Tag Archives: wine

See you in Pasadena this Sunday, March 9 @FWCTasting. Get your Señorita Vino discount before March 8!

5 Mar

This one’s short and sweet, chicas y chicos. Family Winemakers of California is comin’ to town this Sunday, March 9. Grab your BFF and get ready to taste some vino!

If you’re in the L.A. area, make your way to Pasadena for this tasting of wines made from 200-plus California winemakers. I’m happy to offer a 10 percent discount if you order your tickets online through the Family Winemakers of California website. Your magical discount code is: SENORITAVINO (all one word, not case sensitive).

It’s all happening at the Pasadena Convention Center this Sunday, March 9 from 3:30 to 6 p.m.

Make sure you register by March 8 to receive the discount. More details and a registration link are on my  Events page. ¡Salud and see you there!  

Photo credit: Joey Hernandez
Photo credit: Joey Hernandez


Drink along with the 86th annual #AcademyAwards

27 Feb

Darlings, Señorita Vino is in deadline hell. Can someone throw me a lifeline? As in a glass of wine?

Because I’m bogged down with work (a positive problem, I’m told), and because the Oscars® are this Sunday, March 2, I get to regale you with the (edited) contents of a press release that came across my wine-stained desk from the team in charge of publicizing the libations that will be poured at this year’s awards ceremony.

Add a little cinema verité to your Academy Awards party and drink along with the stars. Here are the wines and cocktails your favorite celebs will be sipping this year. Let’s hope Jennifer Lawrence doesn’t fall this time. And may the best wine–I mean, picture–win. [COMMENTS IN BRACKETS ARE MY OWN].



Sterling Vineyards will once again provide the fine wines poured at the Oscars telecast and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Governors Ball. This year, Sterling is joined at the bar by a selection of world class spirits from the Diageo Luxury Brands portfolio in a customized experience created exclusively for the Oscars.

A selection of four Sterling Vineyards wines and a handcrafted Johnnie Walker cocktail will welcome guests of the Oscars.  Following the Awards telecast, party-goers at the Governors Ball will be dazzled by The Glamour Shot, a chic concoction featuring new Baileys Vanilla Cinnamon mixed with Goldschläger® Cinnamon Schnapps and served in a glass rimmed with edible flakes of real gold [A GREAT OPPORTUNITY TO REMIND FOLKS THAT I DO ACCEPT PRODUCT SAMPLES].

In a nod to Old Hollywood, guests can savor a Blood and Sand, a classic whisky-based cocktail originally created for the premiere of the1922 Valentino movie of the same name, or sip the supremely modern CÎROC Coco Light Martini.  The calorie-conscious  CÎROC cocktail has less than 130 calories [FINALLY--A COCKTAIL I CAN INPUT GUILT-FREE ON "MY FITNESS PAL"].

 Scotch enthusiasts attending the Governors Ball will be delighted to discover the Johnnie Walker Scotch Whisky Bar, stocked with a range of deluxe whiskies, and featuring rare blends including Johnnie Walker Platinum Label and Johnnie Walker Blue Label, poured over hand carved ice. [TO THE GUESTS ATTENDING MY OWN OSCARS PARTY--SORRY, I DON'T DO CARVED ICE, BUT THERE WILL BE CARDBOARD OSCAR STATUETTE CUT-OUTS. JUST DON'T GET THEM WET.]

 To pair with Chef Wolfgang Puck’s spectacular and varied menu of more than 50 selections of imaginative hors d’oeuvres [I'LL BE SERVING TWO IMAGINATIVE HORS D'OEUVRES. WOLFGANG'S SUCH AN OVER-ACHEIVER!], small plate entrees and desserts, Sterling Vineyards’ 2010 Reserve Chardonnay and 2008 Reserve Cabernet will be served.

SPOILER ALERT: I received this press release after my own annual Academy Awards dinner party was planned, therefore I admit that none of these wines or cocktails will be served chez Señorita Vino. But as they say in show biz, the fiesta must go on. ¡Salud!

¡Mucho Gusto! Get to know Barbaresco

22 Jan

Happy Wednesday, chicas y chicos!

I’m still reveling in the newness of 2014, and in my never-ending quest to bring you snob-free wine knowledge, I’d like to introduce you to ¡Mucho Gusto!, a brand-new feature on Señorita Vino. Well, it’s not literally on me, but you get the picture.

