How did you rate your wine?

90pointsOne of the thing that fascinates me is the amount of importance some wine enthusiasts place on the rating a wine received.  Here’s the thing, I get it.  You seek guidance.  You want to know that you’re not wasting your time tasting an “inferior” wine when you could be sipping a “superior” one.  You want some kind of guarantee that the wine you’re purchasing today will be good when you open it tomorrow, or next week, month, year, or decade.

But, what if I don’t agree with the ratings?  What if that 90 point wine to me is just ‘ok’.  What if I find that the alcohol in some of those wines is so overpowering that I can’t really taste the fruit?  I ask this because this has happened before.  I’ve tasted a wine, with a rated promise that it’s a good one, only to be disappointed with it.  And, this this has happened more than once.  Does that mean that the point system is a moot point?  Does it mean that something is wrong with my palette?  Or, here’s a crazy thought, what if something is wrong with Robert Parker’s palette?

Here’s what I think.  I think that if a wine enthusiast is solely drinking wine with high ratings, that they are robbing themselves of the experience and education of all of the other wines.  There is so much to learn and so many opportunities to learn about wine, why limit yourself to tasting only what someone else thinks is the best?  Do yourselves a favor, create your own rating system.  It can be complicated and point driven, or happy faces, doesn’t matter — just don’t cave to the the ratings of another.  Sure, you can consider them, but do your due diligence and discover new wines, decide which ones you like and rate them your way.

A good friend of mine has always told me that “wine is a journey of discovery” – don’t limit your journey to follow someone else’s map, create your own, discover what you like and what you don’t like. I promise, it will make for so much more interesting conversation next time someone brings up the point value of a wine.

Which Wine Should I Buy

I am blessed in that I know a lot of people and that many of those people are my friends.  I see them around town, on Facebook, and at random events. Eventually we’ll start talking about wines and eventually I’m asked the ever so popular question…. “but how do I know which wine I should buy?”

man-114437_640Here’s the thing — it’s a loaded question, and yet the answer is really simple. Don’t worry, I’ll get to the simple answer eventually.  In the meantime however, I want to share with you why this is a loaded question. It’s loaded because if you want that “perfect” wine, you need to consider some factors, like:

  • Guests.  Who are you serving this wine to? Who is it for?  Do they like wine? Do they know anything about wine?  can they tell the difference between a $5.00 bottle and a 50.00 bottle?  Will they appreciate what you are pouring for them? Will they care?
  • Occasion.  Is this a special occasion?  What’s so special about it? Will you remember the wine in the morning? Have you considered the answer to all of the questions above about the guests that will be there?
  • Food.  Will you be serving food?  Is wine the only beverage you’ll be serving? What type of food will you be serving?  Seafood? Poultry? Meat? Pork? Vegetables? What are the seasonings?  Is there a lot of Garlic or Pepper?  Is it spicy? Sweet? Tart? Is it fried? Baked? Grilled? How many courses are there?  Is it a sit-down dinner or pot-luck? did you want one wine for the whole meal or did you want to change it up and have different wines with every course? Who is cooking, you or a caterer? Or are we pairing this wine with an In-n-Out burger?  Is it a regular hamburger, cheese burger, animal-style or mustard grilled?  Again, have you considered the answer to all of the questions about the guests and the occasion?
  • Budget.  How much did you want to spend on wine?  Yup, that’s the only question in this category  – because, let’s face it, you have a too many things already on your mind about the guests, occasion and the food!

“Which wine should I buy” is a loaded question because there are just way too many things to consider.  Ready for the simple answer now?  It’s only 1 sentence, so pay attention….  If you’ve tried it and you like it and its within your budget, buy it.

Did you get that?  Let’s face it, if you’re reading my blog, and you’re the one that’s going to be buying the wine, and hosting guests and feeding them – shouldn’t you also enjoy it?  AND, if you like it, chances are that a good number of your guests will too.  So here’s the answer again, write it down, memorize it, tell your friends (or don’t tell them), but always remember.  When you’re buying wine, ask yourself:  Have I tried it?  Do I like it?  Is it in my budget?.  If the answer to ALL of these questions is “yes” – pay the man because you’ve found the perfect wine!

Welcome back to Vines!

