Archive for the ‘wine’ Tag

Wine Tales   Leave a comment


When I was a kid, my grandparents lived in Napa. I dreaded the inevitable drives with my parents through the valley to the small, mostly-family-run wineries. Curvy and narrow roads and not being old enough to even sip wine further contributed to my discomfort.

The roads remain narrow, but seem to wind less; my grandparents aren’t alive, and now there are more wineries than I could have ever imagined. Several years ago, my husband and I discovered HALL Wines, so I looked forward to reading A Perfect Score by Craig and Kathryn Hall.

The co-proprietors of HALL and WALT Wines are relative newcomers to the industry; they didn’t launch their first wines until 1995. Although, Kathryn grew up on her parents’ vineyard in Mendocino County (California); Craig, on the other hand, admits to once having little knowledge of wines.


This is several stories woven into one: How the couple met, came to purchase property in the Napa and Sonoma valleys and ultimately how one of their wines, a Cabernet Sauvignon, earned 100 points from wine critic Robert Parker, Jr., in 2013.

The Halls had their share of setbacks, but their apparent optimistic dispositions and a lot of good luck served them well. The book addresses life in Napa Valley, the camaraderie among vintners, the concerns of neighbors regarding the Halls’ construction plans, the philanthropy of winemakers, the caliber of the Hall staff and more.

This is a quick, fun read and made me want to open a bottle of HALL wine.

A Perfect Score: The Art, Soul, and Business of a 21st Century Winery
Three Bookmarks
Center Street, 2016
207 pages


Reservations   Leave a comment



It’s obvious that my husband and I are tourists in Rome. We wear expressions of awe and confusion. One thing we don’t do is always carry a guidebook. There’s nothing wrong with them, but I was surprised to count the number of people who approached Trattoria da Teo with books in hand.

Our B&B host told us about Teo’s. We didn’t know we needed reservations. The restaurant, like most in Rome, opens at 7:30. This was something many with Rick Steves and Frommer’s weren’t aware of either, but a fair number was. Perhaps the guidebooks should be more detailed. We sat in the small piazza watching people go to Teo’s door only to be turned away. We waited more than 30 minutes and once inside were told there was one remaining table available for someone without reservations.

Although this is a popular Trastevere  eatery, we weren’t wowed. The food wasn’t photogenic, but there were a few bright spots, including the lightly breaded calamari with artichokes. Read the rest of this entry »

Wine is a Food Group   1 comment

Several years ago, I interviewed Richard Betts for a freelance piece I was writing. It came about because he lives in Boulder, had his own wine label (Betts & Scholl) and, at the time, was one of only 170 master sommeliers worldwide. Since then the number has grown to 214 and Betts has written a humorous, albeit basic, book: The Essential Scratch & Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert.

Betts is personable, knowledgeable and not at all condescending – qualities that shine in the book. He wants wine to be accessible, not limited to a certain class or clientele. In fact his approach is included on the book’s cover: “Wine is a grocery, not a luxury.”

In less than two dozen cardboard-like pages, all of which have simple drawings like the content of a children’s book, Betts admonishes readers to simply use their noses to help identify their wine likes and dislikes. He even goes so far as to single out the smells most often found in wines as a way to understand why one wine might be more appealing than another. He writes, “Know that tasting is actually smelling.”

The book, indeed, has scratch and sniff spots, but not all the aromas shine. Still, the point is well taken. Most of us know what vanilla smells like, and if we like it or not. The bottom line, Betts emphasizes, is to drink wine you like. He is just helping readers understand why some might be more appealing than others.

The Essential Scratch & Sniff Guide to Becoming A Wine Expert
Four Bookmarks
Hougton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013
21 pages

Fondue Fun   Leave a comment

A cellar may conjure something dark and musty; fortunately, neither describes the Mona Lisa Wine Cellar. This offspring of The Mona Lisa Fondue Restaurant in the space above features an extensive wine list along with cheese and chocolate fondue.


The super-friendly one-person staff oversees the 10 or 12 tables. Even though the menu is limited, diners still have decisions to make. For example, it’s not just cheese fondue. It’s possibly Old World, New World, South of the Border, Creamy Fontina, Greek Isle, or Brie. We opted for two fondue pots: Old World and Brie. These not only complemented one another, but also were the right amount for our group of four. The Old World is a blend of Emmental and Gruyere cheeses in a white wine base; the Brie, too, was in a white wine base and accented with almonds slivers. Both  were gooey with nutty undertones; the Brie was slightly creamier. Bite-size pieces of bread, fresh fruit and raw vegies are served for dipping.


Even if one of my friends was not celebrating a birthday, we were primed for chocolate fondue. Again, a number of choices are available including dark, milk and white. Further flavor profiles are created with the addition of liqueurs. We chose dark chocolate and chocolate with raspberry. Fresh fruit, cookies, marshmallows, pound cake, Angel food cake and brownies are served for dipping.


The beauty of fondue is that it’s communal and requires a slow pace. Add a bottle of wine and the meal is rich in taste and camaraderie.

Mona Lisa Wine Cellar
Four Plates
733 Manitou Ave.
Manitou Springs, CO