Holiday Hooch 2014: a Gifting Guide

Tuesday Revews-Day

Oh it is that time again, folks. Time to answer the question of what to give who and when. I’ve said it before and I’ll very likely say it again, wine makes a fabulous gift both for close friends and casual acquaintances (providing they drink, of course). Now, we all have favorites that we like to share, but just in case you’re looking for something different to try, here are a few bottles I’ve recently had the opportunity to sample.



[yellow tail] is always a good wine for its price point and the Big Bold Red is a a good, solid table wine. Flavors of rich fruits and a bit of spice make this a very easy-drinking wine that will pair well with most rich, hearty meals and was especially tasty with grilled steak the other night.

The Calling was a new brand to me but hails from the Alexander Valley in California. We’re not usually Cabernet Sauvignon drinkers, but we paired The Calling’s Cab Sauv with baked ziti and it blended perfectly. So if you’re heading to a big Italian-style feast for Christmas Eve, this is the bottle to bring. Their Chardonnay features fruity notes of melon, lemon, and nectarine as has been aptly described as luscious. Pair it with rich, buttery seafood dishes.

For something a bit more festive, the Eppa SupraFruta Sangria is just what you want for a casual gathering of friends, tapas optional. Super-fruits are still very in right now, so would  make a great gift for the wine drinker who likes to infuse even cocktail hour with a dose of power-foods. The red sangria includes pomegranate, blueberry, blood orange, and acai juices, while the white includes mangosteen, peach, mango, and blood orange again. It also features certified-organic grapes, which explains why I saw it prominently displayed at our local Whole Foods.

And for the countdown to 2014, a little bubbly would not go amiss. While French Champagne is still highly regarded, Prosecco is a wonderful alternative (as we’ve already discussed). The Enza Prosecco pictured would be wonderful for toasts at midnight while carrying you through to mimosa’s in the morning to start the year off right. They say eating 12 grapes is an old Italian tradition for predicting which months will be sweet–I wonder how that counts if you drink them?


So maybe you’ve got friends who are more cocktail-oriented than wine. While I would suggest a bottle of Velvet Cinn for those friends, sometimes you want something other than a bottle to gift. In that case, I have two books that might just fill that need.

From the same pen that brought us Savory Pies, Greg Henry has now turned the sweet cocktail trend on its ear and compiled and created 100 savory cocktails recipes that run the gamut from sour to umami and all points in between. In fact, that’s exactly how the book is organized, with cocktails that share tingling taste-buds buddying up in the pages. A pleasure to read, Henry’s Savory Cocktails features plenty of newsy notes throughout the book and, as befitting a professional photographer, gorgeous photos of the cocktails as well.

Fashionable Cocktails

On the other end of the spectrum is The Fashionable Cocktail, 200 recipes compiled by Australian fashion journalist Jane Rocca and accompanied by the delightful watercolor illustrations of Neryl Walker. If you’re expecting cocktails inspired by fashion icons and wardrobe staples, you’re shopping in the wrong store. Instead, Rocca categorizes the cocktails she’s collected from bars in Melbourne, Syndey, and New York City bartenders by the type of girl most likely to drink them. Chapters include The Vintage Girl, The Luxe Label Girl, and The Hipster Girl, to name just a few.

Bottom line? As long as the gift comes from the heart, it will always be in good taste.

Cheers and Happy Holidays!


I received the above-mentioned books and bottles for purpose of review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.


Meet the Rosés | Volére Rosé


So we’re kicking off our Rosé reviews with something I never thought I’d utter on this blog:

a box wine

Wait! Before you go, here me out?

Many of us who love wine, even those of us who love wine on an “unsophisticated” level, love the process that goes with the wine. The foil cover, the corkscrew, the cork. Letting a red wine breathe. Saving the labels and corks. It’s an experience even before you get to the swirling, sniffing, and swishing.

First they started with the corks. Some went synthetic, some went screw-top. As “cheap” as those screw-tops may feel–and they do represent a cost-savings for the bottlers and, therefore, us–they drastically reduce the possibility that this great bottle of wine you opened will taste “corked.” They also eliminate the need for storing on their side (for the same reason, no cork to keep from drying out).

