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These sustainable cabins settle into gorgeous landscapes

In remote spots all over the western United States, one architecture firm is blending the past with modern design. JLF Architects has designed several sustainable cabins to create a vision for the future[...]

Sustainable renovation brings The Bailey Residence to life

In Black Butte Ranch, Oregon, The Bailey Residence is a nostalgic, sustainable renovation. Last updated in the 1970s, the 1,800-square-foot residential property has been reimagined by Oregon-based design firm Hacker.[...]

Cute Gentoo penguin takes selfies in this amazing video

Thanks to advances in technology,A penguinsA can now take selfies. Like a snowboarder with a GoPro, a Gentoo penguin was able to document its twisting, diving, sardine gobbling, and general shredding through the waters off Tierra del Fuego, thanks to Argentinian scientists who fitted him with a special video camera. You can see the penguin rocketing through densely packed schools of fish, with other swimming shorebirds in the background.[...]

This green community immerses its residents in natural living

Living the Noom started with an idea: create a lifestyle option that met the needs of someone aiming to live an eco-friendly, wellness-centered lifestyle. Designed by Sanzpont (arquitectura) and Pedrajo + Pedrajo Architects, Living the Noom has won Architizer, Muse and Rethinking the Future awards for its innovative ideas. The first community applying Living the Noom concepts is in Cancun, Mexico.[...]

Plant Prefab aims to make housing accessible and affordable

Between impact on the land, use of resources, construction waste and effects on air quality, the building and maintenance of homes and businesses accounts for nearly 40% of carbon emissions on the planet. Plant Prefab setting out to change all that.[...]

Coral in the Mediterranean threatened by heatwaves

A new study has found that heatwaves associated with climate change are threatening coral populations in the Mediterranean. The study, published inA Proceedings of the Royal Society Biology, established that corals could be wiped out unless action is taken soon.A [...]

Tonga faces environmental damage after massive eruption

The worldas most powerful eruption in more than 30 years has left the Pacific Island nation ofA TongaA an ashy mess. The January 15 eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga HaE>>apai, a massive underwaterA volcano, has left unknown environmental consequences in its wake.[...]

Canton Avenue harkens back to the Silk Road of China

The Canton Avenue by MOK Design for the Westin Pazhou Hotel in Guangzhou is a walk back in time, revisiting the days when the hotel was a stop on the historic Silk Road of China. The Westin Pazhou Hotel Guangzhou was jointly built by China Foreign Trade Center (Group) and Starwood Hotels and Resorts International Group. It is located in the center of the Guangzhou International Convention & Exhibition Center, with views of the city and the Pearl River. [...]

19th century Harlem house restored to be energy efficient

A 19th-century house, owners interested in passive house design and an architectural firm came together with a resulting blend of original elements married to modern innovations in a big-city row house.[...]

Urban Forest is set to be the greenest residential building

Urban Forest designed by Koichi Takada Architects and developed by Aria Property Group received approval to be built in South Brisbane, Australia. The 20-storey building will house 194 apartments, all trimmed out with luscious vertical garden balconies. [...]

Aptera upgrades its unique solar-charging EV

Aptera's three-wheeler enclosed electric car has already made its mark as a unique new offering on the EV scene. The solar-charging EV never needs to be plugged in, all while competing with mid-level Teslas for range when charged as a traditional EV. Now, Aptera says it has completed some major upgrades to make the cars even more competitive. Here's what's new with Aptera's revolutionary EVs.[...]

Indoor-outdoor living drives this design for VAVA House

Architecture takes a variety of forms and serves many purposes, but most people would agree that the best home is one that meets the family's needs and lifestyle goals. To this end, VAVA House was designed to emphasize indoor-outdoor living through shared space and a connection to the outdoors.[...]

Meditation cottage fits on the tiniest lakefront space

Sometimes, architecture is about specific design elements or striking visual characteristics. Sometimes, itas more about letting the location of the structure have the last word. Situated on a slim slice of shorefront land in eastern Finland, the KynttilA$? (candle) is a sustainable meditation cottage that honors unique location requirements.A [...]

LEED Gold HEC Montreal will house AI research

HEC Montreal, designed by Provencher_Roy, is a partnership between Montreal's business community and local students and researchers. The certified LEED Gold center is located at the intersection of the Quartier des Affaires, Quartier des Spectacles and the Quartier International on a historic site of Canada. HEC Montreal aims to be a hub of exchange through collaborative programs for academics and business leaders working together. [...]

Energy efficient bamboo device in Vietnam is a cooling system

AREP, a multidisciplinary architecture agency, created a cooling system prototype based on the history, culture and original designs used by ancient civilizations. Called an adiabatic urban cooling system, the idea dates back centuries, yet is still perhaps the most natural solution for the challenges of cooling modern Vietnamese cities facing regular heat waves.[...]

IMMERST floating community is adaptable, modular and prefab

As buildable land becomes increasingly scarce, long-standing yacht company Stephens Waring Design has developed a new design concept called OASys (Ocean Architectural System), which could be the answer for coastline challenges likeanimalhabitat conservation, erosion and lack of suitable development space.[...]

ExxonMobil plays dirty to deny role in the climate crisis

ExxonMobil has turned to intimidation in attempts to stop its critics from taking legal action. The giant oil company is trying to use an unusual Texas law to target critics outside the state. Exxon has asked the Texas Supreme Court to allow it to use rule 202 to take on California municipal officials.A A [...]

Polar researchers discover enormous icefish nesting site

They have see-through skulls, transparent blood, and they built 60 million nests beneath the frigid waters of theA Antarctic Sea. Theyare Jonahas icefish, and a polarA researchA team has just discovered what might be their largest breeding colony in the world.[...]

Airavat is a home in the clouds flowing with beauty

Airavat, a "home in the clouds," is a new creation by reD Architects on the outskirts of Mumbai that casts a striking complement to its natural surroundings. [...]

Ambitious new EV charging network launches in the US

Access to charging stations is one of the stumblingA blocks for America's proposed electric vehicle future. Missouri-based EOS Linx found a way to combine its work in advertising, security, data analytics and renewable energy into an interesting package that could quickly boost EV driversa charging options. [...]

The climate crisis could sink the UK's economy by 2045

The U.K. is at risk of losing 1% of its economy every year by 2045 due to the climate crisis. This is according to the U.K. government's recent assessment of theA risks posed by climate change. In a five-year analysis of the climate risk, officials determined that the U.K. stands to lose even more if actions are not taken to reverse the climate crisis.A A [...]

Coal production in China reached record high in 2021

Despite global cries for an end tofossil fueluse, Chinaas coal production reached record levels last year. The government encouraged miners to ramp up production, working at maximum capacity to increase Chinaas economic growth.[...]

Create your own trees out of greenscreen's 3D trellis

The greenscreen gsTree modular trellis system has won the 2021 Architizer A+ Product Award for conceptual design, the largest awards program in architecture and design. This unique 3D trellising system forms a tree-like shape that elevates and then spreads, growing plants to 10-feet heights. [...]

Zero waste homes are 3D printed in less than 24 hours

Industries around the world are constantly innovating, however, the construction industry has been slow to adopt new technologies. Mighty Buildings is changing all that with the development of a concrete-replacement known as light-stone material (LSM) used to 3D print a home in less than 24 hours.[...]

Carbon-neutral Nabr apartments are move-in ready by 2023

Nabr is disrupting the housing market with a completely new way to buy customized sustainable apartments. You can buy one entirely through software. Just as startups have given us new online options for car buying, Nabr wants to change the outdated way we shop for the right home.[...]

Passive design helps Lucio building regulate its temperature

The architectural design of the Lucio office building in Lille, France, integrates with the sun for variable lighting and temperature control in a smart passive design. [...]

Green roofs top Marmormolen's sustainable timber architecture

The timber design for Copenhagen's upcoming large commercial building Marmormolen shows sustainable architecture leadership from designers Henning Larson and Ramboll. Lush with green roofs, a waterfront garden and more, the project shows what a commercial building can be to a community.[...]

