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Chardonnay: The Queen of Whites

When it comes to white wine, there is no white grape grown as much as Chardonnay. Therefore it is the most well sold grape varietal in the whites as well. It has a reputation for it's big yellow buttery oakey impact and can be temperamental to pair with food because of its big pow.

But guess what? Chardonnay does not have to have that big oakey flavor. You see, New World vintners make it so because the American palettes have asked for it. I guess it's a 'Bigger is Better' mentality (which applies to a lot with the exception of gift boxes right ladies out there?). In reality, Chardonnay is all about the winemaker. Many wine makers consider Chardonnay a blank slate capable of becoming anything the winemaker wants, from crisp and cool steely dryness to huge oak and butter.

So when you pull down a bottle of Chardonnay, what can you expect? Well, if it's a typical New World Chardonnay (which means everywhere but Europe), then expect that big bold flavor. It's like the Cabernet of whites. The exception would be a naked Chardonnay, meaning it was made in Steel rather than Oak. Then we're getting closer to the crisp dry wines found in Chablis, France where Chardonnay is made in steel or used oak barrels. Yum, let's talk about French Chardonnay now.

White Burgundy, not to be confused with any other label with white in it (like White Zinfandel) is not a blush wine. It is 100% Chardonnay and is worth every drop that comes from the bottle. By far Stacy's favorite white wine to drink, it can be quite a shocking taste experience for a Chardonnay drinker for it has a crisp richness instead of the heavy flavors of the oakey Chardonnays. They have a zing to them with nice toffee and honey at the end.

I would like to encourage you to taste a New World Chardonnay, most likely a California one and then taste a Premier Cru (meaning top quality and it will be listed as such on the bottle) Burgundy, preferably from Chablis and taste the difference. Email us your results please or post your comments on our blog under Chardonnay at because we'd love to hear from you!

Happy tasting and we'll see you at!


Darcy & Stacy

P.S. to show our commitment to the cause, this post was written with a cold glass of Chablis in our hand!

Wino Food Pairing with Chardonnay

A special thanks goes out from us to our friend Leah Di Bernardo of Delyte's Fine Food Company. Check out her web site at for her fabulous food and catering services. She is also the proud owner of The Castle found at Check out both sites for some of the most delicous food in town, Slow Food to be more exact (see her site to find out what that means and it doesn't mean the crock pot). Leah is also a fellow Rotarian and a very intriguing woman with great stories. Please be sure to support her!

Cooking your fish on a cedar plank is a method of cooking and smoking salmon that has been used for many years. Make sure to use natural cedar. The salmon is Slow Cooked which produces a rich, smoky flavor.

Cedar Planked Salmon

Yields- 6 servings

PREP TIME is about 20 minutes

COOK TIME is 15 minutes- "watch your fish!!"


* 24x8x1 inch untreated cedar plank

* 6 (4 ounce) fillets salmon

* Fresh/Organic Dill

* 1/2 tablespoon black peppercorns

Quick Marinade- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil; 1 tspn dijon; 1 tspn REAL maple syrup; 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1/2 cup ale (beer), 1 chopped garlic clove (whisk or blend in cuisinart.

Pour marinade over salmon, marinating for 20 or so minutes. Add fresh dill to the top, covering the entire fish. Cover with a lid or plastic wrap) **use a Pyrex or ceramic pan.. NO METALS


1. Submerge untreated cedar plank in water. Soak approximately 12 hours, or overnight.

2. Preheat an outdoor grill for high heat. Place prepared plank on the grill, and sprinkle with coarse salt. Cover grill and heat plank 2 to 3 minutes, until dry. Adjust grill temperature for medium heat.

3. Arrange Salmon on the plank, with dill still atop fish. Top with ground black peppercorns, and a smidge of sea salt

4. Cook salmon, covered, 10 to 12 minutes, or until opaque and easily flaked with a fork.

Chardonnay Quick Tasting Tips

Chardonnay is all about the winemaker. Look for the following when tasting and smelling this varietal:





Burnt Sugar
Green Apple















Wine for the Pairing Impaired

So at the end of the day, I am working out the kinks with a nice glass of wine and my laptop and decide my brain needed a break (the wine helped in the decision making process) so I started Stumbling!

Before you start judging me (it was only 1 glass), I don' t mean tripping and falling. I mean I have an application on my computer called Stumble! ( It's a great tool for rating sites and it learns from what about my interests are and picks out random pages it thinks I might be interested in. Think of it as the automated features found in TiVo except for web pages. When I need a brain break or I'm doing research, it's fun to see where it takes me.

Long story short, the first two Stumbles brought me to great wine blogs I hadn't read before. Then on the third try I got confused so I stopped to write this. What I found is a series of wines made to perfectly pair with typical American food fares. This bottle is 'Wine That Loves Roasted Chicken' and was on a website with some very well thought out food pairing notes for each of the wines. The wines included perfect pairings for (or Wine That Loves...) Roasted Chicken, Pasta with Tomato Sauce, Pizza, Grilled Steak and Grilled Salmon.

