Monday, November 3, 2014

Never Forget Your First Love

I remember my first introduction to Riesling.  I was at one of my favorite restaurants back in the mid-nineties.  At the time, my wine experience was limited to White Zinfandel.  I asked my server to introduce me to something new.  I was ready to move on from the pink stuff.  He introduced me to Johannesburg Riesling.  Like a lot of folks (some may not be willing to admit it), I initially thought this was a wine from South Africa.  But, nope.  It wasn’t.  It is merely a varietal of the grape.  This particular wine, I remember, was from Washington.  I fell in love with Riesling on that day.  My server may have coached me but I tasted hints of peach and honey and loved the overall fruitiness of what I was tasting.  My new wine, Riesling.  I remember shopping every Friday for Rieslings.  More and more, the wines that I selected weren’t quite like the ones that I had tasted that evening at the restaurant.  I have had some that are bone dry and others that are almost dessert wine clones.  Why?  Because I was tasting wines from various parts of the world.  Yes, they were all Rieslings but why did they taste so different?  The Rieslings from Washington tasted different from the ones from New York.  And they tasted different from the ones grown in Germany.  And then the Germans made them in their own range of styles that they identify on the bottles as Kabinett, Auslese, Spatlese, Beerenauslese…STOP!!!  That seemed so overwhelming for me to learn.  This was one grape, for goodness sake!  But Riesling was my first teacher on how grapes grown in various parts of the world can make such a difference in the bottle.  Most Rieslings are great food wines with their unique balance of acidity and fruit. ‘Tis the season for Riesling.  Because of its versatility, it is a perfect food wine that pairs well with your traditional holiday fare.  Try it with your turkey and sage dressing.  Riesling…my first love.

Revelry Riesling is our November Wine of the Month at The Vine Wine Club.  Use code “November” for free shipping on two or more bottles. 

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Join us each Friday on the May We Help You Radio Network at 3:00 pm for wine education, helpful tips, and fun.  "Off The Vine with Benita and Terricinia" can be found on Blog Talk Radio or you can listen on your phone at 646-652-2512.

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Saturday, October 4, 2014

'Tis the Season

I love wine during the holiday season!  It is the great connector and the ideal solution to help you get along better with estranged family and fair-weather friends.  Often times, I am asked which wines to buy with the intentions of pairing with the traditional Thanksgiving meal.  Roasted turkey with gravy, cornbread and sage dressing, cranberry sauce, candied yams, and the wine.  Of course, wine pairings aren't an exact science.  It's about what you like.  But here are some suggestions based strictly on characteristics of the wines.  One of my first recommendations is always Riesling.  I choose Riesling because of its perfect balance of acidity and fruitiness.  Its acidic nature make it a great food wine in general.  Its subtle notes of peach and honeysuckle make it an awesome match for ham and palatable with the turkey.  If you prepare dishes with a little "heat", Riesling is a great option for spicy foods.  My second recommendation is Gewurtraminer.  With its classic essence of pie spices such as cloves, allspice, and cinnamon, it pairs extremely well with the yams, the turkey and dressing.  Still balanced with acidity, the Gewurtraminer offers enough fruit to keep even the sweet wine lovers engaged.  Finally, Pinot Noir is the soft, supple red with notes of black cherry, raspberry, and a hint of vanilla (compliments of the oak fermentation) that is acidic enough to handle pork, the turkey, and the green vegetables.  And for those guests who swear that they can only drink reds, Pinot Noir will be a perfect crowd pleaser.

Disclaimer:  All families aren't the same.  If you are in my family, you may want to consider doing shots.  I'm thinking tequila.  What were you thinking?

The Vine Wine Club features its "Holiday Half", available now through December 15, 2014.  This half case consists of six wines that are perfect pours to please even the most discriminating holiday guests.  Tasting notes are included.  $64.99 plus tax and shipping.  Please visit for details and purchase.

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Monday, June 30, 2014

I (Heart) You, Malbec!

