What is Wine? – An Evolving Definition

Since the 1970’s when wine became a more prominent beverage on dinner tables and at dinner parties west of the Atlantic its meaning has gradually changed and expanded.  Once an arcane centerpiece at the meals of mainly French and Italians with labels as indecipherable as Chaucer to a visitor from Andromeda, people as far away as California, Chile, South Africa, New Zealand, Romania and many, many other appellations are making wine a part of their culture and economy in their own ways.

So what are some of these diverse definitions and purposes for wine?

  • The last “spice” to complement a dish?
  • A medicinal spirit to help one unwind after a hectic day?
  • The magic elixir that loosens tongues when friends get together to catch up and share stories?
  • A status symbol?
  • An investment?
  • A complicated mystery in a bottle that still tastes like “red” or “white”?  A curiosity?
  • An escape?  (“Wine hath drowned more men than the sea.” — Thomas Fuller)

To me, each bottle of wine is a delightful personality with which to gradually become acquainted with an open mind.  Each bottle is unique, just as every person in the world is unique — based on their own vintage, origin, and life experience.  A bottle of wine is a living thing, always changing . . . like its meaning.

What does wine mean to you?  I’d love to hear your comments!

Published in: on February 23, 2012 at 12:34 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Sometimes Only a Cocktail Will Do

For late nights dragonslaying in Azeroth I find wine makes me too sleepy too quickly and is not a dull buzz I want. So instead when I want to sip something simple & tasty with kick I prefer margaritas, mojitos, caiperinha, limoncello, beer, that sort of thing. After all, it’s a virtual party! We’re not always in the mood to read classic literature, right? Occasionally a comic book or magazine is what you want.

Tonight I made an experiment that turned out SPLENDIDLY. It’s my Lychee Ginger Vodka Martini — not as good as the one made with real ginger at Solage around the corner from my temporary apartment in Napa Valley, but it’ll do.

Lychee Ginger Vodka Martini
2 oz. vodka
1 oz. ginger liqueur (grabbed a mini bottle of Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur as an impulse buy at the local wine store checkout counter!)
4 oz. lychee juice OR 3 oz. lychee nectar
1 lychee to garnish the bottom if you like

Shake in cocktail shaker with ice, filter pour into martini glass, drop optional lychee in the bottom.

I expect this will be perfect for hot nights on the deck with pre-chilled ingredients.

Published in: on April 14, 2009 at 9:03 pm  Comments (3)  

The Beer That Made Me Weep

. . . and I don’t mean in a “tears in my beer” kind of way. This magic elixir was SO GOOD I was compelled to share it with everyone I know who might be a beer drinker.

For years I have been looking for a really good 120 minute IPA (India Pale Ale) and heard great things about Dogfish Head’s offering of said beer. I have enjoyed their 60 minute and their 90 minute IPA many, many times. Many, many times I have checked Whole Foods and various spirits establishments hoping to finally come across the elusive 120 minute version.

Tonight, in Whole Foods, at long last, I found it. Not available in 6-packs or even 4-packs . . . only as individual 12 oz. bottles.

The color reminds me of Obsession cologne — a clear orange-caramel that brightens to a deep amber at the edges, then gold on the rim. If you hover your nose over this beer and inhale you will be greeted with aromas of apricot, toffee, cookies, fresh cut grass/ wheatgrass juice, and fresh baked wheat bread. Sound good? Wait until you put it in your mouth. Your palate veritably GLOWS with flavors of dulce de leche, wheatgrass juice, toffee, dried apricots, peach pie, butterscotch and raw sugarcane.

This is the muscat of beers.

This beer is like rolling around in ecstasy in a giant mound of hops. After I finish this I imagine I could need a cigarette.

I would pair this! I would pair this with vanilla ice cream or angel food cake. Then again, it’s rich enough to be dessert on its own.

Let me share the bottle label marketing pitch for you — it says it all:
“What you have here is the holy grail for hopheads. This beer is continually hopped over a 120-minute boil and then dry-hopped every day for a month. Enjoy now or age for a decade or so.”

Yyyyesssss. I think I may ACTUALLY like this better than chocolate. If you can find this, buy it and try it.

Omigod now I have to find this: http://www.dogfish.com/brews-spirits/the-brews/seasonal-brews/aprihop.htm . Now if only ANYONE carried their Barleywine.