Brilliant marketing really, beautiful bottle, great writing on the site, although I was disappointed that the varietals used in each of the wines were lacking. I'm not sure it was on purpose but I'm thinking that based on the branding they are doing, it was.

Now, I'm sure this will create some knee jerk reactions. Please share your thoughts on this one. My brain is having a wrestling match between the wine snob, the admirer of good ideas and the instant gratification American. Who do you think wins this fight?

For their site, go to

Wine and Art of Temecula

From time to time there is a local artist who captivates what it is like to live here in the Temecula Valley in Southern California. Stephen Eldred has some beautiful photos posted on his website at that I would encourage you to check out. This is one of my favorites entitled 'Peppertree and Vineyard'. Thank you Stephen for allowing us to share your image on-line!


Bad Wine

It has actually happened to me twice in one week. The first was at our Wino Club to one of the Rieslings. Tonight, I had a beautiful Premier Cru White Burgundy chilling. There is a cool summer breeze flowing outside on the patio and I'm ready to relax. I open up the beautiful foil and I see it. The cork had visible signs of foil rust, if there is such a thing. The cork had turned a beautiful shade of burnt umber. Beautiful on anything else but a cork of course. Ever hopeful, I took a chance and opened it up and unfortunately confirmed my fears: the bottle was corked.

Corked wine means that somewhere along the road the cork no longer provided the proper air seal and the wine spoils and goes bad. My beautiful Burgundy was not even fit to make a vinaigrette. When you open and pour any bottle, if it is corked you will know it. Don't blame the wine. The corked Riesling last Thursday tasted like rubber bands, an odd flavor for this particular varietal if I must say so myself. I don't always trust my nose because some wine actually does smell bad, can we talk about petrol and cat pee? But there's no tricking my eyes (yes, the bottle level had dropped by an inch as well but I kept on hoping) AND my mouth which definitely did not care for the sour flavor that ensued.

The saddest thing was that it was my last bottle of white anything. It's been so warm that I've been plowing through them until I was savoring this last bottle before my next trip to the wine store. Now I have nothing and will have to revert to my natural ways and pop open an ice cold beer!


Winning Riesling Wine

Our personal wine club tasted Riesling this month. Actually we tasted 16 Rieslings this month and I can't even tell you the sugar rush that that experience brought on. My little heart almost burst when the last wine of the evening was a Spatlese!

Needless to say, there can be only one winner at the end of all of that tasting and ours was 2006 Clos du Bois Riesling. So why do I have photos of two bottles? Keep reading and my thoughts will become clear.

2006 Clos du Bois Riesling can be referred to as a basic, not too sweet Riesling. On the nose we detected honey, ginger and tangerine. Upfront flavors of ripe fruit come rushing out at you although the citrus punch finish ends the flavors quickly leaving a high acidic ending, pithy almost. This is not a complicated wine. It is a mainstream wine hailing from the Santa Lucia Highlands in the Monterey Valley and at around $12 a bottle you can serve it to anyone on a hot day. Thanks to Lisa VanEssen-Vinton (owner for bringing it!

Winner out of the way now I can add my two cents. Wine is a completely personal experience so I can honestly say that although our club voted fair and square, I preferred the second place wine and will buy it for the fridge, thus the second photo.

It was the 2005 Dr. Weins-Prum Riesling Kabinett hailing from Wehlener Sonnenuhr in the Mosel-Sarr-Ruyer region in Germany. That was a mouthful and so was the wine. I love Kabinett and Troken Rieslings hailing from Mosel-Sarr-Ruyer in the first place with their drier fruitiness than typically found in American Rieslings. This particular Riesling had a nice full nose of peaches and apricots, jasmine, green apples, minerals, and surprisingly cinnamon. This QmP rated wine did not let me down on the palette either. It had well rounded sugars, leaving the fruit to do the talking with an elegant almost pineapple finish. Unlike the Clos du Bois which hits you all at once, it had a nice full flavor that left me asking for one more sip to figure it out. And I took multiple 'one more sips' and revisited it at the end of the evening just to see if my palette had changed after the tasting as it sometimes does. But my first impression was consistent with my last. And for around $17 it's one wine I can definitely recommend checking out.


In the Wineries

We would like to send out a BIG thank you to Terri Pebley, the only female winery owner in the Temecula Valley, for hosting Feminita Vita! this weekend. Designed to support fellow women business owners and to kick off their first wine created for women, Keyways Winery opened their newly remodeled doors to The Wino Club (she's a brave woman!). We have to tell you that the transformation of this winery is spectacular. I drank extra water just so I could hang out in the restroom and check out the beautiful pounded copper stalls.
Thanks again Terri and Keyways Winery for a fantastic weekend of music, shopping and wine. For more information on this winery, go to .


