3 years, 10 pounds and about 400 bottles of wine later…

7 Jun

Set the countdown clock, chicos y chicas – Señorita Vino is nine weeks away from getting her MBA. You heard right – nine short weeks.

This historic milestone did not come without a steep price, most notably, 10 extra pounds (hey, there’s more of me to love!), countless nights of insomnia, new student loans to pay off, and neck and shoulder muscles so tense that my time in physical therapy may just result in my physical therapist finally getting that exotic sports car he’s dreamed about (you’re welcome, Dr. G.).

If any of you out there are crazy–uh, I mean, ambitious–enough to think about going to grad school while juggling work, spouse, kids, pets, friends and life in general, here are my top 5 tips for surviving graduate school (or any school, for that matter):

Rule number 1: Don’t quit your wine club membership. Wine got me through the darkest days and nights of my MBA program. I’ve been so maniacally busy over the past three years that I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve gone to a store to shop for wine. But those wine club shipments found their way to my doorstep without fail, and I’d get all warm and fuzzy knowing that my fridge and wine closet were well-stocked should things go south in school and life in general.

Rule number 2: When possible, choose wine as a research topic. I’m not joking. In the three years I’ve been in grad school, wine has been the topic of two statistics projects and one year-long global management research project. If you have to write a research paper, heck, why not write about something you love? Last summer, I traveled to Europe for an MBA class to study sustainability in the U.S. wine industry as compared to sustainable practices in the Austrian, Greek, Italian and Spanish wine industries.

Rule number 3: You’re going to piss off some of your friends (and your spouse or partner) because you’re always doing homework or in class or in the library working on a group project. And all of this while holding down a full-time job and dealing with all the other mierda life throws your way. Remember that the people who truly matter will still love you when you finally come up for air. ‘Nuff said.

Rule number 4: If you think you know exactly what you’re going to do once you get that MBA, be prepared to be wrong. So I had this plan to go work for some Big Huge Global Wine Company in communications and marketing once I graduated. Well, my career took a bit of a detour, in a wonderful way. Last month I was offered a position at…wait for it…A Big Huge Global Entertainment Company.  Yep, a funny thing happened on the way to working in the wine industry. The skills and concepts I learned in my MBA classes gave me insight on the strategy and vision of one of the companies for which I’ve been consulting. And I liked what I saw. And they liked what I brought to the table. So they offered me a chance to embark upon the career of a lifetime. And I said yes.

Rule number 5: Wine knowledge is a great ice-breaker in academic and business settings, so don’t be ashamed to express your appreciation for the fruit of the vine (just don’t get tanked). My love for wine inspired one of my professors to invite me to give a “Wine 101” presentation to my fellow MBA students before we all traveled to Europe last summer. And just last night, I had the chance to sit next to my soon-to-be-boss’s boss’s boss at a team dinner. Turns out he loves wine. So he asked me to choose a bottle for our end of the table (uh, no pressure at all).  I chose a lovely French Viognier, and over the course of the dinner, we all shared stories about how we came to love wine. The boss’s boss’s boss loved the Viognier so much, he snapped a picture of the label and stored it on a wine app. In that moment, all the stress, those three years of writing papers into the wee hours, the weekends I literally cried over regression analysis problems, moved into the realm of distant memories. I savored my last sip of peach-blossomy Viognier and bid them a fond farewell.

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#Food and #wine pairings for International #TempranilloDay ¡Salud!

10 Nov

Chicas y chicos, today is International Tempranillo Day, and we’re gonna hop into the Vino Time Machine for this “Mucho Gusto” post from a couple years ago that will give you everything you need to know about Tempranillo. ¡Salud!

My favorite wine anecdote is one I could share during one of those silly business “icebreakers” where you have to tell a group of complete strangers your most embarrassing moment. I was talking vino at a party with some people I’d just met and I mentioned a Tempranillo I had tried at a new tapas bar that had opened nearby. Being a Latina, I pronounced the word “tapas” with a native Spanish accent.

I started getting uncomfortable looks from the others, and finally one of them cleared his throat and said, “Um, you go to topless bars?”

For the record, I do not, but if you ever find yourself at a Spanish-themed topless bar–or at a restaurant with an eclectic wine list–here’s all you need to know about Tempranillo.