New ACME Pavilion employs sustainable CLT construction

Design house ACME's director Friedrich Ludewig drew on the inspiration of Alpine architecture and nearby Olympic Park to guide the design of The Pavilion at Stratford Square in east London, a gently undulating pavilion made using cross-laminated timber (CLT) construction.[...]

Vegan handbags' new line was inspired by photography and women

Investing in a long product lifespan is one of the most sustainable actions companies and consumers can make. NOIRANCA, a company singularly aimed at this goal, has debuted a line of handbags with a commitment to protecting the environment.[...]

Keyword Selected: tea

Kanom krok recipe | Thai coconut pancakes

Kanom krok is a tasty Thai coconut milk based mini pancakes popular street food as well. Learn how to make these at home with step by step photos and video. Kanom krok is popular street food sold throughout the day in Thailand. Check out this Corn fritters and Thai green mango salad recipe in this...

Read More

The post Kanom krok recipe | Thai coconut pancakes appeared first on Raks Kitchen.


Aloo puff, Potato puffs Indian

Aloo puff in Indian style with cute little baby potatoes, lots of caramelized onion and spice powders. Crispy bakery style puffs, homemade tea time snack. Perfect for snack time with tea or coffee in weekends or weekday back from school snack. This is vegetarian version that I was dreaming to recreate the looks. You may...

Read More

The post Aloo puff, Potato puffs Indian appeared first on Raks Kitchen.


Avocado Paratha | Avocado Indian recipes

Avocado paratha is one of the best way to include avocado in Indian recipes. Turns of dream soft, without oil and tasty, eye appealing that even kids would love it. Pack it for lunch box with a side, it stays soft or you can even use this as wrap instead of regular roti. Also check...

Read More

The post Avocado Paratha | Avocado Indian recipes appeared first on Raks Kitchen.


Vegetable sagu recipe

Vegetable sagu is a popular side dish prepared in Karnataka with a special fresh ground masala. This particular recipe is slightly greenish in color typically because of the ground paste we add. Goes well with Poori as well as Rava idli and other dishes like chapati, dosa etc. This tastes similar to my other recipe...

Read More

The post Vegetable sagu recipe appeared first on Raks Kitchen.


Sooji Ka Halwa Recipe

Sooji ka halwa, an Indian dish prepared with semolina, sugar and ghee as main ingredients. Let's see how to make sooji halwa easily in this post with step by step photos and video. Sooji ka halwa is very popular during Ashtami as Puri halwa. Also is a prasad in other festival days. Make it anytime...

Read More

The post Sooji Ka Halwa Recipe appeared first on Raks Kitchen.


Eggless Lamingtons recipe | Australian cake

Eggless lamingtons, an Australian snack cake, made with delicious butter cake. It is dipped in chocolate sauce and have desiccated coconut coating. Best for Christmas or for New Year celebrations. Also can be a part of your Holiday season get togethers. Do check out my Indian Bakery style Honey cake. It is also so close...

Read More

The post Eggless Lamingtons recipe | Australian cake appeared first on Raks Kitchen.


Brinjal Moju Recipe

Brinjal moju is a Sri Lankan style curry with shallots, green chilli and mustard as main ingredients. Check out my take on this delicious recipe. Brinjal can be cooked in various ways as accompaniment for rice, as part of your lunch. This is also another wonderful find my BIL that he shared, and we had...

Read More

The post Brinjal Moju Recipe appeared first on Raks Kitchen.


Pachai Puli Rasam Recipe

Pachai puli rasam is made by no cook method, with simple ingredients, yet so unique in taste and flavor. Within minutes this is ready and worth a try. Make it as a part of your south Indian lunch menu, for a change or for a quick fix. This is a variation of my 10 mins...

Read More

The post Pachai Puli Rasam Recipe appeared first on Raks Kitchen.


Gur paratha recipe

Gur paratha is jaggery stuffed flatbread with ghee, a best winter special recipe as well as kids favorite. Make it as back from school snack or even as breakfast for kids, it will get over in no time. This was inspiration for my Nutella chapathi in my website. Check out my Gond ke laddu recipe...

Read More

The post Gur paratha recipe appeared first on Raks Kitchen.


Gond ke laddu recipe | Winter special recipes

Gond ke laddu is a popular winter delicacy across north India with Ingredients like wheat flour, edible gum (gum arabic) and Jaggery. These are prepared especially during winter and also given to lactating moms. This is a loaded version of my other recipe on this site, and also check out my til gud gajak recipe...

Read More

The post Gond ke laddu recipe | Winter special recipes appeared first on Raks Kitchen.


Wheatgrass juice recipe | Natural Immunity booster

Wheatgrass juice is best way to include it in our diet. Natural way to improve immunity. Learn how to make it palatable to begin with this superfood. A healthy way to start your day with this energizing drink. I can relate it to other Indian drinks like Jal jeera recipe and Shikanji recipe in my...

Read More

The post Wheatgrass juice recipe | Natural Immunity booster appeared first on Raks Kitchen.


Thinai laddu Recipe | Thinai urundai

Thinai laddu or Thinai urundai with just honey as sweetener and ghee for flavor. A quick prasadam you can offer for Karthigai Deepam festival as Thinai is Lord Murugan's favorite. This is a nutritious, healthy snack with no refined sugar and the millet flour. This is just like other laddu recipes but sweetened with honey....

Read More

The post Thinai laddu Recipe | Thinai urundai appeared first on Raks Kitchen.


Kanom krok recipe | Thai coconut pancakes

Kanom krok is a tasty Thai coconut milk based mini pancakes popular street food as well. Learn how to make these at home with step by step photos and video. Kanom krok is popular street food sold throughout the day in Thailand. Check out this Corn fritters and Thai green mango salad recipe in this...

Read More

The post Kanom krok recipe | Thai coconut pancakes appeared first on Raks Kitchen.


Aloo puff, Potato puffs Indian

Aloo puff in Indian style with cute little baby potatoes, lots of caramelized onion and spice powders. Crispy bakery style puffs, homemade tea time snack. Perfect for snack time with tea or coffee in weekends or weekday back from school snack. This is vegetarian version that I was dreaming to recreate the looks. You may...

Read More

The post Aloo puff, Potato puffs Indian appeared first on Raks Kitchen.


Avocado Paratha | Avocado Indian recipes

Avocado paratha is one of the best way to include avocado in Indian recipes. Turns of dream soft, without oil and tasty, eye appealing that even kids would love it. Pack it for lunch box with a side, it stays soft or you can even use this as wrap instead of regular roti. Also check...

Read More

The post Avocado Paratha | Avocado Indian recipes appeared first on Raks Kitchen.


Vegetable sagu recipe

Vegetable sagu is a popular side dish prepared in Karnataka with a special fresh ground masala. This particular recipe is slightly greenish in color typically because of the ground paste we add. Goes well with Poori as well as Rava idli and other dishes like chapati, dosa etc. This tastes similar to my other recipe...

Read More

The post Vegetable sagu recipe appeared first on Raks Kitchen.


Sooji Ka Halwa Recipe

Sooji ka halwa, an Indian dish prepared with semolina, sugar and ghee as main ingredients. Let's see how to make sooji halwa easily in this post with step by step photos and video. Sooji ka halwa is very popular during Ashtami as Puri halwa. Also is a prasad in other festival days. Make it anytime...

Read More

The post Sooji Ka Halwa Recipe appeared first on Raks Kitchen.


Eggless Lamingtons recipe | Australian cake

Eggless lamingtons, an Australian snack cake, made with delicious butter cake. It is dipped in chocolate sauce and have desiccated coconut coating. Best for Christmas or for New Year celebrations. Also can be a part of your Holiday season get togethers. Do check out my Indian Bakery style Honey cake. It is also so close...

Read More

The post Eggless Lamingtons recipe | Australian cake appeared first on Raks Kitchen.


