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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When Dave Phinney and Kim McPherson founded Locations Wine, they believed in out-of-the-box thinking. A wine concept that may be summed up in three words: simple, complex and fun.

TX6, a Texas red wine from Texas High Plains AVA ($24.99), mirrors this concept. This is a premier site in Texas with red clays and sandy soils. Varieties indicative of France and Spain thrive here.

This red wine is an exciting blend of Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah, Carignan and other Bordeaux varietals.

The garnet-hue in the glass is eye-catching and opens the nose to a bouquet of fresh herbs and ripe red berries. Bright, fresh blackberries, Bing cherries, cassis and plum entice the senses. The palate is long and surprising, highlighting the terrior to produce big and powerful wine.

Pour this sexy selection with barbecued ribs, salty smoked fish and chicken and dumplings.

Forget the Wildcat formation and screen pass plays; Super Bowl fans will be passing the guacamole in big numbers Feb. 4, cheering for the Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots and looking for some good wines to swill.

.From coast to coast, fans are expected to devour around 1394 million pounds of Hass avocados during Super Sunday, according to the Hass Avocado Board. With that many green globes, a football field, measuring the same as the U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, requiring about 29 million pounds of tortilla chips. That would require a pretty hefty chip to scoop that bowl.

To meet this demand, Hass avocado growers are gearing up for the peak period that will outscore Cinco de Mayo and other holidays.

A spicy zinfandel could stand up to the velvety guacamole or perhaps a sassy sangiovese could pucker your taste buds. But try a chilled sauvignon blanc if you tilt toward the white wines. But, don’t wait until kickoff to swill and sip.

But, back to the avocado story: It wasn’t easy selling the nation on the benefits of the exotic fruit. The first carload of California avocados was shipped to New York in January of 1927 and a sales report stated, “The Eastern market doesn’t want black fruit.”

But avocados growers persisted and today there are about 50,000 acres of avocado groves between Monterey and the San Diego border and 4,000 growers California is the nation’s leader in avocado production.

What if you want to whip up a batch of guacamole and the fruit is not ripe?

No problem. Simply place avocados in a paper bag with an apple for two to three days at room temperature.  When they darken and yield to gentle pressure, they are ready.

Enjoy the game!



Codorniu Vineyard winemakers came to San Francisco from Spain recently to tout the popularity and unique taste of Cava.

“Cava means cellar,” said speaker, television personality and wine expert Leslie Sbrocco. “These are sparkling wines from Spain. The wineries crafting the cava dates from 1551. All Cavas are made in the Traditional Method (aka Champagne Method)”

Most Cavas are made with grape varieties native to Catalonia, although a substantial portion are made from international varieties. Most Cavas are made in that region of Spain.

There are three categories of Cava: Traditional Cava, Cava Reserva and Cava Gran Reserva.

Catalonia produces 95 percent of total production of Cava in the country.

Flora Springs has created a red Bordeaux blend that celebrates the incredible fusion of three varietals that define elegance.

Your time swirling and sipping this incredible selection is long past due. This is bliss in a bottle.

The original “Trilogy” – a combination of Bordeaux varietals cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc – goes back years when Flora Springs Estate set out to craft the best wine possible from wine lots selected from its vineyards.  Over the years their wine wizards have added other Bordeaux varietals to the original blend that displays huge structure and rich fruit.

Its 2015 Trilogy ($80) combines cabernet sauvignon, malbec and petite verdot from estate vineyards in St. Helena, Rutherford and Oakville appellations in a heady, muscular wine. (Warning: this “big boy” is not for newbies. It is ferocious and, albeit, subtle.)

Open this seductive wine about 20 minutes before serving to allow aromas of Bing cherries, sweet cassis and blackberry to start the show. Then swirl and sip dark licorice, cola and cardamom flavors that explode on the palate and exit in a long, luxurious finish.

Pour this “big” wine with “big” foods such as prime rib, bold burgers and meat laden pastas.

Winemakers say this enticing, robust red wine can be enjoyed through the next decade; but why wait?



Parrish Family Vineyard has the perfect Christmas movie and wine pairings list that will fill you with holiday cheer(s)!

  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966) with Sauvignon Blanc: Like the Grinch, Sauvignon Blanc can start a little acidic, but gets sweeter and calmer with time and the right pairing. Both the Grinch and the wine will make your heart grow three sizes when paired with people you love.
  • Love Actually with Rosé: Sweet and pink, this wine is a crowd pleaser just like this holiday classic. With multiple layers and flavors, this pairing works great in a cast of characters. Pair it with your favorite loved ones, some Christmas cookies, and Santa socks.
  • The Santa Clause & Home Alone with Zinfandel: Always the life of the party, Zinfandel can be strong and mischievous while also being smooth and sweet. It’s the embodiment of the jovial and juvenile characters in both of these classic movies. Grab a bottle and get in the spirit for holiday hijinks.
  • A Christmas Carol (1951) with Petite Sirah: There is no better pairing for a bold, full-bodied red Petite Sirah, than with an old miser. With masculine notes of leather and black tea, this wine starts a little harsh like Scrooge, but softens up as it goes. The tannins lead the charge and then bring a change of heart at the finish.
  • It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) with Cabernet Sauvignon: Just like down-on-his-luck, loveable, George Bailey, Cabernet Sauvignon is a wine that will lift everyone’s mood. This classic Christmas movie pairs beautifully with America’s favorite red wine.

Hope you enjoy these movie and wine pairings and feel free to create some of your own.


You probably never heard of pasta sauce being a lifesaver; but at this hectic holiday time, it heads that category.

Victoria Chef Collection pasta sauce believes you should never have to sacrifice a quality meal over time. The philosophy began a recipe journey for the perfect marriage of quality and convenience.

Inside every jar cooks will find perfected cooked penne pasta mixed with Victoria’s slow-kettle- cooked premium pasta sauce. The past is specially made with premium ingredients and the secret pasta is simpler than you think: it is cooked using egg whites.  The Penne Alla Vodka combines pasta with a rich,, creamy vodka sauce made with whole plum tomatoes, onions and garlic. Heat the pasta for about two minutes, pour a glass of muscular Syrah and enjoy.

The Victoria Chef Collection is sold in 24 ounce containers at retailers across the U.S.

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.