Published in: on March 21, 2009 at 6:35 am  Comments (8)  
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What’s In the Cellar Right Now

A few of my fellow students at the CIA this summer asked for a copy of my “wine list” at home and regrettably I never got around to sending it (though it changes weekly so it’s hard to keep it updated frequently enough). Some are aging, some might not be here next week, but here is what is downstairs in the wine cellar and upstairs in the little wine fridge:


Winery Wine Year Appellation
Beaulieu Vineyard Beauzeaux (Zinfandel, Syrah,
Charbano, Petite Syrah, Lagrein, Valdiguie, Grenache, Tempranillo)
2005 Sonoma, CA
Bellview Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 Outer Coastal Plain, NJ
Ben Glaetzer Wallace Shiraz Grenache 2006 Barossa Valley, Australia
Bouchard Pere & Fils La Vignee Bourgogne 2000 Beaune, Cote-d’Or, Bourgogne, France
Brotherhood Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 Hudson River Valley, NY
Cantina Zaccagnini Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2004 Bolognano, Abruzzo, Italy
Capela de Santa Margarida Evora 2003 Alentejo, Portugal
Cartlidge & Browne Pinot Noir 2007 American Canyon, Napa Valley, CA
Castello di Borghese Hargrave Pinot Noir 2002 North Fork, Long Island, NY
Chateau Belle-Vue Haut-Medoc (Cabernet Sauvignon,
Merlot, Petite Verdot)
2002 Haut-Medoc, France
Christophe Buisson Recolte Pinot Noir 2006 Bourgogne, France
DeWaal Pinotage 2002 Stellenbosch, South Africa
Domaine Alfred Califa Pinot Noir, Chamisal Vineyards 2000 Edna Valley, San Luis Obispo, CA
Dupont-Tisserandot Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2000 Gevrey-Chambertin, Cote-d’Or, Bourgogne, France
E. Guigal Cotes du Rhone 2005 Cotes du Rhone, France
Failla Keefer Ranch Pinot Noir 2006 Russian River Valley, CA
Fox Creek Shiraz Grenache 2000 McLaren Vale, Australia
Francis Coppola Diamond Collection Ivory Label Cabernet
2006 Geyserville, Napa Valley, CA
Freja Pinot Noir * 2006 Willamette Valley, OR
Gustavo Thrace Cabernet Sauvignon 1999 Pope Valley, Napa Valley, CA
Hartford Family Russian River Valley Zinfandel 2005 Forestville, CA
J Pinot Noir 2006 Healdsburg, Russian River Valley, CA
Laurel Lake Pinot Noir Reserve 2003 North Fork, Long Island, NY
Laurel Lake Syrah 2002 North Fork, Long Island, NY
Miles Pinot Noir 2005 Finger Lakes, NY
Paringa Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 South Australia
Paumanok Cabernet Franc, Grand Vintage 2005 North Fork, Long Island, NY
Pecchenino San Luigi Dolcetto di Dogliani 2005 Dolce di Dogliani, Piedmont, Italy
Pedroncelli Dry Creek Valley Petite Syrah 2005 Sonoma, CA
Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir 2002 North Canterbury, New Zealand
Ridgeline Sonoma County Merlot 2003 Napa Valley, CA
Rocca Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 Yountville, Napa Valley, CA
Rocca Bad Boy Red 2005 Yountville, Napa Valley, CA
Rosenblum Cellars Vintner’s Cuvee Zinfandel NV Alameda, CA
Rutz Maison Grand Cru Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2000 Russian River Valley, CA
Salmon Run Pinot Noir 2001 Keuka Lake, Finger Lakes, NY
Warnke Merlot 2005 Napa Valley, CA