Once or twice a month, I’ll be focusing on a different wine, with a bit of history, flavor and aroma characteristics, pairing ideas and maybe even a recommended label or two. The purpose of this new department is to inspire you to learn about and taste wines you may not typically drink. Some you may have heard of, others not, but I promise you’ll learn something new, even about wines you already drink.

So without further ado, heeeeeeeere’s Barbaresco!


HOLA, ME LLAMO: Barbaresco is a red wine made from the Nebbiolo grape.

MY ROOTS: Barbaresco hails from the Piedmont region in northwest Italy. It’s a DOCG wine (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita), the highest quality ranking for Italian wines. Bear in mind that California, Chile and Mexico also make wine from the Nebbiolo grape, but the wine can only be called Barbaresco if it’s produced in designated districts in Italy’s Piedmont region.

ALL ABOUT ME: Barbaresco is a dry wine known for having softer tannins than its “cousin,” Barolo, an Italian wine also made from Nebbiolo grapes. For this reason, Barbaresco is considered by some to be easier to drink than Barolo. Because the wine is aged in wood for a maximum of two years, you may smell cedar or oak. Barbaresco has lush berry and plum aromas, along with floral notes of violet and spices such as vanilla and licorice. This is a full-bodied wine, which means it will feel heavier on the palate and have a higher alcohol content.

FOODS I LOVE: Because of the tannins and body, Barbaresco pairs nicely with the traditional meat and game stews of northwestern Italy. Want a little Latin sabor? Pair it with carne asada, seco de cordero (Peruvian lamb stew), carnitas or roast pork. If you love a good charcuterie plate as much as I do, try it with salami,  mortadella, and if your arteries can handle it, lardo di Colonnata.

DO TRY THIS AT HOME: Expect to pay anywhere from $14 to $400 or more for a bottle of Barbaresco. You can get a good one for $30-$60. Some respected labels include: Ceretto, Gaja, Pio Cesare, Bruno Rocca and Tenute Cisa Asinari dei Marchesi di Gresy.

Now that you’ve met Barbaresco, what do you think? Is it a wine you think you’ll try? Are there other wines you’d like to see in a future ¡Mucho Gusto!? Share your comments – I’d love to hear from you.


#Vino 101: Five #wine tasting basics

9 Jan

So how ’bout those New Year’s resolutions?

Wait! Come back! This isn’t about guilt trips.

It’s about the trips you take to your favorite wine bar or winery. One of my New Year’s resolutions for 2014 is to taste more wine. If that sounds more doable than dragging yourself to the gym each morning at 5, here’s a five-step wine tasting formula that just may inspire you to join me.


The five S’s: See. Swirl. Sniff. Sip. Spit.

1. See. How a wine looks can tell you a lot about what’s in your glass. For example, the younger a white wine is, the paler it looks. Conversely, the older a red wine is, the lighter in color it will appear. More advanced tasters may be able to tell what type of grape the wine is made from by how it looks, e.g., a Cabernet Sauvignon will look inky, while a Pinot Noir will appear more clear.


2. Swirl. When you swirl wine around in your glass, you’re releasing the little odor molecules that give wine its flavor and aroma. The only wine you don’t want to swirl is a sparkling wine. Exposure to air will cause the wine to lose its fizziness and some of its  flavor characteristics.


3. Sniff. Smelling a wine can give you more clues about its origins and how it was made. If you’re smelling vanilla, cedar or tobacco, it’s an indicator that the wine was aged in oak barrels. If you’re smelling a lot of fruit, it’s possible the wine comes from the New World, or a winemaking region outside of Europe. Mineral aromas like gravel, flint or wet stone may mean the wine is made in the Old World or European style.


4. Sip. Notice I said sip and not gulp. A smaller sip allows you to discreetly swirl the wine around in your mouth so that you can pick up more aromas, and thus  get a better sense for the wine’s flavor.

5. Spit. You’re probably wondering why anyone would want to waste perfectly good wine. I’ll drink to that! But if you overdo it, your ability to distinguish flavor characteristics plummets. It’s like meeting a chulo guy (or hot señorita) in a bar. The more you drink, the less likely you’ll be able to tell a winner from a stalker/TV Guide hoarder. Save the ambitious drinking for dinner. And make sure you have a ride home. Preferably not from aforementioned serial killer/Beanie Babies doll collector.


Now go forth and taste, chicas y chicos. And if you need a motivational group to help you achieve this most grueling of New Year’s resolutions, you know where to find me. ¡Salud!


