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Brix = the amount of sweetness in a given solution measured in degrees expressing the porportion of sugar to each 100 gr. of total fluid; Used in winemaking by growers to measure the amount of sugar in the grapes.

Chicks = We're girls of a certain age with a sense of adventure, a passion for wine, a vibrant curiousity to learn more and a drive to exchange ideas, share tips and find out what you have to say about how wine flavors your experience.

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03 August, 2015

#Bubblesandbikes Prosecco in my glass this summer

#BubblesandBikes was the hashtag @wineharlots and I used, when we were lucky enough to be guests of the Consorzio Tutela Prosecco DOC at the World Superbike Races at Mazda Speedway in Laguna Seca, near Monterey, CA.

Laguna Seca races are events that are generally half hiking and half roasting if you, like me, want to see the lightning fast, thunder loud motorcycles racing.  However, for this event, we were VIP and got to enjoy the races in  a cozy, sparkler-splashed aerie, where we could enjoy delicious Valdo Prosecco along side hot and cold running snacks.

We also got to visit, thanks to our hostess Claire Hennessy of Colangelo Partners, backstage where we got to meet Miss Prosecco and take a Pit Walk. When you see the race bikes up close, they look like steel skeletons.  Those highly modified bikes give new meaning to the phrase "Zoom Zoom" as they clock in at speeds upwards of 152 mph.  With nothing between themselves and the asphalt but some brightly colored leathers and some serious derring do, racers roar around the track.  It's hard to imagine all the things that have to go right just to survive, let alone win.  So, no wonder when all the heats are over, the winners celebrate with Prosecco.

As refreshing as a Prosecco shower might be, I still think it is best in a glass.

Prosecco is a sparkling wine made from a grape called Glera.  It is made using  a method called "Charmat" (named for its inventor, Eugene Charmat) where still wine, in this case from Glera grapes, undergoes its second fermentation in a large pressurized tank.  This is different from m├ęthode champenoise in which this process occurs in the bottle as is done in Champagne.  Charmat  is a quicker and more economical way to get this delicious and festive wine to the market.

Proseccos come from the north of Italy; think, the cuff of the boot.  There are both DOC and DOCG areas, as pictured on the adjacent map.  Many delicious examples come from both regions. 

While we gobbled up breakfast, lunch and snacks--all that excitement gives you an appetite--we drank copious amounts of straw bright, refreshing Valdo Prosecco DOC Brut.  The wine had small, tight bubbles.  With aromas of apples and white peaches and a nice acidity, it was a great pair for all the snacks.  We toasted the winners as they zipped past us.  

The evening before, we had enjoyed a delicious bottle of 
Zonin Prosecco DOC Brut, which is one of the most popular brands of Prosecco.  We found it very tasty.  So tasty in fact, that it was gone before our starters arrived.  To make the wine, Zonin gently presses 100% Glera grapes to obtain must.  Half the must undergoes an initial fermentation at a controlled temperature of 64°F while the remaining unfermented must is stored at 32°F.  Then, they combine the two and transfer it into pressurized stainless steel tank, where the Charmat method is employed  to finish the wine.

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All that Prosecco reminded me of my visit to the Friuli region.  A highlight of the trip, was dinner with an amazing producer, San Simone. Not only were Anna Brisotto and her husband two of the most glamourous people I have ever seen up close, but Anna's passion for the wines and her family's commitment to excellence in wine making was fascinating. Had I the foresight to set my camera to sports action mode, I would have captured better snaps.  Their wines were all delicious, but my favorite was the  Perlae Naonis San Simone Prosecco DOC Brut.  A long name for a lovely wine they nicknamed " Si".  Lovely pale yellow with tiny bubbles and a bright and delicious taste, it was paired with a starter of Sformato, or cheese mousse, that started off our dinner with a bang.  After several days of serious snacking and sipping, this wine's sparkling personality shone through and was memorable.  A great story like that of  Anna's family, which has nearly a hundred years of wine making helps.  Their commitment to sustainability was impressive.  As well, the stylish bottle with the tactile shape and the embossed "Si", made you want to say yes.  If you find yourself at the Ritz Carlton in Miami, order up and you will be delighted.
Delicious Prosecco? Si!

