Saturday, December 10, 2011

Got Uncommon Wine?

The Inland Empire now boasts a unique shop that offers something a bit different for discerning wine drinkers like me to like to 'geek out' on the stuff, so to speak.
You can find up to 50 different bottles from all over the world at Chris Kern's Forgotten Grapes, a niche tasting room and shop tucked away off of Spruce Street in Riverside.
Kern has dubbed himself America's Uncommon Wine Expert, and he carries the selections to back it up. Here, you can find everything from an interesting red from Lebanon...
 to a reasonably priced Sauternes.
Kern offers clever, pop culture-inspired comparisons to these lesser known varietals; sure to inspire chuckles from customers.
There's also a social consciousness at work here, with a portion of the proceeds from some selections going to select charitable organizations.
During my visit, I tasted a lemony, warm, and spicy Rousanne, and enjoyed a killer Cru du Beaujolais full of plum and holiday spice.
Next time, I'll tell you about a delicious, rare treasure I took home with me...a selection I had been hard pressed to find...until now.
Kern ships all over the country too, so get your holiday orders in now.
If You go:
Chris Kern's Forgotten Grapes
1735 Spruce Street, Suite A,
Riverside, CA
(951) 782-8130
Follow me on Twitter @vinochick75.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Giving Thanks for Terrific French Reds

Potluck Thanksgiving meals are always a treat for me, with everyone bringing something unique to the holiday table. As host this year I was in charge of the turkey, which I basted in appled juice and stuffed with apples, cranberries, and fresh rosemary.
I paired our appetizers of cranberry goat cheese and smoked chedder with a '10 Le Bout du Monde, an earthy red with flavors of prune and tobacco. Deep purple in color, this wine has concentrated fruit, spice, and a hint of white pepper that melded well with the cheeses.

For our main meal, I opened an '08 Chateau Simian, an addictive Chateauneuf Du Pape full of dark cherries and reminiscent of an adult Jolly Rancher, and a '10 Domaine Coston, an inky Grenache-based blend from the Langeudoc with faint aromas of pine that instantly reminded me of childhood trips to the Christmas tree farm.
Both wines were rich, full bodied, and held up well against the heft of the succulent turkey, apple stuffing, cranberry sauce, zucchini casserole, and decadent truffle mashed potatoes.
 Just add a terrific group of food and wine loving friends to the mix, and give thanks!

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

#Languedoc Day a Social Media Sensation

Thursday, November 10, 2011 is now known in social media circles as Languedoc Day. Wine writers spent the day blogging about the tasty, about-to-be-famous juice that comes from this up-and-coming region in  Southeastern France, many of us Tweeting with the hashtag #LanguedocDay.
I'm an avowed nut for Languedoc's older sister Chateauneuf du Pape, who lives just north of her, so this was an easy assignment. I experimented with the 2009 Les Vignes de Bila-Haut from vaunted Rhone producer M. Chapoutier.
This is a gorgeous bottle of wine, made from Grenache, Syrah, and old vine Carignan. Simply put...I love this stuff and found it really inky, warm, and full of Cherry Coke, chocolate, and holiday spices.

I enjoyed a glass with flavorful maple pork tenderloin, mashed yams, and broccolini.
I think this Languedoc gem would be a great choice for the Thanksgiving table, a perfect companion for  juicy turkey in cranberry thyme gravy.
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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Johnny Costa's Offering Tasty New Selections This Season

In addition to a great happy hour menu, Johnny Costa's Ristorante in downtown Palm Springs has some tasty new vino to accompany an array of flavorful small plates and homestyle Italian dishes.
In terms of whites, I enjoyed the 2010 Sortesele Pinot Grigio from one of Italy's most storied producers, Santi Winery. This seafood-friendly wine is slightly floral and lacks the predictable bite that characterizes many examples of this varietal. Instead, there is a smooth, almost buttery-like finish on the palate that I really enjoyed. For $6 per glass, there is true value here, and while this selection hasn't made it to the full menu yet, it will soon.
I also tasted the Barco Reale di Carmignano Cappezzana, a hearty Sangiovese-Cab blend that really needs food! This wine is quite rustic, with a lot of tannin to be tamed, ideally with a rich bolognese or hearty veal dish. At $9 per glass,I would also drink it with one of the restaurant's tasty wood-fired pizzas.
Special thanks to:
Johnny Costa's Ristorante
440 South Palm Canyon Drive Palm Springs
(760) 325-4556

