernet Sauvignon 2008

Tuesday I felt like a kid waiting for Santa, except I was waiting for a little snow fall. Is there any better way to get into the holiday swing than a nip in the air, tiny little snowflakes and a little something in your wine glass? I can’t think of a single thing. To help get us in the mood, I chose a wine that I hoped stood up to its name and did it ever! Clif Family Winery Kit’s Killer Cab was like an early Christmas present. My husband and I needed a little pampering after spending 30 hours with no running water. Ah, the joys of living in the country and getting water from a well. Seems one of the hoses had a quarter size hole that for two days allowed sediment to come into the pipes and mid-Sunday, allowed no water at all into the house. You never really appreciate in-door plumbing until it’s gone. Heck, I would have been happy with outdoor plumbing at that point. All is well now so back to Kit’s Killer Cab.

Seductive plum and leather aromas draw me in for the first sip. Flavors are full of cherries, cocoa and vanilla. Well structured tannins and a long spicy vanilla finish. A great holiday splurge to bring to the table or just to drink on its own.

Appellation – Napa Valley
Varietal Blend – 78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot, 6% Cab Franc
Alcohol: 14.1%
Release Date: Spring 2011
Cases Produced: 250
Winemakers: Sarah Gott and Bruce Regalia
Suggested Retail Price: $38

When I first wrote about Clif Family Wines, I was two days away from moving from warm, sunny and flat Florida to sometimes warm, sometimes sunny always hilly and mountainous NE Georgia. I spoke then about how the Clif Family embraces a certain lifestyle and I longed to have a different way of living myself. In the three months we’ve lived in our home, we’ve taken to more of a living off the land and buying local lifestyle. We’ve purchase 1/8 of a cow from Loganberry Farms in Dahlonega, my husband planted a small winter garden and plotted where multiple gardens, berry patches, fruit and nut trees will be planted in the upcoming months.

As I look out our front window, I marvel at the thousands of leaves blanketing the lawn. Every day the landscape takes on more of a wintery look. Makes me wonder, will the last of the leaves still clinging to their branches be covered with a fine white snow later today? No, I guess not but I look forward to waking up to a wintery wonderland in the near future. Just hope I don’t have to drive anywhere that day! Good thing I always have plenty of wine in the house.

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2011© Kellie Stargaard.  All Rights Reserved.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving Wines Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling and Candor Lot 3 Merlot

On your mark, get set go! It’s here folks, I saw it slowing sneaking up since mid-September and now it’s finally arrived; the kick off to the holiday season. After having Christmas shoved down our throats since before Halloween, I’m finally beginning to get into the Christmas spirit. Hold on, I’m doing just what retailers do, I’m skipping forward and forgetting there is a holiday before Christmas that is the perfect time to slow down and enjoy family, friends and life. That holiday of course is Thanksgiving, a day of over eating, over imbibing in drink and for some over shopping. For me, it’s a three days of sharing my love of wine. This year I’ll be serving Chateau Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley Riesling and Candor Lot 3 Merlot.

Chateau Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley Riesling 2009
Citrus and tropical aromas, honey and pineapple flavors wash over the palate. Hints of green apple and peach provide for a lingering finish. The hint of citrus pairs well with turkey, the clean feel of the wine helps to cut through some of the heavy flavors of the dressing and other fixings. For more on Chateau Ste. Michelle, click here.

Candor Lot 3 Merlot
A blend of three vintages, 2008, 2009 & 2010 this Merlot can sit at my table any day. Bordeaux like aromas full of black cherry and currant. Sensual black fruits, plums and cherry mingle with a vanilla and woodsy finish. Full bodied, this wine is the perfect finish to a perfect meal and truly feels like Thanksgiving in a glass. Even my husband who is not a huge Merlot fan thought this one was great. I know this is a short one and promise will write more on Candor wines soon.

What are you thankful for this year? I’m thankful for my husband, my family and my friends. I’m thankful my husband and I not only made the decision to move to the Georgia Mountains but that we had the ability to do so as well. I’m thankful our house in Florida sold within 6 weeks of going on the market and thankful we were able to find 3 acres of wooded land in a quiet and somewhat secluded area. I’m thankful my parents are able to spend Thanksgiving with us this year, I’m thankful my 19 year old cat, Katundra, is still with us to enjoy some left over turkey pieces (although she prefers cheese and her treats).