Make time this summer for this affordable and festive wine.  Prosecco pairs with many foods. It is known for fruity aromas and an easy lightness.   The classic Bellini is Prosecco with white peach puree and goes great with brunch.  A lively sparkle will pair well with summer salads.  And for dinner, what could be more versatile than a sparkling wine that pairs well with courses from shrimp to dessert?

Many thanks to Colangelo Partners who hosted me for the races! And special thanks to Claire Hennessy who made the trip so fun!

21 May, 2015

Happy #ChardonnayDay

#WenteChard and Mac-and-Cheese from Home Room, Oakland
May 21st is Chardonnay day.  A day to celebrate one of the world's most popular grapes.  Grown all over the world, Chardonnay makes its mark very comfortably close to home in the Livermore Valley.

As early as 1889, wine from the Livermore Valley,won the Grand Prix at the International Paris  Exposition.  In 1936, Wente bottled the first varietally labelled Chardonnay in Livermore.  So there is a lot of precedence to delicious Chardonnay here, especially from Wente.

 For people visiting San Francisco, there is a tendency to go right to more famous appellations, as there are many nearby.  However don't  skip Livermore.  It's close and convenient and best of all the wine is yummy.

Set your GPS for Wente Vineyards.  The Wine Maker's Studio is a lovely destination where you can advance your knowledge of wine in a fun, tasty way. More information on classes here

Cure for Homesickness in Paris
Announcing this Chardonnay Day is a white wine blending session as well as an Umami class.  As people drink and celebrate #Chardonnayday, a lucky few are enjoying the festivities where it all started:  Wente Vineyards. But even if you can't get to the winery, Wente's Chardonnays are easy to find.  I was lucky enough to get samples and can vouch for their excellent value and good taste.

First 2013 Morning Fog Chardonnay ($15) This is a wine that is made with care to express the Livermore fruit well, even adding in 2% of Gewurztraminer for a dash of spice.  A combination of barrel and stainless fermenting as well as seven months on the lees and monthly battonage, produces a soft mouthfeel with a snap of acidity.  I got a nice vinous edge to the aromas as well as citrus notes and apple.  It is carried all over the world as I snapped a photo of it at the Nicholas Wine shop on the Rue Cler in Paris.  Way to represent the USA Wente!

2013 Riva Ranch Chardonnay ($22) This is made from Monterey County fruit. It had a warmer gold color and was very food friendly. 3% Gewurtz here. More oak gave this a broader touch of vanilla, which was nice with pineapple and mango in the flavors  It was delicious with the Mac and Cheese.  Without descending into "Cougar Juice", the more persistent creamy notes of this wine stood up to and complemented the insanely delicious Home Room macaroni and cheese. Home Room is an Oakland purveyor of over the top rich, buttery, cheesy goodness #Cardiologists avert your eyes.

2014 Eric's Chardonnay Small Lots ( $25) I am a sucker for Unoaked Chardonnay.  I thought this wine made a great aperitif.  It had a crisp, refreshing texture that was perfect for peeling off the stress of that last concall.  Flavors and aromas were subtle but shifting clouds of peach, lemon, bay leaf, pineapple and savory vinous notes.  Stainless steel is the perfect backdrop to make the most of hand harvested premium fruit.  This is a great introduction and representation of the Livermore Valley and how tasty this place can be

Whereever you choose to spend #Chardonnayday, I hope you lift a glass of Wente to taste California history in a glass. When I finish my work, my final and my commute, I plan to toast Livermore!

These wines were provided as samples

12 May, 2015

Clif Family Bruschetteria - Wine, Snacks and Respite in St Helena

You've probably had Clif Bars on your hiking, biking or outdoor adventures.  You're good like that.  I recently discovered a  Clif Family offering that  lets even slothful  couchpotato indoor cats like me enjoy the genius of Gary and Kit and the amazing Clif Family team.

LusciousLushes Thea and I sampled the Bruschetta Trio and their wine pairings and came away thoroughly addicted.

