2010 Wine Bloggers Conference Scholarship Applications To Close Early!

Because the 2010 Wine Bloggers Conference in Walla Walla Washington has filled up and sold out ALREADY, WBC scholarship applications will NOT be accepted until May as originally planned but closed a month early on Friday!

However, if you still want to apply for a scholarship to the WBC 2010, you can still send in your application over the weekend (like NOW) and it will be reviewed: wbcscholarship at gmail dot com. They need to know the following about you and your blog:

  1. Full Name
  2. Contact information including email and phone number
  3. Blog address and what you’re all about
  4. Requested funds – please be specific, and indicate if you need the registration fee, full or partial hotel, full or partial airfare.  Remember, that times are tough and a lot of people need assistance, so please be honest and realistic about your requirements.
  5. In 250 words or less, please tell us why you would like to attend the WBC and why we should consider your application.

I am now working on my application in hopes that I will receive a scholarship and once again attend the fabulous Wine Bloggers Conference. I’d really like to learn more about Washington wines at the source–Washington!!–and share the experience here on Wine Predator with you as I did in Santa Rosa in 2008 and 2009 as well as in Lisbon 2009.

And if you can, please support the Wine Bloggers Scholarship fund and help send needy wine bloggers to Walla Walla Washington! The fund is $1500 short of its goal to fund 10 bloggers (and hopefully one of those 10 bloggers will be me!)

Wine How To: Avoid Palate Fatigue

Gwendolyn Alley IS Murphy-Goode!  Please vote here:  http://www.areallygoodejob.com/video-view.aspx?vid=MEPRrfj1uHUWhen I applied for the “dream job” as Caretaker of the Great Barrier Reef I discovered a whole community of fellow applicants–warm, interesting people who share my interests. Same thing around this time as an applicant for the Murphy-Goode’s Wine Country Lifestyle Correspondent.

One of the cool people is Andy over at Andy’s Goode Life Blog where she’s hosting a blog carnival by asking us to respond to these three questions:

  1. When I drink red wine, I often get the dreaded “red wine teeth,” which is an embarrassing condition to have at a party when I intend on talking, smiling, or otherwise showing my newly wine-stained chompers. And is there any way to reduce this affliction without hampering my enjoyment of red?
  2. What are your tips to avoid “palate fatigue” when tasting so many wines in a session?
  3. Why smell the cork?

Since I discovered I had several stories I wanted to share, I chose to answer all three questions but in different posts since it was getting so long! So here’s my answer to #2. And please head over to Andy’s place and vote for one of my blog posts! Good practice for voting for me over at Murphy-Goode…

2. How do I avoid palate fatigue? I smile at this question, thinking back to the Delicious Wine Tasting in Santa Monica earlier this month. I brought three friends with me, Helen and her partner Grant who both work in the hospitality industry and influence wine selection at the high end restaurants, and my friend David who I’ve learned to rely on for good notes, a delicate palate, and a willingness to drive f I don’t do enough spitting.

Helen does a local TV show called “Tidbits” and we were shooting a segment, so we had a camera and mic. We were interviewing and tasting. It was exhausting, partly because most of the people we were talking with were French and we’re not. Plus our French is awful but our curiousity great. The food had run out early on, right after we’d had something after our nearly 90 minute drive; I’d even heard an organizer make a snide remark about one of my friends “making a meal out of a bread bar.”  So another 90 minutes later, when more bread and cheese arrived, we filled the tiny plates, chose different wines to see what happened with the food, and settled into some couches outside the room to compare notes and take a break.

This is where I answer the question, by the way. Continue reading

Wine How To: Avoid Red Teeth?

 Gwendolyn Alley is Murphy-GoodeSo you might have gathered that I’m applying for another “dream job”–this time, instead of Caretaker of the Great Barrier Reef, I’m up for Murphy-Goode’s Wine Country Lifestyle Correspondent.

And just as many people told me I was perfect for the island reef job, so people are saying about the Murphy-Goode job: “Go for it! You’re perfect! You love wine, you’re a great storyteller, I love your blog!” (OK, they know me, they love me, they’re biased…what can I say?)