* Unfiltered


Winery Wine Year Appellation
Belhurst Pinot Grigio 2006 Finger Lakes, NY
Belhurst Legends Chardonnay 2004 Seneca Lake, Finger Lakes, NY
Chateau de Maligny Chablis 2004 Montee de Tonnerre, Chablis, France
Chateau Ducasse Bordeaux * 2007 Bordeaux, France
Chateau Jeanguillon Bordeaux 2006 Entre-Deux-Mers, Bordeaux, France
Chateau Puy Boyrein Bordeaux 2006 Graves, Bordeaux, France
Comtesse Therese Russian Oak Chardonnay 2003 North Fork, Long Island, NY
Cuilleron, Gaillard, Villard Remeage, Les Vins de Vienne 2006 Seyssuel, France
Francis Coppola Diamond Collection Yellow Label Sauvignon Blanc 2007 Geyserville, Napa Valley, CA
Franciscan Cuvee Sauvage Chardonnay 2006 Carneros, Napa Valley, CA
Frank Family Vineyards Chardonnay 2005 Calistoga, Napa Valley, CA
George DeBoeuf Bourgogne 2006 Macon-Villages, Bourgogne, France
Hogue Cellars Gewurtztraminer 2006 Columbia Valley, WA
Joseph Drouhin Laforet Bourgogne 2006 Beaune, Cote-D’or, Bourgogne, France
Joseph Drouhin Pouilly-Fuisse 2006 Beaune, Cote-D’or, Bourgogne, France
Maison Louis Latour Bourgogne 2006 Beaune, Cote-D’or, Bourgogne, France
Miles Chardonnay 2004 Finger Lakes, NY
Raphael Sauvignon Blanc 2003 North Fork, Long Island, NY
Raphael Sauvignon Blanc 2004 North Fork, Long Island, NY
Raphael Sauvignon Blanc 2005 North Fork, Long Island, NY
Trimbach Pinot Blanc 2005 Alsace, France
Vignobles Boudinaud Grange des Rouquette Marsanne Viognier 2005 Rhone, France
Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc 2007 Marlborough, NZ

* Unfiltered

Fruits & Desserts

Winery Wine Year Appellation
Baldwin Trilogy 2005 Hudson River Valley, NY
Bedell Raspberry Wine 2003 North Fork, Long Island, NY
Chateau Lafaurie-Peyraguey Sauternes 2002 Sauternes, Bordeaux, France
Chestnut Run Farm Asian Pear Wine NV Pilesgrove, NJ
Duck Walk Aphrodite Late Harvest Gewurtztranminer 2002 North Fork, Long Island, NY
Elk Run Vin de Jus Glace (Riesling Ice Wine) 2005 Mount Airy, MD
Four Sisters Winery Spicy Sisters Semi-Sweet Spiced Apple Wine NV Belvidere, NJ
Fu-Ki Plum Wine NV Japan
Kiuchi Brewery YuZu Wine NV Japan
Martin Weyrich Moscato Allegro 2003 Paso Robles, CA
Paumanok Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc 2006 Finger Lakes, NY
Pindar Late Harvest Gewurtztraminer 2001 North Fork, Long Island, NY
Pindar Winter White (off-dry) NV North Fork, Long Island, NY
Proud Country Cellars Carroll’s Mead NV Hudson River Valley, NY
Rosenblum Cellars Gallagher Reserve Black Muscat 2005 Alameda, CA
Tomasello Winery Pomegranate Wine NV Hammonton, NJ
Tomasello Winery Cherry Wine NV Hammonton, NJ
Tomasello Winery Mulled Spice Wine NV Hammonton, NJ
Tomasello Winery American Almonique NV Hammonton, NJ
Wagner Vignoles Ice Wine 1998 Finger Lakes, NY


Winery Wine Year Appellation
Domaine Ste. Michelle Luxe 1999 Washington
Domaine Ste. Michelle Blanc de Blancs NV Washington
Tarantas Cava Brut NV Spain
Presto Prosecco Brut NV Italy


Winery Wine Year Appellation
Knapp Limoncello 2005 Romulus, NY
Bodegas Toro Albala Pedro Ximenez Gran Reserva 1971 Cordoba, Spain
Alvear Pedro Ximenez 1927 Solera NV Montilla-Moriles, Andalucía, Spain

Pardon the squished formatting . . . sometimes ya gotta work with what you have. I also realize some of these wines are past their prime — don’t worry, they’ll be consumed very soon! Many of these were gifts, many picked up on local wine tasting outings, a good number purchased at the Wine Library. As always looking for recommendations!