Winos Give Back

Did you know that women under 40 are ofter ignored in the fight against breast cancer? A younger woman (uninsured) who finds a lump also finds that the state will kick in with support once she is fully diagnosed. This means that she will need to pay out of pocket for all of the test procedures before hand, a proposal that most of these women can't afford. In comes Michelle's Place. Michelle's Place is a breast cancer resource center based in the Temecula Valley, California. They support this group of women who are otherwise ignored. The host of services and support they provide are inspiring and is truly a grass roots effort that continues to grow in our community.

It seemed only natural that part of the proceeds of The Wino Club kit be donated to their cause. Their Director, Kim Goodnough, is also a great friend of ours and a member of our Wino Club so we might have been coerced a little as well (in a good way).

Here we are at Kim's home after she hosted our wine tasting group presenting her with a check for $330 for Michelle's Place. Every little bit helps right? We understand that the photo is not the best but we had a lot of sugar in us at the time, having just tasted 16 Rieslings. Our results of the tasting will be posted tomorrow so stay tuned! To find out more about Michelle's Place go to


Wine Blogging Wednesday - Spain Under $10

Imagine the front of a Syrah, earthy and gamey, with the finish of a Zinfandel, black cherry spice and heat, and you’ve got the Luzon Verde 2005 from Jumilla, Spain. We’ve been reading so much about the newer trend of organic wines that when we saw this wine we killed two birds with one stone. Finca Luzon is known for putting out perfectly dependable red wines out of Spain and this one is no exception. At 100% Monastrell, or Mouvedre, it is a bit unusual. Normally a blended varietal, it stands alone here and does a bang up job.

Honestly, the smell is not so pleasant as we immediately note a dirty sock floating around in our glass. It is definitely meaty with some tart fruity undertones of gooseberry and blueberry. The color however is an absolutely beautiful dark solid purple.

The tannins, normally quite high in this varietal are tamed out nicely, perhaps because of the tank fermentation used. The best part of the tasting was the duplicity of wine. It really does start out gamey and full and then rolls seamlessly into a spicy heat with a black cherry or red licorice finish. And let’s talk about the 13.5% alcohol. If Syrah and Zin had babies, this is what it would be.

This is an unbelievable value at under $10. Wines of Spain just went up a notch in our belts this afternoon sipping this bargain.
For more information on the upcoming Wine Blogging Wednesday, tune into and a big thanks to this month's coordinator at Happy tasting!


Sauvignon Blanc Down South

We’re going far South, as far South as vineyards grow in fact, to the Beautiful coastlines of New Zealand. New Zealand is a New World wine producer, and in fact was only legally allowed to sell wine in bottles sometime the 1960’s. These two beautiful islands were formed via volcano making their soils high in minerals. Most of their production here, as opposed to Italy, is white, a full 75% in fact. They produce many wines (Chardonnay is their most planted grape varietal) but it is their Sauvignon Blanc that put them on the wine maps.

If you have ever tasted a Sauvignon Blanc you still might not recognize one coming out of New Zealand. It can only be described as having an aggressive herbal vibrancy that’s like freshly cut grass. The high minerals in the soil, the chilly climate, abundance of rain and the proximity of all the vineyards to the ocean (about 80 miles at the furthest growth) make their grapes prone to mold and can lead to under-ripe tasting wines. But it also leads to one of the crispest Sauvignon Blancs around.

Technology is the New Zealanders’ best friend. When I say that this wine growing region is New World, they take it to extreme. There are no oak barrels or deep wine caves here. The grapes are mostly picked by machines and are grown on special trellises to avoid some of the mold issues in their dense canopies. Large steel tanks give an almost sterile look to the wineries here but it is what drives the bite in their green fruit.

It is hard to avoid using the term green with this Sauvignon Blanc. Just a quick look at New Zealand and all you can see is green amongst the steep slopes. But there is also some beautiful fruit like kiwi and passion fruit that lend to the wild nature of this white.

The best part of course is that you can buy fantastic Sauvignon Blancs from New Zealand starting at about $8. I personally look for wines coming out of Marlborough on the cooler South Island although 40% of the vineyards are located on the Northern Island from Hawke’s Bay, Gisborne and Auckland.

Have a favorite Sauvignon Blanc? Post it here for us please because as summer gets going in full steam we’re going to need some good refreshment!

Happy tastings and we’ll see you at!

Stacy & Darcy

Sauvignon Blanc Quick Tasting Tips

Sauvignon Blanc is all about clarity of flavor but don't go into it thinking this is a mild mannered white wine. Look for the following when tasting and smelling this varietal:

Melon Kiwi Pear Asparagus Fig Smoke

Hay Gunflint Grass Bell Pepper Gooseberry

Green Tea Musk Herbs Lemon Cat Pee Grapefruit