Thursday, September 13, 2012

Moving day has arrived! You can now find me at

You’ll still be able to access all archived posts from the site you’re on now but I hope you’ll join me at my new home and follow along as the journey continues.

Kellie Stargaard aka Wine Chick

Thursday, August 30, 2012

WBC12 Washington County Excursion Part Deux

Last week I spoke to the first half day of my Wine Blogger’s Conference 2012 (WBC12) Washington County Pre-conference Excursion. That first day was so spectacular, I had to wonder what was in store for us on day two. Here’s a little peek; Montinore Estate for morning wine tasting, lunch at South Store Café, a bit of shopping at Smith Berry Barn, more wine tasting at Hawks View Cellars, a few cold micro-brews at Two Kilts Brewing Company while feasting on Korean-Mexican fusion food truck cuisine from Koi Fusion. All this and we never left WashingtonCounty. Yep, life was good.

Montinore Estate
We rolled up on Montinore Estate, grabbed a glass of chilled white wine waiting for us and braved the rising temps in the vineyard. There we tasted some great wines while receiving some background on the winery.
Montinore Estate is one of the largest producers of biodynamic/organic wines using Demeter Certified Biodynamic farming methods. Using these methods allows the vineyard team to gently coax the true flavors and variances from the grapes.
The vineyard is located in the far north side of WillametteValley (remember it’s Willamette Dammit) protected by the Coastal Mountain Range to the west. The loamy clay soil, elevation and long cool growing season allows for expressive Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Gewürtztraminer, Riesling and more.
There’s something to be said about standing in a vineyard, overlooking rolling hills while swirling a glass of wine. Oh the fact that it was around 10:30 AM. while others were working made it even sweeter. I couldn’t resist sending a text picture to my husband with glass in hand and vineyards in the back ground. Ah, if only all my days could begin in a vineyard with a glass of wine.
A plus, they’re available nationwide. I found a Pinot Noir at a Total Wine in Alpharetta, GA this past weekend.
3663 SW Dilley Road
Forest Grove, OR

South Store Café
After a big breakfast at McMenamins in the Children’s Cottage, I wasn’t sure I would be hungry for lunch but I managed just fine. Located in a building dating back to 1903 the quirky eatery was once a general store and meeting hall for Independent Order of the Oddfellows. In the 1940’s the building housed a soda fountain with games of pinochle and dances on the second floor.
So what makes the café quirky? Could be the old coffee pots and toasters serving as planters on the rail of the side porch. Could be the way the building leans. Or maybe it’s the story behind why the building leans. Seems back in 1962 the winds picked up perhaps up to 100 mph. After the winds stopped the building was still standing but no longer standing straight, instead it now had a slight tilt to the right. Rumor has it the owner at that time tried to straighten it by hitching up his tractor to the leaning building. I can tell you, it didn’t work, the building has a slight lean to this day.
24485 S.W. Scholls Ferry Rd
Hillsboro, OR 97123

Smith Berry Barn
Located across the road from South Store Café, Smith Berry Farm is your stop for fresh produce, herbs, plants, gifts, espresso, milkshakes, local art and much more. This was just an excursion from our excursion and a chance to pick up some local items. A must visit if you’re in the area.
24500 SW Scholls Ferry Road
Hillsboro, OR 97123

Hawks View Cellars
Next on the agenda, more wine to taste, this time at Hawks View Cellars, named for the graceful hawks seen soaring aloft. Located on Chehalem Mountain in Sherwood, Oregon, the boutique winery produces limited amounts of estate-grown Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris.
Family owned, the winery was purchased in 2002 by recently retired Jack Kemp. Living amongst the existing vines, Kemp originally had no plans to get into the winemaking industry. But those old vines must have been calling to him and in 2007 plans for Hawks View Cellars were in full swing.
John Alexander Kemp passed away in January 2012 but his legacy continues and is still run by his wife Willie and son A.J.
20210 SW Conzelmann Rd
Sherwood, OR 97140

Two Kilts Brewing Company
The perfect final stop on an extremely warm day in Oregon, a local micro-brewery. Founded in 2009 by two friends, one of Scottish heritage the other of Irish heritage they opened their doors to the public in 2011. The brewery specializes in India Pale Ale and Scotch Ale all made with local ingredients. As we bellied up to the bar or one of the several picnic tables with beer in hand, we felt our pre-conference excursion drawing to a close. Soon we would be immersed in wines from all across Oregon, Greece, Argentina and many, many more regions. But first we need to eat again, it’s been at least an hour or two since lunch and we need to keep food in us with all this drinking.
Lucky for us the Koi Fusion truck was waiting to take our orders for their scrumptious twist on KoreanBBQ/Mexican fusion cuisine. If you come across this one during travels in PDX, don’t forget the kimchi. So spicy it’ll make you slap your mama!
Two Kilts Brewing Company
14841 SW Tualatin Sherwood Road
Suite 501
Sherwood, OR 97140

As we rode the bus back to Portland I had a chance to reflect on all the places I’d seen and people I’d met in just a day’s time. Think we did a lot of tasting in this twenty-six hour time frame? You haven’t seen anything yet, over the next two and half days I estimate I tasted around one-hundred-fifty wines. Ironically I think I drank a total of six full glasses of wine through that same time frame. Lots of spitting and dumping going on at the WBC.

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

#WBC12 Washington County Excursion Part One

What can I say about my recent trip to Portland, OR and the Wine Blogger’s Conference (WBC)? Better yet what can I not say about my trip? I have so many memories to last a lifetime from the amazing excursions, great wines, scrumptious food and t
First I have to give kudos to those that made my trip so spectacular. To the Wine Blogger’s Conference for arranging and picking such a phenomenal site, to the Washington Visitors Board for providing a memorable excursion to WashingtonCounty, the Oregon Wine Board and to Thea Dwelle for awarding me a scholarship to attend, without my trip would not have been possible. There are many others that work hard to pull off this annual conference and to all of you I raise my glass.
I spent the first part of my trip on my own in Portland’s downtown area but I’ll cover that in a separate post.

