Tag Archives: wine club

Drink Me: Grenache


Happy Wine Wednesday!

If you are newer to wine or stick to well-known varietals such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir, you may not have heard of Grenache. But you may have had it!

Grenache is a red grape varietal grown mostly in the Rhone Valley in France. If you’ve ever had a Côtes du Rhône or a wine from the region, it probably was made with Grenache. Grenache is most often blended with Syrah and Mouvedre. In Spain, it’s called Garnacha and is regularly blended with Tempranillo.

Why does it make such a great blending grape? Because it adds lots of fruity berry flavors without all of the tannins. There’s a bit of acidity to add structure and sometimes a bit a spice. Rob waivers on Grenache, because sometimes he finds a hint of white pepper – which he does not like!

You may have also seen Grenache from the New World, as well. When I used to do in-home wine tastings, one of my favorites was the Catch a Thief Grenache from McLaren Vale, South Australia. Then, when I earned an all-expense paid trip to Napa, California, one of my favorite Grenaches came from one of The Traveling Vineyard’s suppliers, Stonehedge. I splurged on a case of the $30 bottle because we were offered a significant discount. Absolute heaven.

So you can imagine how delighted we were when we received a Grenache in our South Coast Wine Club shipment.

photo 1(1)

When we were in Temecula, California last year, we found that a lot of vineyards produced wines made from Rhone Valley grapes. Perhaps the climate is somewhat similar to that of the southern France and Spain. Still, the Grenache vine is a hardy one that survives better than most others in windy and drier conditions, much like the semi-arid climate of the Old Southwest.

photo 3

The Grenache grape depends on a long growing season to ripen, which in turn leads to high sugar levels and the potential for a wine with high alcohol content. You will find this with many New World Grenaches. However, Rhone Valley wines can be dialed back with the other blending grapes.

Here is what our South Coast Temecula Valley Grenache had to offer:

photo 2(1)

While this was probably one of my least favorite South Coast wines, it was still very good. What I tasted was a hint of eucalyptus, which brought me back to the days when I had a really bad Petit Verdot from Australia. That one was all eucalyptus and not palatable at all. Here, there was only a hint, which may have even been the violet or lavender they include in the description.

For a bit more information about Grenache, check out these fun facts.

Grenache Food Pairings:

  • Stews, roasts, anything braised or cooked low and slow.
  • Game, grilled sausages.
  • Warm spices like garam masala or Moroccan spices found in a traditional tagine.
  • Casseroles or “bakes” such as goulash, macaroni and cheese, vegetable bakes, lentil and bean dishes. Minnesotans, perhaps a Tater Tot Hotdish?
  • BBQ – perfect with that hint of smoke.

Have you had Grenache before?

Alone or in a blend?

What are your thoughts?


Drink Me: Petit Verdot


Happy Wine Wednesday!

Most people have heard of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. But unless you have been around the wine world for a while, very few people have heard of Petit Verdot.

It’s a varietal that hails from from Bordeaux, France and is often used as a blending grape to make wines from that region. Very rarely do you see it on its own. I have had a few Petit Verdot wines in the past, but I found that they weren’t very well balanced at all. Because it is a grape that ripens late, it’s hard to get it right. On the other hand, the addition of this varietal to other blends can give a wine depth and a little more tannin. {Which helps in the aging process – perfect for Bordeaux reds!}

But last night, we were able to try a Petit Verdot from our new Reds Wine Club from South Coast Winery in Temecula, California.

South Coast Petit VerdotAnd I just have to say that this is one of the best wines I’ve had in a really, really long time.

I am so over that sweet, generic taste you find in so many restaurant reds. This wine had depth, character and, surprisingly, was well-balanced, too. The flavors were subtle: mostly berries and mocha. The tannins weren’t too sharp, but provided what I like to call a “dusty” quality to the wine. I adore that! The finish was long. It tasted elegant and refined. I trust that this wine could even age a few more years.

And I actually learned something from the back of the bottle!

Read the label!

South Coast Petit Verdot - backI love how it states the date the grapes were harvested and from where!

A little off topic… Despite turning one, Shamrock is still in his puppy stage. Maybe I’ll call him my little Petit Verdot until he “ripens.” Well, he isn’t green, but his name is Shamrock after all.

Have you had a Petit Verdot before?

If so, which one?

Any other unique wines out there you’ve tried?


We Love You, South Coast Winery!


Happy Wine Wednesday!

We signed up for the South Coast Winery Wine Club when we were in Temecula last month. The Reds Club that we joined is a quarterly subscription where you receive three bottles each quarter and are charged at the wine club rate.

