Tag Archives: wine wednesday

Champagne Bars


Happy Wine Wednesday!

Boy, do I have a lot to catch up on after our vacation to Saint Augustine, Florida, the oldest U.S. city. I’ve got so many things to share!

But for now… Let’s talk about Champagne Bars. Remember about a year and a half ago when we stopped in Chicago on our way to Ireland and Rob had the best fries of his life at Pops for Champagne? It was a Champagne bar he was reluctant to try, but conceded because it was my birthday.

Well, hallelujah!

Minneapolis finally has it’s first Champagne Bar! And you know how I love the bubbly.


Tonight, I’ve decided that we are going to attempt to sip and dine at the Relevé Champagne Lounge pre-Pentatonix concert. (The menu is small, but appropriate.) I have no idea how busy it will be and they are not currently taking reservations. But there are plenty of spots downtown to seek out if we can’t get a seat.

Have you ever been to a Champagne Bar or Lounge?

If so, what did you like best about it?


Half-Priced Wine Nights in the Twin Cities


Twin Cities peeps, remember last Wine Wednesday when I said that I have a gift for you?

Did you notice the new heading at the top of the page? If not, here you go… Just click here.

It’s my new page on all of the restaurants in the Twin Cities that I have discovered offer half-priced wine nights!


You’re welcome.

I was inspired to keep my own list when I did a search on any given night and came up with out-dated lists from 2008. I know it will take a bit to keep up and I can’t promise that it won’t become outdated because a restaurant can change their offerings at any time.

But I’m giving you the tools of somewhere to start.

Here is what I’ve done:

  • I’ve categorized the list by days of the week. Let’s face it, when you aren’t sure where to go on a particular night, knowing which restaurants offer half-priced wine may persuade you!.
  • I’ve included a link to the restaurant website where you can get the phone number of the restaurant.
  • Not all restaurants will list their half-price wine specials on their websites. Even if they do, it’s recommended that you call first because not all restaurant website are up-to-date either.
  • If you find a change or want to add a new restaurant, just comment below or email me at Uncommon Wine (at) Yahoo (dot) com.

Now go find that restaurant with that half-priced wine in the Twin Cities!

Happy Wine Wednesday!


The End of an Era


So it goes.

After ten years, I have decided to resign from my role as an Independent Wine Consultant doing In-Home Wine Tastings for the Traveling Vineyard.

It was a difficult decision to make.

When I first started, I didn’t know if I would like it. But I figured, “What did I have to lose? If I don’t like it, I’ll quit.” Little did I know that I’d not only love it, but I’d also take away so much more than wine knowledge…

I’d make friends with people all over the country with whom I probably would have never met otherwise…

Lisa, Me, Katie - Puerto Vallarta 2007

I’d earn some fabulous trips…

Including those to Sonoma

Where I’d learn to love Pinot Noir in the Russian River Valley…

To Puerto Vallarta, Mexico…


Where we took a break from wine and tasted tequila instead….


Then, there was Tuscany

Ah… Tuscany… One of the most spectacular trips I’ve ever been on…


A beautiful stay at Villa Dievole


Where my husband proposed…


And then there was Napa….

Which was so much fun that it’s mostly a blur…

Napa 2009 021

Outside of the trips, being part of The Traveling Vineyard changed my life.

Those of you from my childhood or even high school, know that I was painfully shy. In college, I was even told by an acquaintance that when she first met me, she thought I was just stuck up because I didn’t really say much.

Traveling Vineyard lit something inside me.

I felt good in front of an audience.  (A little wine could always calm the nerves otherwise!).


I got to teach!

When I was a kid, I loved school so much that as I ascended through each grade, I wanted to be the teacher of that grade! Then, when I hit high school, I realized it wasn’t really about teaching any more. Most kids/teenagers didn’t want to learn. I saw teachers pulling teeth to get the class interested or just to behave. I was even threatened to be kicked out of class once for falling asleep.

I no longer wanted to be a teacher.

But when I started doing Wine Tastings, I got to teach about wine. And I got to teach people who wanted to learn about wine.

One of the greatest rewards was hearing from other people that they never really liked red wine before; but that I had taught them how to like it. I walked them through each wine and explained how to recognize the aromas and flavors in each one so that they could determine the style they liked. I demonstrated that by pairing the wine with simple foods, the flavors could change as well. I gave them the ammunition to become more confident about wine, to describe what they like at a restaurant to get a recommendation, to be more confident in trying new things.

It felt so good.

I met the greatest people. They all loved or wanted to learn about wine!

