WineDiva on October 8th, 2012

Indian Summer
Here it is the second week of October and we’re still experiencing our Indian summer. The weather is still warm enough to enjoy dinner on the patio and sip a little wine. Perfect for roast chicken and a glass of one of my favorites, Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Galévan Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2009

Winemaker Coralie Goumarre took over the Domaine Galevan from her parents in 1995. She is the 9th generation of wine growers and the first woman to head the domaine. She is known for pushing the envelope to top her current releases with even better ones the next year.

The 2009 Châteauneuf is a blend of 90% Grenache and 10% Mourvedre from 55 year old vines.

Dark ruby color. Aromas of dark berries, licorice and herbs. Flavors of raspberries, dark cherries, licorice and herbs with hints of oak and spice. Balanced, full-bodied with little tannin and a long finish. Serve with roast chicken.

I love this wine. The only problem is, there was very little shipped to the west coast. I put this review up so you can watch for it next year – before it’s sold out. We found it at Costco for around $26.

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WineDiva on August 17th, 2012

Viña Eguia Reserva Rioja 2007
A tempranillo reserve. Aged in in oak barrels for 24 months and another two years in the bottle.

Ruby red color. Aromas of vanilla, red and black berries, with hints of leather and licorice. Flavors of cherry, plum and spice with hints of oak and vanilla. Medium bodied but well structured. Open bottle 45 minutes before serving to smooth out the tannins for a pleasing, long finish. Goes well with grilled lamb chops (my favorite), cheese and Marcona almonds.

Found it in the low-priced wine section at Costco for $10. Don’t be put off by the low price – it’s a well made wine that should cellar well. Btw, it’s rated #18 on Wine Enthusiast’s 100 top wines for 2011.



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WineDiva on January 23rd, 2012

This year we toasted the new year with a bottle of one of our favorites – Perrier Jouet Brut. Every now and then you serve a wine that you’ve had many times but for some unknown reason the bottle you’ve just opened is far better than any of the others. That was our experience on New Year’s Eve.

A few weeks before Christmas Costco had the green gift box that included 2 tulip shaped flutes so I snapped one up – and am I glad I did.

Perfect with lobster or crab. Wonderful with everything else!

Perrier Jouet Grand Brut
Pale gold color with aromas of pear, fresh baked bread, and hazelnut. Flavors of brioche, honey and ripe citrus with hints of roasted nuts. Crisp, well balanced with a nice finish.

Gift box only available during holidays at Costco but you can find it at K & L – without the flutes, for $40.

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WineDiva on November 24th, 2011

The Perfect Pairing for Smoked Turkey
It’s time to prepare the feast for my favorite holiday. This year we are having a hickory smoked turkey so I’ve decided to serve a Gewurztraminer. A bit of sweetness is needed to stand up to the smokey flavor of the meat.

Fetzer Gewurztraminer 2010
Tasting notes:
Lovely golden color, with aromas of spicy stone fruit and hints of honeysuckle. Flavors of green apple as well as peach and apricot. Hints of honey and spice. A medium-bodied wine with a nice balance of crisp and sweet.

Pair with smoked or grilled meats and foul and cheeses as well as spicy dishes with curry, ginger, cinnamon and clove. We found it at Von’s for $8

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WineDiva on April 18th, 2011

A Cook’s Garden
Eight years ago my husband and I bought our house after a much discussed compromise. I wanted a lot large enough for flowers and vegetables. He wanted a condo. We found, what we thought at the time, was the perfect house. Small backyard, very low maintenance and a front yard with a beautiful green lawn and a large melaleuca tree.

Melaleuca trees originally came to California early in the 1900’s from Australia. They were brought here for Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. It didn’t take long for them to make their way south. We have groves and groves of the trees and they are popular in residential gardens because they have a beautiful bark that constantly peels off and have long narrow leaves that are a green/gray color. The problem is they also have very invasive roots that seek water.