We took our first shipment home with us that day because why pay for the shipping when we are masters at packing a few bottles of wine in our luggage!? {Well, that’s for another post.}

Yesterday, we received our first quarterly shipment which we are lucky enough to have delivered to friends who can sign for us. We were on our way out the door, so I tore open the box to grab the insert so I could read about the wines we received over dinner.

When we returned home, Rob unpacked the bottles from the box.

“Babe, didn’t we join the three-bottle reds club?”


“Well, we got four bottles!”

“They don’t have a four-bottle club… I. Don’t. Think.”

But sure enough, in our very first wine club shipment, South Coast included a fourth bottle.


Comparing with our Tasting Notes insert, the only bottle not listed is this one:

SC Members ExclusiveIt’s a “Members Exclusive” wine with a nice “Season’s Greetings” label. Sure, it looks like a NV (non-vintage) Syrah. But it was an extra, unexpected bottle that makes us feel special. And it’s uniquely from Temecula!

Thank you, South Coast!

What’s something unexpected you’ve received recently?


California Winery of the Year


Happy Wine Wednesday!

We didn’t know it until we got there, but while we were in Temecula, we were stayed at the California Winery of the Year.

The friend who recommend visiting Temecula Wine Country also recommended that we stay at the South Coast Winery Resort and Spa. She knew that Rob proposed to me at the vineyard where we stayed in Tuscany. She had been to Tuscany as well and said, “You guys will love it because it’s the closest thing you’ll experience to Tuscany here!”

She recommended getting a villa with a vineyard view. I told her about the of the Gulf of Naples view I somehow scored for us on our honeymoon to the Amalfi Coast thanks to the Trip Advisor reviews on Hotel Il Nido. Rob took full advantage of the balcony and sat out there long after I got chilly and retired each night.

“Oh! He’ll love this, then!” She said.

The view from our private patio

The view from our private patio at South Coast Winery.

I’ve never done a review or “impression” of a hotel on this blog. Quite frankly, hotels are often an afterthought for us. Generally, we just like to find an affordable place to sleep in a safe neighborhood. However, I did a little extra research on hotels for our honeymoon. I highly recommend Trip Advisor. While you’ll find negative reviews on every place listed, you’ll find the reasons people like or dislike a hotel or restaurant and it’ll help you decide what you want for your experience.

Because we were going to wine country and celebrating ten years together, I was willing to spend a little more money than we would on a basic hotel room. And you can’t forget the location factor! South Coast Winery is located pretty much in the epicenter of all of the other vineyards you might want to visit.

We really did enjoy our stay at South Coast and we would most definitely stay again. But I thought I’d share what we liked and disliked about our stay to give you a sense of what is important to you when you are choosing a place to stay.

I was disappointed in:

  • The front desk service – It wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t personable. We were the only ones there when we checked in. All of her questions and instructions seemed robotic, not sincere. With no one else behind us, she didn’t ask what brought us to South Coast or if we were celebrating something special. Okay, that would be superior service. But I felt more valued at The Westin in Pasadena. {A new-to-me hotel chain with which I’m quite pleased!} The same gal checked us out and I felt the same way. She did ask if I would take the time to fill out a comment card/satisfaction survey, though. But I felt like it was just procedure. I wanted to, but we had to get to the airport and didn’t have the time.
  • The decor in room – I need to get over this one. It wasn’t that bad. It just felt a bit dated. I KNOW – First World Problems. I think the website portrayed a better looking room. Or maybe I was just coming down from L.A. traffic stress and wanted to be over-the-top-wowed.049
  • We went during the off season – So, this can be a pro or con and is not the resort’s fault. There didn’t seem to be anyone else staying there! The grapes were already harvested and we saw no hot-air balloons. Hey, wait a minute… If there were very few people there, why didn’t they offer to upgrade us? Maybe if they would have asked if were celebrating something…
  • They didn’t refill the coffee – We were lucky enough to have a Keurig in our room with two K-cups of regular coffee, two decaf coffees and two teas. We used the two regulars the first morning. They never refilled it. Okay, so we could have asked…
  • The bed – I woke up with a backache every morning. Since I’m prone to back issues, take that with a grain of salt. Though I was completely content with the beds in both Pasadena and Beverly Hills earlier in the trip. Maybe I was just longing for my bed at home by this point. I was also hot. I couldn’t find the right temperature/cover ratio.