I think my heart is in Argentina.  No, I’ve never been there.  And no, there wasn’t a man who left me and traveled to South America (at least I don’t think so). But I am in love.  I have friends who travel to South America often.  They love the parties of Brazil and the women of the entire continent.  The intoxicating music and the festivals in the streets.  The cities don’t sleep.  Listening to them, it seems to be one big carnival all year.  And after I met my love, I understand why.   It must be the Malbec.  The medium bodied, fruit-forward, and luscious wine dances on the palette with flavors of blackberry and plum with a hint of soft tobacco on the finish.  Its ripeness is a result of the warm growing conditions of Argentina with low humidity.  Dry warm air and controlled moisture (irrigation) helps to grow a grape that is consistently plush and produces a wine with a velvety finish.  First planted in Argentina in the 1800’s, the country now grows more than 75% of the world’s Malbec.   It is quite the contrast to Malbec grown in France.  One of the 5 Bordeaux grapes, Malbec grown in France produces a more acidic juice with heavier tannins.  Still tasty and used in many red Bordeaux blends, it lends notes of black cherry. 

Malbecs from Argentina pair well with cheese (why do we drink wine with cheese anyway?) and lean meats.  I am not speaking from experience here because a good wine doesn’t need food (just my opinion).  I enjoy Malbec with the sunset, a fire, soft music, the silence.  It sparks my imagination and takes me to the streets of South America to enjoy the festivities with my friends.  I am in love with its magenta hue, the way that it smells, and how it bonds with my palate.  It makes me sing, “You’re All I Need”.  Malbec, I love you.  You’re the only thing that brings out the two words that I swore to never utter again.  I do. 

Thank you to my contributor, Dr. Willis!  Love you!!!

Special Announcement:  Wine Trip with The Vine and The Tipsy Sommelier
August 24, 2014, $95
Includes:  Bus transportation to 3 wineries, Cooper Vineyards, Wisdom Oak Winery, and First Colony Winery, all tasting fees, lunch and refreshments, and a helluva lot of fun!

For more information, please email for schedule, where to meet the bus, and how to pay.  More fun than you've had in a long time...we promise.


Monday, June 16, 2014

All This Time, I've Been Saying that I Don't Like Chardonnay

How can one grape taste so doggone different?  Well let me just tell you about my evolution.  I remember years ago when I started this life long lesson into wine, I couldn't stand Chardonnay.  My first experience was one that was over done in American Oak, giving me the mouthful of butter, making me long for a piece of toasted bread.  I remember it coating my tongue and making it very difficult to taste the next wine in the tasting order.  I remember the brand (but I won't say the name...but you wine folks will know it because it was the hottest brand selling back in the early 2000's). After that, I swore off Chardonnay.  As I continued to countless tastings, I would always skip the popular white wine.  I frequented the same wine shop every Friday so the owner got to know me quite well.  She noticed one day at a wine dinner that I always avoided Chards when she offered them.  Finally, she asked why.  At the dinner, she had a Chardonnay that she explained had been fermented in stainless steel.  My first thought was why would it matter.  Pleasantly surprised, this time I recognized more green apple and that it was quite a bit more acidic than the Chardonnays that I had come to know.  Okay, so I like steel fermented Chardonnays.  A few weeks later, I asked my server at a restaurant if the Chardonnay that I was about to select was oak or steel fermented.  He told me that it was French Oak. I guess that befuddled look on my face told a story that I had no clue what that meant.  Fortunately, he read me and offered me a taste before I made the commitment of buying a glass.  He explained that the French Oak wouldn't impart the buttery notes that the American Oak would.  What I found for myself was that I still got the green apple but it was softer.  The wine felt almost round in my mouth.  Hmmm, I liked this French Oak fermented Chardonnay.  Up until this point, almost all of the Chardonnay that I had tasted had come from California.  So imagine my surprise when I realized that this white wine that I was drinking from France was called Burgundy, and it was Chardonnay.  Wait a minute!  Everything that I knew (which wasn't much apparently) about burgundy was that it was a color in the red family so of course a Burgundy has to be red.  I had no clue that Burgundy was a region that produced some of the best grown Chardonnay in the world.  These white grapes from Burgundy, fermented in French oak changed my mind.  I love Chardonnay!  I had to share my experience through a wine class where I only featured Chardonnay just to show my friends who were still novices at the time that the process makes the difference.  And all this time that I've been saying that I don't like Chardonnay....clueless!