Published in: on January 19, 2009 at 11:12 pm  Comments (1)  


Last night I wanted to give that Merlot another chance after a lot more decanting and a night in the fridge, and maybe another food pairing. JACKPOT! We made lamb tikka masala but rather than stew the lamb with the sauce this time my husband broiled it first, making the flavor more full-bodied. Absolutely perfect pairing that made this wine positively dance. A good food & wine pairing happens when neither the food nor the wine are diminished by the other but are at least the same alone as they are together. A GREAT pairing is when the sum is greater than the parts and the flavor of both is actually enhanced by each other.

Published in: on January 8, 2009 at 12:13 pm  Leave a Comment  
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More Endeavors For 2009

Perusing other wine blogs out there today underscored a fact I was already aware of but will no longer accept: mine is pretty lame. There is so much more I learned about what I drink and where it’s from and how it was made that I’d love to share, and there are new developments with all aspects of the wine industry that inspire discussion. I need more photos too. This is not just about tasting!

Published in: on January 7, 2009 at 4:21 pm  Comments (4)  

The Trouble With Merlot

Or really, my trouble with Merlot. It’s a popular intro-to-reds “window” wine, it has a degree of versatility with food pairings, it grows in many areas, and many experts confuse some Merlot styles with Cabernet Sauvignon (it can happen!). So what’s not to like? When I heard Miles Raymond say in Sideways, “No, if anyone orders Merlot, I’m leaving. I am NOT drinking any fucking Merlot!” I laughed so loud. I thought, “YES! I like this guy!” Which is not terribly fair to Merlot, I admit. I just . . . it doesn’t say much to me, and when it does it’s usually pretty harsh. That may be as much about the winemakers as the grapes though, who knows. But what is the difference between “nuanced” and “vague”? The taster.

Last night we had a Merlot ravioli stuffed with garlic and mozzarella with a red sauce and I figured hell, why not pair it with a Merlot. A couple months ago I had picked up that 2005 Warnke Cellars Merlot (Napa Valley) from Wine Library since I have a friend with the same last name, and because it was in their Top 10 Staff Picks. This was a fine opportunity to open it. In the glass it is a bold ruby color with a garnet rim, clear and day bright. The nose confirmed for me that my smeller is officially back after that unfortunate sinus infection because the alcohol burned my nose — I wondered if it was SO2 but nope, this was alcohol. Beyond that I detected smoke, newsprint, charcoal, red raspberry, pomegranate, plum, black pepper and roasted green peppers. In the palate are tastes of gamey meat, brambley briar, raspberry, plum, charcoal, burned meat, and grilled green peppers. The acidity was high, alcohol quite high (14.7%), the wine was dry, had medium+ body, high intensity, sharp green tannins, medium+ oak that might have been overcharred or too recently charred, medium+ finish and medium complexity. I’m not sure how balanced it was — the alcohol and tannins, and likely the poorly ripened grapes, made this wine pretty bitter. The timing of harvest is a tricky thing in hot climates. The sun and heat speed up the clock for reaching your desired Brix (measurement in degrees of residual sugar and consequently potential alcohol) but if you must pick sooner vs. later to keep your wine from becoming too sweet and too boozy you risk taking it off the vine before the grapes reach natural maturity — the seeds can be green rather than brown with a “skin”. The result is green, stemmy-flavored wine. I have no idea if this was the case with this particular wine but after decanting it for about half an hour the darker fruits came forward a bit and it was kinder on the nose & palate but I still wasn’t the biggest fan. It did pair well with the pasta.

So I’m unsure of whether I’m just biased against Merlots because they get a bad rap or if I’m trying too hard to like them because they’re an underdog. Merlot to me is like that unfunny, obnoxious friend who you don’t really like but take with a grain of salt because every once in a while you have a really good time with them. Ridgeline’s Sonoma County Merlot is an example of a really good time — I tasted it while in CA (recommended by the really awesome tasting room pourer named Jen from NYC) and could NOT believe it was a Merlot. It was so flavorful, balanced and complex! Of course I bought it! And I imagine Shafer’s Merlot is outstanding having nearly died over their Cabernet Sauvignon. But other times . . . too many Merlots are just “meh” to me, west bank Bordeaux, Napa, doesn’t matter.