Most of all, I’m just thankful to be in this place in my life. I don’t want to be 23 again, although I wouldn’t mind the thinner body and the younger looking face, but I’m happy I’m at a place in my life where money is not as important as it once was and climbing the corporate ladder is no longer a priority. It’s this time when you can slow down and begin to evaluate the truly important things in life. Those to me are family and friends to share great moments with and in those moments, share great wines.

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2011© Kellie Stargaard.  All Rights Reserved.

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Friday, November 18, 2011

Simi Landslind Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

I’ll admit it; I’m a sucker for packaging. Not so much how it’s displayed on a shelf in the store, really more how I carry my goodies out the door. Some tissue paper and ribbon really goes a long way with me. I know some will say I’m paying for that little happiness with higher store prices, well so be it! It’s a small price to pay when you think about it. Why should our bundles be shoved into a plastic bag, don’t we deserve to feel a little special every now and then?

Several weeks ago I received a wine sample that was packaged not in the usual Styrofoam or cardboard form but in heavy card stock box, cushioned in shredded paper and wrapped in a mock newspaper detailing SimiWinery’s 135 years in the wine industry. I have to tell you, I don’t know if it was the packaging but Simi Landslind Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 was one of the finest wines I have tasted in some time.

As the aromas waft out of the glass I think, “oh, this is going to be something special.” Aromas full of black fruits and oak. First sip is pure ecstasy with black cherry and delicious oak flavors. Tannins are bold yet smooth and elegant. Finish goes on and on, I never want this wine to end. We paired the wine with a cut of meat from our 1/8 of a cow purchase. A wonderful grass fed filet made this pairing a match made in heaven. 

Appellations: Alexander Valley
Varietal composition: 80% Cabernet Sauvginon, 9% Merlot, 5% Malbec, 3% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot, 1% Tannat
Fermentation: 34 days on skins
Aging: 26 months in 78% new oak
Total acidity: 5.8 g/L
pH: 3.61
Alcohol: 14.5%

Simi is Sonoma County’s longest continually operating winery. Founded by Italian immigrant brothers, Giuseppe and Pietro Simi in 1881. The brothers left their home in Tuscany following their quest for fortune in the California Gold Rush. After making a few bucks selling wine on the streets of San Francisco, the brothers purchased the winery in Healdsburg and planted their first vineyards in Alexander Valley.

The first harvest was in 1890 but their run was short lived. Both brothers died in 1904 from the Spanish flu, leaving Giuseppe’s daughter, Isabelle, at the reigns. During Prohibition, Isabelle sold the vineyards but held onto the winery by making sacramental wine. This decision among others allowed the winery to continue making wine and once Prohibition ended, the winery had an abundance of wine to sell to the thirsty public.

Fast forward to 1970 when Isabelle retires after selling the winery to Russell Green. Green, a leader in obtaining AVA status for Alexander Valley expands by purchasing  vineyards in the Alexander Valley and Russian River Valley. This is in keeping with the wineries tradition of obtaining quality grapes from top growing regions. Simi now owns 600 acres of vineyards in Alexander Valley and 100 acres in Russian River Valley.

Cheers to one of California’s oldest running wineries!

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2011© Kellie Stargaard.  All Rights Reserved.

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Friday, November 11, 2011

Roots Run Deep Winery’s Educated Guess Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

I’m slowly realizing the additional expenses that come with living in a colder climate. Had our chimney cleaned yesterday at a cost of $150 and was told our rain pan was rusted and the seals were broken. I thought, how much can this be, $125? Oh I was way off, $550 to replace. Have to wonder if I can live with the possibility of rain, snow, bats and squirrels making their way down the chimney. It’s an insert with a door, what’s the harm All this was enough to make me grab for the bottle right then and there. However, I was able to hold off until dinner. Then I reached for Roots Run Deep Winery’s Educated Guess Cabernet Sauvignon 2009.

Blackberry and juicy plum aromas. Cherry, vanilla and chocolate flavors remind me of chocolate covered cherries in a glass without all the sweetness. Hint of mint in the finish provides a nice lingering finish.  We paired with homemade Pad Thai and the combo was wonderful.

