Wine Folly’s Essential Guide to Wine – Books for the wine lover

wine-folly-book-cover-best-sellerA few years ago, I was lucky enough to experience an amazing cultural experience in Rioja, Spain, exploring, food, and lifestyle writers.  While I wine, food and lifestyle options the region has to offer.  Our small group of compatriots didn’t know each other before our trip, but we quickly became a tight knit group meandering the countryside in search of delicious wines.

Among those intrepid explorers were the dynamic duo behind Wine Folly, Madeline Puckette, and Justin Hammack.  Puckette, a talented graphic artist and Sommelier, is known for creating unique, easy to follow, and creative infographics that help us understand wine.

This year, Wine Folly compiled those infographics and extensive wine knowledge in to a guidebook on wine, Wine Folly:  The Essential Guide to Wine.  Using simple techniques that yield complex results, Wine Folly provides a guide for over 50 wines, and helps the reader create their own ranking system by reinforcing basic building blocks of flavor, origin, and classic terroir.

The clean layout is divided in to easy to understand fundamentals, styles of wine, and wine regions of the world, allowing even the newest wine drinker the ability to understand complex styles and regions.

Not sure what wine glass is best for Chianti?  There’s an infographic for that.  How do you pair Riesling?  Check out the wine pairing consideration diagram.  My favorite part of the book is the in depth profiles of the most common varietals.  The clear flavor wheel is color coded and grouped by major flavor group and the dominant olavors are clearly outlined.  The facts at a glance makes it an excelelnt study guide, as you can see on one page, where it grows, how much grows, and hte average price per bottle.

Wine Folly’s Essential Guide to Wine is available for $25 on Amazon as well as  I highly suggest you pick up a copy or two!



A promotional copy was provided by the PR agency for review, but my mad love of the cool images is all my own!



Vermouth: The Spirit that Created Amerca’s Cocktail Culture

Vermouth, that mysterious wine based beverage that lingers in the minds of our grandparents, Don Draper, and Downton Abbey.  Today, vermouth is part of an ongoing cocktail-culture revolution.  

In Adam Ford‘s new memoir of the beverage, Vermouth:  The Revival of the Spirit that Created America’s Cocktail Culture, the long, and somewhat forgotten history of vermouth is recalled, meandering through time from somewhere around 10,000 years ago to the present day.

Vermouth is a special elixir that has stood the test of time.  An aromatized wine (wine that has had herbs, spices, and other ingredients added to it before being fortified), that is similar to gin in it’s methodology of creation.  Similar to Gin, Vermouth can be made with botanicals, typically those considered to have health-promoting properties.

Unlike gin, there are no specific requirements as to what must be contained within.

Through this book, Ford takes us around the world, from China, to the Middle East where it gained exotic spices, to modern day America, where it is undergoing a strong revival,  vermouth has evolved, changed, and developed in to the atypical beverage that it is today.

The definition of vermouth varies widely globally, and some are even created from botriticized wine.  With so many flavor variations, the possibilities and pairings are endless.

This book is a beautiful illustration of the history and development of vermouth, but is also a modern encyclopedia and shopping guide.  From small wineries producing vermouth (Sutton Cellars) to larger, commercial operations that are producing boutique cocktail mixers, there is a vermouth for everyone.

When, after World War II, many producers took short cuts and used cheaper, more readily available ingredients, the new trailblazers created high end vermouths from the finest of ingredients.  Like any other beverage of quality, you will see this reflected int eh price point, but also in the flavor.  Have you experienced a high end spirit mixed with a low end vermouth?  The combination just doesn’t work.  While some might be tied by distributor requirements, a handshake agreement or other systematic problems with the three-tier system we have in the U.S., I am of the mind that with quality must go quality.

To that end, Ford discovers a litany of different craft vermouth producers to experiment with.  While you will probably know Cinzano, Martini & Rossi and maybe even my current favorite Carpano Antica, have you experienced Vya or Imbue?

While perusing this must have cocktail textbook, you might see a familiar cocktail or two, but you will also see some long-forgotten cocktails that bring images of The Cotton Club and the Roaring Twenties, as well as re-imagining what they might be like today in the speakeasies of the new millennium.  I am partial to a Manhattan, as well as a Martini and, while friends are partial to Negronis.  Have any of us you heard of a Hanky Panky?

Antica Formula Carpano Vermouth

Hanky Panky


2 oz. sweet vermouth (I like Carpano Antica)

¾ oz. London dry gin

¼ oz. Fernet-Branca

1 orange peel


Pour all ingredients into a mixing glass filled with ice and stir.
until on the verge of freezing. Strain into a small cordial or sake
coupe. Garnish with a raspberry in the spring or summer, or a fig in the fall and winter.