Hit us up on Facebook at The Vine Wine Club if you're interested in a Chardonnay Tasting Tour Class. Follow my evolution with friends!

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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Grape Expectations

As you may know, Fridays are a big day for The Vine Wine Club because we taste wines to place in our shop.  We look forward to it!  Last week was filled with as much anticipation as the others Fridays.  There is a child-like excitement in the room as our rep pulls the samples from her bag.  My favorites tend to be the reds that I know that she's opened early enough in the day that they've been allowed time to breathe.  Last Friday, she pulled out an Amarone.  My absolute favorite.  Known for its full-bodied mocha richness, ripeness beyond regular harvest, and relatively high alcohol volume, I was bracing myself for this little touch of heaven in a glass.  As I tasted through the rest of the offerings, my mind stayed on what awaited me...what was certain to be the last tasting of the evening...the bottle that I was assured to finish later on that evening.  The process of making Amarone sets this wine a part and places it in an elite category.  The grapes are allowed to hang on the vines a little longer than other grapes.  When they are finally harvested, the grapes are placed on a screen to dry out even more, allowing the sugar to become more concentrated and the grapes to lose water.  When the grapes are finally pressed, the resulting juice is normally aged about 5 years.  When my Amarone was poured, my mind had already made up in my mind that it was going to be the best thing that I would have today.  Even though it wasn't as dark in color as an Amarone typically is and poured a little light, I was still anticipating greatness.  I wasn't so pleased.  I didn't taste that rich glass of raisins that I expected.  I didn't get that mouthful of ripeness that I anticipated.  Disappointed, I realized that I had just had my first experience of a bad year.  My educated guess was that 2009 had possibly been a wet year which would have presented a challenge for winemakers.  But what do I know?  What I did know is that this wasn't what I expected and I will wait for a better vintage for my customers.  You're welcome!

In case you are curious, it was a wet year.  I did some homework.


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Monday, May 19, 2014


Summer, summer, summertime!  Memorial Day is upon us!  Some consider it the official beginning of summer.  Pools open, the beach traffic in this part of the country starts to pick up, and vacation plans are executed.  We've anxiously anticipated its arrival and now it's here!   This weekend, I hung out with The Tipsy Sommelier.  Saturday was a bright a sunny day and warm enough to sit outside comfortably.  So we sat down with a few open bottles of wine and enjoyed a buffet of crabs and sweet corn on the cob.  Our interest wasn't about pairing initially. It was merely supposed to be a social occasion.  But we started a discussion about what wine do you take when you are asked to bring wine to the cookout.  What goes with what?  I ended up with two glasses.  Not because of greed but because I was drinking a delicious Cabernet Franc before we sat down to eat and wanted to finish it after cracking a few crabs. Can't waste good wine, you know. I used the second glass to try a few different wines with my meal.  (Disclaimer:  I am not big on pairings.  I believe that you should drink what you like.  But since people often times ask, I don't object to sharing the little bit that I've learned over the years.)  I tasted through 2 oz  pours of Pinot Gris, Muscat, and a semi-dry Riesling.  The Pinot Gris didn't seem to stand up.  Compared to the spiciness of the seasoned crabs and the sweetness of the meat, the Pinot Gris faded way to the back.  It played like a blank canvas waiting to be brought to life with vibrant color.  Secondly, I tried the Muscat.  This Alsacean style had fruit on the entrance but a clean and dry finish.  For my personal preference, a little too fruity for the succulent crab meat but I did love the fact that the sweetness didn't coat your tongue like some muscats do.  I made a mental note to have that Barth Rene' Muscat again with Thai or Indian food.  Finally, the semi-dry Riesling made perfect sense.  It was just sweet enough to balance out the spice rendered by the Old Bay on the crabs and just acidic enough to balance the butter of the corn on the cob.  Lamoreaux Landing Semi-Dry Riesling could easily be a crowd favorite at cookouts as it will handle most salads, chicken, and seafood and be an excellent stand alone offering as you sit around the pool.  So what's in your glass?

