Tag Archives: wine wednesday

The One Thing I Didn’t Need to Bring to Australia


Happy Wine Wednesday!

My Australia trip recap wouldn’t be complete started without a post on wine. I’ve always loved the advice to drink wine in Wine Countries. Australia is no exception. While we had hoped to discovered some good craft breweries Down Under, we also knew that they haven’t quite caught on to the craft beer craze, just yet.

And such was the case. For the most part, Aussie beer didn’t live up to our snobbish craft beer palates. But there were a few exceptions! Like this one, for example:

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Not to mention that wine is significantly less expensive, whether you buy it in a store or order it in a restaurant. Sitting down to a $9-per-bottle of mediocre beer? No, thank you. We saw a case of Corona for $75! {We were explained later that is because it is an “Executive Beer” that caters to a specific market. Here we thought it was that it was the cost to travel so far from Mexico…} So, for the most part, wine tended to booze of choice. Especially, the key varietal in Australia:

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{I took the above photo of the Watershed Shiraz for my Wineaux friends, because it used to be a wine The Traveling Vineyard carried! I was so excited to find it again.}

The funny thing is – and I didn’t realize it until later in the trip – that I didn’t even need the one item I always travel with that remains in my luggage:


…because the Aussie wine bottle closure of choice is the Screw Cap:


I don’t think I’ve written about screw caps on the blog before, which is funny because I did intend to, as noted in my my first Wine Wednesday post! Though I used to teach about screw caps at my Wine Tastings. There is (or has been) a misconception about screw caps because they tend to give the impression that the wine is cheap. But such is not the case today! There are reasons why screw caps are preferred, by wine makers and consumers alike. Sure, it does take a bit of the romance out of opening a bottle, but if it’s a great wine, who the hell cares? There is a great article about the pros and cons of corks vs. screw caps here.


I didn’t really pay attention to wine closures of bottles on store shelves because I was too busy selecting the next bottle! But I will tell you that every single wine we bought in Australia had a screw cap – inexpensive and expensive wines alike. Then again, all of the wine purchased was Australian. {We prefer to drink locally when we travel!}

Such was the case in restaurants, too. All of the wines we ordered came in screw capped bottles. But I was too busy taking photos of labels to remember the wines. I didn’t think to get a shot of the full bottle at dinner!

There was just one exception!

We ordered a bottle of wine with a cork in it when we dined in an Italian restaurant in Melbourne. However, there were only Italian wines on the menu. This is the only time in which we did not order Aussie vino:


Wait a minute!

There was one time that we gals ordered an Australian Sparkling Wine while the boys enjoyed some brews. And I do remember the sound of the cork popping… because I just love that sound! Most most bubblies need that cork to sustain the pressure inside the bottle.

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So there you have it. I didn’t have to use my corkscrew one single time the entire 17 days of our trip. And we had countless more than a few bottles. Most of it was very good. Only one was so bad that we dumped it out. {Incidentally that was the least expensive wine we purchased the entire trip.} We quickly learned our price point. Still, it was so difficult to choose in the store! I knew the regions that were supposed to be known for the best Shirazes. But we wanted something to wow us! And we hadn’t found it yet.

So, on our last night in Melbourne, before flying to Uluru where our Aussie friends told us everything would be ungodly expensive, we stocked up on some vino for the trip. We walked into a Bottle Shop and the guy, who looked like the owner, saw us wondering around aimlessly and asked if he could help…

“YES! YES! We are looking for some big, bold Australian reds in the $15 – $2o range.”

And you know what? These were the best wines we had all trip. It pays to ask the locals.


How do you select wine?

Do you care if your wine has a cork or screwcap?




Wine & Cheese – An Education


Happy Wine Wednesday!

I’m still alive! I’m just enjoying summer and only blogging when it feels right, ya know?

You may have realized by now that I am a huge fan of Thrillist. I love their candid accounts on things I really want to know… or even things I didn’t know that I wanted to know.

Still with me?

Having conducted in-home wine tastings for 10 years, I know a thing or two about wine and cheese. You can get a simple list of cheese and wine pairings here.

One of the things that I found that stressed some hosts out was how to cut the cheese to go with the wine. To be honest, as much as I love it, I’m no expert on cheese. The point of the wine tastings was to keep it simple and to focus on the wine and education. I’d tell my host to cut into bite-size pieces. It’ll be easy to serve and just the right size for tasting.

But if you want to know the “proper” way to cut and serve cheese, check out this article from Thrillist:

How to Cut the Cheese Like a Frenchman

Overwhelmed? I am. I may have to have a cheese-tasting party just to practice. (Or to try all of those delectable cheeses!) Maybe have everyone bring one type of cheese and I’ll supply the bread and wine? Sound like a plan? Who’s in?