Brinjal Moju Recipe

Brinjal moju is a Sri Lankan style curry with shallots, green chilli and mustard as main ingredients. Check out my take on this delicious recipe. Brinjal can be cooked in various ways as accompaniment for rice, as part of your lunch. This is also another wonderful find my BIL that he shared, and we had...

Read More

The post Brinjal Moju Recipe appeared first on Raks Kitchen.


Pachai Puli Rasam Recipe

Pachai puli rasam is made by no cook method, with simple ingredients, yet so unique in taste and flavor. Within minutes this is ready and worth a try. Make it as a part of your south Indian lunch menu, for a change or for a quick fix. This is a variation of my 10 mins...

Read More

The post Pachai Puli Rasam Recipe appeared first on Raks Kitchen.


Gur paratha recipe

Gur paratha is jaggery stuffed flatbread with ghee, a best winter special recipe as well as kids favorite. Make it as back from school snack or even as breakfast for kids, it will get over in no time. This was inspiration for my Nutella chapathi in my website. Check out my Gond ke laddu recipe...

Read More

The post Gur paratha recipe appeared first on Raks Kitchen.


Gond ke laddu recipe | Winter special recipes

Gond ke laddu is a popular winter delicacy across north India with Ingredients like wheat flour, edible gum (gum arabic) and Jaggery. These are prepared especially during winter and also given to lactating moms. This is a loaded version of my other recipe on this site, and also check out my til gud gajak recipe...

Read More

The post Gond ke laddu recipe | Winter special recipes appeared first on Raks Kitchen.


Wheatgrass juice recipe | Natural Immunity booster

Wheatgrass juice is best way to include it in our diet. Natural way to improve immunity. Learn how to make it palatable to begin with this superfood. A healthy way to start your day with this energizing drink. I can relate it to other Indian drinks like Jal jeera recipe and Shikanji recipe in my...

Read More

The post Wheatgrass juice recipe | Natural Immunity booster appeared first on Raks Kitchen.


Thinai laddu Recipe | Thinai urundai

Thinai laddu or Thinai urundai with just honey as sweetener and ghee for flavor. A quick prasadam you can offer for Karthigai Deepam festival as Thinai is Lord Murugan's favorite. This is a nutritious, healthy snack with no refined sugar and the millet flour. This is just like other laddu recipes but sweetened with honey....

Read More

The post Thinai laddu Recipe | Thinai urundai appeared first on Raks Kitchen.


Hereas what Apple might announce at a spring event this March

An iPhone SE, new iPads, and more ARM Macs? All possible.

90% of US has a poor diet, and 25% doesnat exercise

Health industry loves to peddle pills and tricks, but Americans are missing the basics.

Dark Souls servers taken down following discovery of critical vulnerability

No interaction required. "I didn't even know that shit was possible," pwned player says.

AT&T announces multi-gigabit fiber: $110 a month for 2Gbps, $180 for 5Gbps

2Gbps and 5Gbps available to 5.2 million homes and businesses in 70+ metro areas.

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Wine That Stands Up to Pesto















My usual go-to wine when strong green, herbal notes are part of a dish is Sauvignon Blanc. But New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs are often quite citrusy, and US Sauvignon Blancs can be too melony and soft for basil. So I opened a Chilean Sauvignon Blanc--and it was perfect with my linguine tossed with homemade pesto and topped with some heirloom cherry tomatoes.


The 2011 ViA+-a Carmen Sauvignon Blanc Gran Reserva (available for $13-$15 in the market) is made from grapes grown in the Leyda Valley. It has vibrant aromas of grass, gooseberry, and that uniquely weird smell of boxwood that I often smell in Sauvignon Blancs from the southern hemisphere. This wine was green and leafy rather than citrusy, with a backbone of acidity that was neutral in flavor but kept your mouth watering for more. The midpalate was herbal, making me think 'this is what Cabernet Franc would taste like if it were white and not red.' Cool and refreshing, this stood up to the basil. If you have the wine with something less resolutely green, you may find that its assertiveness is a problem but if you have basil, this is a good wine to go with it--and it represents very good QPR.
Full Disclosure: I received a sample of this wine for possible review.

Fish Eye Pinot Grigio: A Genuine Bargain in White Wine

I first enjoyed the Fish Eye Pinot Grigio in 2009 with my fellow wine bloggers at our annual conference (and wrote about that experience here). It was a humbling moment for many of us, who were a bit sniffy about the wine based on the cute label, its availability in large-format bottles and boxes, and because it was Pinot Grigio. There is a lot (and I do mean a lot) of terrible, cheap Pinot Grigio out there. So much of it, in fact, that I've stopped ordering it in restaurants.
So it is with great pleasure that I report that the 2011 Fish Eye Pinot Grigio still has a suggested retail price of $7 (though you can find it in the market for prices between $5 and $10), it is still delicious, it is still widely available throughout the country, and it is still excellent QPR. Expect zesty, pure lemon and lime aromas and to have those scents echo through the flavors. You might detect a nice peachy note as you sip, which takes off some of the bitterness that can be associated with Pinot Grigio.

This is a versatile, food-friendly wine that is light enough to pair with vegetables and salads at a weekend lunch, will be a great companion to asparagus and lemon pasta as you work your way into your spring recipes, and will be welcome at summer barbeques so if you see some on the shelf give it a try.

Full Disclosure: I received a sample of this wine for possible review.

Miracles Happen: Three Worthy Pinot Noirs for $25 or Less

Pinot Noir is a budgetary nightmare for most of us. Pinot is a finicky grape, which makes it difficult to grow, which translates into expensive bottles on the shelves. And that was before the movie that put Pinot Noir in everybody's glass, displacing Merlot.
Recently, I had not one, not two, but THREE bottles of Pinot Noir that were impressive--and none cost more than $25, which is quite reasonable by Pinot Noir standards. If $25 is too much for you--or you like more traditional tasting wines--scroll down to the final recommendation. At $12, it's a steal.

2010 Davis Bynum Pinot Noir (suggested retail $25; available in the market for $20-24) This excellent QPR example of Russian River Valley Pinor Noir has full-bore raspberry aromas and flavors with a burnt sugar edge. The mouthfeel is silky, with lots of toast and spice. The finish is long, with cinnamon and clove notes.
2010 Echelon Pinot Noir Russian River Valley (suggested retail $24.99; use the winery's "where to buy" feature to find a bottle near you) For around the same price as the Davis Bynum, and from grapes grown in the same place, this very good QPR example has intense raspberry fruit with a slightly candied edge to the flavors. The aftertaste is spicy, but less complex and dominated by clove notes.

(suggested retail $12) You might not expect to find Pinot Noir in Chile, but think again. This wine was much lighter in style, which some prefer, with pure raspberry aromas and flavors. You can't beat it for the price, this is a simple and delicious expression of the grape. Excellent QPR for a wine that will appeal to fans of more traditional Pinot Noir.

Full Disclosure: I received samples of these wines for possible review.

Sauvignon Blanc...from Slovenia

Wine is an adventure. At least that's what I've always thought. So many grapes. So many styles. So many countries to visit--even if it's only through the liquid in your glass.
So when one of my favorite addictions--er, on-line retailers--Garagiste up in Seattle offered a three-pack of Slovenian whites to try, I jumped at the opportunity. The three-pack cost around $45, which meant there was a $15 investment per bottle for a Riesling, a Chardonnay, and a Sauvignon Blanc. Recently, I opened up the Sauvignon Blanc and was extremely pleased at my first foray into Slovenian wine.

You might not think "Slovenia" and "Sauvignon Blanc" in the same breath, but there's no reason why you shouldn't do so. Most parts of the globe have a history of wine-making, and that includes central Europe. I had some amazing Merlot when I visited Prague, and have enjoyed some wonderful Romanian wine here on the blog, and one of my all-time-favorite wines from Trader Joe's comes from Hungary. As for Slovenia, they have a venerable viticultural tradition that goes back to pre-Roman times (check this site for more information). So don't be afraid to try wine from regions you may be unfamiliar with, as they often represent very good value, as in this very good QPR example.