But here’s what I LOVED about South Coast Winery Resort:

  • The private patio facing the vineyards outside our door – We could literally step outside and be in vineyards, even pluck a grape. We left the patio door open the first night and heard what we thought were coyotes! So cool! {We stayed in a Deluxe Vineyard King Villa.}
  • The Keurig & fridge in our room – We made coffee the first morning with the Keurig and took it out on our private patio. They didn’t refill it though. So if we wanted something the next morning, it’d have to be tea or decaf coffee. We picked some supplies up from Baron’s Marketplace to munch on for breakfast and in the evening. It was great to have the fridge for cheese, fruit and water.
  • The location – Right in the heart of Temecula Wine Country!
  • The bottle of wine in the room – Along with the room, we received a complimentary bottle of wine. I didn’t give it much of a look and we didn’t drink it while we were there. However, we have opened it at home since we’ve been back. It was a 2005 Merlot! At first we thought that maybe they put the “drink-now-wines-that-are-about-to-turn” in the rooms. But after we opened it, we learned that wasn’t the case. It was one of the better merlots I’ve had in a long time. Kudos to South Coast for not skimping on that one!
  • The spa and underwater music in the pool – I didn’t get the opportunity to try the spa, but I have at the last two California wine resorts where I’ve stayed. And I can say that it’s really nice to have a spa on site. However, one thing Rob and I truly missed out on was the pool. When a wine rep at another winery learned that we were staying at South Coast he asked, “Have you tried the pool? There is underwater music!” Damn. We forgot our suits. TIP: Just like I keep a corkscrew in my suitcase that never comes out, Rob has now vowed to keep a swimsuit in his suitcase that stays there.
  • The restaurant – We dined at the Vineyard Rose for a late breakfast the morning after our day of tasting. Again, I was disappointed with the somewhat dated decor. But the South Coast Huevos Rancheros made me giddy with happiness because they were so flavorfulThe scrambled eggs were combined with chorizo, pepperjack cheese and pico de gallo. A flour tortilla was served on the side with borracho beans, hashbrowns and a Merlot fruit cobbler that I. Could. Eat. Everyday.
  • The specials – Just for staying at the resort, we received Passport which included a two-for-one tasting, restaurant and spa specials.
  • We went during the off season – Yes, this was on my list of disappointments. However, as we know, that can be a good thing, too. I have no idea if we’d have to wait for a table or tasting if it was a busy time of year.
  • The Tasting Room – Because we went during the off season, we walked right up to the bar with our two-for-one tasting tickets. We got personalized attention from Gregg, who let us taste wines he thought we’d like side-by-side. He also led us to a great burger in town. Oh, and did you know that South Coast has won more awards on their wines than any other winery in the entire state?!
  • The Wine Club – We joined South Coast’s Wine Club! The only other one we really considered was Danza del Sol. We took our first shipment home with us and have loved all that we’ve tried. Rob keeps saying that he’s glad that we joined this one. It’s really opened our eyes up to some interesting wines. We had a Syrah that we weren’t too sure about at first. But after it had time to open it up, it kept evolving in the glass. I can’t tell you how long it’s been since I’ve had that happen! With the wine club, we get to relive our trip every time we open a bottle.
    Check out this wine menu!

    Check out this wine menu!

    What’s the most interesting place where you’ve stayed on vacation?


Wine Wednesday – Share the Love!


Just announced yesterday {I didn’t get the news until last night}, The Traveling Vineyard is having a sale! The sale includes three different three-bottle sets. So share the love with your Valentine or treat yourself to something special. Let me know if you have any questions about the wines in each set. To find out what sets are available, click here.

Valentine Sale

If you are looking for something special for your sweetie or want to treat you and some friends to some wine with corresponding education, consider the Traveling Vineyard Wine Club. It makes a great date night or get together every month. {Perfect to get through this winter, too.} And it’s like your ticket around the world of wine! Find more details here.

The Valentine Sale above, though, ends today. So it’s your last chance to try out a set of three wines (or more, if you wish). Just let me know if you have any questions on the wine or anything else!


*The Traveling Vineyard can currently (at the time of this post) ship to the all States within the U.S. except: AL, AR, CO, DE, IN, KS, KY, LA, MS, MT, TN, OK, PA, RI, SD, UT, and VT.

Top 5 Gifts for that Hard to Buy for Person Who Has Everything


Yes, we all have at least one of them on our gift lists. That person that you rack your brains over every year to find them a gift that they’ll actually like and use. If you’re lucky, you might find one that they’ll adore.