My first leg of the WBC started on Wednesday with an excursion to WashingtonCounty hosted by the Washington County Visitors Association. There were twenty of us that eagerly boarded the bus with anticipation of what was in store for us. As we headed towards WashingtonCounty, the gateway to WillametteValley, we were given a lesson in the bedrock soils of the area. The first known geological change was fifteen million years ago when the WillametteValley was created as a result of the Earth’s shifting plates forcing what is now known as Western Oregon up out of the sea. This shift left the floor of the valley filled with layers of basalt. The plates continued to shift over thousands of years shaping the countryside.
Around eighteen thousand years ago, during the ice age, the melting of a glacial dam near what is now Missoula, Montana flooded the Valley over a number of times creating a wall of water as tall as a forty-two floor sky scraper. The water washed over the hills, flooding the area, leaving behind rich silts. This in addition to a layer of wind blown silt known as loess gives the WillametteValley a rich soil composition perfect for growing superior wines.

Not sure how to pronounce, well it’s “Willamette, damn it”.

SakéOne Brewery Forest Grove, OR
We spent our time in Forest Grove, located in the foothills of the CoastRange and the base of the TillamookStateForest. First stop SakéOne, America’s only owned and operated large production saké brewery. Our merry little group was greeted by Steve Vuylsteke president and CEO. After touring the brewery and capturing a bit of the process from start to finish we all had the same question; is saké beer or is it wine? The answer, it’s neither, it’s saké.
Saké goes through a parallel fermentation process separating it from both beer and wine. The process goes something like this:
Start with clean and pure water. Rice is the second component; remove hull and polish then wash, soak and steam. Add Koji mold to turn the starch into sugar. Prepare yeast and begin brewing process. After the brewing process is complete the saké is pasteurized and moved into steel tanks to rest and mature. A few weeks later the saké is ready to bottle and enjoy.
I enjoyed all the tasting samples but do have a few that are my favorite:
Moonstone Asian – crisp pear aromas and flavors.
Junmai Ginjo Genshu – bold fruit and spice flavors.
Momokawa Ruby Junmai Ginjo – Tropical fruit and berry flavors.
Saké is naturally gluten and sulfite free and we were told there is less of a regret the day after should you imbibe a little too much. With saké as smooth as those we tasted, it’s very easy to do.
Unlike fine wines, fine sake should be consumed within twelve months of being bottled. Serve in a wine glass and enjoy. An open bottle will last about two weeks.
The best news, SakéOne is available nationwide in retail stores, Costco and World Market. Look for Momokawa, Moonstone or Yoshinogawa brands.
SakéOne, 820 Elm St, Forest Grove, OR97116

McMenamins Grand Lodge, Forest Grove, OR
After we’d had our fill of saké we made our way to our hotel, McMenamin’s Grand Lodge. The mild Oregon temps gave way to a sweltering heat wave during the duration of my stay with temps hovering around one hundred degrees. The stately hotel is European style with no AC and plenty of conveniently located shared bathrooms. I was worried about sharing a bathroom but not once did I run into another person either on my way or while in the bathroom. To combat those rare hot days each room has a large window, transom (didn’t find that until the next day) and a box fan in the closet. I set the fan on a chair next to the bed and was fine all night.
The former Masonic and Eastern Star Home was built in 1922 and served as a rest home for aging Masons. When the Masonic and Eastern Star Home moved in 1999, the McMenamin brothers purchased the property and began renovations. Quirky sometimes twisted touches can be seen throughout the hotel. Grab a walking map from the front desk and wander around the floors, just watch out for the Lavender Lady said to haunt the hotel. There were a few strange occurrences reported by my fellow travelers. Was it the Lavender Lady or just too much wine? We may never know.
McMenamins Grand Lodge, 3505 Pacific Ave, Forest Grove, OR 97116

Wine Makers Dinner at 1910 Main
That evening we were treated to a seven course meal prepared by the staff of 1910 Main, Forest Grove’s premier restaurant. The food was sourced locally and the meal was a true foodie delight. Joining us for the evening were winemakers and representatives from PonziVineyards, Cooper Mountain Vineyards, Raptor Ridge, Garden Vineyards and Apolloni Vineyards.
From the Gin Cured Oregon Coho Salmon Tartar paired with 2011 Apolloni Sparkling Rosé to the L Bar T Buffalo Bolognaise with Gnocchi paired with 2009 Ponzi Pinot Noir Reserve, the dinner was simply amazing. My favorite was the Pruitt’s Farm Fresh Corn Spoonbread with Oregon Dungeness Crab and Poached Quail Egg. A feast for both the eyes and the stomach.
A quick look at some of the wines we tasted that evening:
2011 Apolloni Sparkling Rosé – strawberry and watermelon with a hint of citrus finish.
2011 Raptor Ridge Gruener Veltliner Estate – a favorite of the night –acidic with notes of mineral and lemon that pairs well with many foods but works exceptionally well with spicy foods. Watch out, this is an acid bomb but in a good way.
2011 Cooper Mountain Pinot Gris – Peach and melon flavors
2009 Ponzi Chardonnay Reserve – Pear and apricot notes
There were many others but just too many to keep track of and enjoy the evening.

As we rode back to our warm hotel rooms with our bellies full many of us decided to enjoy a few more glasses of wine on the patio adjacent to McMenamins Ironwork Grill. There we shared stories and got to know each other and geared up for three days of serious wine tasting and good times.

Stayed tuned next week I’ll get more into the wines of Oregon and cover some of the wineries I was able to visit while I let my liver rest for a bit.
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Thursday, August 9, 2012

A Short Jaunt through Oregon’s Willamette Valley Wineries

In just a few days I’ll be jetting across the country to Portland, OR for the 2012 Wine Blogger’s Conference. I’ll spend the first three days exploring Portland on my own before meeting up with over three hundred other bloggers. After we will all spend a few days exploring wineries, tasting new wines, learning and spitting.

This isn’t my first trip to the Rose City, my husband and I married in Portland at VooDoo Doughnuts in 2009. This is however my first trip to the city on my own and I plan on getting the most out of the Pearl District, where I’ll spend my first three days.