Region - 100% Napa Valley
Appellations - 89% Rutherford and St. Helena, 11% Yountville, Oak Knoll and Calistoga
Varietal - 89% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot
12 Months French and American Oak
SRP - $20

Founded in 2005 Roots Run Deep set off to produce great tasting wines at affordable prices. Educated Guess Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is the winery’s first release and their flagship wine. The name came about after discussing winemaking processes and the art versus science argument. Proprietor, 15-year veteran, Mark Albrecht and winemaker, 30-year veteran, Barry Gnekow, use knowledge and experience when creating wines for their portfolio, but like all farming, it’s an educated guess as to when the grapes are at their peak and ready to be picked.

For those of you chemistry challenged wine drinkers, the label represents the science used in winemaking. It shows you actual winemaking formulas that are either induced or naturally occur during a specific winemaking process. If you want to learn more about the 5 formula strings on the label click here.

Me, I’m just going to reach for another glass of Educated Guess. I’ll need it after the mess I’m creating; sanding down joint compound to cover up the grooves in the very dated paneling. My house is now a whirl of dust. Hope I can find my wine glass in all this haze.

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Friday, November 4, 2011

Darcie Kent Vineyards Grüner Veltliner Black Jack Vineyard

While my body is struggling to adjust to the recent cold temps, I find I’m not quite ready to pack up the white wines for the season. Maybe I’m just trying to hold on to some remembrance of summer and warmth. But as October comes to a close, I realize, I never made it to the big Oktoberfest in Helen. So my husband, the cook in the family, whipped up a platter of Wiener Schnitzel and potato pancakes. While choosing the perfect wine for the occasion, I found one I received as a sample quite some time ago, 2009 Darcie Kent Vineyards Grüner Veltliner Black Jack Vineyard.

Aromas are a little closed at first; but maybe my nostrils are just frozen. After some swirling, I pick up a faint hint of honeysuckle. Delicate peach, floral and lime flavors wash over the palate. The wine is slightly dry; with a well balanced acidic finish. Easy drinking and delightful.

Appellation – Montery, CA
Varietal – 100% Grüner Veltliner
TA - .64
pH – 3.32
RS - .75g/100ml
Alcohol – 13%
SRP - $18

For too many years, German wines lived under a stigma, one of a cheap and overly sweet variety. Luckily many German wine drinkers now seek out complex and flavorful wines and winemakers are responding. Now German wine drinkers can find a wide selection of wines that can be consumed young or those that can be aged for years.  Grüner Veltliner is currently Austria’s favorite white33+3 wine. The citrus and acidic flavors lend themselves to a variety of food pairings. The varietal can also be found in array of styles from light-bodied and easy drinking to full-bodied and complex, as well as sparkling. This means there’s also a price range for everyone.

While Grüner Veltliner may be Austria’s most popular white wine, Darcie Kent Vineyards Grüner Veltliner Black Jack Vineyard is made right here in the good old U.S. of A.; Montery, California to be exact. Established in 1996 in Livermore's Crane Ridge foothills, Darcie and her husband David focus on single vineyard wines. Grapes are sourced from one of the Kent’s vineyards or from local family vineyards. Darcie, an artist, designs the labels for each of the vintages.   

My husband keeps telling me I’ll get used to the cold. I’m not so sure it’s going to be that easy. After spending the first well, just say the first half of my life in a sub-tropical climate where it’s not unheard of to take a dip in the family pool on Christmas Day, I think I’m in for a long bone chilling winter. Feel free to share any tips on making through the winter in a cold climate, I’m pretty sure I can use them. Until then, maybe I’ll break out the Port.

If you would like to send samples for my review, please contact me at

2011© Kellie Stargaard.  All Rights Reserved.

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Friday, October 28, 2011

Michael David Winery Sixth Sense™ Syrah and Incognito Red Wine Blend

“When witches go riding, and black cats are seen. The moon laughs and whispers, ‘tis near Halloween”. - 19th century postcard. I love Halloween and why should the kiddies have all the fun. We adults deserve to indulge in the fright and frolic of the day too. It’s the one day of the year (or month if you’re like me) when you can be delight in some devilish fun. Black cats, spooky tombstones, scary ghost stories, witches and goblins Whatever your reason to celebrate, I have the perfect Halloween wines raise your spirits; Michael David Winery Sixth Sense™ Syrah and Incognito red wine blend. As the witching hour approaches, these potions will leave you thinking about celebrating Halloween every day.