15Rioja_Tempranillo Day InfoGraphic.indd

Image courtesy of Rioja Wine.

HOLA, ME LLAMO: Tempranillo, a red wine, gets its name from the Spanish word temprano, which means early (the grape ripens early). Depending on where you are, Tempranillo goes by a host of aliases: Cencibel, Ull de Lliebre, Tinto del País or Tinto del Toro in other regions of Spain; Tinta Roriz or Tinta Aragones in Portugal; and Tempranilla in Argentina.

MY ROOTS: Tempranillo’s birthplace is the Rioja region of Spain, but some folks think that it was brought there by French monks who were making the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. Tempranillo is the core grape of red Rioja wines, where it’s often blended with Garnacha. It’s also one of the main red grapes in Ribera del Duero, where it’s been used for more than 100 years at the prestigious Vega Sicilia winery. Today, Tempranillo is grown in Mexico, California, Italy, Argentina, Australia and South Africa.

ALL ABOUT ME: If you like cherry and plum on the palate, you’ll enjoy Tempranillo. Grapes that were grown in iron-rich soil may show some iron-mineral notes. When it’s aged, Tempranillo displays beautiful caramel, tobacco and tea leaf aromas. This is a dry wine with medium tannins, medium alcohol and medium to high acidity.

FOODS I LOVE: Break out the jamón serrano and the chorizo. Tempranillo is dreamy with a charcuterie plate, and if you happen to be at a tapas bar, it’s a great match for croquetas (ham croquettes), meatballs in tomato sauce and pinches (lamb or pork kabobs). Tempranillo is also tasty with roasted lamb and Indian food.

DO TRY THIS AT HOME: A bottle of Tempranillo can cost anywhere from $10 to $300. Some budget-friendly wines worth trying include: Luis Alegre Koden 2011, Sancho Barón 2009, Lar de Sotomayor Vendimia Seleccoinada 2010, and from Mexico, Alximia Alma 2012.

Something to ponder as you sip your next glass of Tempranillo: You can enjoy Tempranillo and still keep your top on, while getting your tapas on.

#Wine and #Halloween candy pairings are frightening. There. I said it.

28 Oct

The scariest thing about Halloween is not goblins, ghosts or Donald Trump’s hair. It’s Halloween candy and wine pairings. I mean, seriously. Why would I waste a perfectly good glass of wine on a bag of candy corn?

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No offense to candy-wine-pairing aficionados (and the serial “infographickers” that inspire them), but nothing makes me want to reach for the Pepto more than the thought of chasing a mouthful of miniature marshmallows with a glass of Pinot Noir. And in case you’re wondering, that was an actual pairing suggestion I found in the Googlesphere.

So as October winds down, I’m calling Halloween candy/wine pairing for what it is–an unpalatable excuse to sell wine. Now that I’ve finally put it out there, I will sit back with a glass of Riesling and wait for the backlash.

[Sound of crickets chirping]

While I wait, I wanted to introduce you to two Rieslings I just met over dinner. Relax and Blue Fish. I know, they sound like they could be  80s indie-pop bands. But they’re German Rieslings done in two different styles. Relax is on the sweet side, while Blue Fish is dry.

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What I thought was clever about the packaging is that you can tell how sweet or dry the wines are by looking at the back label:

riesling-meter-sweet

And if you’re as frazzled as I am after a long week of work insanity and midterms, these wines calm you down even before you open the bottle.

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All joking aside, I gotta tell you that the Blue Fish was a fan-TAB-ulous pairing with my dinner: a sesame-crusted seared ahi with mashed potatoes and asparagus delivered by Four Daughters restaurant in Manhattan Beach. You’ve probably guessed that it’s time for El Full Disclosure: The vino was a free product sample sent to me by a publicist, but (say it with me, chicas y chicos) the opinions stated in this post are mine. And while we’re on this topic, Four Daughters did NOT comp my dinner. Nor send me a press release. Heck, they have no idea Señorita Vino exists or that I’m writing about them. So there you have it.

But back to the wine, if you’re into wine ratings, the 2013 Blue Fish won 91 points from Wine Enthusiast magazine. I sampled the 2014–a solid value wine for about $8.50 a bottle.

