Wine for Fall Celebrations Part 1: A Birthday, Halloween, Days of the Dead

A few weeks ago, we used a Halloween and skeleton theme for my husband’s 50th birthday party and camp out at the beach. While we certainly celebrated with champagne paired with dozens of oysters and clams from the Jolly Oyster, he grilled a tritip and we all enjoyed red wine as well as a full moon tequila toast!

Along with some photos, here are some thoughts on some wines you might choose for tonight’s Halloween dinner or for Dias de Los Muertos or other fall dinners including Thanksgiving!

Also, I can’t recommend the Govino reusable plastic glasses more highly for picnics, camping or parties. These really are marvelous! We do a LOT of camping and bringing glasses that allow me to really enjoy the wine has been a challenge. I picked up the Reidel to Go this summer as well as a box of Govino reds at Dunham Cellars after tasting wine in a variety of vessels there.

While I prefer the glass Reidel and I appreciate that it comes in its own cardboard tube, you can’t beat the plastic ones for convenience, less worry, and WINE TASTES GOOD in GOVINO!

I’ve tasted several reds, whites and even champagnes and been very impressed. If you loan them out, however, you need to make sure people know these aren’t disposable. They’re about $13 for a box of 4. And what about the wine with the Reidel To Go?

When people pooh-pooh syrah these days, especially AUS suyrahs as “fruit bombs” I know it’s because they haven’t tasted this one: Two Hands Gnarly Vines 2007 from the Barossa. Now this is what a glass of wine should be every time if you ask me–rich, balanced, flavorful, with lots of fruit but plenty of acid. It was all we could do to NOT drink it all before our dinner of filet mignon wrapped in bacon was ready! As you can see, we were camping in Zion NP on a beautiful fall afternoon. I am so glad that I brought a special bottle of wine for that meal because the day and the meal deserved it. I found it on sale for $23 instead of $46.

Bacon wrapped filet-mignon + Two Hands Gnarly Vines Barossa Valley Shiraz + Fall Day in Zion National Park= ecstasy

The second photo shows some of the wines we brought to the beach campout in mid October. On the left, you’ll find 3 boxed wines. I’ve written before about the Carlo Rossi boxed wines and the Octavins; boxed wine is a convenient way to enjoy a glass of pinot or other wine when you don’t want a bottle because it stays good in the box for a month or more. We brought out the chardonnay  because this is a great way to have wine around to cook with–we used it in the clams that we cooked on the fire with garlic, basil, and mushrooms. Everyone who tries the Pinot Evil is surprised by how good it is–a box is about $20.

On top of the boxed wine is una calavera of tequila, a reposado from Kah. And yes, we lost our heads with that tequila we we used for a full moon toast over the fire near the close of the night.

The Dearly Beloved Forever Red Mendocino Red Blend is a fruity, friendly wine that I found at Trader Joe’s for around $7; I have to admit I liked the bottle more than the wine. But others liked the wine a lot–it’s very fruity (plum, cherry lifesaver, vanilla oak) and friendly and fun. It was a good wine to have as people were gathering.

Much more acidic, balanced, full bodied and complex was the next wine over–Bogle’s Phantom Ranch Zin and Petit Sirah blend from the Clarksburg AVA which was about $16 at Trader Joe’s. I loved this wine with the tritip. Bogle’s wines I find are typically great values and so is this one. I definitely recommend it–as well as Bogle’s other Petit Sirahs which are also wonderful wines for the price. (I also really like The Crusher’s Petit Sirah from Clarksburg which is about the same price.)

Bogle’s 08 Phantom Ranch Zin & PS is a spirited wine for $16! But only 14.5% alcohol!

Holiday meals call for bubbles. At the beach party, we loved Henriot for its delicate foamy bubbles, its dryness, its apple and peach; it went fabulously with the oysters and the beach. This was the best champagne that most people there had ever had.

Stay tuned for more pairs for fall including Smoking Loon pictured above!

DISCLAIMERS: I bought a box each of Govino red wine glasses and sparkling wine flutes; I later contacted Govino about supplying flutes for champagne day and they sent me samples of all three. The boxed wines were sent as samples as were the bottles of Smoking Loon and the Crusher Petit Sirah.

Celebrate Champagne Day 2011 TODAY!

It’s almost time for Champagne Day at the Jolly Oyster! I leave for there soon with bottles of Champagne and ice in tow!