Sixth Sense™ 2009 Syrah

The ruby red color conjures images of a moonless night. Aromas of black cherry and blueberry lure you in for the first sip. Black pepper, plum and vanilla seduce the palate. Fruit forward and a frightfully long finish make this wine a delight to drink with ghosts and ghouls. If you don’t have any of those lying around, this wine is divine any day of the year.
Varietal – Syrah with Petite Sirah blended in
TA – 0.62
pH – 3.52
Alc – 15.5%
SRP - $16

Incognito 2009 Red Wine Blend

Dark plum colors drip down the sides of the glass, slurp, oops almost let that little drip get away. Bouquet bursts through with cherry and vanilla. Black cherry and velvety tannins wash over the palate, tantalizing the senses. Creamy hazelnut finish, makes this the perfect wine sink your fangs into while handing out candy.

Varietal – 40% Syrah, 25% Cinsault, 11% Carignan, 11% Mourvedre, 9% Petite Sirah, 2% Grenache, 2% Tannat
TA – 0.58
pH – 3.56
Alc – 14.5%
SRP - $18

Andrew Harshner and his wife Lucille established their farm on 160 acres outside of Lodi, CA in the 1860’s. The next generation growers may have been wiped out when Prohibition began but for the Phillips family and others, it was a blessing. When Prohibition took effect, many grape growers ripped up their vineyards to plant more profitable crops. While others, took advantage of a loop hole, shipping grapes to households with instructions on “how not to have the grapes turn into wine”.  The Phillips family was one of those turned the situation to their advantage. Now run by brothers Michael Phillips and David Phillips, the winery is a thriving family business.

I watch the leaves float down from the trees and skate across my driveway, and I think, great, time to sweep the driveway again. But for now, I’ll just relax and enjoy some of my potions, err I mean wine.

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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Ravenswood Vintners Blend Zinfandel 2009

It’s that time of year again, have you made the trip to your local pumpkin patch yet? Pumpkins of all sizes and colors are dotting the side of the road and parking lots. When you finally pick that perfect pumpkin, bring it home and ready to carve, wouldn’t a glass of wine make this tradition a bit more fun? I have the perfect wine, Ravenswood Vintners Blend Zinfandel 2009. If you scour retail stores, you may be able to find a free pumpkin carving stencil of the ominous Ravenswood logo. Spooky pumpkins, a glass of witches brew, err, I mean wine and a chill in the air, signify the approach of that frightful holiday, Halloween.

Rich blackberry and blueberry aromas. Those same bold fruits carry over to the flavor. Well structured tannins and a haunting finish, I find nothing frightful about this wine. And at just $10 a bottle, your wallet won’t go into shock either.

Appellation – California
Aged – 14 months in French Oak, 25% new
TA – 6.1 g/L
pH – 3.67
Alcohol – 13.5%
SRP - $9.99

Ravenswood is one of my go to wines.  It’s one of those wineries that offer consistent quality and I have a special connection to the winery. Last October I, along with a handful of other journalist, were chosen to be inducted into The Order of the Raven by none other than head Raven, Joel Peterson. My time in Sonoma was spectacular and something I’ll never forget. I  was given the rare opportunity to drink wine in the very vineyards the grapes were grown, dine with the growers in their homes and see Sonoma from a birds eye view via helicopter.

Wondering where the name Ravenswood came from? During the first harvest, Joel arrived at Dry Creek Vineyards to pick up his truck and the freshly harvested old vine Zinfandel grapes. Upon arrival he found the truck had not been loaded but instead the boxes of grapes had been left through out the four acre vineyard. As Joel struggled to gather all the boxes, a thunderstorm emerged in the distance. The race was on now to gather all the grapes and get them to the truck before the storm hit. During this time, two ravens perched themselves in the vineyard and watched the activity, all the while seeming to mock Joel and his efforts. I’m sure they were waiting for their turn at those tasty grapes. It was that night once all the grapes were loaded and in the crushing process, Joel decided to name his winery Ravenswood. The logo is now synonymous with hard work, quality and great tasting wines, even when the logo has kangaroos instead of ravens, but that’s for another blog.

