A Travellerspoint blog

Wine Folly Wine Chart

I love wine charts like the one below by Wine Folly. They made an infographic that breaks down the basics of every type of wine, including calorie count, alcohol content, and most importantly, which wines pair best with which food.


Read more: http://read.bi/1bgbcui

Posted by HelenaK 18:21 Archived in USA Tagged wine_tasting Comments (0)

The 20 Best Wines In The World, According To Wine Spectator

Wine Spectator reviewed 20,000 new wines and narrowed their list down to a manageable 100 they deemed the most "exciting."

Below are the 20 best wines of 2013, according to Wine Spectator, based on quality, value, availability, and "x-factor." One of my favorite zins from Paso Robles made the list! See #12 below.

1. Cune Rioja Imperial Gran Reserva ($63)
2. Château Canon-La Gaffelière St.-Emilion ($103)
3. Domaine Serene Pinot Noir Willamette Valley Evenstad Reserve ($65)
4. Hewitt Cabernet Sauvignon Rutherford ($92)
5. Kongsgaard Chardonnay Napa Valley ($75)
6. Giuseppe Mascarello & Figlio Barolo Monprivato ($110)
7. Domaine du Pégaü Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Réservée ($120)
8. Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape ($120)
9. Lewis Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Reserve ($135)
10. Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley ($135)
11. Reynvaan Syrah Walla Walla Valley Stonessence ($70)
12. Turley Zinfandel Paso Robles Dusi Vineyard ($42)
13. Croft Vintage Port ($93)
14. Bedrock The Bedrock Heritage Sonoma Valley ($37)
15. Olivier Ravoire Gigondas ($33)
16. G.D. Vajra Barolo Albe ($42)
17. Alexana Pinot Noir Dundee Hills Revana Vineyard ($42)
18. Poggerino Chianti Classico ($25)
19. Hamilton Russell Chardonnay Hemel-en-Aarde Valley ($33)
20. Chateau Dereszla Tokaji Aszú 5 Puttonyos ($40)

View the full list of Wine Spectator's top 100 wines in 2013 here

Posted by HelenaK 15:15 Comments (0)

Wine Tasting 101

Here are some wine tasting tips from Rue Mag. It's a short read and covers the basics from how to hold a wine glass to differentiating between acids and tannins.

We love opening a bottle of wine with dinner or celebrating with a glass of bubbles. Despite our proximity to Napa, when we wanted to learn more about picking the perfect pairing, we didn’t hop in the car. Instead, we stayed in San Francisco and visited Bluxome Winery. Owned by Peter Chouinard and fourth generation wine maker Matt Reider, Bluxome Winery is reviving wine making in San Francisco. Tasting Room Manager Meghan Shaw showed Rue where they make their wines and gave us all the tasting tips we craved. We’re here with “Wine Tasting 101″ so there’s no need to feel intimidated when facing the wine list.

How to hold. The stem keeps the wine from warming too much from the hand, so hold the glass from the stem or base. If you’re at a cocktail party and balancing a glass in heels, however, hold the glass the way that is most comfortable for you.

The swirl. The purpose of swirling wine is to fill the bowl of the glass with the wine’s aroma. You don’t have to get dramatic with the swirl; the safest way is to keep the glass on the table and move it in small circles with one hand. You can also hold the glass to swirl, if you feel comfortable. This is why a glass of wine is only poured to the widest point, typically one-third to one-half full.

Acid vs Tannin. Acids are tart and commonly found in white wines. You can feel the effects of an acid on the sides of your tongue. An acid will make your mouth water whereas tannins, found in ‘big reds’ are bitter and will suck your mouth dry. Tannins are a chemical in grape skin that bonds to salvia molecules, causing the dry mouth feel. To train your palate to identify these flavors, Meghan suggests tasting lemons for acid and black tea for tannins.

Nice legs. You may have heard about “the legs” on a glass of wine. Forget about it! The legs are useful for learning about a wine, but they don’t tell you anything about quality. The legs, or the drips you see on the side of the glass after swirling, signify the different rates of evaporation of the water and alcohol. Higher alcohol content wines have quick, thin legs while lower sweeter wines have thick, slow legs. It’s always interesting to see, but ultimately has nothing to do with quality.