Want to learn more about wine? This is a fun and direct approach, also from Thrillist:

This is How You Talk About Wine

(Or How Not to Embarrass Yourself When Talking about Wine)

I love it. ALL good advice.







It may be American Craft Beer Week, but it’s also Wine Wednesday, so I wanted to share with you a wine that we finally enjoyed last week! This Pouilly-Fumé {pronounced poo-yee foo-MAY} was given to us as a gift by our friends Brian and Erik in November. It was time!

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So what is a Pouilly-Fumé, you ask?

Well, if you are new to wine, let me just start off by telling you that one of the most confusing things when I started learning about wine was understanding what varietals each bottle contained.

You see, in the U.S. {and most of the New World}, we tend to label our wines by the varietal: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Merlot, etc.

In the Old World {think Europe}, wines are most often labeled by the region. Most of the time, the varietal isn’t even listed on the bottle. For example, a Bordeaux isn’t usually labeled as a Cabernet-Merlot, nor is a Burgundy {Bourgogne} labeled as Pinot Noir (red) nor Chardonnay (white). It is just known what type of grape it is made of because they’ve been growing the same grapes in these regions for hundreds of years. It has become commonplace, and even law, that wines from these regions are made from specific grapes.

On the other hand, in the U.S., despite that this particular region is known for it’s stellar Cabernets, you don’t see a wine called a Napa.Other grapes are grown and different wines produced here, too. That is why you will see the varietal listed along with the region.

In addition, there are even smaller regions within the bigger ones that also label wines. In France, these viticultural area are called Appellation d’origine Contrôlée or AOC. That’s why you will also see a Bordeaux labeled as Margaux or Pomerol, for instance.

Confused yet?

In any case, Pouilly-Fumé vineyards are found in the Loire Valley of France and produce spectacular Sauvignon Blancs. Our wine’s back label indicates such for it’s anglophone market:

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Now, Rob is not a huge fan of Sauvignon Blanc, sometimes from California, but mostly from New Zealand, which, to him, taste too much like green pepper.

Though dry, French Sauvignon Blancs aren’t as abrasive on the palate as Rob finds the New World versions. This one did not disappoint! It was easy drinking with well-balanced citrus and mineral notes. It paired perfectly with our sausage pasta tossed with veggies and a pesto cream sauce based loosely on this recipe. That’s a pretty non-traditional pairing; but it worked.

More traditional pairings include roast pork, grilled fish and scallops. You know, your lighter meats. Pairing the weight of the wine with the weight of the food is always a good bet. Otherwise, match the flavors in the wine with the flavors in the food. The citrus notes in this sauce would pair well with any seafood with a citrus-based sauce, such as the Grapefruit Walleye I made here. I’ve also read that a Pouilly-Fumé can work well with omelets, oysters and smoked salmon. And one of my favorite pairings with Sauvignon Blanc is a warm goat cheese salad with fresh herbs. My mouth is watering just thinking about that one!

But sometimes, just sometimes, you need to pair your Pouilly-Fumé with something “local”:

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We enjoyed our Pouilly-Fumé with an episode of the new TV series Fargo. Yah, you betcha.

No regrets.

After all of that, it’s important to point out that Pouilly-Fumé is not to be confused with Pouilly-Fuissé {pronounced poo-yee fwee-SAY} which is a wine that hails from the Burgundy region of France and is made of Chardonnay.

Furthermore, the word fumé in French means “smoked.” However there is nothing smoky about either of these wines. Generally speaking, most are fermented in stainless steel, not oak barrels.

More confusion? Well, then just drink the wine. That’s the easy – and most fun – part.

What is your favorite Sauvignon Blanc?

What is your favorite Sauvignon Blanc wine pairing?


How to Make a Bad Wine Good {Or a Great Wine Bad}


Back when I was conducting in-home wine tastings, one of my hosts said that she tended to only drink red wine. When she would drink white wine in the summer, she and her neighbor friends would put fruit in it to make it more palatable.

I found this interesting because it was usually the white wine drinkers who were trying to learn how to enjoy red wine, not red wine drinkers looking to make white wine more tasty.

On a hot summer day last year, I remembered this trick and talked Rob into giving it a try. I mean, we use fruit to make sangria, right?

So we took a mixture of fruit that we had on hand and put it in the bottom of two stemless wine glasses.

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Then we added a chilled dry white wine.

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We finished with a little citrus, too.

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The result? Something soooo tart and sour. I was kind of kicking myself because I know that fruit and wine do not go together. What was I thinking?

I know what it was… I thought about the fruit one puts in sangria, which made me believe this would taste great, too! Besides, it was recommended by a respected red wine drinker. But I didn’t stop to ask her what kind of white wine to which they added fruit. Maybe it was something sweet?