As the leaves continue to fall and crunch beneath my feet, I revel in all those glorious colors that continue to spring forth. The recent rains have caused some leaves to drop completely but it just adds to my first true fall experience. Although I must say, with temps in the 30’s and 40’s it’s feeling more like winter than early fall.

If you would like to send samples for my review, please contact me at

2011© Kellie Stargaard.  All Rights Reserved.

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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Cline Cellars Cashmere 2009

Wow, I can’t believe we’re in October already; it’s my favorite time of year. This is my first real experience with the changing seasons, in Florida we have palm trees and the only time they change is during hurricanes. Then the fronds are all blowing in one direction or have blown off altogether. Mother Nature is right on cue, leaves are changing, temps are dipping, winds picking up sending leaves dancing across the roads and pumpkin and fall displays are dotting the rural roads to my home.

Another indication we’re in the month of October, all those pink ribbons. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so I thought what better way to support the cause than with the purchase of Cline Cellars Cashmere 2009, a Rhone style varietal blend. Cline Cellars supports Living Beyond Breast Cancer and has contributed more than $200,000 to breast cancer foundations. The Cline Cashmere serves as a symbol of this ongoing support.

Aromas hint at something wonderful, spicy and woodsy. Loads of currant and raspberry wash over the palate. The wine is medium sweet but not jammy. Body is a little on the light side and I think I would have preferred something more full bodied on this fall evening. The finish was a little disappointing as it was extremely short lived. I envisioned myself wrapped in its silky soft liquid but found it to be a little rough around the edges. May have just been an off night for my palate.

Varietal – 50% Mourvèdre, 33% Grenache, 17% Syrah
TA - .62g/100ml
pH – 3.84
Residual Sugar - .30%

Family run by Fred and Nancy Cline, the winery is located on 350 acres in Sonoma County and is one of the first wineries on the Sonoma “wine road”. Originally located in Oakley, Fred’s maternal grandfather, Valeriano Jacuzzi, yes of the spa Jacuzzi fame, farmed orchards and vineyards. On summer visits, Cline learned how to turn those plump ripe grapes into wine. After studying Agriculture Management from UC Davis, Cline founded Cline Cellars near Oakley. In the early 90’s, Cline and his wife relocated to its present location in the Careneros region of Sonoma County and as they say, the rest is history.

Cashmere is a Rhone style blend of Mourvèdre, sourced from 30-year-old vines planted in sandy soil, dry farmed and head-pruned to develop flavorful fruit. Grenache vineyards in Oakley involve cluster thinning and leaf pulling, increasing fruit concentration. Syrah grapes come from Oakley, and have warm days and cool nights resulting in lush fruit flavors.

With the changing season, my husband and I took a drive to Blairsville to take in the local scenery in the mountain town. When we moved to NE Georgia just two months ago, I didn’t know what to do with the hilly roads. Having moved from the flat lands of Florida, going up and down and around was something I had to get used to. While looking at houses, our speed racer realtor, Kathryn, used the term, “hold onto your skivvies”. I then coined my own term for some of the roads leading up to and through the Chattahoochee National Forest, “turn your britches brown roads”. Well, good thing I wasn’t the one driving to Blairsville, because there were a few twists and turns where I just had to close my eyes and my husband leaned over and asked, “are your britches brown yet?” I replied, “not yet, but close!”

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2011© Kellie Stargaard.  All Rights Reserved.

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Friday, September 30, 2011

flipflop Moscato California 2010

For those of you new to my blog, let me give you some background, I’m a wine drinker. I don’t mean, I occasionally enjoy a glass with dinner or with friends, I’m a nightly wine drinker. Even if I’m sick, I have been known to have a glass of wine, of course then it’s for medicinal purposes only. Being a serious wine drinker can put a dent in your budget, so I set out to find great tasting wines that wouldn’t break the bank. Over the past few years, I have found some great wines under $20, for the occasional splurge, and very tasty wines under $10 for my everyday wine drinking. I’ve also found some that I wouldn’t even use for cooking; luckily those are not the norm.

In July my husband and I took the leap and moved to the NE Georgia Mountains, settling in Murrayville. We have 3 acres of wooded land complete with the occasional bear, plenty of deer and one steep, long driveway that I know I will not venture down if there is any chance of ice. I’m a Florida girl, grew up in Southwest Florida and moved to Tampa during college where I put down roots until our recent move. Being a newcomer,  I have the opportunity to explore this wonderful area and see things in a way a native NE Georgian may not. I’ll bring to you great wine finds and those you may want to leave on the retail shelves.