As I think about Oregon wines my mouth is watering for those wonderfully crafted Pinot noirs. While Oregon may be best known for Pinot noir, that is certainly not their only wine cash crop. There are over four hundred wineries in the Willamette Valley alone so this post won’t even make a dent on coverage. But if you happen to find yourself in the area, here are a few wineries I was able to visit in 2009 and truly enjoyed.

Founded in 1970 by Dick and Nancy Ponzi the winery has earned worldwide accolades for producing some of the finest Pinot noir, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay and White Riesling, Arneis and Dolcetto.
Since its start the vineyards have led the way for Oregon’s viticulture revolution while staying course in their commitment to traditional winemaking.  Second generation, winemaker Luisa Ponzi now carries on that tradition using classic Burgundy methods.
The winery is still family owned and contracts with growers matching the varietal to the terroir and climate. The valley offers a moderate climate and provides ideal sites for the culture and cultivation of cool climate wine varietals.
My husband and I liked this one so much we joined the wine club and receive shipments four times a year. Many wineries offer several levels of wine club membership and are a great way to try wines you may not normally be drawn to or have access to.

Two words, Black Brut. This has to be one of the prettiest wines in a glass I’ve ever set eyes on and tastes pretty darn good too. While well vested in sparkling wines, they are well known for their Pinot noir wines.
Founded by Brian Croser and Rollin Soles, Argyle Winery has produced world renowned methode champenoise Sparkling wine, barrel fermented Chardonnay and elegant Pinot noir since the late 1980’s.
Argyle sources grapes from three vineyards located in Dundee Hills. Knudsen Vineyard, Stoller Vineyard and Lone Star Vineyard. Planted in 1972 and 1974 the Knudsen Vineyard’s high elevation provides the perfect elements for sparkling wines. Stoller Vineyards planted in 1995 produces their well known Pinot noir and Chardonnay.
Lone Star Vineyard was purchased in 1996 and is primarily made up of Dijon clones of Pinot noir 

Erath wines have been around for over 40 years, longer than any other winery in the Dundee Hills area. Dick Erath, engineer turned viticulturist began winemaking in 1965 when he re-located his family from California to the Dundee Hills area of Oregon. Using an old logger’s cabin as his home on 49 acres of land he planted 23 varieties of grapes, the first wine grapes in Dundee Hills. The region is similar to France’s Burgundy with its iron rich soils, cool nights and warming sunshine giving Dundee the perfect climate to perfect Pinot noirs, the wine this area of Oregon is most well known.
Lucky for all of us, Erath is carried in stores across the nation.

Wondering what puts Oregon Pinot noir above so many others in the US? The magic’s in the iron rich soil and warming sunshine of a marine climate, providing the area the ability to produce phenomenal Pinot noirs. Pinot noir grapes are one of the most finicky grapes and require great care, patience and the perfect terroir. The grape is sensitive to wind, temperature, fungal disease and this is just in the vineyard. Once in the fermentation takes another host of problems can arise.
The grape can be so problematic, famed winemaker André Tchelistcheff stated "God made Cabernet Sauvignon whereas the devil made Pinot noir."

I’ve been holding off on packing for the past week but I’m breaking out the luggage today. Portland, get your beers and wines ready, here I come.

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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Steelhead Red Wine 2010 and Steelhead Pinot Noir 2010

Many people think writing a wine blog is a fun and exciting sideline. Well folks want to know what fun and exciting activity I’m up to this week…spitting. Yes, I’m learning to spit. Still sound like fun?

Guess I should clarify; I’m practicing spitting so I don’t end up on the floor at the upcoming Wine Bloggers Conference in Portland, OR. This isn’t my first wine rodeo and I have my own tips on how to drink wine all day and stay somewhat sober but figured I’d give spitting a shot.

Who knew spitting could be so difficult. The obvious key is to not get any on you or others around you and to make it into the spit bucket. Then there’s the spit bucket itself….yuck!

Ok, enough on this subject, onto my latest wine samples. Recently I received a few new wines to sample, Steelhead Red Wine and Steelhead Pinot Noir.

 Steelhead Red Wine North Coast 2010
Ripe dark berry aromas draws you in for the first sip. Bing cherry, chocolate and oak pass over the palate. Well structured tannins and a lingering finish provide for a lovely red wine.
Sourcing grapes from the Dry Creek Valley, Steelhead Red kicked off the wineries ventures in winemaking.
Varietal Blend: 65% Zinfandel, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon,
15% Cabernet Franc, 5% Syrah
Alcohol: 14.2%
Acidity: 0.59 g/100ml
pH: 3.71
SRP: $14.99

Steelhead Pinot Noir Sonoma 2010
After opening bottle and pouring into glass I found quite a bit of alcohol burn. Allowing the wine to air and after a bit of swirling the burn dissipated and the true aromas and flavors emerged. Red and black fruits aromas full of currant and plum. Dark plum, cherry and cola flavors followed by a long silky finish.
Varietal Blend: 97% Pinot Noir, 3% Syrah
Alcohol: 14.3%
Acidity: 0.60 g/100ml
pH: 3.68                                               
SRP: $14.99

Created in 1998 the winery acquired their name from the Steelhead Trout that are native to surrounding creeks in Dry Creek Valley. The winery follows a “Better Wine. Better World” strategy with a commitment to create outstanding wine and maintain and restore balance to the surrounding environment.

Together with Trout Unlimited (TU) the winery works to improve the balance between water and land throughout California wine country allowing Steelhead Trout to return to the streams they once inhabited. A portion of the proceeds from every bottle sold goes to fund TU’s conservation efforts.

A partnership with another winery focused on preserving and restoring the area, Quivira Vineyards, Steelhead is able to employ Hugh Chappelle (Quievera winemaker) as their consulting winemaker. I love a wine that not only tastes good but makes me feel good about my purchase.

I’ll speak more to my upcoming trip next week, stayed tuned and keep the wine wipes handy.

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Biltmore Century Red and Century White

One year ago this week, my husband, Mikkel, 19 year old cat, Katundra, and I packed a large 26’ moving truck with car carrier in tow, loaded my car with dozens of bottles of wines and headed north to begin a new life in NE Georgia. It’s no secret moving is stressful but when you couple that with the sale of a home, a change in states and no idea where our new home would be, it’s a sheer nightmare. By the end of our two day trip we referred to the evil truck and car carrier as Boris and Natasha.