2008 Marof Sauvignon Blanc ( purchased in a three-pack from Garagiste; available in the market for around $11) This terrific Sauvignon Blanc had tart lemon pith, gooseberry, and lemongrass aromas and flavors. It was very clean and precise, without being overly herbaceous. A nice balance of fruit and acidity made it an ideal partner for food, and you can't complain about the price! It would be excellent with all kinds of dishes, from salads, to fish, to roasted chicken with lemon. We had it with a soup made with ancient grains and vegetables, and the lively acidity was a lovely counterpoint to the earthiness of the kamut and lentils, and picked out the bright tarragon herbal notes.

Classic Cabernets for $15 or Less

There are all kinds of Cabernet Sauvignon out there. Some are too fruity for me. Some are too green. Some are too expensive. Some are too huge, with big alcohol and palate-punishing tannins.
I like my Cabernets to have a classic profile: plum and currant in the fruit department, pepper for spice, and enough acidity that I know I'm not drinking watered-down jam.

Here are three bottles that fit my preferences--and none has a suggested retail of more than $15. If you like your Cabernets big and bold or fruity and sweet, these wines may not appeal to you. But if what you're looking for is a wine that shows the grape's varietal character and an appealing price point, give one of them a try.

2009 Lander Jenkins Cabernet Sauvignon Spirit Hawk (suggested retail $15; available in the market for $7-$15) Rich plum aromas characteristic of this grape variety lead into a plummy palate with notes of mocha and eucalyptus. Though the tannins are fine-grained, they have a nice grip that will be appealing to lovers of more brawny wine. Excellent QPR.

2010 Robert Mondavi Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Private Selection (suggested retail $11; available for $8-$12 in the market) This wine has classic aromas and flavors of cassis, plum, herbs, and green pepper with smooth, well-integrated tannins. This will not necessarily appeal to fans of hugely fruity Cabernets, but if elegance is what you're after, you can't do better than this for $11. Excellent QPR.

(suggested retail $13.99; available for $7-$9 in the market) Another Cabernet built along classic lines, this bottle has some green pepper aromas and flavors among the cassis and cherry. There is good acidity, and tannins that area bit astringent in the mouth--which will make it a great partner for juicy beef dishes. Very good QPR (though if you find it for $7, consider this excellent QPR!)

Classic pairings for Cabernet Sauvignon include burgers, roast beef, grilled steak, and (a personal favorite from my childhood) Pepper Steak. If you're a vegetarian and want something to go with Cabernet, look for a recipe that uses rosemary like this white bean and rosemary soup recipe (sub veggie stock for the chicken stock). Rosemary and Cabernet are a match made in heaven!

Full Disclosure: I received samples of these wines for possible review.

Aromatic Food Calls for Aromatic Wine

If you are fond of aromatic food--including Thai, Moroccan, or Indian dishes--you might find them difficult to pair with wine. All those spices can overwhelm an ordinary white or red, and very tannic or very acidic wines can clash with what's on your plate. Often, I recommend Gewurztraminer or Riesling when there are lots of spices in a recipe (and I mean spicy, not necessarily hot).
There is another good option, however: Viognier. The grape is well-known among Rhone wine lovers, but may not be something you've tasted. Intensely aromatic wines made with Viognier can be wonderful with their floral scents and full-bodied texture, but there are many examples (especially inexpensive bottles) that taste a bit too much like dish detergent and feel waxy in the mouth.

So I'm really pleased to have discovered this excellent QPR option for those of you who would like to try something different in the white wine department. Try it with something like this one-pot chicken and chickpea tagine with bulgur (also from Mark Bittman...I'm on a Bittman kick these days).

2010 Wild Horse Viognier (suggested retail $17; average online price also $17) This wine is an excellent example of what Viognier can be, with lemon pith and honeysuckle aromas and flavors. Its stony core keeps it from getting sweet and sappy, and there is a liveliness in the mouth. Expect a nice interplay between the fruit and flower elements. This bottle would pair well with spicy chicken dishes, anything that uses lemons, Moroccan food, and Indian food.

Full Disclosure: I received a sample of this wine for possible review.

Warming up Winter with Syrah

I'm not sure why Syrah tastes like summer to me--but it does. And by 'tastes like summer' I don't mean it's the kind of wine you reach for in July: cool, fresh, and zingy. I'm talking, instead, about a wine that conjures up images of fruit ripening on the vine, dusty back roads, purple-and-red sunsets, and a garden full of herbs ready for picking.
Now that we're approaching midwinter, a touch of summer might be welcome. If so, why not warm up your evening with a beautiful, affordable bottle of Syrah, like this excellent QPR bottling?

The 2008 Andrew Murray Syrah Tous les Jours (suggested retail, $16; average retail price via online retailers, $17) is an exceptional bottle of wine for the price. There is a beautiful balance between the fruit, herb, and mineral notes in this rich Syrah. Black fruits dominate the aromas and flavors, and I detected black currants and blackberries. The wine has a smoky, spicy edge followed by a clean, crisp aftertaste. The wine's good acidity will make it pair with a wide variety of foods, including roasted and grilled dishes, Moroccan food, and even hamburgers.

To go with your Syrah, try this delicious pan-roasted eggplant and lamb pasta sauce from Mark Bittman's Food Matters Cookbook. If you are vegetarian, it would be easy to leave out the lamb and still be left with a rich, flavorful sauce. The acidity of the tomatoes will not clash with this wine, the eggplant's bitterness will be a nice foil for the fruit, and the oven roasting will bring out the smokiness of the wine.

Full Disclosure: I received a sample of this wine for possible review.

Spicing Things Up With Zin

Whether you love them or hate them, the next eight weeks are widely regarded as something of a challenge. Holidays. Family. Bad weather. Trips to the mall. Schlepping kids all over creation. Lots of turkey and mashed potatoes.
To survive, you need to keep some spice in your life. Start with some nice Zinfandel, and throw a pot of chili or pasta on the stove. It will keep you going during the darkening days of winter.

Here are two highly affordable Zinfandels for you to consider:

2009 Ravenswood Zinfandel Old Vine Vintners Blend (suggested retail $10; available in market for $7-$13) This very good QPR Zinfandel has smooth black cherry and blackberry aromas. You'll find the same fruits in the flavors, along with a smoky, spicy aftertaste. The wine has fine tannins, giving it an impression that is fruit-forward, but not too jammy.
2010 McManis Family Vineyards Zinfandel (suggested retail $11.99; available in market for $9-$14) Pure of taste and light on its feet, this is all about the blackberries in the aromas and flavors. There are nice spicy and pepper notes in the aftertaste, too. At 13.5% ABV, this is not a monster of a wine, but a lovely reminder of how Zinfandel can be elegant. Excellent QPR for around $12.

Full Disclosure: I received samples of these wines for possible review.

Exiting the Wine Superhighway with Malvasia Bianca

One of the great things about wine is that no matter how much of the stuff you taste, there is always a new adventure to be had on the shelves of your local store or at your local winery (and yes, most of us actually do have a winery somewhere within driving distance!)
Don't get me wrong: I love the taste of wine. But I also love discovering new tastes, and locating wines I like that are off the normal Chardonnay-Sauvignon Blanc-Cabernet-Pinot route. Today's wine pick is definitely out of the ordinary. Drinking it was a little bit like exiting the familiar wine freeway and taking a back road to your destination.

When I first opened up the 2010 Wild Horse Malvasia Bianca San Bernabe (suggested retail $20; available in the market for $20) from California's Monterey County AVA, I wondered if I had ever had the grape bottled on its own. It often turns up in blends, especially Italian blends. It turns out I have had straight-up Malvasia Bianca before, back in the spring of 2008 when I was looking for a wine to pair with asparagus, and I enjoyed it a great deal. Three and a half years later, I had the opportunity to taste my second example!