Because that’s why sangria works. You add some sugar (or other sweetener) and a sweet liquor of some sort. I have a slew of sangria recipes here. They never fail.

I recently found this beautiful Rainbow Sangria, too, that I’d love to try. I was looking for a white one to add to my arsenal anyway.

So what does this have to do with making a bad wine good?

It’s not that white wine is bad. Not at all! But if you have a cheap wine, one which you can’t seem to palate as your first (or second) bottle, make sangria with it! My husband used to stock up on wine at the huge liquor store wine sales. I would shake my head when he bought a case of “chianti” because it was a good deal.

“But you haven’t tried it before!” I’d argue. This was a big deal to me since I was marketing wines in a try-before-you-buy fashion.

He quickly learned that a “good deal” isn’t really one if it isn’t a wine you like, nor are likely to drink.

We learned to use these wines to make sangria. With added sugar, liquor and fruit, you can make practically any wine (that hasn’t turned) better.

Don’t think you have the time or ingredients to make sangria? It really isn’t that difficult. But if you want something else ultra quick, pick up a 2-liter of 7-up or Sprite and make this spritzer to bring your bad bottle of wine to life. You can even make it a glass at a time.

Would you want to do this with your favorite bottle? Absolutely not. That would be blasphemous.

How do you use a not-so-tasty bottle of wine?


How to Open a Bottle of Wine with a Book


No corkscrew?

Did you know that you can open a bottle of wine with just a book?

Kristin Espinasse of French-Word-a-Day.com shows you how in this two-minute video:

Happy Wine Wednesday!


The Bottle Room


Happy Wine Wednesday!


We found The Bottle Room completely by accident, as we were driving back to my parents house while there for a weekend in 2012. Rob spotted it and I took the roundabout all the way around to go back to it!

A wine bar?

In Green Bay?

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When I moved to the Twin Cities from Green Bay in 2002, there wasn’t even a coffee shop near my parents’ place. Not even a Starbucks in the entire city.

Now I can’t even think of a decent wine “South of the River” in the Minneapolis/St. Paul suburbs where we live. Not only was this wine bar in Green Bay, but it was just minutes away from where my parents lived.

While I was growing up, there wasn’t really anything nearby because we lived more on the outskirts of Green Bay near the villages of Howard and Suamico. Ordering pizza in was unheard of. But now, Lineville Road is lined with restaurants, grocery stores, multiple gas stations, an auto parts store, a Shopko, a bowling alley and now…


We walked in that evening to find a much larger than expected space filled with people, live music and great ambiance. We were highly impressed and felt instantly at ease…

We’ve been back to The Bottle Room every visit to Green Bay since then.

They have a lot to offer… For instance, their Wine Flights:

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When I told my fellow Wineaux friend Jenny about this place, she knew she wanted to stop there when she came to town for a Packer Game. These next several photos are courtesy of her. {Thanks, Jenny!}

That night, most of the gang went with the wine flights.

Wine Flight Delivery...

Wine Flight Delivery…

My dad with his whites and Rob with his reds:

Jenny ordered a mixed flight of sorts that was available at the time:

That night, I wasn’t feeling the flights, so I went with a cocktail:


Can you guess which cocktail I enjoyed?

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I like, too, that they offer liquor flights. What a better way to learn what you like than spend a ton of money on a bottle of liquor at a store.

And there is more to their menu than the usual run-of the mill wines. They do have some interesting lesser-known options.

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But I do wonder how the business thrives here. The prices seem more on par with the Twin Cities, not those of Green Bay. I couldn’t imagine that a lot of people would pay these prices in this area. But the place was packed that first night we were there and when we went back with Jenny!

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One of my favorite things to order here, though, is a flight of ports. It comes with a chocolate truffle!

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Those truffles are sooooo good, that I’ve been known to just order a glass of port and a few truffles a la carte… 😉

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But wait… There’s more….

They have a few ever-changing craft beer selections on tap, too:

You can even take home the draft beer in a refillable growler! There’s also an extensive list of beers by the bottle:

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With over 75 wines and all of those beers, you’d think that’d be enough to be called The Bottle Room. But it is also a retail space. You can buy any of the wines that you liked to take home with you.

The selections line the wall:

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There is food, too. They describe it as tapas-style. I wouldn’t go that far. It’s more a selection of small plates, mini pizzas and sandwiches.

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Rob adored the Truffle Pizza on our first visit so much that he was disappointed that he tried the Old World Pepperoni the next time. Besides $14 – $15 is a lot for such a small pizza. I mean, even we wouldn’t pay that in the Twin Cities.