So, my 60 minute video application awaits approval and processing (and it came out soooooo great! Whoo hoo!!). In the meantime, I’m headed for a carnival, a blog carnival that is, over at Andy’s Goode Life Blog where she asks us to respond to these three questions:

  1. When I drink red wine, I often get the dreaded “red wine teeth,” which is an embarrassing condition to have at a party when I intend on talking, smiling, or otherwise showing my newly wine-stained chompers. And is there any way to reduce this affliction without hampering my enjoyment of red?
  2. What are your tips to avoid “palate fatigue” when tasting so many wines in a session?
  3. Why smell the cork?

1. How to avoid the dreaded red wine teeth? Ahh, the scurge of red wine drinkers, especially for those of us with a passion for heavy bodied reds like syrahs.

At Doug Cook’s birthday party at the Wine Blogger’s Conference, toward the end of a long day of tasting and drinking wine, we were all laughing at ourselves and each other, joyously celebrating our red teeth! It was a mark of a day and an evening well spent amongst new and old friends sharing some of our favorite wines.

So, enjoy!

Now, if you’re doing a photo shoot that’s another story. It’s best not to drink much anyway if at all. Bring a toothbrush. And if it’s a first date or a business dinner, and you’re worried about first impressions, choose to drink something white!

Mulled wine: for those wines you mull over & decide you just don’t have to drink or dump

Yep, sometimes a wine is best for mulling…maybe a bottle of Merlot left after a party you don’t want to drink or store, or some 2 Buck Chuck lying around. Or maybe you tried something and you flat-out don’t like it enough to add those calories!Mulled Wine...yum

This is a wonderful time of year to enjoy mulled wines at home, with friends, or to bring to a gathering. No matter what you mull, the smell is divine!

There are lots of mulled wine recipes out there with variations on the theme of a spiced, heated, red wine. I am not of the camp that recommends you use a fine red wine for mulling; something in the $5 range works great as does 2 Buck Chuck if you have a Trader Joe’s in the neighborhood. I am tempted to try a Shiraz this year, but any red wine will work.

I always have a pot of homemade chai spices going on the store to make chai and the easiest mulled wine or mulled cider to make for me is to add red wine to the eight spice combination: cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, coriander, ginger, pepper, allspice and cloves with a little honey or sugar to taste. (I’ll share my chai recipe soon, I promise!)

A few weeks ago I saw this mulled wine recipe on Delectable Jen’s blog which she found from an episode where chef Andreas Viestad makes Mulled Wine in Trondheim, Norway. I prefer mine without raisins, almonds, and orange and the added vodka, but this is the traditional Norwegian recipe in  its entirety.


1 cup (2 1/2 dl) water
1 cinnamon stick
4 cardamom seeds
2 cloves
1 heaped tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons homemade vanilla sugar, or 2 tablespoons vanilla and 1/4 vanilla bean
1 bottle of red wine
1/2 cup (1 dl) vodka (OPTIONAL!)
1/2 cup (1 dl) almonds
1/4 cup (1/2 dl) raisins
1 orange, sliced

In a small pot, bring the water to boil. Add cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, honey and vanilla sugar to and mix it well. Let this sweet spice mixture boil for about 15 minutes to release the flavor of the spices.

Mulled Wine…yum

Meanwhile, heat the red wine gently in a medium pot. Make sure it does not reach more than 170F (78C), otherwise the alcohol will evaporate. Add 1/3 of the sweet spice mixture. Add almonds and raisins. Add more spice mixture to taste, until the mulled wine has the sweetness of your liking. Add the vodka.

Add a slice of orange to each cup add mulled wine and serve.