And what a nice change it was from the same-old same-old. First off: don't expect to smell lots of fruit when you open this wine. Instead, this delicious white had floral and spicy aromas with an underlying note of litchi. In the mouth, the impression was bone dry, and there was a spicy aftertaste that was unlike anything else I've had before. In some ways, it tasted like a GewA1/4rztraminer without that grape's lush, fruit-forward profile. As the wine was exposed to air and warmed up a bit in the glass, I tasted lean, elegant traces of pear, litchi, and lemon pith. Very good QPR. The 2010 Wild Horse Malvasia Bianca would pair beautifully with delicate fish and shellfish dishes, as well as Pacific Rim cuisine including fish tacos and sushi.

This autumn, make it a point to go wine adventuring. If you're at a restaurant that has a wine-by-the-glass list, try a grape variety you've never had before. If you're at your local wine shop, tell them that you love Pinot Noir but you'd like to try something new. Chances are you'll walk out with a Gamay or a Blaufrankisch--and you may just find a new wine favorite. And kudos to Wild Horse for offering us some unusual varieties like Verdelho, Malvasia and, yes, even Blaufrankisch, to tempt our tastebuds and expand our horizons.

Full Disclosure: I received a sample of this wine for possible review.

Much-Maligned Merlot

Once the darling of wine-by-the-glass programs around the country, and purchased by the gallon by people who didn't know what else to buy, Merlot has been relegated to the margins of wine culture. "You drink Merlot?" people have asked me with horrified expressions.
Yes. I drink Merlot. It's a great food wine--far easier to pair with most dishes than its more structured sibling, Cabernet Sauvignon. Merlot has a bit of softness, a hint of richness, that make it a good choice for autumn and winter meals.

But Merlot critics do have a point: there was such a high demand for Merlot some people got carried away and began mass-producing wines that lost all of the plummy, peppery, clove, and mocha notes that make wines made with this grape distinctive.

Here are a few affordable bottlings that will get you reacquainted with Merlot. And here's a handy list of foods that go well with them: Mustard, Mushrooms, and Meatloaf (and other dishes made with ground beef). It's an easy list to remember, and will help you out in the store whether you're inspired to make Melissa Clark's Chicken with Mustard Croutons, Jamie Oliver's pappardelle pasta with wild mushrooms, or a classic meatloaf or burger.

2009 Rutherford Ranch Merlot (suggested retail $18; available for $14-$20) With characteristic chocolate, plum, and spice notes that persist from the aromas, through the flavors, and continue on into the aftertaste, this is a very good QPR choice. Nicely balanced between fruit, acidity, and oak, the wine impproves with air, suggesting it is suitable for drinking between 2011 and 2014. Buy a bottle for now--and set one aside for 2012 or later.

2009 Arroba Winery Merlot (suggested retail $19.95; available for around $15) A good QPR choice with plum and baking chocolate aromas and flavors. Good acidity and spice in the aftertaste makes you head back to the glass for another sip.
2009 Bella Sera Merlot (suggested retail $7.99; available for $7-$11) Very good QPR at around $8, this Merlot smells and tastes of plums with hints of chocolate around the edges and pleasingly smooth tannins. It may not convince Merlot skeptics, but those who enjoy the grape should give this Sicilian bottling a try.

2008 Concannon Vineyard Merlot Selected Vineyards (suggested retail $10; available for $7-$11) Another Merlot for the price, with more structured rich plum and currant aromas. These fruits are evident in the flavors, too, which are nicely accented with spice. A reminder of the versatility or Merlot, and that the grape can be great if treated well.

If you haven't had Merlot for a while, give it another try. You may find yourself pleasantly surprised by what's on offer these days.

Full Disclosure: I received samples of these wines for possible review.

The Pursuit of Chardonnay

There are days when I just despair for the future of Chardonnay. All it takes is a string of uninspired, overly manipulated examples with loads of fake oak flavors and it makes me swear off the stuff for weeks.
But it only takes one good bottle to remind you why some of the world's great wines have been made from the grape.

If you're in pursuit of Chardonnay, this bottle should help you remember what Chardonnay can be.

2009 MacMurray Ranch Chardonnay Sonoma Coast (suggested retail, $20; available in market for $12-$20) This is a good example of a California Chardonnay that has seen some time inside a barrel, so there are flavor elements that derive from oak, namely a vanillin note that did not strike me as at all fake or forced. Hurray! The entry for the wine comes from its aromas of dough and apple (a bit like an apple crumble), with a note of honeyed vanilla that is the prelude for tastes to come. The flavors are dominated by cream and apple, with a cantaloupe note that I can't say I've ever tasted in a Chardonnay before, but which added an interesting dimension to the wine. Creamy vanilla notes linger in the mouth after your last swallow. Very good QPR, if you like rich and full-bodied California Chardonnays that remain true to the grape.

Full Disclosure: I received a sample of this wine for possible review.

Napa Cabernet for Under $20

Cabernet Sauvignons from California's Napa Valley are among the iconic wines of the USA. They have a cult following, and are in heavy demand, which means that they have hefty price tags, too. Is it possible for those with leaner wallets to see what the fuss is all about.
Absolutely.

If you're looking to try a Napa Valley Cabernet--with all the rich flavors that the appellation promises--try to get your hands on this bottle. It may not have all the complexity and structure of a $100 bottle of Napa Cabernet, but for around $15 it's far more affordable.

The 2008 Irony Cabernet Sauvignon (available in market for $11-$17) is a very good QPR choice in Napa Valley Cabernet, with good varietal character and some distinct Napa pizzazz. High-toned plum, cherry and pomegranate aromas and flavors gain depth with a cedary, spicy aftertaste that reminds me of much more expensive bottlings. Though the tannins pucker the tongue with a nice grip, the wine is never heavy. As a result, it is very food friendly and will pair beautifully with stews, roast meat, and steaks.

Full Disclosure: I received a sample of this wine for possible review.

Something to Celebrate

Five years ago, on 7 October 2006, I wrote my first blog post after going wine shopping. Here we are, more than 714, 000 visitors later. As with most things in life there have been ups and downs, some bumps in the road, and some unexpected miracles which led to unexpected hiatuses in posting. Thanks for sticking by me through thick (when I wrote a post a day) and thin (when I wrote no posts for months) and everything in between (like now, when I'm doing my level best to post every Monday and Thursday--or in this case, Sunday and Thursday).
Since a 5th Year Anniversary is something to celebrate, today I've got a round-up of under $20 sparklers for you. They come from Italy, France, and Austria. And because they're affordable you don't need any particular excuse to buy one and open it just because it's Monday!

2009 Weingut Markus Huber Zweigelt Hugo ($18, domaineLA; available in market for $16-$17) A nice choice in sparkling roses under $20, this is made with Zweigelt, and has distinctive strawberry aromas and flavors. Very yeasty (almost beery) in terms of the carbonation, this is a more rustic sparkling wine perfect for charcuterie or a plate of grilled sausages. Very good QPR.

($15, domaineLA; available in market for $16-$19) Very good for the price, this wine is made with Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon under biodynamic growing protocols. The color is rose-gold, and the bubbles are medium-sized and long-lasting. Crisp citrus flavors are paired with richer notes of bread dough and toast. Even Champagne lovers will be impressed with the quality and depth of flavor for $15. Excellent QPR.

N.V. Sorelle Bronca Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Extra Dry
(under $20 at domaineLA; available in market for $14-$18) Clean lemon and lemon-blossom aromas and flavors, and the bead is quite small, which makes for a fun, frothy Prosecco that is good enough to be had on its own as opposed to mixing into Bellinis. Very good QPR.

(suggested retail, $17; available in market for $12-$15) Greenish in color with small bubbles. this wine is part of a new venture in wine making from a Spanish/Italian team. The partnership really shines in this wine which has the apply/bready notes of Spanish sparklers and the citrusy notes of prosecco without any bitterness or excessive yeastiness. Crisp, but can stand up to food especially vegetables and fish. Very good QPR.

Full Disclosure: I received a sample of the Voveti for possible review.

When Life Gives You Lemons...

There is something fresh, clean, and bright about the scent of a lemon. No wonder we use the juice to liven up the flavors in food, and put fine ribbons of lemon peel in so many dishes to add just the right crisp, sweet note.
Today I have two recommendations for lemony wines. Like lemon juice or lemon peel, these bottlings will brighten up your table and enhance the flavors in food. And here's something that will put an even bigger smile on your face: they both retail for around $11.