The Relax was, well, a great way to relax after a satisfying dinner on a Thursday night at home. This one’s light but sweet enough to enjoy solo. You could even have a glass for dessert, although technically it’s not a dessert wine. Tell ya what–on Monday when the chiquitos come a-knockin’ for their sweet treats, pour yourself a glass and sip your own sweet reward. And remember–if you dare to pair it with candy, Señorita Vino will come haunt you.

¡Salud!

A little #wine for #NationalTacoDay

4 Oct

It’s not every day I sit around praying for the Taco Muse to visit me as I contemplate what to write about for National Taco Day. But like something straight outta Homer’s Odyssey, a taco recipe landed in my inbox from…wait for it…a Greek food company.

And I know I’ll catch el infierno from my Mexican friends, but I’m gonna pair it with–get ready–Chilean wine. Hey, what’s not to love about a little peace, love and global cuisine in Today’s Crazy World? Besides, I’ve been feeling all ornery-like since the candidates’ debate, so this is me stirring the palate pot.

Further down you’ll find the recipe for Grilled Chile-Lime Flank Steak Soft Tacos with Charred Pineapple Salsa (say that 10 times fast), courtesy of the muy Greek Gaea. But in the meantime, here’s my pairing suggestion.

montes-twins

A bee-yoo-tee-ful glass of 2013 Montes Twins Malbec-Cabernet Sauvignon blend is going to send your Taco Tuesday into maximum overdrive. Big, bold blackberries, a trace of red roses and sweet spices will play nicely with the seasonings in the taco recipe. And the saucy tannins are going to grip that flank steak like they mean it. [El Full Disclosure: I received this bottle of wine as a sample from a public relations company, but my opinions are my own. As always. Why can’t the FCC just be happy with me writing about stuff I like? But that’s a whole other story. El Heavy Sigh.]

Oh, and don’t wait until your tacos are ready. Heck, crack open the bottle while you’re cooking. Last but not least, this recipe’s a little on the long side (and no, that’s not me looking a gift Taco Muse in the mouth, but just sayin’), so I’ll sign off for now. ¡Salud!, my darlings, and wish me well on my International Entrepreneurship midterm tomorrow.

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Grilled Chile-Lime Flank Steak Soft Tacos with Charred Pineapple Salsa

Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds flank steak, trimmed of fat
1 teaspoon chile powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons of Gaea’s Kalamata D.O.P. Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Charred Pineapple Salsa

1 small pineapple, 3 to 3 1/2 pounds
1 small red onion, diced (about 3/4 cup)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 tablespoons of Gaea’s Kalamata D.O.P. Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ fresh jalapeño or serrano pepper, scraped of seeds and minced
16 6-inch corn tortillas

For the Steak Marinade:

In a small bowl, mix all spices, salt, pepper, 2 tablespoons lime juice, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and blend well to make a paste. Place the meat in a shallow dish and rub the paste evenly over both sides. Cover the steak and let it marinate for 1 to 4 hours.

For the Charred Pineapple Salsa:

When the steak is done marinating, preheat the grill; you’ll cut and grill the pineapple first and then put the steaks on the grill when the salsa is ready.

To cut the pineapple, slice off the leafy top and just enough of the bottom of the fruit so it rests flat on a cutting board. Slice off all the skin with a sharp knife, cutting from top to bottom and taking off as little of the flesh as possible, rotating the pineapple as you go. Discard the skin. Cut out any “eyes” with a paring knife and discard. Slice the fruit away from the core in four or five grill-friendly slabs.

When the grill is hot, place the pineapple slabs on the hot grill and grill quickly until the fruit just begins to show some browning, 1 to 2 minutes on each side. (If you want one side to be truly charred or blackened, let it go for 4 to 5 minutes on one side only.)

Take the fruit off the grill when it’s as browned as you like. Set it aside to cool for a few minutes and then dice the pineapple for the salsa. In a medium bowl, mix the diced charred pineapple, red onion, cilantro, 2 tablespoons lime juice, vinegar, remaining olive oil, salt, and minced hot pepper and blend well. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

To cook the steak:

Place the steak on the grill and cook for about 5 to 6 minutes on each side or slightly longer if you like it more well done. Remove the steak from the grill and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing. While the grill is hot, place the tortillas on the grill and grill for 10 seconds on each side then wrap in a linen napkin for serving.