We had a contract on a house on three wooded acres within two days of arriving and moved in over Labor Day weekend. The next big change came with the passing of Katundra. Soon after we added seven new members to our little country family.

We love living in the country and giving up the subdivision mentality. Gone are the days of mowing the lawn every weekend, watering, fertilizing and fretting over brown spots. Instead we spend our time moving the chicken run, tending vegetables, fruit and nut trees and plotting new gardens. Another thing we love, it no longer takes six hours just to get to another state.

We’ll soon be heading to Asheville, NC, home of the Biltmore Estate. Sadly we’ll only be there for a weekend so we won’t have time to visit the great estate or winery on this visit but I can still take in the flavors and aromas produced by the winery. Biltmore Century Red and Century White.

Century White
Aromas of rose and over ripe peach. Semi-sweet blend of Riesling, Gewürztraminer, and Muscat Canelli flavors provide light acidity with sweet honeysuckle notes.
Varitals - Riesling, Gewürztraminer, and Muscat Canelli
pH – 3.24
TA – 0.58
RS – 3.24%
Alcohol – 13.1%
SRP - $15.99

Century Red
Aromas of black cherry, vanilla and strawberry. Medium-body, fruity forward with red berries and a long vanilla finish.
Varitals - Sangiovese and Merlot
pH – 3.50
TA – 0.62
RS – .04%
Alcohol – 14.2%
SRP - $15.99

The etched glass showcasing the elegant Biltmore House may have you wondering if you want to recycle the empty bottle or hold onto it for awhile. For your summer celebrations, you can order both wines online for a sale price of $12.99.

Here’s to change, may it always bring something good. Cheers!

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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Feudo Principi di Butera Insolia Sicily 2010

The weather forecasts promise lower temps and a chance for some much needed rain the remainder of the week. Now if only I could get this same reassurance from my mechanic. Last week his response was the Fourth of July holiday backed everything up. On Monday he and I discovered after a full week the machine shop hadn’t even started work on my part. Now being told car may be ready the day before I’m scheduled to drive up to North Carolina. Oh and the topper, we don’t really know if this is the fix. Ugh, wine take me away!

There was one bright spot to my sketchy Monday, a wonderful Insolia produced by Feudo Principi di Butera, a sample from Zonin.

The color of golden straw evokes images of sunny summer days and warm breezy evenings. Aromas of mango and almond intermingle with flavors of pineapple, peach and more mango. A slight effervescence hits mid palate, the finish is well balanced and delectable. Would make a great pairing to barbecue pork sandwiches, ribs or grilled chicken. A truly wonderful summer wine. SRP $13.99

Feudo Principi di Butera is located in the heart of Sicily and once belonged to noble dynasties. The Insolia/Inzolia grape is grown primarily in Sicily although it can also be found in Tuscany under the synonym Ansonica. Insolia may sound unfamiliar to you but if you’ve tasted Chicken Marsala or Marsala wines, you have been introduced to and hopefully enjoyed the Insolia varietal. The grape along with Grillo and Cartarratto are the three varietals used to produce the fortified wine known as Marsala wine.

Looks like we may finally get some much needed rain, skies are darkening, rumble of thunder in the distance and the wind is blowing through the trees. I sure hope it does make it here so all the vegetation can let out a collective sigh of aaahhh.

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Friday, July 6, 2012

Summer Wine Jaunt to Italy, Spain and Argentina

In case you hadn’t noticed, Mother Nature is going out of her way to make sure you know summer is now in full swing. Watermelon, swimming pools or swimming holes in my case, popsicles and air conditioning are a few of my favorite things this season.

The mornings are still cool and wonderful. Walking my dog Rooster past the towering trees, the occasional horse, groups of cows, rows of corn and soaring sunflowers puts a smile on my face. On our way back home, the temps begin to climb and humidity surrounds like a shroud. We stagger up the driveway and up the stairs and collapse under the cool breeze of the ceiling fan.
The evenings have been so warm and stifling we haven’t been able to sip wine comfortably on the porch but instead retreat inside. Amongst the cool air conditioning we’ve been enjoying a tour of international wines.

Rocca de Monte Massi Sangiovese 2008 Sicily, Italy
Aromas of black cherry and toasty vanilla give way to astringent dark fruits. Very cheek puckering. Fruits are overshadowed by the dry tannins with a tart and tight finish. This was a little too dry for me. We paired with tapas consisting of stuffed tomato nests (a failed dish), chorizo and tomato salad. 
Grapes are 100% Sangiovese from the District of Roccastrada, Maremma Toscana

El Prado Tempranillo Cabernet 2007 Valencia, Spain
Enticing black cherry, plum and oak aromas draw me into the wine. First sip, front of the palate to the back, all I pick up is tannic fruit but no one fruit shines through. I bought the wine several years ago, perhaps it was cellared a little too long or maybe the time spent in Florida took its toll. Was very disappointed in the flavors, especially after the wonderful and inviting aromas.
Made from 70% Tempranillo and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon.

Santa Julia Torrentés 2010 Mendoza, Argentina
Floral, citrus and a hint of almond in the aroma. Flavors of fresh peaches and pears give way to an acidic finish. This was the one wine that did not disappoint.
100% Torrentés grapes, alcohol 13.8%, SRP $10.

Hope everyone had a happy and safe Fourth of July. We loaded Rooster’s back pack with snacks and water and headed into the small town of Dahlonega for an old fashioned celebration. Rooster was a hit and caught the attention of both young and old.

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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Toad Hollow Sonoma County Dry Rosé of Pinot Noir 2011

Hot, humid and miserable has given way to breezy, cool and wonderful, at least for this morning anyway. Hey, I’ll take whatever comfortable weather I can get. Forecast temps of 104 degrees by the end of this week has me questioning, “What happened to our beautiful, cool mountain air?” The heat and humidity in the afternoon are like Florida temps. Can’t complain too much, we deal with it for about two and a half months while they deal with it for nine months.

I will tell you this; the heat has me opening more crisp and refreshing wines than I can shake a corkscrew at. My latest, Toad Hollow’s 2011 Sonoma County Dry Rosé of Pinot Noir “Eye of the Toad” provided much needed relief from the heat but has the ability to warm my heart as well.