2010 McManis Family Vineyards Pinot Grigio (suggested retail $10.99; available in the market for $8-14) For around $11 this wine impresses with its clean-edged lemon peel aromas, pure lemon flavors, and slightly waxy texture. There's not a false note or a rough edge to be had, and it's not too bitter so it's a perfect wine if you're looking for something citrusy to accompany lemon-roasted chicken or piccata. Excellent QPR.

(suggested retail $11; available in the market for $8-11) With loads of lemon and lime zest in the aromas, this wine is reminiscent of the fresh, zippy Sauvignon Blancs from New Zealand. The aromas are echoed in the flavors, which take on a nice lemongrass complexity. Clean, zesty, and focused this is another steal for the price. Excellent QPR.

Full Disclosure: I received samples of these wines for possible review.

The Future Looks RosA(c)

Now that we're into autumn, you may think the future looks decidedly less RosA(c).
Those of us who drink RosA(c) wines--those pale to dark pink bottles of wine made from everything from Cabernet Sauvignon to Zinfandel--tend to think of them as summery offerings, suitable for picnics and barbeques but not for serious food.

Actually, RosA(c) wines are versatile and food friendly. They pair with almost everything. Served with a bit of a chill, they offer refreshment when your table contains spicy dishes. And they are usually very affordable.

Here are two of my favorite RosA(c)s, which I tasted over the summer and early fall and which I have no problem recommending to those of you who are ready to take out your stew pot and turn on your oven. And both of them are dry wines--which means that they will pair with almost everything.

2010 San Giovanni Garda Classico Il Chiaretto ($15.00, domaineLA; available in market for $13-$15) This delicious RosA(c) is made from an Italian blend of Barbera, Groppello, Marzemino, and Sangiovese. You will smell the strawberries, and the aromas carry over into the flavors. There is a pleasant stony edge to the strawberry tones, and a lovely, savory note in the aftertaste. Well-balanced, medium-bodied, and . We had it with a Jamie Oliver dish of grilled tuna with oregano and lemon, grilled zucchini, and some garlicky cannellini beans, and the wine had the right amount of fruit, acidity, and minerality to pair with the dish. It would also be great with creamy pasta dishes, sausage, or roast pork. Note: It comes in a cute, chubby bottle but it does contain the full 750ml that you're used to.

2010 ChAC/teau d'Esclans CA'tes de Provence Whispering Angel ($20.99 from my local independent grocery store; available in market for $13-$27)
This wine is very, very pale pink in color--think ballet-tights pink. The aromas are even drier than those of the Il Chiaretto, with under-ripe strawberries, chalk, and melon rising up from the glass. The flavors echo the aromas, but the chalk becomes more intense. Very dry, very savory, and very good QPR (though if you can get it for under $15, you will find it's excellent QPR) This wine is made mainly from Grenache, with some Rolle, Cinsault, and Syrah blended in to it. A nice pairing for shrimp or other shellfish, salmon, tuna, or roast chicken.

Advanced Topics in White Wine

It's that time of year. If you have kids they're back in school with their pencils sharpened and their notebooks already full of doodles. You might be feeling a bit nostalgic about your own schooldays-gone-by, when you were taking courses and learning new subjects.
The best thing about loving wine (ok, one of the best things...) is that there is always more to learn. This fall, why not try some interesting whites that are beyond your normal Chardonnay-Sauvignon Blanc-Riesling comfort zone? You just may find a new favorite.

2009 M. Chapoutier CA'tes du RhA'ne Blanc Belleruche (suggested retail $12.99; available in market for $8-$15) Red wine fans may be familiar with the rich, affordable red blends from the Southern RhA'ne, but have you ever tasted their whites? This blend contains Grenache Blanc, Clairette and Bourboulenc. It is more "old world" in style, with a fresh, neutral taste dominated by mineral and lemon peel notes. It tastes robust, and stands up well to richer fish (tuna, halibut), vegetable dishes, and chicken pot pie. If you like Sauvignon Blanc, I think you'll enjoy this wine. Very good QPR.

2010 ViA+-a Robles White4 (suggested retail $16; available in market for $13-$16) ) This white blend is from Paso Robles, and gets its name from the four white grape varieties that go into every bottle: Viognier, Verdelho, Sauvignon Blanc, and Vermentino. This year's bottling is a very good QPR, versatile white wine with honeysuckle and citrus aromas and flavors. If you like dry Rieslings but are looking for a wine with more body, give this a try.

2010 Freie WeingA$?rtner Wachau / DomA$?ne Wachau GrA1/4ner Veltliner Federspiel Terrassen (suggested retail $15; available in market for $11-$17) The grapes are grown in Austria's Wachau region, and the wine that results is crisp with pear, stony mineral, and citrus elements. The wine tastes full and delicious, while retaining its bright and lively profile. Excellent QPR. I love Gruner Veltliner with fish, roasted chicken, anything made with lentils, and even Indian food.

2009 Leo Steen Chenin Blanc Saini Farms (purchased in my local grocery store for $19.99; available in market for around $17) Made from grapes grown in Sonoma County's Dry Creek Valley, this lovely Chenin Blanc is a lovely, dry example. There are apple and honeycomb aromas and flavors, which bring back the tastes of summer. If you like the apple notes in Chardonnay, but are not always fond of the oak that many winemakers use, try this wine and you won't be disappointed. And if you're looking for wines to set aside for Thanksgiving, this would be a great choice.

Full Disclosure: With the exception of the Chenin Blanc, I received samples of these wines for possible review.

Autumn's Transitional Red

The temperature is up.
You want to use your grill once last time before you put it away.
You want to break out your crock pot.

If this sounds like you, then you need to have some Malbec on hand. Many people associate Malbecs with summer barbeques, but this versatile red is just as good with soups or stews as it is with grilled chicken or steak. In other words, it's the perfect transitional red!

A few reminders about Malbec: though today the grape is most associated with Argentina , it was once quite popular in Bordeaux and produces wines that remind me of French Cabernets and Merlots. Expect a rich, full-bodied wine that can hold center stage. And keep in mind that while some Malbecs can be big, fun fruit-bombs, others are far more restrained and can exhibit mineral and herbal characteristics.

Here are three Argentinian Malbecs I'm recommending this autumn:

2010 Colores Del Sol Malbec (suggested retail $12; available in market for $6-$12) This excellent QPR option has lovely, lush blackberry and boysenberry aromas. That fruity aroma profile is found in the flavors, as well, and there are additional notes of leather and spice which linger on after the fruit flavors fade. This Malbec will go well with grilled sausages, meats, chilis, and stews.

(suggested retail $14.99; available in market for $8-$11) A more restrained example, with typical varietal characteristics, this wine has earthier, raisin, and black cherry aromas and flavors. With air there was a nice spicebox quality to the aftertaste, as well as some tobacco notes. Very good QPR at around $15, if you can find it for around $10 I think it would be excellent QPR for those looking for a more traditional taste.

2009 Argento Malbec Reserva (suggested retail $16; available in market for $14-$16). Don't be worried if the plum aromas are faint when you first open this wine. They develop nicely with some exposure to the air, as do the plum, blackberry, and tobacco leaf flavors. The tannins are drying, and will probably soften a bit with storage time. Also traditional in style, this would be particularly good with grilled or braised meat. Very good QPR.

Full Disclosure: I received samples of these wines for possible review.

To Reserve or Not to Reserve? And What's the Difference Anyway?

In your wanderings down supermarket aisles and through wine stores, you may have come across wines labeled "Reserve" or bearing the name of a vineyard and wondered what the designations were all about. What does it mean to be a "reserve" wine? A vineyard wine? And what difference--if any--does it make to the taste? Or the price tag?

