Joining A New Wine Club

There are many wine clubs out there now that will ship wine directly to your home. Some choose the wine for you or allow you to choose from selections, while others tailor the wines to your tastes. We’ve tried quite a few but took a break from clubbing it to save money and have better control over our purchases. Last week, I decided to go back to a wine club, choosing Firstleaf, a new club that offers high-value wines.

I took advantage of an introductory offer that allowed me to purchase three bottles inexpensively. They arrived in good condition and as promised. Firstleaf uses UPS to ship, which is important for me since FedEx can’t even when it comes to shipping accurately and on time.

When I opened the box, there was a welcome letter and the bottles. The letter reminded me to log in to the site and rate each wine, giving it a thumbs up or thumbs down. This will help tailor my next deliveries. When the time comes for my next shipment, I will receive six bottles. I can choose all red, all white or a mixture of both. I also can select the region – U.S., international or a mix.

Firstleaf is like many other clubs in that you can delay shipments and/or cancel at any time, making membership a no-brainer.

Our first wine was an international style 2013 Paralux Merlot. I picked out the cherry flavors immediately and loved the fruit-forward taste, which I can only describe as yummy! My husband took a few more sips before proclaiming it a winner. I clicked the thumbs up sign on my account. The other two wines will likely be enjoyed this weekend – Le Douleur Exquise 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon-Petit Verdot Pays d’OC IGP Languedoc-Roussillon France and Tulares Valley 2016 Heritage White California. I’ll rate accordingly!

My next shipment arrives June 28. I’m excited to see what’s in store. Cheers!


Wine for Killing Time

Over the weekend, I found myself killing time, waiting for my 7-year-old daughter to be ready for pick up from a birthday party. The party was at Get Air, an indoor trampoline park, and I couldn’t bring myself to stay and watch! Too scary! So, I drove around the Cicero, New York area, specifically the Route 11 corridor, to see what I could see. First of all, it’s really expanded a lot from when I used to live near there, and there were lots of new businesses. One that caught my eye was Maximum Wine and Liquors. I remembered it as Pascale’s so the new name had my attention and I stopped in.

The first thing I noticed was the new look of the store; new shelving and organization by grape variety, as opposed to region, were the most apparent changes.  There also appeared to be more low-priced deals throughout the store but I honestly could not recall what the prices were like five or six years ago, the last time I had visited.

During a quick chat with one of the managers, Bobby Alfieri, I learned that it was pretty much the same management as when it was called Pascale’s but with a new name and a few new approaches. He explained that I could still find what I was looking for, but just needed to focus on the grape not the region, as I was accustomed to in the past. He was extremely helpful and not at all pushy, which I appreciated!

I decided to grab a couple of the closeout bottles – a Pinot Grigio and a Tempranillo – that were only $5 each. I splurged on a moderately-priced Barolo and my favorite, Vino di Nobile de Montepulciano. So far, I’ve had the Pinot Grigio, and it was good for an all afternoon sipping while the kids played outside but it was on the bitter side for me. The Tempranillo had a spicy finish, which was mellowed by a few dark chocolate non-pareils I had leftover!

The verdict is still out on the other two. I’ll keep you posted! Cheers!


Wine for a New Workout

Faithful social media followers will know that in addition to my wine, I love a good workout. For more than two years, I’ve been a 5:30 a.m. gymgoer, four days a week. It’s become my religion, well really my sanity-saver. When people say they can’t understand how I can get up that early on a regular basis, I tell them it’s easy when you know it’s your only time to be completely alone. No work. No husband. No kids. No life. Just me, my muscles and my tunes.

Lately, I’ve been bored with my workout routine, though, and I was having difficulty finding something new to keep the momentum going. Thankfully, I stumbled upon a fitness model from Canada, Lyzabeth Lopez, who has tailored workouts online. She’s most well-known for her Hourglass Workout franchise. I purchased the Muscle Building plan, using a coupon code for a 50 percent discount, making it well worth the money.

The workout guide comes with videos illustrating each exercise, a nutrition and supplement plan guide and success charts to track progress. It’s turning out to be exactly what I need to kick-start my routine. I’m now working out five days a week instead of four and the exercises are different and much more challenging than what I’ve been doing. I mostly fall into the intermediate category, but there are a fair amount of exercises that have been very difficult for me, in a “hurts so good” kind of way.