This book has been on my cocktail shelf for several weeks now, and I keep a running list of new vermouths to try from my local purveyor.  When the mood strikes me, I look for a new recipe and experiment, which is what any good bartender is about.

Vermouth is available on for $17 and is worth every penny!

For more information:  vermouth-makes-a-comeback/

Last Minute Wine Gifts

It’s the 5th day of Hanukkah, and Christmas is only 4 days away.  Whatever you might be celebrating at this time of year, if you’re like me – you are scrambling for some last minute gift ideas for the wine lover on your list!

Soiree – in bottle aerator.  This is my go to wine aerator, and the pretty bottle topper makes any bottle festive.  Available in several optional gift configurations, this pretty glass topper allows wine to flow around the glass bulb, giving it time to breathe and encouraging the aeration process for any bottle of wine.



CapaBunga Capabunga – these innovative bottle toppers are handy little buggers when you want to recork something for ready access.   A reusable silicone cap that reseals a bottle of wine, the concept was inspired by the bung caps that are used to reseal wine barrels.  Once you pop a Capabunga on your wine bottle, it’s air – and wine – tight.  No more spills if you knock the bottle over!  I am impressed by the usefulness of these gems, and at $7.95 for a pair, they are also great for resealing beer or champagne bottles.  I have had a bottle of bubbles still fizzy after a day in the fridge.

Indigo Root Drink Dotz are fun and creative wine glass identification stickers, which are a great alternative to those annoying wine charms.  Do you remember Colorforms?  You know, those sticky plastic things that you could affix to anything, and reuse, stick again, etc…well these are colorforms for drinkware!    For $10, you get a set of Drink Dotz and Wine Wrapps, which wrap the bottom of a wine stem.  What a fun party gift!  With creative designs and holiday themes, these are great for your next party and last forever.  Indigo Root also sells fun temporary fabric wall squares, called Tilez, which are perfect for apartment or dorm room decorating.  In fact, I’m going to decorate my apartment with some!

The Exes in my iPod
:  A Playlist of the Men Who Rocked Me To Wine Country – a raucously good read by my wine buddy Lisa Mattson, exploring the iidiosyncrasiesof love, life, and laughter amongst great music and wine is a must read for anyone navigating wine country, dating, or just wants a good laugh with a happy ending.


The Essence of Wine – while the first run of the print book is sold out, the ebook of this wonderful pictorial and educational meandering through the discovery of wine.  Pre-order a copy or order an ebook today, for enjoyment all year long.


Corkscrew – the ultimate in luxury corkscrews, the Legnoart or Laguiole corkscrews are weighty, balanced, and have teflon coated screws for easy manipulation in the cork.  The right corkscrew is worth $1000 for any wine lover, so they can easily and quickly open that special bottle.  While you’re at it – add in a good foil cutter to ensure that the capsules are cleanly severed at the lip, and that there are no raw edges.

For the Cards Against Humanity lovers on your list, how about a game of wine discover? Zin Zag is a fun game, complete with an excuse to open 3 bottles of wine, which challenges your knowledge and your palates.  Play with the brainteasers and blind tasting challenges and sip away!

St. Supery Red Wine & Bacon Pairing – more on this in another post, but if you’re heading up to Napa for your holiday fun, be sure to stop by St. Supery Winery in Rutherford.  Tucked away upstairs, the special experiences such as the bacon & red wine tasting.  Explore St. Supery’s specialty with five Bourdeaux blends, each paired with a tasty morsel of pure delight.  Advanced reservations required.

Happy holidays!  Want more unique wine ideas?  Let me know!

To your health! Cocktials as health food

I love a good cocktail as much as the next gal, but did you know some cocktails can be good for you?  Taking a cue from the elixirs, tinctures, and tonics of yesterday, and putting a new twist on them, the new book Apothecary Cocktails delves in to the history of some restoratives libations, and creates new recipes for today’s trendy bartender. When we look at some of the key ingredients in the modern bar, we can see behind the bourbon, vodka and other liquors to the mixers that were traditionally used as medicine.  Love a gin & tonic?  Tonic (real tonic, not this corn syrup flavored water that passes today) is made with quinine, a well known remedy for influenza.  Love to use bitters to flavor your cocktails?  Bitters were created as a digestive aid, originally in Angostura, Venezuela, as a tonic.  Brandy has long been carried by St. Bernard mountain dogs in the Swiss Alps for warmth and revival in the cold winter nights. I love to experiment with cocktails and flavors but Apothecary Cocktails categorizes their recopies by aliment:

  • Have a digestive issue?  Try a Sazerac.  The Peychaud’s bitters from New Orleans was originally used to heal stomach problems.
  • Cold to the bone?  Try some Navy Grog.  With Scurvy being a critical issue in sailors, this winter warmer with rum and lemon juice was used in the 17th & 18th centuries.
  • Sweltering in a sticky summer?  Almond Pastis is your cure.  Pastis is the cool drink of southern France, with cold anise flavored liquor that turns white when mixed with ice water.
  • If you’ve had all of the above and are feeling a bit green, restoratives hair of the dog cocktails like the Corpse Reviver, full of Caribbean flavors as well as spices and alcohol it will help you to forget.
  • Hot toddies have long been used to relax you after a long day.  How about Mexican Sleep Cure for your insomnia?  That Mescal will certainly help you sleep.
  • When I have a cold, I make my own Nyquil:  3 oz whiskey, healthy squeeze of lemon juice, 1 TBSP of brown sugar, cloves, and hot water.  Stir with a cinnamon stick.    You could also try a Lemon Balm Gin & Tonic.  Lemon Balm has been a popular herban pain killer for centuries, and is used in many digestives such as Amaro and Chartreuse.
  • Finally, if you’re in a bad mood – snap out of it!  Cheer in a glass, the Milk Thistle Spritz takes a commonly used herbal elixer detoxifies the liver and is a tasty treat.

Apothecary Cocktails also includes several recipes for syrups and infusions used in the cocktail creations, like Cardamon simple syrup, and Shrubb simple syrup. I’ve tried, twisted, and tweaked several of these recipes and it’s a great addition to any bar.  Enjoy!

The book was provided by the publisher for consideration but all cocktails were created from my own hooch!


2014: Time to reboot!

Here we are, another new year.  Yikes!  How did that happen again?  2014 is already a week old, and like many of us, I am on a path to better heath, better eating, and more fun.  You  might not know that I love to cook, and try new cookbooks and recipies all the time, paired iwth wine.  You might also not know that I hate to cook for myself.  Yes, it’s true!  Cooking for one is a pain:  with no dishwasher, and limited counter space, it means a pile of pots and pans, and creative us of my counter.

Luckily, the good folks at Cedar Fort PUblishing and Dalyn Miller Public Relations have given me inspiration and ideas on how to cook great food both on a budget, and with the magic of my slow cooker.

Paleo has been trending for a few years now, and in my opinion is bascially Atkins / South Beach / The Zone / Sugar Busters /Whole9 on steroids.  In fact, my research shows that pretty much every “trend” diet is the same, with a few tweaks.  That said, I like that the Paleo lifestyle emphasizes all natural, high protein, low or no carb foods that are unprocessed and full of flavor.  Yay!  If you know me, you know I’ve always battled the bulge, and while I am passionate about wine, food, travel and cocktails, I still need to balance it with health.  I’m happy to say a Paleo-like plan helped me immensely in 2012, and I’m ready to reboot in 2014.

The first cookbook, Paleo on a Budget is full of recipes that are friendly on the wallet, as well as your eating plan.  After flipping through the pages looking for a few good recipes that I could make and save (a single gal’s secret weapon), I went with Pork Loin Chops with Apple Cider, and Onions.  I paired that with scrumptious Brussel Sprouts & Bacon in Balsamic Glaze.  Yozah!  As someone who has ALWAYS said I would never eat Brussels Sprouts since they reminded me of the dirty gym socks that my mother tried to pass off when I was growing up, I was impressed and amazed at what they could actually taste like.  And they were legitimately Paleo!  Well according to my version anyway.

Paleo on a Budget is a beautiful cookbook with full page pictures and easy to understand instructions, in well thought out recipes that won’t take 3 hours to prepare.  Author Elizabeth McGaw runs the Paleo on a Budget webiste, with handy weekly meal plans and advice for the Paleo beginner (me!).

I paired the yummy pork with both an Oregon Chardonnay, as well as a lighter Piniot Noir.  Both worked well and brought out the fruity notes of the apples and cider vinegar.

The Paleo lifestyle can be super strict or not so much, and while I’m not going to go in to the details of the plan here, I will say that it can go from no grain, no butter (but ghee is acceptable), no fermented foods (the horror  the horror!), to a somewhat looser version where bacon, the occasional glass of wine, vinegar and other foods are allowed.  Since I firmly believe that every in moderation is crucial, I tend to adapt the plan to suit my wine filled lifestyle while still maintaining the core values and the  intention of losing weight and getting healthier.