Friday, October 28, 2011

Harvest Wine Dinner a Fall Feast for the Senses

There's an indescribable sense of comfort I glean from wine dinners; the joy of sitting down with friends to handcrafted cuisine and tasty wines carefully paired with each morsel.
I enjoyed one such meal recently, an organic Farm-to-Table menu prepared by Executive Chef Sean O'Connell at bluEmber Restaurant inside Rancho Las Palmas Resort. Chef O'Connell selected produce from locally based County Line Farms, which David Dees of JAQK Cellars then paired with some exquisite wines.
Selections included Chanterelle-baked pan squash with grilled asparagus matched with the lush and easy-drinking Pearl Handle Chardonnay.
The earthy and flavorful mushroom and squash combined well with the creamy and lemony notes in the wine. I'm not typically a Chard lover, but this version has certainly captured the attention of my fickle palate.
Zippy heirloom tomato and tender squash blossoms were a tasty treat when matched up with the tummy-warming favorite of the night, Soldiers of Fortune Syrah. Full of cherries and chocolate, taking the first sip of this wine is like opening gifts on Christmas morning. It is easily my favorite in the JAQK lineup.
We also enjoyed vanilla salmon confit with JAQK's spicy Black Clover Merlot, the notes of vanilla bean in the wine making it a solid choice for this dish.
JAQK's tobacco-inflected High Roller Cab was smooth on the palate with a pull-apart slow-braised wagyu short rib beef perched atop creamy polenta.
For the grand finale, we inhaled a cardamom-spiced pumpkin cheesecake that was light as air and also paired with the High Roller Cab, which took on an almost sherry-like quality when sipped with this decadent dessert.
Suffice it to say, I'm still dreaming of Syrah and squash blossoms...
Follow me on Twitter @vinochick75.

Special thanks to:
JAQK Cellars
bluEmber Restaurant:


Monday, October 24, 2011

Get Your Tickets Now for the Sweet n' Savory Convention

What could be better than the enticing aroma of red wine, herbs, and short ribs simmering in a crockpot?
Not much else, apparently. Now add some veggies, bittersweet chocolate, clove, cocoa and chili powders, a dash of cinnamon, and let this convention of sweet and savory meld overnight for ten hours on low. (Of course there's a bit more to it, but you'll have to wait for the book to find out exactly what). Regardless, I awoke to a meal like no other.
A feast like this deserves nothing less than a hefty, big fruited wine to join the flavor party. I chose a 2009 Llama Old Vine Malbec.
This wine is full of chocolate and spices, and is rich and full of deep cherry flavors, just like the rustic style of the short ribs, which sat atop homemade sweet potato mash. Now if only our wines could be as 'fork tender' as this mouth-watering repast...

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

'Opening Night' Tastings Offer Tempting Sips and Bites of the Season to Come

In terms of pure decadent enjoyment, there is no place quite like Fleming's Steakhouse in Rancho Mirage. I recently enjoyed their “Opening Night” to remember, an event that featured 20 different wines from the new Fleming’s 100 Wines-by-the-Glass List.
Also debuting was the restaurant's new small plates menu, and Ahi Tuna Skewers with wasabi aioli, sweet tomato vinaigrette, and homemade wonton chips was sublime with a glass of 2010 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc. The char on the fish matched really well with the steely citrus in the wine, which also had a fresh grassy taste.

One of my favorites was the Vina Leyda, a raspberry-inflected Chilean Pinot that reminded me of the coveted Tootsie Roll pops I chomped on as a kid.
But there was no chocolate surprise at the center of this Tootsie Roll (that was to come later). Instead, I found myself devouring Chef David Burke's creamy, crunchy, and severely addictive polenta fries with this wine.
One of the best pairings I've enjoyed in a while was an inky, herbal, and dark-fruited '08 Meritage from Beringer. This is a bold, slap you in the face wine, and it needed the dish to match.
Enter the New Zealand Petite Lamb Chops with pistachio-mint pesto, and a secret "F17" sauce. I was on the verge of sticking the bottle and the extra chops in my purse, but thought better of it. I would like to be invited back.
Just when I thought I could eat no more, out came a ridiculous finale: Chef Dave's Peanut Butter, Bacon, and Chocolate Souffle.
This life-altering combo of savory and sweet, placed on the table as it oozed with everything bad for you, is not on the regular menu, but they'll whip it up at your request. I paired it with a smoky, blackberry-like Columbia Valley Syrah from Milbrandt, which Chef went Lady Gaga over.
On the way out the door, my friend Cheri and I had just one request...a souffle to go and more polenta fries, please!
Special thanks to:
Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar
71800 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage
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