Julia has been swirling, sipping and swilling wines throughout California and beyond for more than two decades. Her passion is discovering big wines in small places. So, come with her and fill your glass.

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Flora Springs has two dynamic selections, dressed up in etched, hand painted holiday bottles that will make the giver the toast of the season.

But, that’s if you really want to share this festive duo.

The 2015 Dashaway Chardonnay ($45) features a whimsical reindeer pulling a gift-laden sleigh flying over the Napa Valley vineyards on Christmas Eve. The watercolor artwork was created for us by self-taught artist and illustrator Ruth Harper chose the label colors carefully. “I wanted to use gold since Chardonnay is a golden-colored wine,” she said. “And, I thought the royal blues and purples were complementary and also expressive of the night.”

Grapes for the outstanding Chardonnay are sourced entirely from the family’s sustainably farmed vineyards in Napa Valley. The vintage shows off rich, ripe, caramelized fruit, hints of warm apple pie and notes of Bosc pear and almond paste. Careful fermentation gives the wine a creamy, open texture, and the long finish coats the mouth in delicious vanilla custard.

Flora Springs’ 2014 Red Wine Blend ($65) features an angel heralding “Joy to the World”. This extraordinary blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (64 percent), Petit Verdot (19 percent)and Syrah (17 percent) entices the senses with rich core of blackberry, cassis, dark plum and black cherry flavors framed by lovely brown spice notes of cinnamon, cardamom and clove.

So, put another log on the fire and toast the season with warm wishes and full glasses.

 

American’s Test Kitchen the iconic bevy of cook books just released its first Cookie Book in time for you to get excited about whipping up America’s favorite treats.

The hardcover book features 250 recipes for cookies, brownies and bars.

But wait, there’s more. Not included in the book but available here are some suggestions for wine parings.

Drop cookie recipes are classic but improved without cakey and dry textures. Instead of using all butter, the cooks introduced vegetable, an unsaturated fat. To avoid beating too much the dough is mixed by hand. Try a chilled oaked chardonnay alongside the oatmeal cookies. Try the Chewy Sugar cookies too.

Cookies of all shapes are possible with rolled, shaped and pressed recipes. Try the popular Thin Chocolate-Mint cookies of Girl Scout fame. Baking the rolled-out-and cut cookies until they are thoroughly dry ensures the proper crunch. Pour a glass of Malbec alongside a plate.

Instruction for cookies with filling are a snap with the book’s easy to follow instruction.

Turtle Brownies are the ultimate indulgence. Whole eggs, a modest amount of flour and baking powder resulted in a treat that was partway between chewy and cakey with a blanket of caramel and chopped pecans. An aged port makes a fireplace evening decadent.

The section of Christmas cookies will make the season brighter.

The book is available at $35 online.

 

 

 

Holiday time is the perfect time to invite three Chilean wines to the party and introduce Carmenere to the crowd.

(A member of the Cabernet family of grapes, the name “Carménère” originates from the French word for crimson (carmin) which refers to the brilliant crimson color of the autumn foliage prior to leaf-fall.)

Marques de Casa Concha Carmenere, crafted by Marcelo Papa, is deep, intense red in the glass with enticing notes of ripe plums, black currants and dark chocolate. Pour this with grilled meats that have sauces with a touch of sweetness and ripe cheeses.

Castillero del Diablo Reserva Carmenere, made by Marcelo Papa, evokes a legend from the wine house that originated in the 19th century. The founder of the winery discovered that his vineyard workers were sampling his greatest wines. To discourage this action, he spread the rumor that his deepest, darkest cellar was the Casillero del Diablo (Cellar of the Devil), so that no one would dare go there. It worked, and a legend was born. The wine is dark purple with brooding flavors of plum, hints of coffee and oak.

Gran Reserve Serie Riberas Carmenere, produced by Marcio Ramirez, was aged for 11 months in French and American oak. The seductive selection cascades in the glass with lush aromas of cherries, black currants, blackberry with whispers of black and white pepper. Smooth tannins linger in a long finish. Enjoy this exceptional wine with duck and roast beef.

 

 

Why?

This trio is too good too share. Be good to yourself and save these three: Barrel Road Red Blend (16.99) from California; Bervini 1955 Spumante Rose ($18,99) and Bervini 1955 Prosecco($18.99), both from Italy.

Barrel Road wine was aged in small batches in bourbon barrels. Grapes were sourced from quality vineyards on California’s Central Coast. The result is amazing. Enticing aromas of vanilla, caramel and spice open to rich red fruit, dark chocolate, rich plum and dark spices on the finish.

The Bergamo family that crafts the Prosecco believes “Nature is the master of all human arts.” Grapes for this wine begins in the vineyards where grapes are fermented in stainless steel tanks. The tiny, excited bubbles exude pear and citrus. It is delicate and dry on the palate that makes this a perfect accompaniment to seafood dishes.

The Spumante Rose selection is “Pretty in Pink” and tastes delicious. The sparkler is crafted from Glera and Roboso varietals and offers an avalanche of dancing bubbles with raspberry and rose fragrances and fruit forward flavor and balanced acidity. Pour this chilled Asian dishes.

This time of year selfishness can be a virtue!

 

 

Martha Stewart Wine Co., yes the American icon, recently introduced the concept that wine doesn’t have to be complicated. Simply learn what you love and drink it!

Here is how you can have the opportunity to sample many different grapes, regions and winemaking styles and you’ll typically come to recognize what tastes good to you.