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One day, as I was thumbing through an issue of Wine Spectator Magazine, I saw The Bottle Room listed with an Award of Excellence! If I remember correctly, it was noted as a new wine bar and a new winner of that award. I wasn’t surprised.

I dream of having a place like this “South of the River!”

I only have one gripe about The Bottle Room. We visited one afternoon with my mom and were the only people there. My mom ordered a cup of coffee. When she finished her cup, she had to ask for a refill. When we got our bill, they charged her for two coffees for a total of $6. That just seems kind of ridiculous to me. They had to brew the pot regardless if she had one cup or two. It wasn’t like it was an espresso or specialty coffee.

Still, we’ll continue to return because we love the selection and ambiance and don’t know how long The Bottle Room will thrive in this market. We sure hope it does. It’s a little slice of heaven in Green Bay, if you ask me…

Do you have a favorite wine bar near you?

What’s the best wine bar you’ve ever experienced?




relevé – in French it can mean elevated, sophisticated

Remember when I was excited to try out the new and only Champagne bar in Minneapolis? The Relevé Champagne Lounge is aptly named given the reputation this expensive, world-famous bubbly has.

Well, I think I set my expectations were too high.

I knew that Relevé was part of the Graves Hotel. But what I didn’t know was that it was now just the name of the bar inside Cosmos, the restaurant in the hotel.

We had been to Cosmos once, during Restaurant Week; and we thoroughly enjoyed it. Cosmos is already a swanky little place, so it’s only fitting to combine the two. But this space was nothing new-to-me. And it’s all about me, right? Kidding.

When we walked in, I was surprised that, from what I remembered, there didn’t seem to be any renovation to create this “new” Champagne lounge

It was Just. The Bar. Of The Restaurant.

If anything, some of the seating may have been rearranged and a makeshift extra bar added. Although it looked more like a display/cocktail waitress stand than anything inviting you to order a glass of bubbly.

So we just took a seat at the regular bar.

The Champagne menu was small; well at least by Pops’ standards. But there were more offerings than you’d usually find elsewhere in the Twin Cities, both by the glass and the bottle. So it’s got that.


Although he didn’t say so, I knew Rob dreaded going to this Champagne Bar. But he really had no choice since I was driving, buying and taking him to see Pentatonix perform live. {Seriously, one of the most incredible concerts ever! Even despite the fact that we among the oldest of fans. 😉

We both decided to go with a cocktail instead of the straight bubbly:


Rob kind of boycotted the whole Champagne experience by ordering a cocktail sans Champagne…

Nicollet Punch

Nicollet Punch – Captain Morgan 100, Fresh Orange, St-Germain, Pomegranate

Rob thought it was so good that he ordered a second one. I went with the Passion Forward. Only they were out of the passion fruit sorbet. I didn’t mind, the alternative was blood orange sorbet!

Passion Forward - Mionetto Prosecco, Passion Fruit Sorbet

Passion Forward – Mionetto Prosecco, Passion Fruit Blood Orange Sorbet

I loooooved this cocktail! I may make some on my own when I have friends over sometime. I liked how the fruity sorbet slowly fizzed and melted into the dry Prosecco. My sorbet didn’t melt completely, so I ordered a second glass of Prosecco to pour over the top. 😉 I know. I’m a genius.

They have a nice small bar menu with some upscale dishes as well as a few more approachable items. Rob, of course, ordered some sliders:


Prime Sirloin Sliders – preserved tomato, caramelized onion, garlic mayo & fries

Rob loved them. He also loved the fries so much that they have now made it on his Top 10 Fries in the Twin Cities list. {Which still needs to be updated, especially because there is a new burger that has recently bumped another out of the ranks!} What is it about Champagne Bars and Fries?

I had to go with the Walleye Sliders! They were raved about and it’s just the Midwestern thing to do, especially in a Minnesotan Champagne bar, right?


Walleye Sliders – spicy tartar sauce & fries

These weren’t what I was expecting! I had envisioned a fried piece of walleye on a bun. But they were more like patties, like you’d find a salmon burger or a tuna cake.


I had never had walleye like this before. They were very good and unique. I think it’s a great menu item for a hotel hosting out-of-town guests!

So overall, while pricey, we did like the food and the cocktails at the Relevé Champagne Lounge. I was just expecting more in terms of newness. Others may be impressed by the posh interior if dining there for the first time. And it might be quite different later in the evening if the place gets hopping.

Still, next time, we’d forego Relevé and instead go to the Bradstreet Crafthouse on the first floor of the hotel. It’s where we like to take out-of-town guests for a cocktail if we happen to be in downtown Minneapolis. Although, we never did mention that here.

Name a unique cocktail that you’ve enjoyed.