While I’m not sure I’ll ever look like the trainer, I am hopeful that I might add some mass and feel good in the process. Thankfully, her nutrition plan says nothing about wine. So, I still plan to enjoy my wine a few times a week. In fact, I had Dark Horse’s Big Red Blend with my turkey meatballs and protein pasta dinner this past week. It was yummy! But, I timed it so I was done well before bed, which seems to help with sleep, something desperately needed when you’re working your muscles this much! Cheers!


Book Review: Wine for a Cork Dork

I recently finished my latest wine book, Cork Dork, by Bianca Bosker, which I saw mentioned in a tweet several weeks back. It was hailed by a fellow wine blogger as the best wine book he’d read in a long time. I’m not sure I would go that far but it did teach me a thing or two about the wine industry, particularly about sommeliers.

After watching SOMM, I knew quite a bit about the life of a sommelier or would-be sommelier and this book extended that knowledge. I appreciated the refreshing prose as Bosker described all that she was learning and experiencing and at times I found myself laughing out loud!

It got a little slow for me when she delved into the scientific concepts of taste and composition but the narrative on what makes wine a quality wine was thought-provoking and interesting to me. In fact, I am still ruminating on that one!

We buy a fair amount of what Bosker calls “commercial wine,” or wine that is mass-produced and meant to be easy-drinking for the general wine drinking public. It’s not by choice but rather it’s the easiest most of the time. “Hey, honey, run to the liquor store and pick up a red that will go with steak!” Seriously, though, just because wine is mass-produced, does it mean it isn’t as of high quality? That’s the question posed.

I’ll let you read for yourself and decide how you feel about mass market wine versus old world vineyards and small artisan wines. Meantime, this book is definitely recommended for those who are curious about what it takes to become a sommelier and who like to think about wine from all angles. I’m glad I added it to my wine library!

What kind of wine goes with this book? Why, take your pick! Many are mentioned throughout the book and it makes for good research for your next big wine purchase! Cheers!

Editor’s Note: The feature image associated with this post is courtesy of © Bianca Bosker/Penguin



Wine for a Garage Sale

I’m finally coming up for air after a busy weekend. It was the annual Liverpool village-wide garage sale, traditionally held Mother’s Day weekend each year. For the past few years, we have participated, as well, to take advantage of the influx of bargain hunters in our area. This year, though, due to the rain on Saturday, and other unknown factors, we had the lowest volume of customers I can ever remember for a garage sale.

Still, we managed to make some money selling the dozens of baby items we had accumulated with Christopher. It’s always nostalgic and a bit sad to see them go, particularly since it means the kids truly are growing up and no more babies! I was pleased to see so many nice people purchase the items for their own babies in the family.

At the end of the sale, we stuck to our rule that nothing goes back in the house, well almost. We did move a small chair back to the basement, but all the other items were either dumped, or donated. The Rescue Mission got the bulk of the extra stuff while Koala Kare Childcare Center, where my daughters spent the first five years of their lives, benefitted from the nursery items I had left that were in excellent condition.

So, what kind of wine goes with a garage sale? Why, Clean Slate Riesling, of course! It’s an old standby from Germany’s Mosel region, where I visited years ago. It seemed appropriate for a spring cleaning. Plus, it’s a crisp, cool wine that is easy to drink while hanging outside chatting with customers. It’s readily available at most local wine and liquor stores and sells for under $10. Try it next time you clean out, make a change or are just starting over! Cheers!



She Did It!

Lucia’s first Science Fair was a resounding success! The judges seemed impressed with her work. Here she is showing her friends and posing in front of her final project.

Wine for a First-Grade Science Project

It starts early these days. The science projects, that is! My first grader is doing her first science fair at school this week and she’s all set to go, but only because I helped. There were NO guidelines offered by the school, just a few websites for us to go check out. And honestly, what can a first grader possibly do on her own to research ideas? So, I dutifully researched ideas and browsed Pinterest boards until I came up with five “finalists.” After much debate, she decided to do her project on clouds.

I purchased all the supplies and used a Pinterest mom’s blog as a guide but in the end, we did mostly our own thing with the display. Her experiment will create a cloud using a vase, water, shaving cream and blue water. She was good about making everything herself; I jumped in on a few of the harder items, such as writing out a long title for one of her cloud formations.

She did a great job on it, as you can see below. I can’t wait to see her display it proudly for the judges. She did a nice job and it’s nice to see her trying something new!

Now, what kind of wine goes with a science fair project? Lots! But, I think that evening I enjoyed Kin and Country, a 2015 red blend from the Lodi, California that came in our latest haul from Winc wines. You need something bursting with energy to accompany a young student’s science project. Patience is a virtue with the school work, so choose a wine that doesn’t need to be decanted and can fill your glass, and your tummy, right away!