Exec Chef John McConnell
Addiction is how the idea started when on a cycling trip, Gary and Kit (Gary Erickson and Kit Crawford, founders of the Clif Bar Company) ate bruschetta at Rifugio Samsara in Bassano del Grappa, Italy.  When they returned home, a craving for those flavors sparked the idea to bring that deliciousness back to California.  Enlisting the aid of Executive Chef John McConnell and a food truck tricked out in that epicenter of cuisine on wheels, PDX, they are now rocking it all over the Napa Valley.  Since you can also try their delicious wines at their location in St. Helena, Velo Vino, I suggest that as your best bet.

For the winning hand, choose three pairs or the Bruschetta trio and the matching paired wine selections:

First, Clif Family Chardonnay, Oak Knoll, Napa 2012 was paired with a Porchetta Bruschetta.  Porchetta, for the uninitiated, is a juicy (read: glistening with fat) stuffed and roasted pork dish.  Here, the roast meat is pulled and then enhanced with chopped herbs, fresh from their garden, and a shimmering aioli.  The Chardonnay has just the right amount (50%  French) of oak for smoothness and a backbone of acid. Combine a perfectly balanced Chardonnay with porchetta and you have a delightful introduction.  Citrusy notes in the wine made a perfect match for the herby richness of the pork dish, which was my favorite.

Next,  Clif Family Kit's Killer Cab,  2011, Napa was paired with a Pomodoro Brucshetta.  Kit's Killer Cab is made from two parcels of  Howell Mountain fruit grown on their estate.  The first, Cold Springs Vineyard, produces fruit that is  masculine but gentlemanly.  Also used is Croquet Vineyard, which is described as feminine and elegant. Combined, it shows juicy, but structured, red and black fruit and was easy to drink.  This elegant wine is also completely at home at a casual lunch.  The Pomodoro Bruschetta had melted tomatoes mixed with tangy goat cheese and garlicky elements.  The sweetness of the tomatoes went perfectly with the structure of the wine.

Batting cleanup was the Clif Family Gary's Improv Zin, 2011, Napa Also made with estate fruit in this case zinfandel, the wine was bold with spices, dark fruit and a lovely finish.  Paired with Funghi Bruschetta it was the best pair.  The bold spice of the wine meshed perfectly with the savory mushroom and fontina cheese of the dish.

Yum!  Such a fun experience More info on how you can make plans to visit here

When Executive Chef John McConnell came by, I quizzed him and learned a lot about the philosophy and ingredients.  First since cycling was the inspiration and many cyclists come by, he strives to make things delicious, but also nutritious. Two accompaniments to our bruschetti, were salads.  One, Fagioli e Grano ws an Italian inspired side dish made with farro, Fregola Sarda, broccoli rabe, ricotta and heritage beans.  Fregola Sarda is a pasta shaped like a grain that was as toothsome as it was delicious.  Both Lina Sisco Bird's Eye and Eye of the Goat beans were incorporated into the dish.  All together it formed a harmonious taste and delivered enriching satisfaction.  The Tre Colori salad, whose three colors come from arugula, romaine hearts and radicchio was similarly satisfying.  What lifted the salad's  flavor was a combination of lemon scented bread crumbs and pecorino.  Chef John gave us a tip for home cooks.
The leftover ends of your baguettes can be roughly cut, then left to dry for a few days.  After that, grate in a food processor .  Quickly saute those crumbs in a pan with garlic and a little olive oil.  Perfect to jazz up your salads. More great tips here:

Many thanks to the Clif Family team who hosted us for lunch.  Everyone there took such good care of us,  answered all our questions and delighted us with dessert: Tiramisu, Chocolate Budino and a perfect espresso. Expect a wonderful experience when you visit as the staff all rock collectively and individually!  You cannot ask for a better place to while away some hours of glorious Napa sunshine with comfortable, nourishing al fresco wining and dining.  

Make plans to visit:
Where: 709 Main Street, St. Helena, CA
Drop ins welcome, but for elevated pairing, make a reservation here:

I was hosted by the Clif Family for this lunch