Slice the steak into 1/2-inch slices, place on a platter, and spoon over the charred pineapple salsa. Place the tortillas on the table and serve family style.

Mexican Independence Day, L.A. style (and #vino, of course)

16 Sep

Gimme a ¡Salud! if you think Mexican Independence Day is on May 5.

(Cue sound of crickets chirping).

That’s right, chicas y chicos–contrary to what certain beer companies that shall remain nameless will tell you, September 16 (not Cinco de Mayo), marks 206 years since the famous grito, or cry,  uttered from a church in the little Mexican town of Dolores Hidalgo sowed the seeds for a revolution.

I can’t think of a better way to celebrate a revolution than with a big glass of vino. And I can’t think of a better place this side of the Rio Grande to enjoy a unique blend of Mexican heritage and wine than in Los Angeles’s own San Antonio Winery.

mariachis-and-wine

 

Yours truly had the distinct honor of being a guest at a recent wine and cheese pairing at L.A.’s oldest producing winery [El Full Disclosure: I was invited to attend a tasting event as a guest of San Antonio’s, however the opinions expressed are 100% mine, all mine!].

For you history buffs, San Antonio Winery was established near downtown Los Angeles in 1917 by Italian immigrant Santo Cambianica. Santo’s nephew, Stefano Riboli, came to the U.S. at age 15 to learn how to make wine from his uncle. Ten years later in 1946, Stefano married Italian hottie Maddalena Satragni.

founders

L to R: Stefano and Maddalena Riboli, Uncle Santo (photo credit: San Antonio Winery)

Today, the Riboli family continues to produce a diverse portfolio of wines, including sparkling, white, rosé and red, as well as classic and chocolate (yes, chocolate!) port. Ay, ay, ay

But back to the wine and cheese pairing. Let me start by saying wine and cheese pairings at San Antonio Winery are a far cry from the ones we’ve all suffered through at some point (we’ve all been there–a plate of jack, cheddar and some weird amalgamation of the two cut into little cubes, air-drying on paper plates). After just one San Antonio wine and cheese event, my pairing bar was set irreversibly high.

And it’s not just cheese (not that there’s anything wrong with just cheese). We’re talking Manchego quesadilla with Pinot Noir. Havarti and smoked andouille sausage on a hot dog bun with Petite Syrah. Danish blue with apricot preserves on a scone and a glass of Pinot Grigio.

havarti

Helloooo, Havarti! (…and hola, andouille sausage!)

Speaking of glasses, wine and cheese pairings a la San Antonio Winery mean you get…wait for it…a full pour. I speak the truth, darlings. No silly splashes here and there. Heck, they even come around and offer you another hearty round.

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Now that’s what I call a glass of wine!

These think-outside-the-box pairings come from Wonder-Somm Corey Arballo, wine steward at San Antonio Winery. Oh, and there’s a restaurant onsite at the winery, which means anytime you visit, you can get abbondanza Italian fare to go with your vino and not have to stumble around town looking for a hunka hunka hot lasagne. But that’s the topic of a future post.

Vino lovers at the pairing I attended got lucky–we all were serenaded by Mariachis as we savored our wine and cheese. I’ll drink to that!

Wine and cheese pairings at San Antonio Winery are offered a few times year. The next one is Sunday, Oct. 9 from 1 to 3:3o p.m. Whether or not you can make it, remember that you can visit the winery year-round and have a traditional wine tasting (save some room for lasagne afterwards!).  Bring an appetite, a thirst for award-winning wine and tell ’em Señorita Vino sent you.

¡Salud!

 

#NationalDrinkWineDay: Your 5-step #wine tasting guide

18 Feb

 

Drink up, darlings! It’s National Drink Wine Day. For your sipping pleasure, here’s an easy-peasy primer on how to enjoy vino. Can I get a ¡Salud! for the Five S’s: See. Swirl. Sniff. Sip. Spit.

Glasses

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.

Swirl

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.

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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.

sniff

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.

Pouring

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.  ¡Salud!