Gifts for that Hard to Buy for Person Who Has Everything

Believe it or not, my husband is hard to shop for when it comes to gifts. He thanks me politely and then the gift ends up on the shelf in a closet or in a drawer for an indeterminate amount of time before it disappears. That is so frustrating! The problem is that {as Racheal mentioned here}, when men want something, they tend to just buy it for themselves. It turns out, my attempt to be creative usually backfires on me.

A couple of years ago, I finally found the perfect gift – one that he loves and that keeps on giving:

an iPhone

It worked out perfectly because I am the one that handles our cell phone account. Plus, it was something he never knew he wanted. To this day, he still thanks me for this gift.

However, unless you are buying for your spouse or adult child, you probably aren’t going to buy anyone else an iPhone.

Instead, I’m thinking of those people that you may not know as well or those people who seem to have everything, or people like grandparents who are older and don’t want/need more stuff. With this list, I sincerely hope you find that aha! gift for that seemingly impossible person to buy for on your holiday list. If nothing else, maybe this list will spark an idea for something perfect!

Here are some items I’ve come up with over the years and are in no particular order:

1) Gift Card

  • I know some people who hate giving these. They feel that they are impersonal.
  • However, I love receiving them! I often wait to use them as weight loss or NSV rewards!
  • They are perfect for teenagers!
  • Think iTunes, sporting good stores for athletes, craft stores for the crafty, a unique store online that you found, an electronics store for the techie. Or just think about where your gift recipient often goes.
  • I know teachers who say they love getting $5 Caribou Coffee and Target gift cards that they can actually use.
  • And you’d know I’d accept a gift certificate to any restaurant just to try it out. {The first time we went to Sul Lago, there had to be over a dozen people who came in to get gift certificates. And this was before Thanksgiving!}
  • Not sure which gift card to get?
    • Many grocery and other stores have stands with all different types of gift cards in many denominations. Check out the stand to be inspired with ideas.
    • Do a search on line. Just Google: X {Gift Recipient hobby} + gift card.
  • This is what makes the gift certificates personal:
    • “I know you love to do this/these types of things! So pick out something you really want!” or
    • “I know you love this place and will use this!” or
    • “I thought of you because I love this place and thought you’d like to try it out.”

2) A Photo Canvas {or other photo gift}

  • My friend Stacy swears by the photo canvas deals on Groupon and other daily deal sites. You send in or upload a photo and they convert your photo to canvas. Your favorite photograph becomes a work of art you can hang on the wall. With all the traveling I love to do, I plan to pick out favorite from a trip to canvas-ize.
  • Grandparents love photo memories. A photo book or calendar you either create yourself or online will do the trick. {Note: I am NOT a scrapbooker, so I love using websites like Snapfish.}
  • If you are in to giving ornaments, consider a photo ornament.  I know people who give their children an ornament each year with the year printed on it so that by the time they leave home, they’ve got not only their own collection of ornaments, but also memories. A photo that depicts that year for someone or a memory of the two of you is a great idea.

3) Subscription boxes

  • I know, I’m addicted to these right now. But, really, but who wouldn’t want one?
  • If you love or want to learn more about wine, would you turn down a Wine Club gift subscription? I didn’t think so.
  • Two of my current favorite subscription boxes are:
    • Birchbox – Beauty, grooming and lifestyle products for women and men! Check out my latest box and review here.
    • Love with Food – Gourmet Food Samples. Each month your box ships, a meal is donated to a hungry child. Check out my latest box and review here.
  • Need a gift for a pet or pet parent? Check out BarkBox – my pooches LOVE IT! Latest box and review here.
  • Or how about a magazine subscription? There are so many unique ones out there now. Do a search online. Just Google: X {Gift Recipient hobby} + magazine.
  • There are also gift subscriptions for olive oil. We’ve done this before and have found exceptional quality!
  • And this Wisconsin girl would never turn down the gift of a Cheese of the Month Club!

4) Experiences

  • This is my favorite category! I’m talking things like:
    • Plays or concert tickets.
    • Cooking Classes – Twin Cities peeps: I’d recommend Saga Hill, Kitchen Window and Local D’Lish.
    • Spa Day – I don’t think I know of one woman who wouldn’t want this.
    • Or any experience that makes you think of your recipient! Like the Beer Trolley Tour I’m taking my husband on this weekend as part of his birthday box!

5) Your Time

  • This is one of the best and most cherished gifts you can give.
  • People who love you, but don’t really don’t need more stuff would love to spend more time with you!
  • Get tickets to a play or concert that you both love.
  • Take them to a movie, a trip to their favorite restaurant or do something together that you know they love to do, but don’t get to do that often.
  • Buy tickets for the event, or just create your own coupon that states something like: “Coupon good for: A Trip to Izzy’s Ice Cream”. I suggest putting an expiration date on it so that they will redeem it ASAP. (Although you don’t have to adhere to that expiration, of course.)