I recently had the pleasure of attending a wonderful mixer and re-introduction to the Vines Restaurant right here in our own backyard at the Hyatt Regency Valencia.  Barry Prescott, General Manager, produced an event that struck a perfect balance between good food, good drinks and good people.  If you find yourself in the Santa Clarita area, give the Vines a try, it’s worth it!


Brunch just got tastier with Ubons Bloody Mary Mix

There’s nothing better around 10:00am than brunch and no brunch is complete without a delicious bloody mary, right?  Bloody Marys are probably the only cocktail I’ll order before noon.  And, for as much as I enjoy having brunch out with friends, having brunch at home is just as enjoyable especially since it just got better!  Want to know why?  Well,  because the most delicious bloody mary available in my part of town comes out of my kitchen with the help of Ubons.

This morning I cracked open the bottle of Ubon Pitmaster’s Hot & Spicy Bloody Mary mix that was gifted to me by a good friend of mine a couple of days ago.  I busted out my cocktail shaker and a bottle of Bakon Vodka – yes, you read that right, it’s a vodka that has a subtle taste of bacon to it.  I poured 3 parts of the mix and 1 part of the vodka into my shaker, closed the lid and shook my bootie for a few seconds.  I poured the mixture over ice into one of my crystal glasses – part of a set the my beautiful Aunt gave me (may she rest in peace), and garnished it with a green olive.  I went and sat on the couch, took a sip and thought — OMG, that is the BEST Bloody Mary I’ve had in a long, long, looooong time!

IMG_5824x1200-112x150The mix is probably one of the thickest I’ve seen and the spices are a’plenty.  The heat is nothing to be intimidated with, but is just enough to make me want to take another sip.  If you like it spicier, you can easily splash in a little more of your favorite hot sauce – but for me, it was perfect just the way it was.

Thank you Eve for introducing me to Ubons, it’s definitely going to become a staple pantry item in my fridge from here on out!

Yum, yum, yum!

Corkage Fees for Santa Clarita Valley Restaurants

Ever wonder what the corkage fees are around town?  Well if you live in the Santa Clarita Valley, has just made an updated listing available to us locals.  If you don’t live in this area, let us know which area you’re interested in getting a list for, and we’ll start working on it!

Reprinted with permission

Santa Clarita Valley Wine Corkage Fees
Updated for 2014
Source: Eve Bushman, www.Eve’

In this corner, Drinking. And in this corner, Tasting.

Recently, a friend of mine invited his date over to my house for a glass of wine.  Odd? not really, he’s moving in as my roommate and it was his current “friend” who came over to hang out.  Anyways, suffice it to say that she’s a tad bit younger… like a taaaaaaaad bit.  Her occupation has her around alcohol all day and it appears that she’s learning to like wines.

Ok, so she gets to my house and eyes my wine “stash” and her eyes sparkle with hope.  I figure ok, maybe she’ll appreciate them as much as I do?
boxinggloveswithwinejpgI pour her a glass of one of my favorite wines… 2005 1667 Army of Geese, a Petite Sirah, Cab, Sirah blend… and start to explain to her about color and the purpose of swirling to aerate the wine.  I challenge her to think about what she is tasting when she takes her first drink.  I think, eh, she’s ok I guess. Until….

Until she excuses herself to go to the restroom, only to answer a phone call, place the call on speaker and proceed to tell her friend that she’s “not drunk yet”.

So I’m going to chalk it up to age.  She’s young and at that age where drinking is what one does.  I really do think that it’s a phase that we all go through – where we drink alcohol for the sake of drinking it.

But there comes a point where one needs to grow up.  I think it is then when we learn about moderation and appreciation.  And, as a wine-lover, I think it is then when we learn the difference between drinking any ‘ol alcoholic beverage and having a glass of wine.

Today, when I pour a glass of wine, I admire the way that the liquid pools around the glass as it is being poured.  How it ebbs and flows to find it’s home only to be swirled again to further the essence of this elixir that is about to transport me to a peaceful place.  The process of raising the glass to my lips in anticipation of science and nature mixing with trial and error.  The taste of this fermented grape juice that is complex, or simple, light, full, different, unctuous, raw, balanced and unique.  And finally the way that the taste lingers, changing, growing softer and softer with every passing second until it’s time to taste again.

This, my friends, is the difference between drinking and tasting.  It is awareness, patience and appreciation.