Floral, strawberry and peach aromas. Flavors of acidic unripe white peach and strawberry with a long and pleasing finish.

Varietal: 100% Pinot Noir
Alcohol: 11%
TA: 0.74 g/100ml
pH: 3.61
RS: .117%
SRP  - $11.99

The Pinot Noir grapes for Eye of the Toad are sourced from Sonoma County where cool evenings and mornings give way to warm sun filled days. The grapes are able to ripen slowly allowing for the full flavors to develop.

I’ve written a lot about Toad Hollow (click here) and the passion and drive two friends shared. Dr. Toad aka Robert Todd Williams and The Dancing Badger aka Rodney Strong started the winery in 1993 after retiring. The premise was to make fine wines at affordable prices.

It’s said Dr. Toad’s larger than life personality over shadowed his famous brother Robin Williams. Maybe that’s why Robin is so zany, just trying to get his share of the attention. 

Dr. Toad aka Robert Todd Williams passed away in 2007. According to his obit, his goal was to discount wine snobbery and make wine interesting. Hmm, I hope that’s what I accomplish with my posts to all of you each week too.

The Dancing Badger aka Rodney Strong, was an early pioneer of Sonoma County’s wine industry.  Strong was a successful dancer before retiring and taking on the title, winemaker. In 1959 he established Sonoma County’s 13th bonded winery in 1959.

Toad Hollow not only speaks to the kid in me with their wonderful illustrations and story but also speaks to me as a wine lover. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, wine is for sharing. Whether it’s a glass celebrating friendship, a wine to share over a meal with family or just a way to end your day; wine makes everything special.

Speaking of special, I’m so excited about my upcoming trip to the Wine Blogger’s Conference in Portland, OR, I can hardly contain myself. I’ve booked my hotel for an extended stay at McMenamins Crystal Hotel and will be staying at The Grand Lodge in Forest Grove, another McMenamins hotel.

Not a plug for McMenamins, just love staying at off the wall, boutiques versus the corporate mainstream names and these both look like places I’ll have a really good time at. After those two, I will be heading to a corporate national chain generic hotel for the conference but at least there will be wine!

As always, cheers to Toad and Badger!

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Thursday, June 14, 2012

González Byass Family of Wine Altozano Verdejo Sauvignon Blanc 2009 and Altozano Tempranillo 2009

As I sit on my porch on this early foggy morning, I can see the first rays of sunlight filtering through the trees. After two days of rain, I’ll take whatever sunshine I can get. Temps have been wonderful with highs in just the low 70’s. Unfortunately our spring like temps in June can’t last forever, highs for today and tomorrow are soaring to the upper 80’s. Could be worse, we could be sweatin’ in steamy Tampa instead of cool and breezy NE Georgia.

I recently sampled a few wines that will help you get through these warm summer evenings, González Byass Family of Wine Altozano Verdejo Sauvignon Blanc 2009 and  Altozano Tempranillo 2009.

Altozano Verdejo Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Tropical mango aromas with a hint of melon. Flavors of white peach, refreshing acidity and chalky mineral finish. Light and refreshing summer wine. We paired with breakfast for dinner, complete with eggs, home fries and home cured bacon.
Varietal – 70% - Verdejo, 30% Sauvignon Blanc
pH – 3.38
TA – 5g/l
TS – 2.3 gr/l
Alcohol – 13%

Altozano Tempranillo 2009
Spicy black pepper aroma. Flavors full of cherry, plum, licorice and cherry cola. Smooth and easy drinking wine. We paired with a Spanish chorizo tortilla.
Varietal – 100% - Tempranillo
pH – 3.73
TA – 5.2g/l
RS – 1.8 gr/l
Alcohol – 13.5%

The González Byass Company began as collaboration between Manual María González Ángel and Robert Blake Byass. Lured to the Jerez region by the thriving Sherry industry, Manual purchased a small winery in 1835. By 1885 Manual joined with Byass, his agent from England thus giving birth to the González Byass Company. Manual was also the first in Jerez to have electricity, running water and worked on the first railway project in Spain.

This forward thinking continues with the family today. The family is committed to protecting the environment and the restoration of the historical town of Jerez. Many family members sit on local boards and many have held consul positions in European countries. This along with keeping up with innovative winemaking technology will ensure the The González Byass Company will continue to stand the test of time. 

As the countdown to the official start of summer ramps up, I look forward to seeking out new ways to stay cool. It may come in the form of a swimmin’ hole, afternoons at Lake Lanier, sipping iced tea (unsweet, please) on the porch or an old summer favorite, the Popsicle. For evenings filled with fireflies and buzzing skeeters you can bet I’ll have some tasty wines by my side.

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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Casa Vinicola Zonin Fiano, Prosecco and Vermentino

Morning temps in North Georgia are so cool some days it’s hard to believe it really is June. But as afternoon temps rise, humidity sets in and I’m dripping sweat into my sweet tea, it’s clearly summer. Since our sloping wooded land doesn’t allow for a pool I’m left to seek out swimming holes that don’t require rock climbing skills or leave me feeling like I’m in a scene from Deliverance. The warm temps also have me searching for great summer wines. Not just for front porch or air-conditioned living room sipping but wines that go great with summer foods.

Last weekend we put a few white wines to the test and paired with some of our favorite grilled and smoked meats as well as some indoor prepared meals. Masseria Altemura Fiano Salento 2011, Rocca Di Montemassi Vermentino and Zonin Prosecco, all samples from Casa Vinicola, Zonin USA.