Most of the country associates the south with sweet tea and sweet wines. I can happily contest the notion that all southern wines are sweet. However, this being my debut in the true south, I thought it appropriate to profile flipflop Moscato 2010. The wine took Double Gold at the 2010 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition and has been listed as Best Buy in the June issue of Wine Enthusiast.

Floral aromas fill the glass; flavors are sweet and crisp with a lingering honeysuckle finish. Light bodied the wine is semi-sweet and pairs well with spicy barbecue chicken or ribs. Perfect wine to enjoy outdoor while the temps are still warm.

TA: 0.68 g/100mL
RS: 7.60 g/100mL
pH: 3.53
Alcohol: 10%
SRP: $7.00
Case Production: 15,000

Looking for another good reason to checkout flipflop wines? With every bottle of flipflop wine purchased, Soles4Souls distributes a pair of shoes to someone in need. Soles4Souls, a Nashville-based charity, collects shoes from the warehouses of footwear companies and the closets of people like you. The charity distributes these shoes to people in need, regardless of race, religion, class, or any other criteria. To find out how you can help more, click here. How often do you get the chance to enjoy a bottle of wine and help a community?

Tune in each week and read up on my new adventures, like my “bobcat” sighting that turned out to be just a large cat or local wine events like the Frogtown Cellars Harvest Dinner that took place this past Saturday evening and how you can participate in future harvests. 


2011© Kellie Stargaard.  All Rights Reserved.

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Friday, September 23, 2011

Monticello Rioja Reserva Tempranillo 2003

Mother Nature seems to be teasing NE Georgia with days where you’re sure fall has arrived, only to find the next day humid and warm. My arms are getting tired with all this open the windows, close the windows stuff. A handful of leaves have just started to turn on the fall color show. Though I’m not sure if it’s due to drought or if fall is truly making an appearance. Regardless, when the temps at night dip into the 60’s it’s time to crack open a wine with a little oomph to it. That’s where Monticello Rioja Reserva 2003 comes into play.

First whiff and the classic bouquet of spice and oak come through. Flavors are full of spice, vanilla and very woodsy. Refined tannins give it a dry feel but not enough to make the cheeks pucker. Finish is long and oaky.

Varietal – Tempranillo
Region – Rioja Alta, Spain
Alcohol – 13.5%
SRP - $18

Founded in 1874 by Celestino Navajas in Rioja Alta, Spain, Bodegas Monticello is one of the oldest wineries in the region. The winery focuses on top-of-the-line wines and all receive the seal of the Rioja DOC control board. Once the grapes are harvested they are left to age in Bordeaux oak barrels for no less than 18 months. They are then bottled where they can be consumed immediately or aged for several years.

As the much needed rain gives way to bits of sunlight shining on the wet leaves, I’m anxious to experience my first true fall season. Stores have already begun setting out pumpkins and various gourds and I’m itching to begin hauling them home and setting up my own little pumpkin patch. Hoping the first week of October will bring a little cooler temps so my poor pumpkins don’t turn to mush before the season is over. I know I shouldn’t complain, in Florida you couldn’t carve a pumpkin until the day of Halloween since it would be rotten the next day.

Come January I’m sure I’ll be cursing the cold, stuck inside unable to navigate the snow and ice and desperately missing my flip flop and t-shirt attire. In the mean time, I’ll sit back and relax in one of our rocking chairs while watching the squirrels gather acorns and wait patiently for nature to turn on its spectacular color show.

If you would like to send samples for my review, please contact me at

2011© Kellie Stargaard.  All Rights Reserved.

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Friday, September 16, 2011

Running with Scissors Cabernet Sauvignon Livermore, CA

Boxes, boxes and more boxes. Whether they be unopened, repacked or flattened, my life is now full of boxes. The excitement over rediscovering all my stuff has turned into an overwhelming feeling of doubt and wonder. Doubt of whether I’ll ever get everything into place and wonder of where in the world am I going to put all this stuff. Now I look forward to some much needed storage solution. A wine storage solution will be the purchase of a riddling rack to hold all those wonderful wines. This brings me to my next wine, Running with Scissors Cabernet Sauvignon.

