Thursday, December 15, 2011

How to Buy Wine as a Holiday Gift for Someone You Don't Know That Well

Buying wine as a gift can be hard.  Do they like red or white?  Cab or Shiraz?  Australian, French or Californian?  Do they only drink bottles over $80?  Do they HATE Reisling?  Or, wait, I've got one: do they actually drink wine?

Don't fret.  I have a few tips that will help you overcome these problems, because luckily, there are a few wines that are difficult to dislike.  You might not score the perfect bottle every time, but you can find something that your gift recipient will enjoy.

How Much Should I Spend?
When buying for someone you don't know that well (or whose tastes you don't know that well) I don't suggest spending more than $40 for a bottle.  Instead I recommend looking in the $15 - $30 range.  You're going to find some fantastic wine, and you won't be unnecessarily throwing money out the window of your imaginary Porsche 911 Turbo.  If you want to impress someone with a bottle of Opus One, go for it.  But if you want a solid wine to show someone you care, you don't need to spend a lot.  My personal favorite gift price point?  $25.

Red or White?
This can be a tough one.  Have you ever heard them talk about what wines they drink?  Have you seen them order a glass before?  Try to conjure up past memories that might clue you into their preferences.  (hint: cabernet sauvignon, syrah/shiraz, pinot noir, merlot = red; sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, reisling, viognier = white).  If you have no idea, you could either buy one of each, or a lighter red such as a pinot noir (see below).

Ok... Now What Varietal?
First, what not to get.  Unless you know they like sweet wine, I don't suggest a Reisling (they are sweet and can be very polarizing), and unless you know they like chardonnay... don't get chardonnay. 

For whites I recommend Sauvignon Blanc because they are crisp, refreshing, and easy drinking.   I suggest looking for a Californian Sauvignon Blanc, which tends to show more fruit.  Australian Sauvs often have strong bell-peppery/grapefruity components that are offputting to some.  If you KNOW the recipient drinks white, try something fun like an unoaked Chardonnay, or the Spanish Albarino.

For reds, I recommend pinot noir.  Why?  Because hating pinot noir is like hating puppies.  It's a delightful light red that everybody either loves, or at least enjoys every now and then.  However, if you KNOW your recipient loves red wine, get a Cabernet Sauvignon.  As a general rule, red wine drinkers like it


Ok, what have we learned?  Shoot for a $15 - $30 price range.  If  you don't know what varietal they like, go for a Sauvignon Blanc or a Pinot Noir.  If you DO know they drink red, try an unoaked Chardonnay or an Albarino.  If you DO know they drink red, try a Cabernet Sauvignon.

Now here are some of my favorites:

Sean Minor Four Bears Pinot Noir
Robert Goyette Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Canonball Sauvignon Blanc, Sonoma County

Image Credit: DDeubel

Monday, October 17, 2011

100,00 Gallons of Wine on the Wall, or, Yes, Kansas Really Does Make Wine

A recently published article about wine production in the state of Kansas announced that last year, we produced 100,000 gallons of wine.  100,000 gallons!  So what if California alone produces around 630 million gallons (also known as 90% of the total wine production in the United States).

But that's all beside the point.  The real question is: Wait, what?  We have vineyards in Kansas?  Yes.  All 50 states do (including Hawaii.  I hear they make pineapple wine...).  In honor of this 100,000 gallons of wine benchmark, I give you a list of our homegrown wineries.  If you're looking for something fun and totally random to do, go out and visit one of them.  Try their wines, you might be surprised.  While Kansas may not ever be Napa, we produce some interesting hybrid varietals that I'll bet you've never heard of.

Jowler Creek Vineyard & Winery
Platte City, MO

Amigoni Urban Winery
Kansas City, MO

Stone Pillar Vineyard & Winery
Olathe, KS

BlueJacket Crossing Vineyard & Winery
Eudora, KS

Holy-Field Vineyard & Winery
Basehor, KS

Somerset Ridge Vineyard & Winery
Somerset, KS

Thanks to Leawood Lifestyle for listings.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Wine Education in Kansas City

One of my favorite things about drinking wine is that you get more out of the experience by learning.  Drinking wine is not like throwing back a Diet Coke.  Wine has nuances, stories, history, chemistry, rules and guidelines.  It's an art and a science.  By learning more about these aspects of wine, you can increase your enjoyment of it.

And luckily, Kansas City has plenty of opportunities for learning more about wine!  Here are just a few of the upcoming wine education events in the area:

The Culinary Center of Kansas City
Wine 101: Thursday, September 22: 6:30 - 9 PM
Understanding Wine Using a Map of the World: Thursday, October 20: 6:30 - 9PM

Off the Vine
Wine University: Spanish Reds: Thursday, September 22: 6 - 7:30 PM
Wine University: Hamilton vs. Franklin: Thursday, October 6: 6 - 7:30 PM
Wine University: Spices and Their Role: Thursday, October 20: 6 - 7:30 PM
Wine University: California vs. France: Wednesday, November 2: 6 - 7:30 PM
Wine University: Champagne: Thursday, November 17: 6 - 7:30 PM
Wine University: Stickies: Thursday, December 1: 6 - 7:30 PM

Cellar Rat
Wine Essentials: Tuesday, September 20: 6PM
$10 vs. $100 Cab. Sauv.: Friday, September 23: 6PM
$10 vs. $100 Pinot Noir: Saturday, September 24: 6PM
$10 vs. $100 Wild Card: Tuesday, September 27: 6PM
Old vs. New: Thursday, September 29: 6PM
$10 vs. $100 Bordeaux: Friday, September 30: 6PM

Photo credit: Wikimedia

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Picpoul de Pinet

Picpoul (or Piquepol) de Pinet.  Ten points if you've heard of that one.  I will admit that I hadn't until about a month ago.  Picpoul de Pinet is a white wine grape grown predominantly in the South of France.  The Picpoul appellation is bounded by Agde, Pézenas, and Sète, and is the biggest white wine producer in the Languedoc.

As a wine, Picpoul de Pinet has wonderfully refreshing acidity and structure.  The nose is soft and delicate, and often has fruity aromas.  It's an excellent wine with shellfish, seafood, rich cheese and charcuterie.  If you like sauvignon blanc and/or viognier, I would give this one a try, and quickly, before the summer is over!  I recommend the Paul Mas Estate Picpoul de Pinet, 2009.

For more about Picpoul de Pinet, head over to the official appellation site:

Photo from Wikipedia

Friday, August 26, 2011

Try this One at Home: A Pinot Taste Comparison

This past week I learned an interesting tidbit from one of my extremely knowledgeable co-workers: Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Coast tends to be heaver, fruitier, and more robust than its Carneros and Oregon counterparts.  Pinot Noir from Carneros and Oregon is going to be more delicate, earthy, and mushroomy (is that an adjective?).

Due to my inability to hold on to a Pinot Noir for more than two days, I was not able to do a taste comparison with an Oregon and the Schug Pinot from Sonoma Coast.  (Yup, I drank it...).  However, I invite you to get your hands on a Sonoma Coast Pinot and something from Carneros or Oregon, and taste the difference.  Let me know what you discover.

(And ladies, speaking of getting your hands on something, check out this new Armani ad Rafael Nadal just shot)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wine-ing it up at Costco

Check out our "Buy Wine" page for info on shopping for wine at Costco!