Masseria Altemura Fiano Salento Dry White Wine 2011
A white wine full of tropical aromas of mango, pineapple and peach. Flavors bursting with creamy peach and bright green apple. Lemon finish provides for a striking and well balanced acidity. The wine is light, crisp and refreshing. We paired this wine with Stromboli filled with hard salami, Lebanese bologna, Swiss and provolone cheeses. I know many wouldn’t think to pair a white wine with an Italian food but the refreshing acidity helped to lighten up the dish for summer dining.
Varietal – 100% Fiano
Region – Puglia, Italy
Alcohol – 12.5%
SRP - $18

Rocca Di Montemassi Calasole Vermentino 2010
Floral and green apple aromas. Flavors of unripened white peach, melon, and lime. The Vermentino, a late ripening grape varietal, provides both a crisp and creamy mouthfeel, the best of both white wine worlds. We paired with smoked pork shoulder. The pairing was perfection.
Varietal - 100% Vermentino
Region – Maremma Area, Tuscany Region
Alcohol – 12.5%
SRP - $12.99

Zonin Prosecco
Crisp pear and almond flavors. Dry with just a hint of sugar flavors would provide for an excellent aperitif but the flavors lend themselves to many dishes with finesse.
Varietal – 100% Prosecco
Region - Veneto region
Alcohol – 11%
SRP - $8.99-$14.99
We paired with smoked beef ribs served with a small amount of spicy BBQ sauce. My big revelation and new guilty pleasure, Prosecco paired with salty potato chips. The combo is simply scrumptious.
Watching the fire flies light up the night while swatting at skeeters I welcome summer with open arms. However, I really do wish I could figure out how to put an in-ground pool on the property. May have to just settle for a plastic kiddie pool, maybe one in the shape of a turtle.

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Bonterra Organic Vineyards

How can Memorial Day possibly be approaching, wasn’t it just New Year’s Eve? But I guess the calendar doesn’t lie. I celebrated my birthday in February and my wedding anniversary earlier this month, schools in my area are already out a new set of high school graduates are out there just waiting to have their dreams crushed. A little cynical I know but I remember oh so many years ago, the excitement and anticipation I felt just waiting to begin the next chapter of my life. Of course reality set in and I found myself getting my first part time job, attending college classes and eventually moving away from home. After college it took me a year and half to get my first real job. Definitely don’t want to go back to that time in my life but wouldn’t mind having my twenty-something body back.

I guess that’s not going to happen so may as well settle back and drink some more wine. How about organic wines, every little bit helps, right? Two recent samples from Bonterra focus on organic growing practices. Bonterra Organic Vineyards Viognier 2010 and Bonterra Organic Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2010.

Bonterra Organic Vineyards Viognier Mendocino County 2010
Aromas of peach and honeysuckle draw you in for the first sip. Sweet luscious peach flavors combine with apricot, almond and a burst of pink grapefruit in the finish. The wine is creamy but has a nice bit of acidity in the end. This is one of those wines I would consider a pretty wine. We paired with spicy Asian stir-fry.

Region – Mendocino County
TA – 0.65 grams/100ml
pH – 3.31
RS – 0.27 grams/100ml
Alcohol – 13.6%
SRP - $13.99

Bonterra Organic Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Mendocino and Lake Counties 2010
Notes of black fruits, cherry and smoky oak. Flavors of cassis, cherry and a dry finish remind me of a classic old world style of wine.
Region – 90% Mendocino, 10% Lake County
TA – 0.53 grams/100ml
pH – 3.64
RS – 0.2 grams/100ml
Alcohol – 13.5%
SRP - $15.99

In 1987 Bonterra dipped a proverbial toe in the soil in regards to organic gardening. By 1993 the winery was making wine with 100% organic grown grapes using certified practices. In order to be labeled certified, the winery has to allow the process to be monitored by the government and can use no artificial pesticides or fertilizers on the vines or surrounding area.

Now I don’t go all gaga over Organic products and I’ve had one or two Organic wines that I thought tasted like pesticide. Fortunately Bonterra wines are well crafted and well worth the price tag.

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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Kirkland Signature Sonoma County Chardonnay 2009

“Sheez, give the woman a break,” is what I want to say about all the hype over CNBC’s recent interview with Annette Alvarez-Peters, Costco's lead wine buyer. CNBC's Carl Quintanilla, asked Alvarez-Peters if she felt wine perhaps was more special than toilet paper or tin foil. Alvarez-Peters’ conclusion, "People can look at it that way. But at the end of the day, it's a beverage.” This 17 word response has many wine lovers seething and others like me looking inward asking; “How special is wine to me?” On my recent trip to Costco, I spied a bottle of Kirkland Sonoma Chardonnay. Curiosity was piqued and I decided to give the Costco private label brand a try.

Tropical aromas mixed with green apple. Semi-sweet flavors of mango and peach with a creamy mouthfeel and a toasty oak finish. Although it was a tad on the sweet side, I have to admit, I didn’t hate it. For $9.99 I would probably buy this one again but wouldn’t serve at a dinner party. This would be more of an everyday wine to enjoy in the summer heat.

You can pick up a little trivia info in the article linked above. For example, did you know Costco’s Wine Leader sets the prices on wines and those prices help determine the market value of that wine for other retailers? And did you know, Costco is the largest American importer of French wines with some pretty well known labels like Château Mouton Rothshild and Château Pétrus? Not too shabby, huh.

So how do I feel about Alvarez-Peters’ saying wine is no more important than toilet paper? Well I can say both are pretty important to me but on very different levels.

A recent trip to Georgia wineries with my in-laws proved to me how much I want to share wine with others. My husband and I took them to two of the best wineries in the area. Upon arrival at the first winery they did not want to partake in the tastings (after I had been touting this winery for the past 10 days). At the second winery my husband I thought it would be a great way to wind down their visit with a bottle while overlooking the mountains on the back deck. Again, the in-laws did not want to partake.

At that point, I was offended and a tad miffed. Ok, not just a tad, I was pissed and it showed. Wine is a big part of my life, I hate to admit this but it defines me. Now that I have access to these great wineries I want to share them with others. However, on that day I realized sometimes we have to step back and take stock in people we are with and come to the sad conclusion that to some, wine really is just a beverage. Sigh

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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Waterstone Careneros Chardonnay 2009

The barnyard activity is really picking up around here. The chicks are getting bigger and are able to fly very short distances. They’ve been able to enjoy a nice dust bath while spending a few hours in their chicken run and they’ve snacked on dried meal worms. During that time Daisy was enjoying her time on the back porch, Rooster was staring at the chickens while the humans made sure no one ate anyone else. 