Aromas were a little closed even after some in glass swirling but I can detect some hints of blackberry and vanilla. Cherry and blackberry hit the palate, nice balance between sugar and the round and smooth tannins. Very drinkable but was a little disappointed. I was told by an associate at Total Wine, the wine is a second label produced by  Concannon but I wasn’t able to find anything online that confirmed this statement. If anyone knows, please let me know. I did purchase this at Total Wine before we left Florida for $9.99.

Unfortunately the only website I found for Running with Scissors is under construction, so I have zero info on this wine and winery. For $9.99 it’s worth a try and it really was drinkable, I just found it to be a little closed. Perhaps a different variety or vintage will be on my shopping list soon.

While I make friends with our new house, the land is stunning. We’ve already had a bear or two, deer feed in our woods on a regular basis, the squirrels are busy preparing for the upcoming winter and the local wineries are wrapping up their harvests. More to come on those very soon. 

As I dive into the mountain of boxes, unpack some things, repack others, drag boxes back to the basement, it hits me. Why is it, I can find all the high school crap my mother made me store and all of my old Fisher Price toys, yet I can’t find the box with the DVD player? Frustrating…. Ah, I look forward to the day when everything is in its place, even if that place means stored in the basement. The basement, big plans for that area…will eventually become the wine bar. A place of my own where I can sit back and enjoy a few glasses of wine with my husband, or friends and family. The roads are around are too winding to go out and have a few glasses, much safer and smarter to enjoy in the comfort of our own home. Until then, there’s always the front porch and the rocking chairs, which is still blissfully clutter free.

If you would like to send samples for my review, please contact me at
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2011© Kellie Stargaard.  All Rights Reserved.

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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Root:1 Carménère 2009

Reunited and it feels so good. After months of being in storage and packed up in boxes I finally have access to all of my stuff! Now comes the daunting task of finding a place for all that stuff. I think George Carlin put it best when he said “That’s the whole meaning of life isn’t it, trying to find a place for your stuff.” Well, I know that’s what my life meaning will be for the next several weeks.

While getting reacquainted with my stuff, I’m getting accustomed to the sounds of rural country life. Roosters crowing and cows mooing intermingle with the birds in the trees and the dogs barking in the distance. Rural life, getting back to man’s roots I guess you could say. Seems like a good intro into my latest wine, Root:1 Carménère  2009.

Intense red fruit aromas of cherry & blackberry and spicy notes. Full to medium bodied with woodsy red berries and just a hint of smoke in the finish. Perfect balance of smooth tannins and residual sugar. It’s dry but not mouth puckering. A really a lovely wine to sip while sitting in our rocking chairs on our front porch. You can find this at most retailers for around $12.99. Picked this one up at the local Kroger store.

Rooted in Chili (pun intended) Root:1 the Original Ungrafted takes pride in their unique wine region. Geographic and climate conditions create an environment resistant to Phylloxera which  forced so many wine makers in other countries to graft their vines to generic rootstocks. Root:1 roots are grown on original ungrafted roots, allowing all the surrounding flavors to absorb through the roots and shine through in the wines.

The Carménère vineyards are located between the Andes Mountains and the coastal mountains on the Pacific. The steep and rocky slopes consisting of sand and clay help retain moisture during the warm days and the ocean breezes provide for cooling during the night.

Originally planted in the Médoc region of Bordeaux, the Carménère grape, was thought to be extinct and was only rediscovered in Chile in 1994. The name "Carménère" originates from the French word for crimson (carmin) referring to the crimson color of the autumn foliage. Now rarely found in France, Chili is the largest producer of the Carménère variety with more than 8,800 hectares cultivated in the Central Valley. Carménère is considered part of the original six red grapes of Bordeaux, France and is referred to as the “lost grape of Bordeaux”.   

If you would like to send samples for my review, please contact me at

To donate to the America’s Disaster Relief Truck, currently helping US disaster victims  click here.

2011© Kellie Stargaard.  All Rights Reserved.