A few years back I was digging near the house to replant some bushes and found the huge roots were just beginning to grow up to the foundation of the house. The large tree had to go go or it would crack the foundation. It was a major production to have the tree removed and they had to come back twice to cut the roots.

After two years we planted some queen palms to replace the melaleuca and we made the decision not to replace that part of the lawn. At first we thought about a little patio in front, but we couldn’t find anyone who wanted to take on such a small project. They all brought grand plans for replacing the front porch, adding retaining walls and charging a fortune. That’s when I decided to put a vegetable garden in the front yard.

A Raised Bed Garden
Deciding on a raised bed garden was a no brainer. We have rabbits that sit on the tiny remaining lawn and take sun baths, we have dogs in the neighborhood that meaner up to the front door, we have hungry raccoons and, like most of San Diego, we have tree rats that steal tomatoes just as they start to ripen. But the real advantage is the small space needed. Because the roots grow deep, they don’t spread out as much, so you can place the plants closer together. The other big plus is because the plants are closer together, you use much less water – a concern here in the southwestern U.S.

Since my raised bed garden is in the front yard, I am trying to make it as attractive as possible. Low water plants and herbs will go in front of the planter and I found a tall, turquoise glazed pot to use as an accent that will hold Swiss chard.

Costco has the raised bed kita which are 4x4x2 feet tall. They are made in the U.S. and have a 10 year limited warranty so it was worth the $99 investment.

My seedlings are still in the little peat pots I got at the 99 Cent Store but they are growing fast. They’ll have to be transplanted in the next couple of days, so time is of the essence to get this garden started.

The Soil
After talking to the nursery man, watching dozens of square foot gardening videos and reading the most current information on intensive gardening, I have my soil blend of planting mix, worm casings, vermiculite and chicken poop. As the plants start growing I will continually add compost from the bin in the backyard.

Digging and turning the soil 2 feet down for my little 4×4 plot took me 2 days!  I now have the soil turned over, there are lots of worms plus I have a huge pile of rocks to use for other projects.

Next: Part 2 – Choosing Compatible Plants

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WineDiva on January 7th, 2011

What’s Hot
Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay have become yesterday’s news and Malbec and Riesling have replaced them as the most popular wines. There are several reasons. For one thing, wine drinkers are becoming more knowledgeable about wine. Newspapers have food and wine sections, and websites – like Twisting Vines, offer wine reviews and suggestions for food pairings. When you go to buy a wine to go with dinner, you have some idea what to expect before you make that choice.

Also, in the past couple of years wine prices have fallen, allowing us to be a little  adventurous and try new wines that were previously just out of our price range.

Of course, not to be overlooked is the fact that wines just keep getting better as winemakers become more knowledgeable about growing the best fruit and improving their winemaking techniques.

Riesling has recently become the most popular white wine with sales worldwide continuing to increase. What’s not to like about this versatile wine? It can be dry or sweet and it’s food friendly or great all by itself.

The grand dame of white wines, Chardonnay,has lost it’s luster and sales, worldwide, have been dropping. It seems the top selling California white wine is now associated with baby boomers, so it has the image of a geezer image. Too bad, because California Chardonnays have only gotten better as they’ve gotten away from the heavy oak and now produce wines with complexity and style.

The west coast of the US has some serious contenders for great Rieslings coming from Oregon and Washington State. The fruit is excellent and the winemakers are tops in their field. Because US Riesling growers don’t have to contend with steep hillsides, harvesting the grapes is much easier which keeps the prices lower than many German or Alsace imports.

2008 Chateau St Michelle Dr. Loosen Eroica Riesling
Okay, I’ve reviewed this wine before but I have to tell you, each year’s vintage is better than the last. Last week I served this with chicken and noodles – a match made in heaven. I also like to have a glass while I’m cooking.

A beautiful straw color with aromas of pears and peaches, with hints of honey and citrus. Flavors of peaches, citrus and pears with hints of mineral and tea. Crisp and light-bodied. Slightly sweet but still on the dry side. Complex flavors evolve in the glass. Get an extra bottle to have on hand. $18 at K & L.