Happy #NewYear! How to open a #Champagne bottle

30 Dec

Happy New Year, darlings! Ring in 2014 by showing that Champagne bottle who’s boss. By popular demand, here’s a post on how to uncork a sparkling wine bottle in five easy steps without losing an eye, your dignity, or a close amigo. Cheers and may your glass be always full in the New Year!

Step 1: Remove the foil.

Some sparkling wine bottles will have a small tab, much like a bottle of olive oil or balsamic vinegar, that makes it easier to remove the foil.

Step 2: Remove the cage.

Six twists is all it takes.

That wire you see at the top of the bottle  is called the cage. Find the little piece of metal that looks like a twisted loop, pull it straight and untwist it six times so that the cage opens. Fun fact: Every twisty loop on every bottle of bubbly in the world takes six to six-and-a-half turns to come loose.

Step 2a: Wipe the bottle dry with a dish cloth.

Condensation may cause the bottle to be slippery. You don’t want that. Take a dish cloth or towel and wipe off some of the moisture so that you can get a good grip.

Step 3: Hold the bottle at an angle and cover the cork firmly with one hand.

Take note: cover the cork, don’t pull on it.  You’re preventing the cork from going flying by placing your hand on top of the bottle and pressing down firmly, or, as my mother would say, sin asco.

Step 4: Turn the bottle gently while keeping a firm grasp on the cork.

Twist the bottle, not the cork., you heard right. You’re not pulling on the cork. Trust me – it has all the motivation it needs to dislodge. Instead, you’re rotating the bottle itself while firmly grasping the cork until you feel pressure escape from the bottle. Make sure the bottle is not pointing at anyone, yourself included! It’s important not to panic here, chicas y chicos. Ideally, you should hear a fiesta-inducing pop, not a heart-attack-inducing BANG.

Step 5: Keep the bottle tilted unless you’ve  just won the Monaco Grand Prix.

What happens when you hold a just-opened bottle of sparkling wine upright? Two words: Champagne volcano. So resist the urge to turn the bottle upright once the cork comes off. Unless of course you’re christening a new cruise ship, winning the World Cup, or channeling F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.

Wasn’t that easy? Before your New Year’s bash, you may want to practice uncorking the bubbly a few times, or with close friends who’ll still speak to you if you inadvertently shower them with a mini-Old Faithful.

¡Feliz año nuevo!

A disclaimer:

I took artistic liberty in using the word ‘Champagne’ in this post. The only sparkling wines that can be called Champagne are those that are made in the Champagne region of France. Generally speaking, all others can be considered ‘sparkling wine.’

Señorita Vino’s holiday #wine-pairing cheat sheet

24 Dec

Felices fiestas, darlings! The winter holidays are my favorite time of year. The food, the familia, the gift exchanges, the vino. As I write this, I’m making like a wine-totin’ reindeer and dashing out to the family homestead to celebrate Noche Buena, or Christmas Eve Night.


But before I rush out the door, I’ve received some pairing questions from readers as they prepare for their holiday feasts. In response, I’m sharing this link to an article I wrote last year for Latina Magazine’s TheLatinKitchen.com on the topic of – you got it – how to pair wine with traditional Latin American holiday food.

Whichever way you choose to celebrate, may it be happy and in good health.

Until next week, ¡Salud y felíz Navidad!

Reyes Winery – the only Latino-owned winery in L.A.

18 Dec

About an hour’s drive north of downtown Los Angeles, the radio signal in my car begins to fade. Minutes later as I exit the 5 freeway at Agua Dulce Canyon Road, a country western station pipes in crystal clear.

The twangy guitar and folksy melody provide a fitting soundtrack for the winding country roads that lead to Reyes Winery, the only Latino-owned winery in Los Angeles County, and one of a few wineries 45 minutes away from the heart of downtown L.A.


Robert Reyes, winemaker and general manager, warmly welcomes me and a crew from ABC-7, who are here to do a segment on Señorita Vino for their Sunday morning television program, Vista LA [NOTE: the show aired Nov. 17, but if you're in L.A. County, you might catch a re-broadcast in the late evening or early morning].


Smile! You’re on Vista LA.

Besides making wine, Reyes, a native of the Dominican Republic, paints and scuba dives. Yet this Renaissance man’s passion for wine stems not from idyllic trips to Europe’s wine regions, but from a beloved aunt.