Picking wine. Whites for chicken and seafood, red for beef, right? Megan agrees these simple rules can be helpful… but rules are meant to be broken… or in this case, improved! You can match the wine with the meat or you can match the preparation style. Say you are out to dinner with a group of carnivores and are looking to share a bottle of red without ordering steak as well. Try a barbecued chicken or blackened fish.

How to find the wine you love. Go to a bar and drink. More specifically, find a wine bar and talk to the sommelier. When you like a wine, ask about it and see if they can recommend something similar. Try to identify the similar tastes that you appreciate. Then in the future, use those words to describe the type of wine you’d like when at a wine shop or restaurant. Another great way to taste many wines is to arrange evenings of wine tastings at home with friends.

Meghan’s last piece of advice? “Drink the wine you feel like drinking.” What other wine faux pas do you worry about?

Link to the article: Rue

Posted by HelenaK 18:23 Comments (0)

Scratch and Sniff Wine Book

This book sounds interesting, it's a scratch and sniff wine book from a master sommelier. This short read (the book is only 22 pages) looks like a fun way to learn more about wine.


Richard Betts is one of fewer than two hundred master sommeliers in the world, but he’s no wine snob and he hates wine-speak. In the first book of its kind, he helps readers scratch and sniff their way to expertise by introducing the basic components of wine—the fruits, the wood, the earth—enabling anyone to discover the difference between a Syrah and a Sangiovese and get the glass they love every time. Humorously illustrated, with 16 scents, this irresistible gift puts the fun back in wine fundamentals. Source: www.amazon.com

Posted by HelenaK 14:03 Archived in USA Comments (0)

How To Sound Like A Wine Expert In 9 Basic Steps

Just wanted to share this article. It's a quick guide on how to sound like a wine expert.

Link to article: How To Sound Like A Wine Expert In 9 Basic Steps


Posted by HelenaK 14:45 Comments (0)

Santa Barbara Wine Country - 4th of July 2013 (Day 2)

Santa Rita Hills, Los Olivos

sunny 88 °F


Foley Estates Vineyard and Winery is the fruition of financier Bill Foley's dream to produce world class Chardonnay and Pinot Noir near his Santa Barbara home.

I prefer smaller, less commercial wineries but since my friend is a wine club member we decided to stop by Foley. Overall, the wines were decent (my favorite was the Pinot Noir), the winery was beautiful and our pourer Jason was very friendly. There was a large party when we arrived (60 or so guests who were in town for a wedding) so this winery would be a great option for large group tastings.

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Tastings begin at $10
Foley Wines


Quick stop at OstrichLand in Solvang. Here's a fun fact: Ostriches grow a foot per month until they reach 8 or 9 feet tall!

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Fees: $4 Entrance, $1 Feed


Founded in 1972 by father and son, Leonard and Brooks Firestone, Firestone Vineyard has enjoyed 35 years of family stewardship. Recently, so that they might concentrate on their burgeoning beer business and smaller Curtis Winery, the Firestone family decided to sell their iconic winery.

In doing so, they turned to fellow Santa Barbara Vintner Bill Foley as the logical next shepherd for the famous property. As the Firestone’s identified earlier on, Bill, too, recognized Santa Barbara County as the ideal location for the production of world class wines. Bill has vowed to continue the Firestone tradition in striving for the very best in vineyard management and cutting edge winemaking discipline.

Firestone is another commercial winery but I have always enjoyed coming here. The wines and service were both good. The tasting room does get packed but we lucked out and it wasn't very crowded when we were there. As for the tasting, I did the reserve tasting and my favorite was the Syrah.

Another reason to check out Firestone are their wine tours and events. They offer free winery tours where they explain the history of the winery and the wine making process. They also have their Summer Concert Series on Fridays where they have live music, local food and wine specials (2 for 1 on some of their bottles of wine). You can also picnic during the concert and the best part - the concert is free!

Tasting $10; Reserve Tasting $15
Firestone Vineyard



Established in 2005, Demetria Estate is a family owned winery. Our goal is to produce wines of distinction and character rivaling those of the world's greatest wineries.