If you are confused about what "Reserve" means there is a good reason for it: there is no standard or regulated use of the term. In its purest sense, it was once used by winemakers to specially mark wines they felt were superior. Today, it can be used to indicate the wines have been reserved in the winery for an extra year or two, that they received special oak treatment, that the grapes used in the wine were from a select portion of those harvested, or some combination. It can also be used purely as a marketing term, because who wouldn't want a special wine?
Wines with vineyard designations are regulated, however, and if you see the name of a vineyard on a bottle it means that 95% of the grapes used in the wine must come from that vineyard. Vineyards vary tremendously in terms of soil, climate, and exposure and all of these variables can alter the taste of your wine. Sometimes, a winemaker feels that the grapes grown in a particular patch exhibit special characteristics, and they decide to keep that fruit separate to accentuate the unique qualities of the grapes.

Recently I had a chance to taste three wines made from the same maker, from the same grape, and all from grapes grown in the same county (although different parts of that county). One was the standard bottling, one was a vineyard designate, and one was a reserve bottling. All three were excellent--but had distinctively different taste. Here's my take on them.
2009 Rodney Strong Chardonnay Sonoma County (suggested retail $13.50; available in the market for $8-$15). A clean and crisp Chardonnay, with apple and lemon aromas and flavors accented by richer pineapple and creamy vanilla notes. A portion of the juice was fermented in barrels, the rest in a tank, which helps to explain both the vanilla notes (the oak) and the crispness (from the stainless steel tanks). Flavorful, well-balanced and food friendly. Very good QPR.

2009 Rodney Strong Chardonnay Chalk Hill (suggested retail ; available in the market for $13-$21) This wine was made from grapes grown in an estate vineyard in the Russian River Valley. A distinctive, classy Chardonnay with apple and toasted oak aromas followed by apple flavors. Layers of cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg make the wine spicy, but the apple flavors remain strong and keep the wine fresh as do the underlying mineral notes. The aftertaste is nicely spicy, too, in part from the time the juice spent in both new and seasoned French oak barrels. Very good QPR.

(suggested retail $35; available in the market for $24-$35). This wine was one year older than the others I tasted (even though it is a recent release) and tasted and smelled far richer with its apple and toasted coconut aromas. Full, creamy baked apple and sour cream flavors were followed up with a rich, spicy aftertaste. The Rodney Strong website explains that the wine was made in their "small lot winemaking facility," and that the juice was fermented in French oak barrels. Though this wine cost significantly more, it was an excellent value of the rich, oaky style of California Chardonnay. Very good QPR.

When faced with a decision of whether to choose a standard, vineyard designate, or reserve bottling, remember this: it's all about the taste and what you find affordable. In this case, the higher priced wines were richer-tasting, in large part because of their contact time with expensive oak barrels. However, sometimes what you want is a crisp Chardonnay. In that case, you'd be far happier with the Sonoma County bottling! As for me, my palate was most pleased with the Chalk Hill example.

As for food pairings, any of these wines would provide you with a pleasant Chardonnay to pair with your late summer/early fall dinners of grilled or roasted chicken, butternut squash ravioli, or grilled halibut.

Full Disclosure: I received samples of these wines for possible review.

Love Fish? Try Falanghina

I don't know why, but recently my largely-chicken diet has turned in the direction of fish. This means my white wine preferences are shifting subtly, too. It's harder and harder for me to find a Chardonnay that doesn't overwhelm fish's delicate flavors. Sauvignon Blancs can be too assertive. Riesling doesn't work for my tastebuds for some reason, unless the fish preparation is quite spicy or I'm having shrimp.
So I kept searching for whites that would pair well with my fish tacos, linguine alle vongole, grilled tuna, halibut, scallops, and shrimp. And I found Falanghina. This wonderful grape is native to the southern Italian region of Campania, and is especially well-known in the vineyards around Naples on the Amalfi Coast.

The wine that knocked my socks off and won a permanent spot on my table is the 2009 VIVI Falanghina Campania IGT. And the suggested retail price? $9.99 (available in the market for $8-$13). You will find that the wine smells fresh and floral, like sitting in a garden by the seaside on a summer's day. As you swirl it in your glass, you may notice some citrus notes, too. Flavors of lemon and honeycomb round out the wine. And while there is plenty of zip and acidity in the juicy aftertaste, it will not overwhelm the delicacy of the seafood or fish you might be serving. Excellent QPR.

Full Disclosure: I received a sample of this wine for possible review.

Fire Up the Grills--and Buy Cabernet Sauvignon

It was 90 degrees in Los Angeles. I know it's snowing in Buffalo, but here it is spring (or maybe even summer). So last night I fired up the grill for the first time, marinaded a skirt steak, threw some sweet potatoes in the oven (note to self: roasting potatoes in oven for an hour heats up the house), and tossed some cherry tomatoes with mozzarella, fresh basil, olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Then I hit the Cabernets.

I love grilled steak with Cabernet Sauvignon, and I have three recommendations for you: one under $10, one under $15, and the other just a hair over $20. Even if you are experiencing snow, these wines would also be good with stews, braised short ribs, or a pot of chili.
Under $10: 2009 Big House Wine Company The Usual Suspect Cabernet Sauvignon (suggested retail $9.99; available for $6-$10). Not the most complex Cabernet, perhaps, but a solid example of the grape with characteristic plum and currant aromas. The palate was dominated with plum notes and accented by a bitter taste reminiscent of coffee grounds. The aftertaste was nicely bitter, too, which kept this fruit-forward wine from becoming too jammy. A touch of Grenache is blended into the Cabernet. Good QPR.
Under $15: 2009 Robert Oatley Cabernet Sauvignon James Oatley TIC TOK (suggested retail $14; available for $12-$16) This is another fruit-forward Cabernet, with currant and blackberry aromas and flowers. A spicy aftertaste is accompanied by nice tannins that have just enough grip. Very good QPR.

(suggested retail $22; this new release currently available at the vineyard; previous releases available elsewhere for $15-$25) This was a wonderful wine, and tasted like something considerably more expensive than the sticker price. Aromas and flavors of currant, pencil lead, and eucalyptus made for an elegant and complex wine. With air, the currant notes turn plummy. The aftertaste is smooth, with spicy, well-integrated tannins. This is a lot of wine for $22, and excellent QPR.

Full Disclosure: I received samples of these wines for possible review.

A Candidate for Your House White: d'Arenberg's The Stump Jump

Last week I was extolling the virtues of red blends. After I wrote the post, I realized that though there were many red blends in my cellar, there weren't many white blends. I'm not sure why that's the case, because what goes for reds is true of whites as well: the blending can make the wine especially food friendly and versatile. And, just as with red blends, there is often a very attractive price tag on a white blend.
So I looked in the closet to see if I had any white blends and discovered a bottle of the 2009 d'Arenberg The Stump Jump (suggested retail $10; available for $9-$13) This is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Marsanne, and Riesling. As with most good blends, you can identify the individual components in the finished product. In this case, the Sauvignon Blanc is evident in the aroma which is very grassy, and that grassiness is accompanied by touches of honey from the Marsanne. The flavors have notes of pear, grapefruit pith, and a bit of litchi--so there's more Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling influence there. The mouthfeel is heavier than some whites, thanks largely to the Marsanne. The aftertaste reminded me of a dry Riesling, with its acidity and apple notes. I would have liked the wine to be a bit more fruit-forward--which is not something I say often. Even so, this wine is a good candidate for a house white because of its versatility and very good QPR. I looked over my notes from previous vintages, too, and this wine has consistently been good all the way back to 2004, which is another reason to try a bottle if you see one in the store, irrespective of its vintage.

Proof of the wine's versatility can be had by pairing it with something like this Soba Noodle Salad with Salmon and Asparagus from Bon Appetit magazine. With the rich salmon and avocado, the grassy asparagus, and the ginger-soy dressing, it's a bit of a challenge--but this wine handled it beautifully. The Sauvignon Blanc worked well with the asparagus, the Riesling with the Asian flavors, and the Marsanne stood up to the buckwheat and salmon.

Full Disclosure: I received a sample of this wine for review.