“I’ve loved wine since I was a kid in the Dominican Republic,” Reyes says. “My 92-year-old aunt would visit us in Santo Domingo and she’d bring a bottle of her homemade fruit wine. As kids, we’d get a taste.”

Reyes was smitten, and as an adult, he started making his own version of his aunt’s fruity concoction.


Robert Reyes in his tasting room.

What started as a passion developed into a serious interest, and Reyes began schooling himself in the art of winemaking by reading books. He also consulted other winemakers and took courses at UC Davis, which has a world-renowned viticulture and enology program.

He planted the first vineyard at Reyes Winery in 2004, and harvested a small crop the next year. Today, the boutique winery produces 3,500 cases annually from five varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay and Muscat.

On display in the tasting room are Reyes’ own paintings of the vineyard and scenes evocative of his homeland. Also visible are some of the awards his wines have garnered.

“Our wines have been on the market for the past two-and-a-half years, and in that time we’ve earned medals in every competition we’ve entered,” Reyes notes. To date, the winery has won 29 medals.


Despite the honors, Reyes remains grounded. And he’s quick to dismiss wine snobbery. “There are a lot of people out there who, for whatever reason, have this attitude about wine knowledge,” he says. “If you taste a wine and like it, then it doesn’t matter what anyone else says about it.”

When asked about wine consumption among Latinos, Reyes observes that Hispanics are definitely upping their wine drinking. He attributes the increase to the fact that Latinos are becoming more affluent as they integrate into American culture.

Vines are planted on 16 acres of land.

Vines are planted on 16 acres of land.

“Where we once worked in the fields, we now have the means to be able to make wine and especially drink wine,” states Reyes. “It’s a social phenomenon that we’re all participating in.”

Reyes Winery. 10262 Sierra Highway, Agua Dulce, Calif. 91390. (661) 268-1865. Open for tastings Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Book a tasting and winery tour at www.reyeswinery.com.

Reyes Winery wines are available through its wine club, at certain Santa Clarita Valley restaurants and at Whole Foods Market. 

Focus on #Spanish #Wine: Garnacha

11 Dec

Wondering what wine to give to the vino lovers on your holiday gift list? Wonder no more, chicas y chicos. Add some international flavor to your wine gift-giving and consider Garnacha, Spain’s food-loving red wine.

Photo credit: Seth Anderson, Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Photo credit: Seth Anderson, Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 2.0 Generic license.

All you need to know about Garnacha, including some recommended labels, is featured in  my latest article for Latina magazine’s TheLatinKitchen.com, “What Wine Where: Garnacha.” Flamenco dancers optional.

Until next week, ¡Salud!

8 #Thanksgiving #wines for all budgets

27 Nov

It’s the day before Thanksgiving. The day that feels as if no one has gone grocery shopping the entire year. The day that plays out like an epic flash mob at grocery stores across the nation, with armies of people seemingly synchronizing their smart phones for  3 p.m. to begin spontaneously stocking up for the apocalypse.

This is not the day you want to stress out about finding the right wine for your Thanksgiving  fiesta, chicas y chicos. Because Señorita Vino loves you mucho, here’s a quick guide to help you shop for wine this week.

And in the interest of El Full Disclosure, none of the wines mentioned here paid me for the illustrious privilege of being featured on this list. In fact, I purchased these wines with my own hard earned dólares.

White Wines

1. Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling 2011. $6.99. This wine is off-dry, so you’ll get some sweetness on the palate. You’ll also get lovely peach and citrus notes with a hint of minerality. Riesling is a wine that “plays well with others,” so you’ll be able to pair it with a variety of Thanksgiving dishes.


2. Blue Fin Gewürztraminer 2012. $3.99 You’ll get a bouquet of white florals and some spicy peach notes, along with light sweetness on the palate. The finish is a little on the short side, but hey, it’s $3.99!

Image 2

Like your white wines dry? Here are a couple of alternatives:

2. Zocker Paragon Vineyard Gruner Veltliner 2010. $19.00  This one’s a winner; I’ve been enjoying its delicate melon and fruity aromas all year long. There’s a crisp acidity and a lovely minerality that would complement your turkey, turducken, or if you’re so inclined, tamales.


Zocker Paragon Vineyard Riesling 2009. $20.00  This Central Coast version of a French Alsatian classic has an elegant, peachy flavor with the typical Riesling petrol aroma. It has a lingering, clean mineral note and will complement just about any Thanksgiving dish, including spicier foods that appear on multicultural Thanksgiving menus such as my own.