Update from 2013: I wouldn’t use 2 Buck Chuck. I’d try to find something in the $5 range at least. Doesn’t have to be in the $10-20 unless you really didn’t like it and don’t want to blend it with something else…

great food/wine pairings chart

Questions about what to drink with what? This food and wine pairing chart looked useful in answering some of my questions–let me know how it works for you! I found it at Drinks are on Me:

Wine Varietal Herbs and Spices Vegetables Fish and Shellfish Meats Cheeses Bridges
Sauvignon Blanc Basil, bay leaf, cilantro, dill, fennel, lemongrass, marjoram, mint, parsley, savory, thyme Carrots, eggplant, most green vegetables (lettuces, snow peas, zucchini), tomatoes Clams, mussels, oysters, scallops, sea bass, shrimp, snapper, sole, swordfish, trout, tuna Chicken, game birds, turkey Buffalo mozzarella, feta, fontina, goat, Parmigiano Reggiano, ricotta, Swiss Bell peppers, capers, citrus, garlic, green figs, leeks, olives, sour cream
Chardonnay Basil, clove, tarragon, thyme Corn, mushrooms, potatoes, pumpkin, squash Crab, grouper, halibut, lobster, monkfish, salmon, scallops, shrimp, swordfish, tuna Chicken, pork, turkey, veal Brie, camembert, Monterey Jack, Swiss Apples, avocado, bacon, butter, citrus, coconut milk, cream, Dijon mustard, milk, nuts, pancetta, pears, polenta, tropical fruits, vanilla
Riesling Chile pepper, cilantro, dill, five-spice, ginger, lemongrass, nutmeg, parsley Carrots, corn, onions parsnips Crab, scallops, smoked fish, snapper, sole, trout Chicken, game birds, pork Emmenthal, gouda Apricots, citrus, dried fruits, peaches, tropical fruits
Pinot Noir Basil, black pepper, cinnamon, clove, fennel, five-spice, oregano, rosemary, star anise, thyme Beets, eggplant, mushrooms Salmon, tuna Beef, chicken, game birds, lamb, liver, rabbit, turkey, veal Aged chedar, Brie, smoked cheeses Beets, butter, chocolate/cocoa, cooked tomatoes, Dijon mustard, dried fruits, mushrooms, onions, pomegranates, shallots
Shiraz/Syrah Allspice, chile pepper, coriander, cumin, five-spice, pepper, rosemary, sage Eggplant, onions, root vegetables Blackened fish Bacon, duck, lamb, pancetta, pheasant, sausage, short ribs, venison Cheddar, goat, Gouda, Gruyere Black figs, black licorice, black olives, black pepper, cherries, chocolate/cocoa
Cabernet Sauvignon Juniper, oregano, rosemary, sage, savory, thyme Mushrooms, potatoes, root vegetables None Beef, duck, lamb, venison Camembert, carmody, aged Gouda, aged Jack Balsamic vinegar, blackberries, black olives, black pepper, butter, cassis, cherries, cream, currants, roasted red pepper, toasted nuts


Compare & Contrast: 3 Old World Reds under $10 with New World Reds under $10

As a native Californian who cut her wine tasting bicuspids in Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino while going to college in the Bay Area, then worked in the tasting room at Ridge Winery in the early 80s and who now lives just south of the thriving wine regions of the Central Coast, I am most familiar with and partial to California wines.

Why bother with wine from anywhere else when California wines are so abundant, so inexpensive, so tasty and easy to find at Trader Joe’s, Vons, or The Ventura Wine Company?

All that changed when I started going to the Grateful Palate Warehouse sales two years ago and ventured into the wild and wonderful world of Australian wines, especially shiraz, and I discovered I love GSMs.   At their warehouse sale prices, I became spoiled drinking much better quality wines in much bigger quantities.

At the Wine Bloggers Conference, I had the opportunity to taste not only plentiful pours of local Sonoma wines, but wines from New York State, New Zealand, and really all over the world thanks to Doug Cook and others who brought wines to share. Most of these wines were priced around $20.

Since much of the conversation around wine blogs recently has related to Chilean red value wines under $20 (see here for a list of posts), and how Chilean wines are such a great value in comparison, I found myself asking: in comparison to what? In my opinion, there are plenty of California cabs at around $20 which are better than the 2006 Casa Lapostolle “Alexandre” I tasted over the past few days and I know  California cabs I’d prefer to spend my $10 on than the 2006 Santa Rita Reserva.