Below is her work-in-progress. I’ll post pictures from her final display later this week. Cheers!



Top 5 Wines for Cinco de Mayo!

Typically, people enjoy margaritas or Tequila on May 5, traditionally known as Cinco de Mayo. But, if you are a wine drinker, don’t despair. There are plenty of choices for you, too. Below are my top five picks:

  1. Riesling – German Riesling has an acidity that can stand up to the citrus found in many Mexican dishes. Try anything from the Mosel region, or German-inspired favorite, Hermann J. Weimer from the Finger Lakes region in New York state.
  2. Pinot Noir – Dishes, such as enchiladas are not as spicy and tend to be more mellow and earthy. Try a light Pinot Noir, such as one from the Russian River Valley in Sonoma County, California.
  3. White Merlot – Tacos are fun and carry big flavor, therefore you need something fun to compliment them and quench your thirst. Try a White Merlot from Sutter Home or Beringer Estates. The rose never disappoints.
  4. Sauvignon Blanc – Fish tacos are popular these days and if you get a good one, it will likely have a bit of heat to it. Try a fresh Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand to cool the heat and refresh your palate.
  5. Mexican wine – I was hoping this would be my pick this year. I recently read a Huffington Post article on the resurgence of the Mexican wine industry and learned the Baja peninsula is home to 90 percent of the country’s wine producers. So, I had planned to try a bottle of Mexican wine for my Cinco de Mayo feast. But, alas I can’t find any Mexican wine in my neck of the woods. Anyone know where I can get some? ¡Salud!

A Wine for a New Arm Workout

It’s always exciting to start a new workout, particularly one that makes you feel like it’s working right away! I have long followed Kelsey Wells on Instagram, but for the first time, I actually tried one of her posted workouts.

This one is for arms and shoulders. I was looking for something new and have been wanting to target shoulders more anyway. Wow, is this ever a burn! Wells comments that she uses 15-pound dumbbells. I started there but had to move to 12.5 pounds after a set. By the end of the three sets, my arms already were aching! So, I’ll stick to it for a couple more weeks and see how I do. I definitely love the challenge.

What kind of wine goes with sore arms from a new workout? Why, Sledgehammer Pinot Noir, of course! With a brightly-colored orange, label, you can’t miss this wine on the shelf. It matches the brightness of the fruit, which fills your mouth with berry plum flavor. I loved this wine because it wasn’t sweet but, yet, it had a fruity taste, if that makes any sense.

At $11.99, it was reasonably priced, too. I found it at the local wine and liquor store while trying to find a Mexican wine for Cinco de Mayo. Who knows, if I keep this arm workout going, maybe next time I pick up “sledgehammer,” it’ll be the tool, not the wine!


What Are Wine Futures and Why Should You Care?

The more I learn about wine, the more I realize I need to learn. There is so much to the industry. Over the past few months, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to understand wine futures. Basically, wineries can sell their wine before they bottle it and access the revenue from the sale right away, instead of waiting one to two years to sell it in bottles. This has been happening for years in France, Portugal, even a vineyard in California sells some of its wine as futures. Overall, though, there is not a futures market in the United States.

But, what if there was? Recent research from one of the professors at Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management demonstrates that wineries and distributors can benefit from selling wine as futures, increasing overall revenue up to 20 percent in some cases. The researchers created analytical models to derive their conclusions. They even took into account risk associated with bad weather, such as the cold temperatures in Europe over the past several weeks. In one paper, they demonstrated how to price wine futures accurately, using barrel tasting scores and data from the London International Vintners Exchange (Liv-ex). In another, they created a model for distributors to use to determine how much wine to sell as futures versus bottled.

For decades, the U.S. wine industry has competed with the Europeans, mostly those in the acclaimed French wine regions. The creation of an American wine futures market might be just the thing to jump-start the domestic industry and put it on a new stage. If smaller wineries could see profit more quickly, they could immediately use that cash to invest in capital improvements, marketing and research. If distributors could make more money selling a portion as wine futures, perhaps they could sell some bottled wine at a lower cost for consumers.

It remains to be seen if the U.S. will ever see a wine futures market but if the researchers continue to find positive reasons, perhaps their work will tip the scales in favor of a Liv-ex for America.

The Whitman School created this infographic to help define and explain the significance of wine futures, based on the research of Burak Kazaz et al.