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Several years ago my friends and I went for a tasting at Demetria and I've been hooked ever since. This is by far the most picturesque winery in the area. It reminds me of being in Tuscany. The best part of their tasting is that they serve you outside, instead of the tasting room so you can picnic and take in the scenery while you taste.

My favorite wines from Demetria are the 2010 "North Slope" Syrah and the 2010 Cuvee Constantine. I still have a bottle of the 2007 "North Slope" Syrah and I'm looking forward to comparing the two vintages.

I would be perfectly content spending the entire day here. Wine, live music, picnic and beautiful surroundings. I couldn't ask for anything more.

Tasting $15; Tastings by appointment

Carivintas Winery

The genesis of our name: Caritas: charity (syn. philanthropy), an affection for giving to humanity [Latin] Vin: wine [French] Caritas + Vin: blending wine with philanthropy— Carivintâs Blending Wine with Philanthropy

Such a cute wine bar in the heart of Solvang. I enjoyed their wines but what I liked most was that a portion of their profits are donated to non-profit groups. The labels on their wines reflect a different dog breed and they mainly support animal charities. These wines would make a nice gift for an animal lover.

Stop by if you're in Solvang and if you're hungry after your tasting, there's a delicious Italian restaurant across the street (Cecco Ristorante).

Tasting $10
Carivintas Winery

I would recommend all the places listed above except for the ostrich farm, that I could have gone without. If you have kids, you should stop by and see the ostrich; however, if you're in town to wine taste, skip the ostrich and head straight to the wineries.

Posted by HelenaK 20:28 Archived in USA Tagged los_olivos foxen_canyon santa_rita_hills Comments (0)

Santa Barbara Wine Country - 4th of July 2013 (Day 1)

Santa Ynez, Los Olivos, Solvang

sunny 90 °F

I decided at the last minute to join some friends on a wine tasting trip to Santa Barbara. I couldn't think of a better place to spend the 4th of July.

We made a quick stop at Jeannine's Bakery in Montecito on our way up from LA. If you're driving up on the 101, this is worth the stop. Please note that they have several locations and it can get pretty crowded on weekends, so be prepared to wait or order ahead. I highly recommend the Kahlua Banana French Toast (challah bread topped with bananas sauteed in Kahlua, brown sugar and butter). It's a bit much but if you have a sweet tooth like I do, dessert for breakfast is always a great idea.

Jeannine's Bakery

Santa Ynez Wine Trail

Lincourt Vineyards

Nestled under California pepper trees and overlooking the Alamo Pintado Vineyard near Solvang, Lincourt retains the rural charm and simplicity of an earlier era. Once a dairy property, the old farmhouse—an original 1926 Sears Craftsman kit home—serves as our tasting room.

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This was our first tasting for the day. We were there pretty early (11:15 am) so it wasn't very crowded yet. Julie, our pourer, was fantastic. She took the time and explained each of the wines. She even poured a few wines (2012 Foley Johnson Rosé and 2010 Lindsay's Pinot Noir) that were not on the tasting list. One of the things I liked most about Lincourt was that their grapes are all grown in Santa Barbara County (Santa Ynez, Santa Rita Hills). Also, their wine club is worth joining. Since Lincourt is owned by Foley Family Wines, you can also get complimentary tastings and discounts on wine at any of their sister properties. Their other properties in the area include Foley Estates and Firestone, and they also own wineries in Paso Robles, Sonoma, Napa and New Zealand.

Tasting Fee $10
Lincourt Vineyards

Blackjack Ranch

Self-described as “California Rustic,” this tasting room has been constructed from materials salvaged from original buildings right on the ranch, with the tasting bar built from the salvaged wood of a retired bowling alley. Bleacher seats from the original Wrigley Field are also a part of the mix of materials that make this wine tasting experience truly unique.

The winery is owned by the man who invented California Blackjack, which is a variation of blackjack, hence its name. Blackjack Ranch was also featured in the movie Sideways. My favorite from the tasting was the 2007 Maximus Syrah which also happens to be the wine that was featured in the movie.