I’ve been busy busy busy preparing–you know, tasting champagne and studying up! There are tons of juicy tidbits floating about on twitter–just check out the hashtag #champagneday and you’ll see what I mean! For example,

beathirstygirlThirsty Girl posted “One holds a bottle of red wine by the neck, a woman by the waist, and a bottle of Champagne by the derriere.” (Mark Twain) #ChampagneDay
beathirstygirlThirsty Girl also posted “On a budget for #ChampagneDay? Check out this list:”

tweeted this quote:  “My only regret in life is that I didn’t drink enough Champagne” ~ John Maynard Keynes #ChampagneDay #wine
By early this morning, host @vintuba reported “So Far there have been over 2,000 mentions of #ChampagneDay today- looks like a lot of people popping #Bubbles

The Champagne Bureau sent me press packs and a lot of other great Champagne porn which I will bring to share including sheets for tasting notes which we can use.

From the beautiful book they produced titled “Champagne” I learned that they’ve been growing grapes since Roman times and figured out how to control the bubbles by 1730, partly by shifting from wooden closures to cork.

Remember Champagne Day at the Jolly Oyster is BYOB …but I am bringing some of the good stuff to share (can you say BOLLINGER?) if you make a nice donation to Save McGrath!  And if you share with me, I’ll share with you!

Other folks are bringing goodies to share for a donation. And still others will be cooking up clams and oysters and other treats on the spot to share and compare!

We turn into pumpkins & have to scurry from the park when it closes at dusk (6:30) so come as soon as you can–and let’s keep this event green–bring your own glass!!

PS I just saw that Henriot is over $50 online & you can get it COLD at the Ventura Wine Co on Telephone near Market. This is a great bubbler at an amazing price. This is what I chose to pair with oysters and my husband’s birthday two weeks ago. Wow!

Champagne Day 2011 Arrives Tonight!

Dear Champagne and Oyster lovers,

Which Champagne will be the best with which type of oyster? Find out tomorrow at International Champagne Day!

The Jolly Oyster and I invite you to celebrate with us at Ventura State Beach where we will be toasting our local parks and beaches–as well as the fabulous foamy drink we call Champagne and the delicate briny succulent delicacy we call oysters. The event and parking during the event from 3-6pm is FREE.  (Champagne and oyster photo from The Jolly Oyster facebook page).

Learn from experts about Champagne, oysters, clams, our local marine ecosystems and more! Proceeds from sales of oysters and clams will go to Save McGrath State Beach:

While sparkling wine is fine (and thanks to Barefoot Bubbly we will have samples of five bubbling varietals of that beach ready, beach saving California wine!), you can find real Champagne at the locally owned Wine Rack, Ventura Wine Co, and Paradise Pantry. Also, all wines are 30% off right now at Vons; Vons on Harbor and Seaward will chill Champagne for you to pick up: call manager April at 805/223-3616.

Can’t make it to the beach in Ventura to join us? Here’s a link to find a Champagne Day event near you:

Or follow Champagne Day at home! You can take oysters and clams to go and you can check out the hashtag #champagneday on twitter to see what people are tasting and talking about.

best, gwendolyn aka Wine Predator
co-host Champagne Day 2011!/ArtPredator

Celebrate Champagne Fri. Oct. 28 2011!

Last Sunday was my husband’s 50th Birthday.

One guess what we celebrated with?

Yep, you’re right: Champagne! Not sparkling wine, not champagne method, but the real McCoy, Champagne with a capital C! (Okay, I admit, we had some sparkling wine and apple juice, red and white wine, and beer and tequila and…but all that belongs in another blog post to come!!)

Which we thoroughly enjoyed with fresh, raw and barbecued oysters as well clams we steamed up in wine and garlic in a huge pot on the campfire fire!

Next Friday, October 28, from 3-6pm,  I cordially invite YOU to get your bubbles on and join us in a Champagne Day celebration at the Jolly Oyster at the Ventura State Beach from 3-6pm. Parking on this special occasion from 3-6pm will be FREE (instead of $10!)

Meet Ranger Jelly, oysters farmers, and Champagne fans and fellow foodies! Bring your friends, a picnic, and bubbles to share to this FREE, fun party at

The Jolly Oyster

–Get expert tips on how to shuck oysters & cook clams.
–Enjoy Champagne Day specials on fresh oysters & clams from the Jolly Oyster farms.
–Find out about how the Jolly Oyster grows oysters & clams from the farmers.
–Learn about local marine life from Ranger Jelly.
–Meet Champagne fans & fellow foodies.
–Shuckers, towel, barbecue coals etc available for sale also.

Register here for the Champagne Day 2011 and here for our Jolly Oyster Meetup on Champagne Day Oct 28, 2011.