Malbec from Argentina is becoming the darling of the red set. A less expensive alternative to Cabernet Sauvigon, in the past year everyone I know is talking about Malbec. Friends are serving it at home and it’s even appearing on the menu in family style restaurants. A good California Cabernet Sauvignon under $40 is not easy to find, but it’s pretty easy to find a very good Malbec under $20. Because production costs for wine in South America are considerably less than here in the US, we can enjoy a perfect wine paired with our favorite grilled rib eye steak.

Susana Balbo Mendoza Signature 2007
Medium ruby color. Aromas of dark berries, licorice and oak. Flavors of dark cherries, plum with hints of vanilla, cocoa and oak. Full-bodied, good tannins with a long, fruity finish. Open 45 minutes before serving.
$20 at Hi-Time Wine Cellar in Costa Mesa

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WineDiva on December 29th, 2010

10 Wines for Your New Year’s Celebration
What’s not to love about Champagne? It goes with every type of food, it’s perfect all by itself and it makes any occasion special. Going into the next decade of the 21st century certainly calls for a drink – of something special! Cheers!

Top 5 Best Selling Champagnes over $30
1.    Veuve Clicquot Brut Champagne – $40
2.    Ariston Aspasie Brut Rosé Champagne – $33
3.    2002 Perrier-Jouët “Fleur de Champagne Belle Epoque” half-bottle – $40
4.    Krug “Grande Cuvée” Brut Champagne – $120
5.    Marguet Pere et Fils “Cuvee Reserve” Brut Champagne – $33

Top 5 Best Selling Champagnes for $30 or less:
1.    Ariston Aspasie “Carte Blanche” Brut Champagne – $25
2.    Nicholas Feuillatte “Blue Label” Brut Champagne – $25\
3.    Laurent-Perrier Brut Champagne – $30
4.    Michel Loriot “Cuvee Reserve” Brut Champagne -$30
5.    Philippe Gonet “Brut Reserve” Champagne – $30

Serve with Mini Potato Pancake Appetizers

Recipe: Read the rest of this entry »

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WineDiva on December 26th, 2010

Fruit, Cheese and Wine
The season for comic pears is short. If you can find these pears at the grocery store – buy them.They are wonderful – sweet and very juicy! They bruise easily though, so be careful when you’re handling them. Choose fruit that is still firm and after a few days they will be perfect for eating. Mmmm.

Sliced Comice, Stilton Cheese & Ruby Port
Comice is a heavenly sweet pear that is custard-like in texture when ripe. It’s an especially good dessert pear with full-bodied flavor.

Stilton is a very strong blue cheese with a salty, slightly chalky or grainy texture. This cheese will contrast nicely with the sweet and strong Comice pear flavor.

Ruby Port is a rich wine with ripe berry flavors that partner wonderfully with the sweeter pear. The Port’s rich body contrasts with the strong forward texture of the blue cheese.

We recommend:
Graham’s Six Grapes Reserve Port
Deep garnet color. Aromas of ripe plums and cherries with a hint of chocolate. Flavors of ripe berries and cocoa with a hint of tobacco and earth. complex, good structure and a long, smooth finish. This wine is always a crowd pleaser – even with those who think port is too sweet. $20 from

Comice, Roquefort Cheese & Sauternes
Comice pears are smooth and sweet with full flavors.  Roquefort cheese is sharp, rich, musty and has a mellow finish. The wine is bold and tannic with a rich body and smooth finish.

We recommend:
2007 Petit-Vedrines, Sauternes
Straw color. Aromas of pear, honey, stone fruit and a hint of citrus. Flavors of burnt sugar, marmalade and lemon with slight hint of spice. Full fruit finish.

Second label from Doisy-Vedrines. Its first label wine got 94-96 points from Robert Parker for the 2007. This is a great value! Previously $25 at K & L, now $20.