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Monday, May 12, 2014

All That Sparkles isn't Champagne

Picky, picky, picky are those folks in a little town in France that make some of the finest sparkling wines in the world.  But hey, they have a right to be.  They have a process that has been proven to delight our taste buds and heighten our senses for centuries.  Champagne!  Even the name sounds rich.  In the season of celebrations, lots of bottles will be popped and the bubbles will fly.  But not all can afford to let the Champagne flow.  Thankfully, there are some great alternatives.  Each year for Mother's Day, we enjoy brunch with mimosas.  Now when I have Champagne, I won't add orange juice.  So I typically opt for a Cava, Spain's offering to sparkling wines.  Made mostly of xarel-lo, it is traditionally made in the champenoise method.  Because of its citrus notes, I think it is perfect with mimosas.  Another option is Prosecco, grown from grapes primarily from the Veneto region of Italy.  Like Champagne, it is a great aperitif.  Can I be frank?  Most of us who do not study wine or make this a part of our daily lives cannot blind taste the difference between Champagne, Cava, or Prosecco, and that's being real.  But where we all can see the difference is the price tag.  Cava and Prosecco are far more budget friendly.  So when you are celebrating with friends, family, at a wedding, or just because it's Monday, you don't have to bust the bank account.  Try a Cava or Prosecco.  Ain't nothing wrong with ballin' on a budget!

Congratulations to our newest Virginia State University Alumnus...Navi Lewis Johnson!

Mark your calendars!  June 6 kicks off "Off The Vine with Benita and Terricinia" on May We Help You Radio.  Our show will air weekly at 3:00 pm.  More details to come.


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Thursday, May 8, 2014

How Much to Pay for a Rose'

We are still at it....selecting the best wines for our online club and store.  Yesterday, we were introduced to everything from a fruity, sparkling wine from Hungary to a bold red blend dominated by Zinfandel from California.  One of the wines that we tasted with a Rose' made of Grenache. When I asked the cost of the wine, I quickly realized at normal retail markup, this would have to retail for $30.  What!  A $30 Rose???  I had never paid $30 for a Rose' and wondered... would I?  And more importantly, could I sell it.  With yesterday's wine tasting, we had grilled foods that ran the gamut.  We had vegan black bean burgers with guacamole, lemon pepper salmon, and delectable New York Strip steaks as our showstoppers.  The Rose' held its own with the evening meal, not that we were actually trying to pair anything in particular.  But the question was raised...just how much would you pay for a Rose'?  This particular one had a great balance of acidity and the essence of strawberry.  Slightly chilled, it was a star under a beautiful sunset.  But at the end of the day, a decision had to be made.  This is business and as far as Rose' are concerned, I've tasted better for less! This one didn't make the cut.  But still looking!  So we want to know...what's your favorite Rose'?

Shout out to The Tipsy Sommelier for helping to make my job fun!  If you are looking for fun wine classes, visit her site at

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Monday, May 5, 2014

Bratwurst and Wine?