A Red for All Seasons

Last week I was extolling the virtues of spring. Now it's grey and drizzly again. In some places, it's still snowing. With the variable weather, it's hard to know which way is up. Do you dust off the grill and barbecue chicken? Or do you make a pot of stew? And what do you drink in the wine department, given it can be 86 degrees one day and 59 degrees the next?
Regular readers know that I love red blends because they're food friendly. This time of year, though, I am especially fond of them because their versatility means that they are as welcome next to grilled chicken as they are soup. So when the weather gets this way I make a bit pot of chili, pick out a red blend, and no matter whether if feels like June or January I'm ready to go.

A red blend I enjoyed recently with a pot of beef and black bean chili was the 2006 Tamarack Cellars Firehouse Red from Washington state's Columbia Valley. ($19.69 in my local independent grocery store; this vintage available for $20-$25, but more recent vintages can be had for $14-$22) Composed from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, and Merlot, the result is a juicy, fruit-forward wine with good structure. I've had my bottle for several years, and it's drinking just great now. I detected aromas of blueberry, cinnamon, and baking chocolate, all of which are echoed in the palate. The wine retains a fresh, lively taste through the mouth-watering aftertaste, with some additional herbal and spice notes. What I enjoyed most was the play between the varieties: the Cabernet Sauvignon lending its weight and acidity, the Syrah providing those soft berry flavors and spice, the Cabernet Franc lifting the blend with some acidity and herbs, and the Merlot making it approachable and inviting. Very good QPR.

And if you're looking for some chili recipes, here are a few of my favorites to try:

Fine Cooking's Beef and Black Bean Chili with Chipotle and Avocado

Rachael Ray's Fiery Chicken Chili (warning: makes enough for medium-sized army)

Tyler Florence's Outrageous Texas Chili

Spring/Sprung: Three White Wines Perfect for the Season

Sorry about the long silence, folks, but I've been--er--busy. And I managed to catch the mother of all winter colds, which lasted three weeks and pretty much made tasting anything (wine included) an impossibility.

Now that I'm sprung from booktours and the 'flu, I'm back home, and having a glass of wine with dinner again, so I've got some tasting notes for you. The first are all about spring. It's definitely in the air here in Los Angeles and if you haven't caught a whiff of it yet, you soon will. Here are some lively white wines to celebrate the freshness of the air and the first flowers:
2009 Graves Monkey Wrench ($17.99, domaineLA; available for $17-$23) This wine is blended from one of my favorite white grapes--Grenache Blanc--and Viognier. The result is a fresh, zesty, and well-balanced with lime and mango aromas and flavors. These fruity notes are kept in check with strong minerality and tangy acidity. You will enjoy this with grilled fish, a chicken salad, or Asian food. Excellent QPR. (NB: label if from 2006--I drank the 2009)

(suggested retail $16; available for $10-$23) In the "even zestier" department, this New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc will appeal to the most die-hard lovers of the fresh wines from the Marlborough region. Abundant gooseberry, lime, and lemongrass aromas and flavors will make it ideal with Thai food, the fresh vegetables of the season (I imagine it would be wonderful with an herb risotto, for example), or citrus-roasted chicken. Very good QPR.

2009 Franciscan Chardonnay
(suggested retail $18; available for $12-$22) Finally, if you like a slightly richer wine but are ready to swap your buttery wintery Chardonnays for one that has a bit more zip, try this excellent QPR bottling from Napa. It's one of the best domestic Chardonnays I've had in some time, and is memorable for its liveliness, its excellent balance, and the zesty citrus and apple flavor profile. Elegant and food-friendly, have this one with your richer dishes like a scalloped potato and fennel gratin, your favorite chicken dish, or some grilled chicken-apple sausages and a tossed salad.

Full Disclosure: I received samples of the Chasing Venus and Franciscan wines for review. I purchased the Graves bottling myself.

The Virtues of Simple Perfection: Cep Sauvignon Blanc

Simplicity is underrated. Perfection is overrated. But what do you do when you find a wine that is quite simply perfect? Well, you enjoy it first. Then, if you're me, you write about it here and hope that you can still get your hands on some later.
Some readers will find it surprising that the wine that I'm touting is a Sauvignon Blanc. One person I know recently described Sauvignon Blanc as "boring," and while I couldn't disagree more I think I understand why some she might feel this way. There are a lot of generically "citrusy" Sauvignon Blancs out there that, though refreshing, aren't necessarily going to make you run out and buy more. I think this Sauvignon Blanc is different, though. And even though you might pay a smidge over $20 as I did, I think you will still consider it excellent QPR.

The 2009 Cep Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc Hopkins Ranch ($20.99 in my local independent grocery store; available in the market for $15-$20) is a wonderful example of Sauvignon Blanc. Instead of a generically "citrusy" mouthful, I detected pure notes of Meyer Lemon in the aromas and flavors. There was a clean note of mint, as well, and some stoniness that added depth and breadth to the wine. It was almost piercing in its intensity, but never overwhelming or assertive, with lots of focus to the flavors and a long, juicy aftertaste. Think of pairing this wine with Asian food that uses citrus elements like orange peel or lemon, a roast chicken, an early spring salad topped with rounds of goat cheese, or seafood.

This stylish, well-made, and satisfying wine was brought to you by the same people who own and operate Peay Vineyards, and are winemakers renowned and respected for their ability to select great fruit and craft great wines from that fruit. Cep is their second label--which means that fruit that doesn't quite make the cut of their high-end wines is bottled under a different name--and was for a time a well-kept secret. Now the secret it out, and it gives more people a chance to taste their winemaking efforts. Cep also bottles a superb rosA(c) and Pinot Noir, so keep your eyes out for these, too.

Your House Red: Boxed and Ready to Go

I'm the only wine drinker in my house. And there are times, like now, when things are so crazy that planning menus and opening bottles of wine that will in all likelihood go off before I can finish them up doesn't make sense. Enter the new generation of boxed wines.
I'm particularly partial to the Octavin, which has a fantastic spigot contraption that doesn't leak or drip. There are other options out there, too, and all of them keep air from getting to the wine thereby keeping the wine fresh-tasting for weeks, rather than days. The only downside of the Octavin is that with white wines they take up a certain amount of prime refrigerator real estate. With reds, you just set them in a cool place on the counter and enjoy a glass whenever the mood strikes.

Given the convenience of the packaging, I was particularly pleased to receive this sample of the NV Bodegas Osborne Seven because it is an ideal candidate for a house red--you know, the easy-drinking reds that go with practically everything and are great to have on hand. And the price is right, too: a 3.0 L size Octavin (equivalent to 4 bottles of wine) has a suggested retail of just $22. (available in the market for $16-$21)

The very good QPR NV Bodegas Osborne Seven is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Petit Verdot, Tempranillo, Grenache, and Graciano. With all those grapes in it, it's hard to pin a varietal character on the wine. Instead, this is a "red" wine--which is not a bad thing on a Tuesday night when you're making Mark Bittman's chicken with roasted potatoes and Romesco sauce. I could smell the Grenache in the floral and fruity aromas. The Syrah and Petit Verdot are evident in the flavors which span the plum and blackberry spectrum. There are some darker notes, too: dark chocolate and ground coffee.

This wine will go with pasta, soup, stew, pizza, burgers, steaks--you name it.

Full Disclosure: I received a sample of this wine for review.

Getting Rid of Muscle Soreness After Working Out

Stepping into the gym can be a massive ordeal for some people. Not only is it painful while you are there, but have left you in agony for days afterward. This can be a considerable deterrent for individuals who are out of shape. It prevents many of them from ever going to the gym in […]

The post Getting Rid of Muscle Soreness After Working Out appeared first on Fitness Health Zone.


Fitness Through the Ages

Staying active is a very important aspect of better health. The main goal in life for many is to live a strong healthy life. Incorporating an exercise routine into your weekly schedule is going to make it easier to remember and stay on track after continuously making the conscious decision to keep it up. Below […]

The post Fitness Through the Ages appeared first on Fitness Health Zone.


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