One thing hasn’t changed in the past few weeks, these high temps. Mother Nature doesn’t realize it’s still spring time. Instead she has flung us into mid-June temps. The hot, humid air is perfumed with Honeysuckle as we spend our evenings in rocking chairs, sipping wine and watching the fireflies light up our woods. Last night we enjoyed sampling Waterstone Careneros Chardonnay 2009.
Nose was a little tight but began to open up after a few minutes in the glass. Soft aromas of peach with fruit flavors consisting of pear, green apple and more peach. Finish is delicate with a nice balance of acidity and fruit.

Varietal: 100% Chardonnay
 Appellation: Carneros
 Alcohol: 14.6%
 TA: 0.66 g/100ml
 pH: 3.42
 Oak Aging: 11 months
 Oak Cooperage: French oak
 SRP: $18.99

The 2009 growing season was mild and cool. Lack of rain, frost and high temps allowed the grapes to hang on the vine for an extended time. Allowing the grapes to mature on the vine provided forward fruits with mature flavors and well structured tannins. 

The Carneros soils are dense and shallow with an abundance of clay. These soil conditions provide low yields but the growing season is extended due to the maritime climate. The 2009 vintage was sourced from three Carneros vineyards; the Rodgers Creek Vineyards in northwestern Carneros, the Wilson Vineyard in the heart of the Carneros appellation and the Truchard Vineyard in northeastern Carneros.

Waterstone Winery formed in 2000 as collaboration between veteran winemaker Philip Zorn and longtime wine executive Brent Shortridge. The goal was to produce luxury wines at affordable prices. Wanting to focus on the winemaking versus the vineyards, the pair does not own the vineyards or the equipment used to make the wine. They lean on committed relationships with growers, since it’s not the winemaker that makes the wine good, it’s the quality grapes that are critical to any winery’s success.

As I type this from the couch I’m flanked by Daisy on one side and Rooster on the other. Looks like we’ve finally convinced these two it’s better to co-exist then to live separately.

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Bougrier Chenin Blanc

I think one word sums up my whole being at the moment, exhausted. As if dividing my time between our new dog, Rooster and spending time with our cat Daisy who is still holed up in the bathroom wasn’t enough. As of today add five 2 day old chicks in the basement. It’s a wonder I have time to drink water let alone wine. But don’t you worry; you know I’ll find a way to get my wine time in. After a brief cool spell, warmer temps are back and that means so are the white wines. Last night we opened a bottle of Bougrier Chenin Blanc 2010.

Peach and citrus aromas lead to a slightly sweet crisp and refreshing white wine. Citrus and honey with a hint of minerality in the finish. Well balance between the acidity and the sugars. I picked this bottle up at Total Wine for $8.99 and will be getting more the next time I’m in Alpharetta.

So just what is minerality and does it truly exist in wines? For me it’s that hint of stone, dirt, chalk or slate. It’s that one characteristic that I can’t quite put my finger on, some may say umami. Most of the time it’s an underlying flavor on the palate or a hint in the nose. I also find it to be more pronounced when there is an absence of fruit. Some wine drinkers and experts dispute its existence claiming grape vines can not pick up minerals from the terroir.

The term minerality is absent from The Oxford Companion to Wine (a wine lover’s bible) but does list the minerals that may be found in wine; iron, calcium, copper, sulfur, to name just a few. The term is also missing from the Wine Aroma Wheel, developed by UC-Davis’ Dr. Ann Noble.

I find this absence interesting considering how many wineries and appellations rely on the importance of geology and soil composition making up the wine’s terroir. After doing some research on the minerality phenomenon, I still have no conclusive evidence as to if it truly exists or not. Since wine descriptors are subjective, I say if you pick up the flavor of stone, chalk or even dirt, it exists for you.  

I think I’m a little brain dead from reading about minerality (it’s not as exciting as one would hope) and taking care of all of the farm animals. There will be much to share in the next few weeks and months.

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Ravenswood Vintners Blend Shiraz 2005, South Eastern Australia

This past weekend my husband and I took the plunge, we adopted a dog. When we set out to the shelter we intended to adopt a male cat as a companion to our cat, Daisy. When we saw Rooster, an Australian Cattle Dog, it was love at first sniff. We quickly rushed out and bought the requisite dog bowls, food, treats, toys, etc. I worried he and our cat would not hit it off and I was right. As soon as Daisy saw Rooster enter her domain she headed for our bedroom and has not been seen in the main part of the house since.

Being a herding dog, I think Rooster feels he needs to round her up and she understandably wants nothing to with being herded. In honor of Rooster’s arrival (we think he got his name from the way he kicks back after um, using the facilities) I decided an Australian wine was appropriate. This Australian wine may surprise you though. Why you ask? Because it’s an Aussie import of Ravenswood Vintners Blend Shiraz 2005, best known for their Sonoma Zinfandels.

Aromas of spice, wood and leather lead to bold blackberry, chocolate with a lingering earthy finish. True to their motto, No Wimpy Wines, this wine can stand with the best of them. I find all Ravenswood wines to be consistent and well balanced wines. When I saw the label with the kangaroos in lieu of the iconic ravens, I couldn’t resist. The price tag of $8.99 didn’t hurt either.

Appellation – South Eastern Australia
Variety – 100% Shiraz
Vintage – 2005
Alcohol – 13.5%
SRP - $8.99

I’ve posted many times on Ravenswood, I won’t bore you with going over the same history. Instead I’d like to share with you my story about Ravenswood winery. In 2010 I had the fortune of being one of ten people in the US to spend three days touring the Ravenswood Single Designate Vineyards. This included dining with Joel Peterson at his home as well as meals prepared on site at the Ravenswood tasting room in Sonoma and at the home of the Teldeschi family, one of the Single Designate growers for Ravenswood.

That was one of the most memorable meals I’ve had in my life. Not just because the food was phenomenal (and it was), but because of the warm fuzzy feelings I had sitting around a large family table with twenty people or more. As we sat at the table enjoying each others company and stories, I truly felt I was part of something really special among this extended Ravenswood family. The ride there wasn’t too bad either, courtesy of a helicopter lifting off at the Pickberry Vineyards and setting down at the Teldeschi homestead.