I get it. I don’t have to love it, but I get it.

Then it was the boxes. Ditching the heavy glass bottles makes a lot of sense in some ways (no breakage, easier to stack and store, etc.) but, to me, it just removed all ceremony from the drinking of wine, and I love the ceremony as much as the flavors.

And I’ve resisted, lo these many years.

But I’m a sucker for good packaging.

So when I received the note about Volére’s new Wine-in-Purse collection last month, and they had a rosé available, I just had to request a sample.

And it’s darling, just like I thought it would be!

Volere Rose Wine in Purse, with poured glass of wine

Inside this cute little purse-shaped box–complete with cord handle for easy carrying–is 1.5 L of wine (that’s 2 regular bottles, folks), kept in an air-tight pouch (aka a bladder, but that’s not the most appetizing word choice, right?) with a convenient pour spout. Because the pouch deflates as you empty it, no air comes into contact with the wine still inside, meaning that leftovers keep far longer than in your average recapped or recorked bottle. Up to 5 weeks, according to the packaging!

But How Does It Taste?

When I swirled my first glass of it, I was reminded of strawberry wine back home in Louisiana. No surprise, then, that the bottlers describe it like so:

An intense bouquet of wild strawberry, raspberry and rose petals mingle with complex flavors of fresh red berries on the palate.

It has the crispness of a not-too-dry white wine with a little bit of berry from the red. I get floral notes but they don’t overpower, and it’s a little sweet without being cloying. And the color is so deep, it’s more of a salmon than just a pink wine.

Volére suggests their Rosé would go well with “appetizers, white meats, grilled vegetables and fresh seafood” or just something to sip before dinner. I think the packaging would make it stand out for any sort of gift-giving, tucked into a gift basket or presented to your hostess as is. And you know I’ve got weddings on the brain, so immediately I jump to this as a gift for bridesmaids or thank-you gifts to your vendors. And at $14.99 each (remember, that’s 2 bottles worth) it will stretch your gift budget far!

I admit, I was wooed by the packaging, but I’m not sorry I tried this wine and might even be willing to give some of those other box bundles a try.



Volére Premium Italian Rosé Wine is produced by Cantina di Saove and imported MW Imports out of Brookln, NY. I was provided a wine-in-purse container of Rosé to try for purposes of review. All opinions are my own.

A Few Ideas for Those Last-Minute Christmas Gifts


No matter how many lists you make, this time of year it’s practically unheard of not to leave someone off your list. At the very least you’ll receive a last-minute invitation to a dinner, open house or event and, well, of course you want to bring a little something for the host(ess), right?

collage of 4 alcohols that make good holiday and hostess gifts

A bottle of something is always in season, but for Christmas and New Year’s it’s an especially nice gesture to wrap a bottle in a pretty little bag that they can either share now or save for later.

Courtesy of the folks at W.J. Deutsch & Sons, Ltd., here are a few suggestions that are both festive and affordable for all your holiday giving. Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to have one of these bottles presented to you!

(left) Warm his heart and delight his senses this holiday season with a bottle of Landy Cognac. The holiday season is a time to make him feel special and Landy Cognac will do just that with a refined blend of cognacs from French prestigious origins. Landy Cognac is available in three aging statements – VS, VSO, and XO. He will appreciate it neat, on the rocks, or blended in a delicious cocktail! SRP $ 24.99-$119.99

[Jenn’s Note: Cognac just screams luxury, this is the way to go if you need to impress a boss or maybe a new in-law with something a little different than your usual bottle of wine.] 

(top-right) If you are looking for a great value this holiday consider Barone Fini Pinot Grigio, a reasonably priced white wine with a crisp, clean taste. With its subtle fruit flavors, this wine can be enjoyed with rich holiday meals and allows your guests to enjoy the delicious tastes of the many flavors of the holidays. Barone Fini has long been recognized for producing Pinot Grigio of the highest caliber at a great price point and we would love to share this wonderful product with both you and yours this holiday season. SRP $9.99

[Jenn’s Note: We’re always in favor of a good bottle that comes in under $10 and this Pinot Grigio was absolutely delightful. It was perfect in the Rosemary Risotto I made last week and, of course, the rest was great in the glass to go with dinner.]