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Monday, August 29, 2011

LibertySchool Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles 2007

Today’s the day, my husband and I close on our new house set on 3 acres of wooded Georgia land, amidst the NE Georgia Mountains. We’ve been apartment dwellers since moving to Georgia 32 days ago. It’s a two bedroom, two bath but the dining room and second bedroom are jammed packed with boxes and furniture. With the majority of our belongings still in boxes, we’re surviving with the bare essentials and even some of those still have not been located. I find myself opening boxes and fingering my treasured belongings. I miss my possessions and can’t wait until I can liberate them from their cardboard prison and have all the true comforts of home around us. Of course I took extra care to ensure we had a few essentials on hand such as; wine refrigerator, wine collection, two wine glasses and one very important corkscrew. I know it’s a stretch but I felt Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles 2007 tied in well with my quest for freedom for my possessions.

Aromas are full of leather and vanilla. Fruit forward plum and blackberry wash over the palate. Cassis and well balanced tannins all provide for a very well rounded wine. Priced at $9.99, you won’t mind liberating a few dollars to enjoy this wine.

Need another reason to check out Liberty School, how about that it’s family owned and operated by the Hope Family in Paso Robles, CA since 1978. You may even say this is the poor man’s Caymus. As Napa Valley vintner Chuck Wagner of Caymus Vineyards, was in search of Cabernet for his second label, Liberty School, Wagner approached Hope Farms as a fruit source. Growers over the next decade, the Hope family helped build the brand known for quality wine at an affordable price. In 1996, the Hopes established Treana Winery, providing a natural transition for Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon to join the Treana family of wines.

After we close on the house, we’ll head over with those two wine glasses, that one wine opener and a bottle of wine which will be carefully selected, where we will sit on our rocking chairs overlooking the beautiful view. This wine ties in more with our move than I realized. For months my plan was to purchase a bottle of Caymus to celebrate the move into our new house. After some deep and serious waffling, I decided that money would be better spent on a new light fixture for the kitchen, helping to bring it into the current century. While I have second thoughts on spending my money on Caymus, I have no qualms about buying more Liberty School wines.

If you would like to send samples for my review, please contact me at

2011© Kellie Stargaard.  All Rights Reserved.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Crimson & Clover Red Wine 2009 and Fresh Starts

My first three weeks in North Georgia have brought about many fresh and new adventures. Everything from learning to drive mountain roads, tubing rocky but clear rivers and discovering all the wonderful people, wineries and local retailers the area has to offer. With so many new things in my world, it’s nice now and then to turn and see a familiar and friendly face. This is especially true when this “face” is in the form of a wine label. Last nights sampling of Concannon’s Crimson & Clover was one of those faces I welcome into my home no matter where that home may be.

Decadent, rich currant and clover aromas lead to flavors bursting with fresh ripe blackberry. Soft and supple finish with a touch of leather. Priced at $15, this wine is sinfully delicious. We paired with a Southern favorite, shrimp & grits. Of course we had to add our own spin with sherry and scallops.

Crimson & Clover is the first blend and the fifth wine in the Concannon Conservancy portfolio. Created to commerate Jim Concannon’s 80th birthday in 2011, the wine is a nod to the Concannon’s Irish heritage; the clover is a traditional sign for prosperity, crimson reflects the deep red color of the blend. Befitting of Jim Concannon’s moniker as the father of America’s First Petite Sirah, the wine is a blend of 50% Petite Sirah, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Sryah and 10% Zinfandel. For more info on Concannon, click here.

Local NE Georgia finds:
Talk about fresh, Mountain Fresh Creamery located in Clermont, GA is our very own connection to fresh milk, cream, butter and ice cream. Their motto is, 24 hours from cow to store and speaking of cows, they graze on fresh grass just 6 miles from the creamery. Having just opened in July of this year, the focus now is on the milk but I know they’re working very hard to get the other products out to those of us constantly clamoring for butter or cream. Whenever I pass by I always stop by and use just two words, got butter? I also check their Facebook Page on a regular basis, waiting and hoping today will be the day. I’m just 10 miles away and I know I can fly like the wind over those roads to get some precious pure and wholesome butter. The chocolate milk is the best I’ve ever had and I can’t wait until it gets cold and I can heat some up and sip it while sitting on my rocking chair on my front porch. Even if you don’t live in the area, check them out on their website or FB Page, you’ll be glad you did.

If you would like to send samples for my review, please contact me at

2011© Kellie Stargaard.  All Rights Reserved.

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