But if someone at a restaurant orders it I don’t leave. 😉

Published in: on January 6, 2009 at 1:31 pm  Comments (2)  
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The Next Vintage of Our Lives

Morticia’s Cellar will be one of the few blogs this week who will NOT recap 2008 as we move on to the great year I hope 2009 to be. All I aim to do is tell you about what we drank on New Year’s Eve and this morning. Hope you all had a wonderful New Year’s and that this year is one of your best!

Rather than spend a quiet evening home alone this year my husband and I decided to have a semi-quiet evening home with family, so his brother, his brother’s fiancée and a few of their friends came over from Queens for some Rock Band and Dick Clark. Though much of it became an exercise in Making Dennis & Stefanie Feel Old — for any of the Rock Band songs that were older than 20 years the kids handed us the mic, and I didn’t recognize most of the acts on Dick Clark’s NYE special — we certainly had fun. This time I mulled some wine a little differently than the party in December: our Zin was a NV HRM Rex-Gloliath Free Range Giant 47 Pound Roaster Zinfandel from Lodi and Central Coast and rather than go all out with the Williams Sonoma mulling spices I used my own combo from the pantry, heavy on the cinnamon sticks. Very, very tasty.

At the midnight countdown we toasted a NV Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut from Carneros brought by my brother-in-law’s friend. Highly enjoyable! This morning after starting the year in my favorite way I drank the last of the sparkly in a bellini with some homemade eggs benedict (my man can COOK! reeeaaally well too). Now we’re just having a lazy day, I’m sipping the rest of the mulled spiced wine (chilled this time) and catching up on backlogged blogging (“clogged blog”?). Also I just ordered some business cards with my CWP title on them for when I eventually go look for wine jobs.

Some things I aspire to do this year:
Priority #1, January-February: get certified in my day job so I can keep paying the bills.
– After second quarter when I find out whether I still have a day job I plan to go further down the path of this wine career pursuit, probably consulting and trying out some wine service.
– Take singing lessons.
– Take Chinese lessons so I can finally understand my in-laws.
– Go to France, specifically Paris, Burgundy, Provence and wherever else our palates take us.
– Take swing dancing lessons.
– Hit that treadmill more often (you knew that had to be in here somewhere).
– Meditate more often. Being Wiccan it’s a challenge to take time to observe my own holidays since the world doesn’t typically take a break for the non-mainstream ones but now that I’ll have my own room for worship (rather than a dirty corner of the basement) I hope to have more spiritual focus going forward.

Should be busy!

Published in: on January 1, 2009 at 2:46 pm  Comments (1)  
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“Bottle Shock” on DVD

By the way “Bottle Shock” will be released on DVD February 3, 2009 so if you missed it in theaters you can still catch it at home!

Published in: on December 29, 2008 at 8:27 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Though it was looking like I wouldn’t see my family this Christmas my mom found a way and met up with my brother at our house this evening before heading back to PA in the morning. She brought a bottle of the Pouilly-Fuisse that I couldn’t taste at my tasting party a couple months ago — it was delightful, although conversation with my family is usually too hectic to stop and do tasting notes so I have no review of it. As Christmas gifts she also brought me a bottle of a 2004 Châteauneuf du Pape and a book I can’t wait to start reading: “The Billionaire’s Vinegar” by Benjamin Wallace, apparently a story about “the mystery of the world’s most expensive bottle of wine” and featuring a picture of an ancient-looking vessel of 1787 Lafitte on the front cover. By the descriptions I’d guess this is THE bottle of 1787 Lafitte. Yay Mom! Heh she also gave us the traditional navel orange for prosperity. So like old times we listened to goth covers of Christmas carols, ate some cheese, drank some wine and talked. I’m also delighted to share that my husband got me a 50 bottle stainless steel wine fridge for Christmas which is currently taking up most of the hallway until the addition to our house is finished and we can make room in the basement for it next to my current wine rack(s). I was concerned that it would be too expensive but due to the retail climate in the current economy it was marked down almost absurdly low. Hurray! Thanks, hon! Now I can be more confident that saving a bottle for 10 years will be less risky than doing so with less environmental control.

Happy Holidays everyone, whichever one you celebrate (my holiday was a few days ago), may it be safe, fun and enjoyed with those you love. And if you can’t be with the ones you love, honey . . . you know how the song goes. 😉


Published in: on December 24, 2008 at 11:21 pm  Leave a Comment  
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