(center-right) Prohibition may be over, but America’s love affair with Moonshine has just begun! Original MOONSHINE is the perfect gift for the whiskey fan on your list. Made by a third generation master distiller with his grandfather’s authentic recipe, it is hand-crafted from 100% estate-grown corn and distilled four times in a Prohibition-era copper pot still. At 80 proof, our all-natural, recipe is charcoal-filtered for the highest purity, quality and taste. A truly versatile spirit, SHINE can be enjoyed neat, on the rocks or in a wide range of mixed cocktails…perfect for the holiday season. SRP $39.99

[Jenn’s Note: Moonshine is, for many people, one of those curious novelty alcohols. If you know someone who is always up for something a little different, even having this adorable bottle on their bar will please them to no end.]

(bottom-right) Discover the spirit this holiday season with Ruta 22 Malbec. It’s the only Malbec from Patagonia – the perfect reason to give this unique find as a gift. Wow your loved ones with this one of a kind wine that they can keep for themselves, for that unexpected house guest, or bring to a holiday party and steal the show! Ruta 22 pairs perfectly with red meats, cheeses, and pastas…three favorites at any holiday party, making this wine a great party guest! SRP $12.99

[Jenn’s Note: This was a rich, slightly spicy Malbec that went great with a humble pot roast–I can only imagine what it would be like next to a standing rib roast or other rich and meaty dish. And it’s another steal at under $15!]

Have a wonderful time these next 2 weeks when the conviviality is high on the ol’ priority list! Remember, though, always be safe, use a designated driver and remember moderation in all things. I guarantee you’ll enjoy your holiday more if you’re able to remember it!

Images and product information provided by W.J. Deutsch & Sons, Ltd. Samples were accepted by the blogger for the purpose of review but the opinions expressed in this post are entirely her own.

Meet the Reds: Malbec


Not exactly a new grape, Malbec is one of many grown in the Bordeaux region, usually as a mix-in to (once again) smooth out Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s a very popular grape to plant, however, in South America and it’s the Argentina Malbecs that really are something worth looking into.

They range in temperament from soft and fruity to bold and spicy. The latter is my favorite and what I had the pleasure of tasting at a local wine festival. The spice notes were slightly smoky and really developed into a nice finish, tingling in the back of my throat.

An awesome fact about this particular wine is that it’s still under many radars (though gaining in popularity) and some really great bottles can be found for $10 and under. If you like bold, spicy reds, pick one up and give it a try.

Meet the Reds: Merlot


Oh, probably one of the better known reds and, in some circles, the most maligned. Just the word “Merlot” sounds like smoky back rooms and femme fatales making breathy requests of the sommelier. Or something like that. Of course, just as quickly I’m reminded of Selma Blair’s nose-in-the-air reminder to her guests to not forget to “bring your own Merlot” (in Legally Blonde). And I’m told there are some very negative sentiments towards this particular grape in a certain wine-centric movie that I haven’t gotten around to watching myself. (I know, for shame, one of these days…)

The Merlot grape is grown extensively in the Bordeaux region of France as well as in Italy and Switzerland. It’s also one of the most popular grapes cultivated in California as well as a handful of other states. It’s generally considered softer and fruitier than the other Big Red (Cabernet) which is why some prefer it and others do not. To me it’s more a middle-of-the-road red and I prefer my wines more pronounced. It goes well with simpler red meat dishes, nothing too fussy or you might overpower the wine.

As hinted above, I’m not a huge fan of Merlot as a varietal and, to be honest, Cabernet is okay, but it’s not my wine of choice. Given this, I was quite surprised to find that a blend of the two really produces a lovely wine. At a Key Lime Cook-Off a couple of months ago, I tasted the Snoqualmie Vineyards Whistle Stop Red, which is a 70-30 Cabernet-Merlot blend. According to my wine reference, the French have been blending a bit of Merlot into Cabs for ages as it tends to blunt Cabernet’s natural tendency towards astringency while punching up the Merlot’s softer nature. It was an absolute revelation for me, to find that I liked it so much, and I snapped up a couple of bottles before leaving the event. (It also didn’t hurt that the cook-off and a portion of that day’s sales at the host location went to help the Leon County Humane Society.)