The second Paleo cookbook that I received is my secret weapon:  The Paleo Slow Cooker, by Arsy Vartanian, is a great way to keep on track with just a little planning ahead.  I don’t use my slow cooker enough, and this cookbook has been a great nudge to pull it out of the cabinet and leave it on the counter.    Another beautiful cookbook, with full page images of the creations, the use of the slow cooker makes planning ahead easy.    

I tried the Honey Mustard Caveman Drumsticks, which were savory, sweet, spicy, sticky and downright delicious.  I halved the recipe and still had plenty to put in the fridge, and they keep very well.

Pair the Drumsticks with an off dry Riesling or Viognier for a pop of flavor.  Enjoy these recipes with a glass of wine and plenty of water, and toast to good health and tasty food in 2014!

What are your favorite healthy recipes?

These cookbooks were provided by the publisher or PR agent for consideration.




Rock that vine! **GIVEAWAY**

rock and wine

I love to read.  I love pretty coffee table books.  And I love wine.
So what could be better than Rock and Vine,  a new book from Chelsea Print & Publishing that features 11 next generation wine professionals who are shaping the future of wine. The book releases tomorrow, and I have three copies to give away to my readers!
A look and the new generation of Napa, who seek to redefine and rock things up, these upstart young wine kids are planting new varietals, seeking out new talent, and turning family tradition on it’s head.
Featuring Ben the Bachelor of Envolve Wines, Dalia Ceja of Ceja Vineyards, and Morgan Peterson of Bedrock Wine Company to name a few – this book is sure to be a great way to transition the old guard.  With beautiful imagery and great


backstories on these young talents, you really should check it out.


I received a copy of this book for consideration.  All opinions are my own.
Read more

Books for the wine lover on your holiday list

How to love wine?  Now that’s a loaded title.  But when you dig in to Eric Asimov’s latest book, you realize that it is a story of his life, how he didn’t love wine, and how he learned to love wine.

I had the pleasure of hearing Eric speak to an audience of bloggers in Virginia in 2011, and found him personable and likeable. His key directive at that time was for all wine writers, and wine lovers alike, to learn about wine by experiencing wine.  And to experience wine, you need to taste wine; a lot of wine.  Drinking wine on a regular basis, widely and varied, allows you to explore wine; furthermore, reading about wine, allows you to explore wines that you might be able to access in your corner wine shop.  But, herein lies the crux of the situation as a wine neophyte:  to drink and experience a lot of wine, you need to be able to access this wine with out being intimidated by the wine shop or tasting notes, or in a larger scale, wine writing.

Asimov became a wine critic by happenstance.  A journalist by trade, he was exploring wine for personal pleasure when his career brought him to New York.  While weaving his way through Texas BBQ, graduate school, and newspaper jobs in various cities prior to New York,  Asimov illustrates about how he learned about wine, and investigates why wine has become such an intimidating subject.  With contemporaries like Jancis Robinson and Robert Parker, Asimov explores the art of a wine review with humor and wit, while using his knowledge of journalism as well as wine to discuss the subject. Digging in to particular wines, he shows us how the same wine can illicit a very different tasting note from different people.

What does this mean?  It means there is more than one way to love wine.  This memoir attempts to take the anxiety out of wine, boost your wine confidence, and transform someone who might like wine, to a true wine lover.  The author sees through the fluff of the tasting note, and digs in to the meat of the subject.  Starting off his love of wine with cheap jugs purchased in Italy, France and the local grocery store, he makes it clear that a $100 bottle is not always better than a $10 bottle.  The most important thing is that you like a wine, which makes it great and enjoyable.

Finally landing a plum gig at the New York Times as their resident restaurant critic and now chief wine critic, Asimov is the antithesis of the traditional wine writer.  He sorts through “drinking by numbers” and exploring the wine shop as a way of higher learning.

This is a must read for any wine lover or any book lover, as it pulls the silk blindfold off of the wine critic’s sow’s ears, and shows us that the flowerly language of wine reviews can be distilled down to the simple terms:  how many words are there for cherry, berry or fig?  Why does one writer use fig in every red wine?  Asimov helps pull out the meat of the tasting note while guiding us along his personal journey of wine discovery.

Pick one up today for yourself, or for any wine lover that might like a great story!



Getting Vertical

Vertical:  To be upright.