What’s the most unique gift you’ve given?

What ways have you given experiences or times to loved ones?

Happy Holidays~

Give a Ticket Around the World of Wine…


I had planned to write a post on the Top 5 Gifts for that Hard-to-Buy-for-Person-Who-Has-Everything. We all know at least one of those and struggle with them on our holiday list every year!

But then I realized I had too much to say about each of these items.

Since it is Wine Wednesday, I’ve decided to talk about just one of those gifts. It’s one of my favorite things to give both those who love wine or who are new to wine – The Traveling Vineyard Wine Club®

It’s the perfect gift for that Hard-to-Buy-for-Person-Who-Has-Everything (or even for yourself).

I’ve looked around and this Wine Club is the least expensive I’ve found out there. It’s only $29.95 per month, plus shipping. Each month the recipient receives two fantastic bottles of wine from different regions around the world {not just domestic wines from one winery}. You get to choose the program that suits your wine lover best:

  • 2 reds OR
  • 1 white & 1 red

Most people have never tasted Traveling Vineyard® Wines. Even if they have been to one of our Wine Tastings before, the wine inventory changes all the time! They are from boutique vineyards around the world and cannot be found in stores. Once they are gone, they are gone. New arrivals come in each month.

What’s more is that because The Traveling Vineyard Wine Club® includes wines from around the world from many different wineries, it’s like your ticket around the world through wine!

 Each month, members receive:

  • Two fantastic wines from regions around the world
  • An email with printable full-page descriptions of each wine’s characteristics, the region it comes from and the best food pairings
  • Recipes that pair with the wines in the shipment
  • Additional wine education that will feed your interest in wine

Subscription Options:

  • Continuous shipment: $29.95 + shipping/month (no contract – cancel at any time) – Most people who join the club for themselves like the option to pay month to month.

If you are giving a gift, you can pay for a subscription up front (shipping included):

  • 3-month prepaid: $116.70
  • 6-month prepaid: 233.40
  • 12-month prepaid: $466.80

Why the Wine Club is such a popular gift this time of year at my Wine Tastings:

  • It’s easy. You don’t have to leave your home to pick it up, nor wrap it.
  • It’s a gift you can give across the miles.
  • When your wine lover thanks you each month when their shipment arrives, you’ll already have an easy gift picked out for the next holiday season.

Who joins the Wine Club?

  • Friends or Neighbors – You know how you always say to each other, “We should get together sometime!” but never do? Those who join the Wine Club together know that the wine is coming. It’s paid for; so they put a date on the calendar and they do get together.
  • Couples – It’s an excellent excuse to have a romantic date night each night. Nothing sparks passion like a great meal and a little wine. 😉
  • Wine Club Groups – If you don’t belong to one, start one! Invite your friends. You can learn together with the included education. Remember the Importance of Company?
  • Book Clubs – I heard a chef on a Food Network show joke that Book Clubs are “really” about the wine. It wouldn’t hurt to make it a theme one month. It just might catch on!

But maybe you don’t want to share!

You might just want to learn more about different wines, get out of the rut of buying the same wine over and over, and try something new.

A single gal joined just to stock up her wine rack without having to do any research on the wines. It can be intimidating picking something out in the store. With so many options, which do you choose? This Wine Club member would store her Wine Club wines in her wine rack. When she decided to open a bottle or give it as a gift, she could thumb through her tasting lessons to learn about it or stick the notes in a gift bag with the wine.

The Traveling Vineyard Wine Club® is the Perfect Gift for:

  • The Holidays
  • Hospitality – Is someone letting you stay with them this holiday season?
  • Birthdays
  • Weddings {especially today when most couples don’t need another toaster}
  • The Hard-to-Buy-for-Adult-Who-Has-Everything

When you order a Wine Club as a gift, be sure to contact me at UncommonWine (at) Yahoo (dot) com immediately and let me know so that I can put it on hold so that it won’t spoil any surprises. Also, do NOT enter the email address of your gift recipient or they will get a confirmation. We can change that later. 😉

With The Traveling Vineyard Wine Club® , you can travel around the world of wine from the comfort of your home.

What is your favorite gift for that



*The Traveling Vineyard can currently (at the time of this post) ship to the all States within the U.S. except: AL, AR, CO, DE, IN, KS, KY, LA, MS, MT, TN, OK, PA, RI, SD, UT, and VT.