ZRiesling NV

Red Wines

1. Estancia Pinot Noir 2012. $12.99  This is a fruity Pinot Noir that’s easy to drink and pairs well with a variety of foods, which is why Pinot Noir is one of my favorite Thanksgiving wines. And the price is right, too.

Image 3

2. Argyle Pinot Noir 2012. $27.00 ($19.99 at Trader Joe’s).   After spending last September in Oregon’s Willamette Valley for Señor Jim’s family reunion, I’m convinced that some of the best New World Pinots come from Oregon. You’ll get raspberries, red cherries and a touch of spice with mild tannins.

Image 4

3. A Portela Mencía 2011. $16.99. If you want to add some international flavor to your Thanksgiving feast, this Spanish blend is the ticket. Gorgeous black fruit with hints of violet and and a whisper of vanilla. You’ll enjoy granite minerality and a lingering finish.


4. Beaujolais Nouveau. You should still be able to find Beaujolais Nouveau out there, which has become a bit of a tradition with the typical American Thanksgiving dinner. Prices vary, and if you want a quick and easy-to-understand story on Beaujolais Nouveau, check out Vino 101: Beaujolais Basics.

No matter what’s in your glass, may you enjoy a happy Thanksgiving in the company of those you love most.


Vino 101: Can you judge a #wine by its price tag?

16 Oct

They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but can you judge a wine by its price tag?

Photo courtesy of Daniil Vasiliev, Berlin / Saint-Petersburg, via Wikimedia Commons

Photo by Daniil Vasiliev, Berlin / Saint-Petersburg, via Wikimedia Commons

That, chicas y chicos, is the million peso question. If a bottle of vino costs a small fortune, is it really all that great?

It’s a tough question to answer because “great” means different things to different people, so let’s start with some of the factors that directly affect the cost of a bottle of wine.


1.  Land costs. A lot of the flavor in that glass of wine comes from the dirt where the grapes grew. Like real estate, vineyards are about location, location, location, so some plots of land are more ideal than others and have price tags to match.

2. Man vs. machine. Who–or what–is picking and sorting the grapes? Hiring people to hand-sort grapes generally costs more than using machinery to do the same task. How the grapes are handled can affect the quality and taste of a wine.

3.  Equipment. DId you know that the cost of an oak barrel starts at around $1500? The more bling-y the equipment and winery, the higher the cost of the wine.

4.  Packaging, distribution, marketing. Those cool wine labels were designed by someone, and they had to be slapped onto the bottle (the labels, not the designer). Then there’s the bottle itself, the cork, the shipping and packaging materials, the import fees, the marketing and PR team…¡ay, caramba!


Which brings us back to the “great” question. Which happens to be a great question.

Because each of us has a different palate and our own personal catalog of loves, likes, and blechs, the London-based Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) has simplified things by creating this handy guide for evaluating a wine. And no, they’re not paying me to promote this.  WSET, you’re welcome.

Balance: All the flavor components should be evenly distributed, so you shouldn’t feel overwhelmed by oak, accosted by acidity, felled by fruitiness or aflame with alcohol (gotta love alliteration).

Length of finish: After you’ve swallowed that first sip, do the aromas drop off immediately, or do they linger for several seconds? A lengthy finish is a mark of a quality wine.

Intensity: How intense are the aromas and flavors? Are they distinctive and easy to detect, or are they faint and barely noticeable?

Complexity: This is the fun part. Are you able to detect anything besides fruit and earth? Do you smell flowers? Can you detect woodsy smells from oak aging? Does the wine’s aroma remind you of a spice? How about vegetable aromas? Any toasty or yeasty smells? The more layers you can detect, the more complex a wine is. And that’s a great thing.

So if your palate gives the wine high marks in the categories above,  you’ve picked a winner. As for the price tag, the only thing that matters is that you’re cool with what you paid. And for the record, I’ve tasted $18  wines that have rocked my mundo, and $50 wines that were good, but not earth-shattering. Of course, the opposite is also true – I’ve had some forgettable bargain wines, and some $300 wines that I can only categorize as a religious experience (Sassicaia, I’m lookin’ at you).


Speaking of religious experiences, that “aflame with alcohol” line has Señorita Vino all hot and bothered. So if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to cool off with a refreshing glass of chilled Sauvignon Blanc.



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