Wine does a lot of things to people.  It evokes joy, it livens your tastebuds, it might even make you melancholy.  It can also make you a little Sideways.  When last we saw erstwhile Miles and sidekick Jack in the novel Sideways (and the subsequent movie which while it’s one of my favorite wine movies ever, is not exactly true to the book…ok most movies aren’t but still.  If you haven’t read the book READ THE BOOK!)  Jack was married (perhaps ill advisedly) and Miles was reconnecting with The One – Maya.

Now, several years have passed, and Vertical explores Miles’ life after Santa Barbara.  If you remember Sideways, you know that Miles has a troubled relationship with his mother.  Now aging and unwell, Miles has the unwelcome task of caring for her, and helping her move to another state so she can spend her final days with her estranged sister.

Miles has tried and failed, and tried again, quit drinking, and is attempting to ride out the success of his now published novel, without much luck.  The demands of his publishes and commitments for press engagements are pushing him in  to a hole as deep as the one he was in when the book wasn’t publishable at all.

Bring in Jack, who’s philandering ways and hard drinking habits have now landed him in hot water woith his now ex-wife.

Both a buddy road trip story and a bittersweet look at the life of two middle aged best friends, Vertical explores the relationships of two friends, for good or bad, as they muddle through the difficulties of every day life, love, alcohol abuse and aging parents.

Vertical is tragically sad in places, and hilariously funny in others, in a way sideways was not.  I find it much more real, honest, and open in looking at the realities of life.

I can’t recommend this follow up enough, particularly if you read the book Sideways, and didn’t just watch the movie.  Vertical follow it up with the realities of fame, the perils of life, and how you balance the two.

I’m thrilled to announce that Rex will be speaking in person at the 10th Annual Pinot Summit on February 25th in San Francisco.  After hosting a #winechat twitter session a few weeks ago, I find him engaging, self deprecating, humorous and absolutely delightful.  You can follow him on Twitter as well.

I hope you can join us for this one of a kind event!  Tickets are $130 for a full day of Pinot tasting, educational seminars, and the Grand Awards.  Alternatively, you can opt for the Grand Awards tasting only.

I am trying to do more book reviews now.  I read like someone from Freaks & Geeks, and occasionally I get press copies for review.  This one however, I bought for myself.

Happy reading!


I’ve got it! Passion! For Pinot that is…

Wow!  It’s that time again.  Twitter Taste Live!  This time, the good folks at Twitter Taste Live & Wilson Daniels are bringing us a delicious trio of Pinot Noir.  This TTL is dedicated to the love of Pinot, particularly since Jordan Mackay, the author of Passion for Pinot, will be in attendance at The Jug Shop to show off the book.

“Jordan Mackay has devoted the last eight years exploring, understanding, and writing about wine. Formerly a writer for Texas Monthly and wine columnist for the Austin American Statesman, he became Wine and Spirits editor for San Francisco’s 7×7 Magazine, and a contributing writer to Wine and Spirits. He has written about food and wine in publications ranging from Food and Wine, Gourmet, Decanter, and Wine Enthusiast to the New York Tim


es, Los Angeles Times, and San Francisco Chronicle.”

For this event, we have several groups getting together.  I will in Healdsburg with a posse of wine bloggers, including Matt (@mmwine), Shana (@sharayray), Amy (@winewonkette) & Joe (@houstonwino).  After enjoying a day of Barrel Tasting in Dry Creek, we will settle down for dinner and pinots.  Having been one of the elite pre-tasters with Agent Red at Wilson Daniels in January, I am anticipating this live tasting event more than others.
We will be tasting the following line up on Saturday, March 14th at 5pm PT:

If you have any trouble finding the “official” wines, just grab your favorite pinot and taste along!  Hope to see you in the Twitterverse.



Quote of the Day…and why I love Twitter

As I spend time on Twitter keeping up to date with my wine buds, Randy Hall of Wine Biz Radio fame started an new trend in microblogging. Call it boredom, call it random silliness, but Randy has started the TWOT. No, it’s not a disease, it’s the

Given Randy’s recent daddy-hood, I decided to pitch in today and offer up today’s TWOT:


Sem`pi*ter”nal, a. [L. sempiternus, fr. semper always: cf. F. sempiternel.]1. Of neverending duration; everlasting; endless; having beginning, but no end. –Sir M. Hale. 2. Without beginning or end; eternal.

To which Patrick of Iridesse Wines, aka Oenophilus offered up the following quotable quote:

Until we recognize our codependence on natural corks, TCA contamination will be sempiternal.

Cheers to the best TWOT of the day Patrick! Perhaps this will inspire you to join the Twittersphere. Good times, good times.

And perhaps given the impending film debut of Bottle Shock, we had better read George Taber’s other book, To Cork or Not to Cork.