I cook with wine often.  My thought is that if what I'm preparing requires a liquid, make it something that has flavor.  Water works as it meets the liquid requirement but falls far short in the taste category.  Of course, I'm not saying that water can be know what I mean.  Anyway, this weekend my sons wanted Bratwursts.  No problem.  I had poured myself a glass of wine already because, as I've said, I cook with wine often. Typically when I cook bratwursts, I simmer them in beer first before I finish them on the grill.  Those lucky "brats" got to simmer and soak up one of my favorite beers, Hoegaarden.  Nothing but the best for my "brats".   As the beer simmered out of the pan, I added Vidalia onions.  Once the brats had graduated to the grill, I wanted to make something extra special out of those pan drippings and caramelized onions.  So I decided to share what I was drinking with what was left in the pan.  With a little butter and a drop of Worcestershire Sauce, I poured in some Pietra Santa Sacred Stone's Master Blend.  Masterful!  Those onions were the perfect accompaniment to the brats but I bet they would have been fantastic on the bun by themselves (if you've ever craved an onion sandwich).  In the glass, the wine is bold, a little earthy, but filled with hints of cherries and plum.  It would go great with your grilled meats this summer!  

Membership to The Vine Wine Club will open in June.  Be sure to join because Sacred Stone's Master Blend will be one of our monthly featured wines.  Stay tuned for membership information and upcoming events by following us on Twitter and on Facebook.

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Monday, April 28, 2014

Palate Pleasing Wines

One of the tasks of opening any new business is selecting quality products that you believe will attract and retain customers.  In the wine business, like others, that's a huge responsibility.  For about the last 45 days, my partner and I have tasted wines from every corner of the world.  Putting personal preferences aside, we taste and search for the descriptors that will help our customers understand what is in the bottle that they've selected.  First, let me clarify...I am no wine critic.  I like what I like, and I make an effort to discern my personal taste from the nuances that others find appealing when selecting wine.  My partner, on the other hand, has two categories when making selections...good or not good.  Together, we understand that our fans and future customers may not share our palates.  What we like is not directly related to what our members will enjoy.  Our hope is that when you become a part of The Vine Wine Club family, you will follow our blog and communicate with us on our various social medias and tell us what you like.  We promise to recommend something that will please your palate.

Upcoming Event:  Wine and White Party, July 5, 2014.  Tickets $40, Food, Wine, and Dancing

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Thursday, April 24, 2014

A Different Wine Club Experience

While wading through the "process" of opening an online wine club and retail shop, let me share a peek inside of "The Vine". The goal is to create an interactive experience for our members.  Each month, our members will receive two bottles of wine.  As a member, you will also be offered special discounts on our featured wines and other products.  Like other wine clubs, you will have the opportunity to buy top quality wines produced by some of the world's finest wine makers.  Our members will be invited to share knowledge, personal preferences, and taste through our blog (Something to Wine About) and on our live radio show "Off The Vine with Benita and Terricinia" that will air on Fridays at 3:00 pm starting June 6.  We are going places, literally, with wine trips planned to festivals and wineries both domestically and abroad.  Membership packages go on sale June 9 with special discounts offered for those who enroll early!

(I am looking for another word to use for our members because I am tired of writing the word "member" and you must be tired of reading it!  I will have a name next week but will gladly take your suggestions.)

Remember to follow us on Twitter, Google +, and Pinterest at TheVineWineClub.  We promise to keep you informed.  The first wine trip is being planned now.  Information coming soon.


Monday, April 21, 2014

The Vine Wine Club is Coming!!!

I miss my wine friends!!!!  Closing down Grapes & Barley in December 2009 was bittersweet.  I met so many people who have since become family to me.  We went on the best "business" trips to Napa, Italy, The Biltmore, and many other places disguised as excuses to drink wine.  What an experience!  Well, now I am coming back to the profession that I have missed tremendously.  Talk about turning your love into your living! This is the countdown to The Vine Wine Club!  The website will launch in July.  In the meantime, I am building my social media accounts and setting everything in motion for a successful launch.  Details of how you can join are coming soon.  So join me on Google + at Vine Wine.  Give me a few days and I will have Pinterest and Twitter accounts too.  I will keep you posted.

The Vine Wine Club

Site launch in July.

Follow the blog for updates on pre-launch parties and early membership deals!