So in comparison to what? I asked myself again. To European wines at the same price point?

To answer that question, I investigated three old world wines easily found on the internet for around $10: a 2003 Raimat Tempranillo, a 2006 J. Vida-Fleury Rhone blend of Grenache and Shiraz, and a 2006 Chateau Nenine blend of Merlot, Cab Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.

I liked the Tempranillo. A lot. I would definitely buy this one. In terms of my Wine Predator scale,
5-8………. Terrible; Lose the Trail
9-11…….. Emergency Rations
12-14……. Worth Drinking
15-17 ……..Worth Finding
18-20 ……TRACK IT DOWN!

it scored 17 and it deserves to be FOUND again! It was great with appetizers of various pizzas, cheeses, and grapes, and the gathering drank it up quickly.

Unfortunately, the Rhone wine, at 12 points, as much as I wanted to enjoy it, was barely WORTH DRINKING. It tasted thin, and flat.  The Bordeaux fared a bit better, with a score of 13, but it wasn’t too exciting either.

The Chilean Santa Rita, as you may recall, scored a 14 the other day; last night it was clear to us that this was a better wine and a better value than the two French ones. Unfortunately, we finished the Tempranillo before I could taste it again and compare it with the Chilean Santa Rita! I would say that is suggestive! How much can be contributed to the Tempranillo being 3 years older, and other factors, remains to be seen, however.

Last night, over steaks, we drank the 3 “value” reds along with the Casa Lapostolle; at this point, it had opened up into a lovely, personable, pleasurable wine, and the Casa Rita was very serviceable while the two French wines were only that: French, and with significantly lower alcohol levels (which we did appreciate). Yes, I’d chose them over $2 Buck Chuck, but next time I think I’d take my $10 and spend it on another wine.

Sigh. Now that I think about this experiment, I am wishing I’d opened up the Chateau Greysac 2001 I picked on clearance for $14 (regularly $20) to compare with the Casa Lapostolle…

Oh well, another day!

Wine Aroma Wheel

As someone who is getting more serious about tasting and drinking wine, I find I am often searching for the words to describe the various sensations which a particular wine produces. How to be clear and articulate, personal and universal at the same time?  Using a common vocabulary with other tasters can help us all speak the same language better.

One tool for developing the necessary accuracy and language is to make samples of various smells (standards) commonly found in wine; I found directions on how to do make these at the Wine Aroma Wheel site as well as info about the Wheel, created by Ann C. Noble in 1990 at UC Davis. You’ll find information on making standards as well as the Wheel below:

The wheel is an incredible and useful tool to learn about wines and enhance one’s ability to describe the complexity of wine flavor.

The Wine Aroma Wheel The wheel is made of three tiers : it has very general terms located in the center (e.g. fruity or chemical), going to the most specific terms in the outer tier (e.g. grapefruit or strawberries).

These terms are not the only terms that can be used to describe wines, but represent ones that are often encountered.

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Whether you are a beginner or a wine connoisseur, the use of the wheel during wine tasting will facilitate the description of the flavors you perceive. More importantly, you will be able to recognize and remember specific details about wines.

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Novice tasters often complain that they “cannot smell anything” or can’t think of a way to describe the aroma of wine. Fortunately, it is very easy to train our noses and brains to connect and quickly link terms with aromas.

The fastest way is to make physical standards to illustrate important and major notes in wine aroma.

download the user guide

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Wine Aroma Wheel T-shirtsIndulge yourself or relatives with this beautiful T-shirt featuring the Wine Aroma Wheel.

Click here for more information

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We partnered with Inno Vinum to distribute a French version of the wheel worldwide. Since Inno Vinum is a Canadian company, it will ensure the distribution of the English version of the wheel throughout Canada.

To order the English version of the Wine Aroma Wheel :

To order La Roue des Arômes, the French version of the Wine Aroma Wheel, please visit Inno Vinum.

To order the Japanese version of the Wine Aroma Wheel or the Sparkling Wine Aroma Wheel (only available in English) click here.