Tasting Fee $10 (They pour 12 wines for the tasting so you may want to share)
Blackjack Ranch

Beckmen Vineyards

Founded in 1994 by Tom and Steve Beckmen, Beckmen Vineyards is a family-run, estate winery located in Santa Barbara County's Santa Ynez Valley. Since its founding, Beckmen Vineyards has emerged as one of North America's premier producers of Rhone varietal wines, while also helping to establish Santa Barbara County as one of California's most highly regarded winegrowing regions.

We decided to purchase a bottle of their Sauvignon Blanc and picnicked on their grounds. Next time I will definitely try to go in for a tasting.

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Beckmen Vineyards


Nestled in an oak-studded 40-acre vineyard, Roblar Winery is located in the heart of the beautiful Santa Ynez Valley, just 30 minutes from Santa Barbara. Our winery reflects the spirit of “The Valley” as we locals call it—rustic, authentic, and bold.

We arrived at the winery 15 minutes before they were closing (they are open Thursday - Monday from 11AM-5PM) and since they were getting ready to close they could not accommodate us for a tasting. Instead they offered a complimentary taste of one of their wines. My friends thought it was rude that they were rushing us out instead of accommodating us, but it was the 4th of July and I'm sure they wanted to head out and enjoy the holiday. I'm indifferent but I would have liked to have tasted more of their wines. I tried their 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon and thought it was well-balanced and really enjoyed it.

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Kalyra, a translation from the Australian Aboriginal meaning ‘A Wild & Pleasant Place.’ Its fun, international blends made the label wildly popular.


The winery / tasting room is known for its appearance in Sideways. It was where Sandra Oh's character worked.

We thoroughly enjoyed the tasting and the festive atmosphere. We had such a great time in the tasting room that we decided to purchase tickets to their upcoming wine stomping event. Wine stomping in togas, that didn't take much convincing. See the link below for more information on the event.
The Great Grape Stomp

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Kalyra Sampler Tasting- $10, Reserve Dessert/Port Tasting- $12

Wandering Dog Wine Bar

We were still eager to taste some more but since most of the wineries were closed for the day we decided to go to a wine bar in Solvang. I decided to do the blind tasting and couldn't resist and grabbed some beer as well.

Wandering Dog's blind tasting is a great way to test your pallet and is available each week on Thursdays. They presented us with four half glasses (2.5 oz) of red wine to taste and we each had to guess the origin, vintage, varietal, price and alcohol percentage of each wine.

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Blind Tasting $15
Wandering Dog

We ended our long day of wine tasting at a Spanish restaurant nearby and saw some of the fireworks from Old Mission Santa Ines.

Of all the wineries listed above, I would recommend the following:
Lincourt - good wines (2010 Lindsay's Pinot Noir, 2010 Lincourt Cabernet Sauvignon, 2012 Foley Johnson Rosé), excellent service, nice ambiance (tasting room, vineyard)
Beckmen - nice scenery
Kalyra - casual and fun atmosphere, variety of dessert wines
Wandering Dog - stop by on a Thursday for a blind tasting

I was actually quite surprised at how many wineries / tasting rooms were open on the 4th. Some were closed so if you do decide to go wine tasting on a holiday, call ahead and see which tasting rooms are open.

Happy 4th of July!


Posted by HelenaK 23:11 Archived in USA Tagged solvang santa_ynez los_olivos Comments (0)

French Countryside (Champagne, Épernay, Reims)

Dom Pérignon, Champagne Pommery

sunny 86 °F

in a perfect world, everyone would have a glass of Champagne every evening

-Willie Gluckster

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Posted by HelenaK 22:39 Archived in France Tagged reims champagne epernay french_countryside champagne_pommery Comments (1)

Thailand Wine Country

A vineyard two hours south of Bangkok! Who knew?

Napa may have a train for touring wine country, but in Thailand you ride through a vineyard from the back of an elephant. For more info, click here: Elephants and Wine

Posted by HelenaK 14:58 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)


Glen Ellen, Kenwood

sunny 83 °F

Wineries visited: Paradise Ridge, Kaz, Roche, Deerfield, Ledson, Mauritson, Valley of the Moon, B.R. Cohn, Kunde, Mayo

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Photos from top to bottom:
Valley of the Moon
B.R. Cohn
B.R. Cohn

Posted by HelenaK 19:38 Archived in USA Tagged sonoma kenwood glen_ellen Comments (0)

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