Serving suggestions from

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WineDiva on December 24th, 2010

Oprah’s Favorite Wine

Being one of the world’s wealthiest people, Oprah can pretty much afford any wine she likes. Surprisingly, some of her favorite wines are produced by a boutique winery in Napa Valley. Blackbird Vineyards is a relative newcomer to Napa Valley – producing it’s first vintage in 2003. And, typical of the area, they make Bordeaux style wines.

On her website, OmagOnline, you can sign up to win a sampler of 6 bottle of red and rose wines from the now-famous vineyard.

Blackbird 2007 “Illustration”
A blend 86% Merlot, and 3% Cabernet Sauvignon. Wine Enthusiast Magazine gave it 97 points:
“A spectacular wine that gets better and better with every sip. It’s dramatic from the get-go, with rich, fine tannins framing extraordinarily good flavors of blackberries, black currents, anise, dark chocolate and cedar.”

Winemaker notes:
Dark ruby red in color, this blend of predominately Merlot offers aromas of ripe plum, mocha, and violets that carry over beautifully onto the palate. Concentrated black fruit flavors give way to dense, yet integrated tannins. The wine’s finish reveals a noticeable acidity and depth to allow for longevity. $88 at K&L.

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WineDiva on December 14th, 2010

Soup and Wine
As winter approaches and the weather begins to get cooler – or colder, depending on where you live, soups are easy and delicious to have for lunch or dinner. When I was at Costco last week they had small bags (6 large onions) of sweet Mayan onions that I thought would be perfect for onion soup.

When I was getting ready to make the soup yesterday, in the back of my mind I kept thinking that a fruity Chardonnay would be a perfect pairing with the sweet onions. Lucky for us, we didn’t have to look far for the wine. Since this is the time of year we always seem to be in a race to drink wines we’ve had in the cooler a little too long I knew we had to have a Chardonnay that was ready to drink.

Since most Chardonnays don’t age well, we knew it was time to open the 2007 ZD. The first whiff was wonderfully fruity – I knew it would be perfect, and it was.

2007 ZD California Chardonnay
A blend of fruit from 4 California wine regions – Napa, Carneros, Monterey and Santa Barbara.

Gold color in the glass. Bursting with fruity aromas of peach, mango and pineapple with hints of nuts and spice. Flavors of pineapple, peach and honey with hints of vanilla and oak. Medium bodied. Nice fruity finish. Drink now. $24 at NapaCabs.

We served this wine with the easy to make, French onion soup. An excellent match.

French Onion Soup
2 Tbs butter
2 Tbs olive oil
6 Cups thinly sliced onions*
1 clove garlic paste
1/2 tsp salt
sprig of thyme
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1Tbs flour
6 Cups beef broth
6 toasted baguette slices
1 1/2 Cups grated Gruyère cheese
1/4 Cup dry Sherry
*If you are using yellow onions instead of sweet onions, add 1/2 tsp sugar

Heat butter and olive oil in a heavy skillet. When the butter starts to bubble, add sliced onions and simmer with lid on pan for 10 minutes.

Remove lid,turn heat up to medium high and stir. Keep stirring onions until they begin to turn brown – but not burned. This will take 25 – 30 minutes. This is the most time consuming part.

Heat a cup of beef stock in the microwave for about 50 seconds, then add flour and stir well – add to onions. Add remaining stock, garlic, Sherry, thyme and Worcestershire sauce to onions. Stir well and bring to a simmer. Cover loosely and simmer on low for 1 hour. If liquid reduces too much add a little water. Add salt and pepper to taste.

While soup simmers, slice the baguette and bake until toasted but not brown. I use the toaster oven.

Grate the cheese.

When ready to serve, put baked baguette slices on a foil lined cookie sheet, top with cheese and put under broiler until browned.

Ladle soup into bowls. Then using a spatula, remove browned cheese covered baguettes and place on top of soup in each bowl.

We served this soup with a salad.

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