On that 2010 trip I was inducted into the Order of the Ravens by none other than the Godfather of Zinfandel, Joel Peterson. I don’t know if it’s this “connection” or because of all the wonderful people and experiences I had but I have a special place in my wine cellar for all Ravenswood wines.

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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Moulin-à-Vent, Château des Jacques 2010

Spring sprang early here NE Georgia. The Bradford Pears and Yoshino Cherry trees were the first to bloom in early March. The Dogwoods have already lost most of their flowers now falling to the ground like snowflakes. The azaleas also bloomed early and their spent flowers now lay wilted or dried on the bush waiting to show their colors once again next spring. One of the biggest indicators that spring has arrived is a not so thin yellow film coating everything I own, including this laptop screen. We’re experiencing a brief cold snap but I know warmer weather is just around the corner and will cling to us until sometime in September. One recent wine sample, Moulin-à-Vent, Château des Jacques 2010 fit this spring time bill.

Aromas of strawberry, rose and a hint of leather. Flavors of ripe red berries are delicate with an acidic finish. Perfect wine for sitting on the porch on those warm spring evenings. SRP $21.99

Varietal – 100% Gamay
Alcohol 10.5-13.5%
Can be cellared – 6 to 10 years

Moulin-à-Vent the most famous of the ten crus located in the northern half of the Beaujolais district comprising of a total of 15,750 acres surrounding the Beaujolais-Villages appellation. Differences in the soil allow for the individuality of each cru to shine through. Moulin-à-Vent is located south of Chénas and north of Fleurie. Originally known as Romanèche-Thorins, the appellation name was changed in 1936 to Moulin-à-Vent for the last remaining windmill in the Beaujolais, built in the mid-17th century.

The estate, Château des Jacques, located in Moulin-à-Vent was acquired by Maison Louis Jadot in 1996. The estate boasts 67 acres of vineyards, 48 of which are devoted to the Gamay varietal. The grapes are harvested by hand and fermented separately until prior to bottling. The estate uses a traditional Pinot Noir vinification process destemming 60-80% of the clusters then chilling the must for 2-5 days. Fermentation takes place over approximately 20 days with indigenous yeasts and then aged in oak for 12 months.

Since it is spring time we did place our order for our first batch of Easter Egg chickens and delivery of the day old chicks is scheduled for late April. The chicken coop has been built to resemble a house and will soon be complete with a tiny front porch. The feeder, waterer and heat lamp are ready and waiting for the peeps. Now if I can just get these cats to stop hanging out a little too close for my comfort to the coop. There will be a three foot fence in place but I don’t think that’s going to keep a curious or hungry cat out. We may just have to put an electric fence in place in hopes of keeping our chickens safe. Stay tuned for peep updates!

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Thursday, April 5, 2012

Fish Eye Shiraz

Many wine drinkers have cut their teeth on Boone’s Farm. I’m almost reluctant to use the word wine with this brand but that is what’s listed on the label. My preference was Wild Island. Eventually as we mature our tastes do as well and we work our way up the wine ladder. Some of you may have been fortunate enough to start your wine experience on a higher ladder rung and I do envy you but I’m willing to bet the majority of you reading this wine blog started off in the well under $10 range. What I’m trying to say is we all have to start somewhere. I like to call these “wines with training wheels”. They’re not bad wines, just not as complex and usually a little on the sweet side. Fortunately there are many more entry level wines than there were when I was young and my latest sample, Fish Eye Shiraz is a fine example.

Notes of black berry and dark fruits on the nose. Flavors of black berry jam and a hint of spice are nice but the wine is very one dimensional. Perfect if you’re not looking for a wine you have to think about or dissect.

Varietal – Shiraz
Appellation – South Eastern Australia
Acid – 0.75g/100mL
pH – 3.40
Alcohol – 13%
SRP - $8-$10

All Fisheye wines are produced in the small Aussie town of Griffith located in the state of New South Wales. Wondering where they got the name Fish Eye? The Aussie’s say when a fisherman has a good catch, he’s got the “Fish Eye”, knowing where the fish are located and how to gain their attention.

I know this is another short post, next week I should be back to my normal posts. In-laws are here and keeping us busy. For more info on Fisheye Shiraz, click here.

2011© Kellie Stargaard.  All Rights Reserved.

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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Georges Duboeuf Fleurie - Flower Label - Beaujolais 2010

Seriously, what was I thinking? Why didn’t I wait a month before beginning the next two writing courses? I don’t know how adults returning back to school, taking a full course load, working, managing a home and family do it. This week alone may do me in. I just have to breathe; this is the only week all four classes will overlap. Wonder why they don’t just wait until the first set of courses are finished to begin the next set? As far as I’m concerned it’s the University’s poor planning! Last night I was so tired I could barely lift my wine glass, but I did manage to sample a little wine, Georges Duboeuf Fleurei.

The first whiff was pure heaven, full of heady red roses, cherry and bark. Flavors are delicate and floral, this is a wine I would describe as “pretty”. I found the wine to be dry not in the cheeks where I tend to pick up dryness but more on my tongue. It wasn’t a turn off though because I find a lot of Beaujolais a little too meek and mild. Made from 100% Gamay and priced around $18, it was a nice departure from the typical Beaujolais.

After 40 years of honing his Beaujolais winemaking craft, Georges Duboeuf, is regarded as the reigning King of Beaujolais. This information I retrieved from the Georges Duboeuf winery website. “Born in 1933 in Pouilly-Fuissé, the son of a winegrower, Georges began selling his family's wines from the back of his bicycle to now-legendary local chefs such as Paul Bocuse and Paul Blanc. In 1964, Georges realized his dream and founded his own company: Les Vins Georges Duboeuf.”

Developing strong relationships with the regions top growers allows Georges to be involved in all facets of his winery. Annual sales now top 30 million bottles making Georges Duboeuf one France’s best known wine brands.

I know this blog post is really short and I do apologize. I started this post last week and still have some courses to go through along with assignments before my in-laws arrive tomorrow from Denmark. In between the course work there’s the usual crunch of getting your home ready for house guests. Laundry, dusting, de-pollinating the floors and of course ensuring the we’re well stocked with wine!

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

2012© Kellie Stargaard.  All Rights Reserved.

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