Consumers can just go to the site (https://marthastewartwine.com/) and buy a single bottle for themselves or as a gift. Wines usually range from $12.49 to $26 and you can choose from a selection of reds, whites, rose or sparkling. There is even a section for Martha’s favorites. Then there are packages you can purchase…everything from red, whites and mixed varieties to special holiday packages. Those are usually 4 or 6 bottle packages.

And then, there is a wine club too. There is the Half-Case (6 bottles every 6 weeks) or the Case Wine Club (12 bottles every 8 weeks). The Half Case is $49.98 (or $8.33 a bottle) every 6 weeks and the Case is $89.76 (or $7.48 a bottle) every 12 weeks.

But wait, there’s more.

An illustrated booklet – “Wine Pairings You Can Always Count on” – is a helpful guide to what wines to pair with savory foods, sweet foods and more.

Best of all, if you don’t love your wine, the company will replace it for free.

 

Why not try something fresh and new alongside old favorites for the Thanksgiving feast?

Vermentino is a light skinned Italian grape crafted by Massovivo wine house and waiting for an invitation to the party. (Buy a couple of bottles, each is only $18.)

Enormous yellow rocks characterize the landscape where the grapes grow. The vines are often grown on slopes facing the sea where they can benefit from the additional reflected light.

Golden hued in the glass, the wine tempts with aromas of rosemary, white flowers and Mandarin orange. Candied fruit and minerality reflect the terroir. Vermentino can be complex in style similar to Sauvignon Blanc.

Pour this slightly chilled with miniature crab cakes and goat cheese tarts as a first course and part of the main course.

This new addition will prove to be a permanent item on the menu.

There is a Prosecco sparkler from Italy that should be invited to your fall get-togethers and they come dressed and ready to party.

Mionetto, founded in 1887 in the heart of the Veneto region, has been the prominent name for Prosecco for 130 years. Harvested from glera grapes, this Treviso Brut excels with zest from sloping hill sides and alluvial and clay soils.

An avalanche of tiny, pale amber bubbles exude aromas of green apples and whispers of white peach. It is crisp and fresh on the palate with balanced acidity and festivity. Pour this chilled with fresh seafood, mild cheeses or alone.

The wine house produces a Prosecco Treviso this is crisp with a pale straw hue and excited bubbles that burst from the glass with golden apple and honeysuckle aromas. The reward is a dry, fresh sparkler with a long vanilla and passion fruit finish. This aromatic wine is not like Moscato it is brimming with apple pear and pineapple.

Enjoy this Prosecco with fresh figs, white fish and soft cheeses.

There is a Prosecco sparkler from Italy that should be invited to your fall get-togethers and they come dressed and ready to party.

Mionetto, founded in 1887 in the heart of the Veneto region, has been the prominent name for Prosecco for 130 years. Harvested from glera grapes, this Treviso Brut excels with zest from sloping hill sides and alluvial and clay soils.

An avalanche of tiny, pale amber bubbles exude aromas of green apples and whispers of white peach. It is crisp and fresh on the palate with balanced acidity and festivity. Pour this chilled with fresh seafood, mild cheeses or alone.

The wine house produces a Prosecco Treviso this is crisp with a pale straw hue and excited bubbles that burst from the glass with golden apple and honeysuckle aromas. The reward is a dry, fresh sparkler with a long vanilla and passion fruit finish. This aromatic wine is not like Moscato it is brimming with apple pear and pineapple.

Enjoy this Prosecco with fresh figs, white fish and soft cheeses.

There is a Prosecco sparkler from Italy that should be invited to your fall get-togethers and they come dressed and ready to party.

Mionetto, founded in 1887 in the heart of the Veneto region, has been the prominent name for Prosecco for 130 years. Harvested from glera grapes, this Treviso Brut excels with zest from sloping hill sides and alluvial and clay soils.

An avalanche of tiny, pale amber bubbles exude aromas of green apples and whispers of white peach. It is crisp and fresh on the palate with balanced acidity and festivity. Pour this chilled with fresh seafood, mild cheeses or alone.

The wine house produces a Prosecco Treviso this is crisp with a pale straw hue and excited bubbles that burst from the glass with golden apple and honeysuckle aromas. The reward is a dry, fresh sparkler with a long vanilla and passion fruit finish. This aromatic wine is not like Moscato it is brimming with apple pear and pineapple.

Enjoy this Prosecco with fresh figs, white fish and soft cheeses.

The time is getting closer to “Throw Diets out the Window Day” or better known as Thanksgiving.

It’s a great day (except for the turkey) for feasting and giving thanks for just being on the planet.

But, there is always a quandary about what wine to serve with the bird.

Herzog Wine Cellars has a delicious suggestion: open its 2014 Special Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon from Alexander Valley and wait for the applause.

The Herzog family produced quality wines in their native Czechoslovakia for generations. That tradition continued when they moved to the United States in 1948.

A rich menu of turkey, potatoes, stuffing, gravy and more calls for a wine that can stand up to the feast.

The selection opens with enticing aromas of blackberries, black cherry and licorice that are the opening act for intense flavors of cassis, black currant and plum.

After dinner enjoy this extraordinary selection with pecan pie, dark chocolate or cheddar cheeses.

Just because the weather is getting a little nippy doesn’t mean you have to give up white wine. Vitkin, an Israeli winery, has a delicious dry white wine for beautiful autumn days.

The blend – Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Viognier, Colombard and Gewurztraminer – was crafted from different viticultural areas and aged in steel tanks for three months.

Glistening pale yellow in the glass, the fragrant wine open with notes of green melon and violets.

The exceptional wine has a rustic quality with fruit, herbs and spice on the long finish.

Pour this selection slightly chilled with Chinese and Southeast Asian cuisine, poultry dishes and mild cheeses.