This #ValentinesDay: #Champagne, #caviar, and beauty tips from a burlesque queen

12 Feb

There’s a black leather Betsey Johnson moto jacket hanging in my closet. It’s a smidge too tight, and the leather has seen better days. But I cannot, will not, flat-out refuse to hand it over to Goodwill. The reason: the jacket was a Valentine’s Day gift from 25 years ago.

It wasn’t from my husband (we didn’t know each other then), nor was it from an ex. The giver was me. I was single at the time, and while not quite ecstatic about my solo state, I decided go shopping that Valentine’s Day. While 99.9 percent of the U.S. population sat in pairs swilling cheap sparkling wine at the neighborhood Romantic Restaurant, I was falling crazy in love with a minimalist but cool leather jacket that purred, “I’m single. Got a problem with that?”

Betsey

Which brings us–at warp speed–to today. Two days shy of V-Day.  I dedicate this post to all the single chicas out there. And hey, why not single chicos, too.  This Valentine’s Day, it does not take two to tango. It just takes you, a splash of sparkling wine, some caviar, and a little help from the delectable Dita Von Teese (ah, now I have the guys’ attention!).

Start your sublime solo celebration with some bubbles. Here are some recommendations to get you on the road to blissful:

Salton Intenso Sparkling Brut. Did you know Brazil produces some kick-ass sparkling wines? This is one of them. This dry white sparkler is made from a blend of Chardonnay (70%) and Riesling (30%) grapes. You’ll get beautiful yellow apple aromas with pear and pineapple on the finish. Best of all, it sells for about $15.

Salton

 

Freixenet Cordon Negro Cava. Cava is Spain’s signature sparkling wine, and this one retails for about $10. And I commend the folks at Freixenet for coming up with a Valentine’s cocktail recipe that’s fitting for today’s post. It’s called..wait for it…the Heartbreaker. Put a hibiscus flower in a wine glass, add two teaspoons of hibiscus syrup, and fill the glass with some chilled Freixenet Cordon Negro. Watch the flower bloom (oooooh, pretty!). Sip daintily. Repeat.

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Champagne Taittinger Brut La Francaise NV. Why not have French Champagne on your Sublime Single Valentine’s Day? You deserve it. Made  from 40% Chardonnay grapes, 35% Pinot Noir and 25% Pinot Meunier, Taittinger Brut La Francaise displays mouthwatering traces of honey and peach, with vanilla, white flower and fresh white peaches on the nose. Suggested retail price is $59.99.

Taittinger

And speaking of Champagne, Taittinger teamed up with “burlesque super heroine” Dita Von Teese to launch her new book, Your Beauty Mark: The Ultimate Guide to Eccentric Glamour (Dita Von Teese with Rose Apodaca, Dey St., 2015). This bible of self-love is 400 sumptuous pages of exercise, skin care, makeup and hair styling tips from the muchacha who brought back the Naked-in-a-Martini-Glass form of self-esteem building. Me, I’d rather buy a leather jacket. But who am I to judge anyone for inspiring us all to shimmy into a gargantuan cocktail glass au naturel and revel in the decadence of it all. And a big, bodacious ¡ándale pues! to Rose Apodaca, the accomplished journalist and East L.A. denizen who wrote the book with Ms. Von Teese.

Beauty Mark

What’s a little self-love without some caviar? To round out your Sensational Solo Valentine’s Day extravaganza, I hereby empower you to order yourself some Khavyar, a new caviar brand that professes to take the snobbery out of this dreamy delicacy. For anywhere from $12 to $99 an ounce, you can indulge in local varieties. If you wake up feeling particularly royal (happens to me all the time!), treat yourself to an imported variety, which will cost $50 to $150 an ounce. As I said earlier, don’t ask why – you are worth it. In all, Khavyar offers 15 different caviar varieties from around the world. Um, yes please!

KHAVYAR-GALILEE_PRIME

Et voila. You can see that you don’t need anyone to tell you what you can and cannot do when it comes to celebrating el día de San Valentín. Love is far too complex; it’s not something that follows rules or conventions. The most important rule of all is to love yourself before you love someone else. Amen, and salud, to that.

 

 

 

El full disclosure: I received samples of the Salton and Taittinger wines, as well as a copy of the book for review. The opinions expressed here are entirely my own.

 

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