This included fellow consultants (aka, my Wineaux friends)…

Wine Tastings Hosts…


and the guests…


A special thanks to every single host and guest I met over the past ten years! My Traveling Vineyard experience would not have been nearly as enjoyable without you!

And I even got to meet many of the winemakers…


I earned awards.

I got not only recognition for my efforts, but the fun, friendship and financial reward that came along with it!

So, it was a difficult decision to cut ties.

In all honesty, I believe that The Traveling Vineyard is truly at its height. There is so much room to grow. If I had been putting the same effort as I had just a few years ago, I’d be twice as successful.

But I lost it.

I lost the passion.

I still love wine. I still loved meeting all of the people. I still loved teaching about wine.

Then why?

In 2012, I started on a path to better my health. My health became priority and running became a new part of it. After a herniated disk at the end of the year and back surgery in March of last year, I stopped doing tastings completely.

I needed to heal.

I needed to recover.

And I learned one thing…

I needed to slow down.

For the past ten years, I’ve basically had two full-time jobs. I was very involved with TTV. While there were no minimums to remain active, I did an average of six to eight tastings per month. In addition, each month, I held a Team Meeting. I participated in a Taste of the Business Meeting. I listened to the consultant and leadership conference calls. I taught Learning with Leaders classes. I didn’t miss anything that was offered.

When I slowed down with my tasting events, my husband noticed how much less stressed I was. I had more balance.

But I can’t do anything half-way. Generally, I am “ALL IN” when I’m passionate about something. By slowing down and doing less, I lost interest. I lost the passion. I found I liked the time at home with my husband and my dogs.

Then I realized that I’ve pretty much had two jobs most of my working life. I had summers in high school and college with two, or even three jobs. The same happened after college.

It’s taken me this long to realize that it’s time for me to slow down.

To take care of myself.

To just enjoy life.

It’s a little difficult because I’m so used to being busy. But I’m learning.

2014 is going to be all about self-care.

Traveling Vineyard has taught me so much not only about wine, but about life. The company will always hold a special place in my heart. I would still recommend The Traveling Vineyard to anyone wanting to learn about wine, wanting to earn some extra cash or to take it on full force as a career. I know many consultants across the country and would be happy to recommend someone, if I can, in your area for more info about hosting or consulting.

And with that, I say, “Farewell,” to that part of my life. I have fond memories frienships that will last forever.

Remember… “Over a bottle of wine, many a friend is made…”


Thank you for ten fantastic years, Traveling Vineyard!


2013 Beaujolais Nouveau Battle


Happy Wine Wednesday!

If you are in a pinch and are looking for some great Thanksgiving Wine Pairings, click here. Or, just drink what you like and don’t worry about pairing!


But as for this year’s Beaujolais Nouveau, we did the research for you!

It’s been a few years since I’d had a Beaujolais Nouveau. My husband and I are hoping for some good luck in 2014. So it was time to open a bottle before the new year.

But which do you choose when all the Beaujolais Nouveau bottles are staring you down in the store?

Rob and I set out to try a few of them side-by-side to determine our favorite producer for future years. {Although wines will still vary from vintage to vintage!}

photo 4

What I learned?

I don’t really like Beaujolais Nouveau, or at least not the 2013 vintage.

Of course, Beaujolais Nouveau is not a big, bold red like a Cab or Zin. It’s truly not a serious wine. It’s meant to be fruity and drunk young. Like NOW. And don’t confuse a Nouveau with other Beaujolais wines. They are all made with the gamay grape varietal, but there are some serious Beaujolais and Beaujolais Cru out there. Some are even made to age. Nouveau is just not one of them.

We picked up the four bottles of Beaujolais Nouveau available when we were at Zipp’s Liquor in Minneapolis stocking up for Ale Fest 2013. {More on that next week!} Then we rounded up our glasses and evaluation sheets.

photo 1(1)

Here was our lineup {uh, right to left}:

  • DuBoeuf Beaujolais Nouveau 2013 – $9.99
  • Drouhin Beaujolais Nouveau 2013 – $12.99
  • Mommessin Beaujolais Nouveau 2013 – $10.99
  • L’Ancien Beaujolais Nouveau 2013 – $14.99

photo 3(1)

What we found is that these wines weren’t really the fruity, easy-drinking red that we all know and love. They all started off smelling quite lovely, like strawberries. Rob picked up some violet and rose petal on the nose, too.

But they all tasted astringent to me.

The most heinous offender was Mommessin, which after my second taste, I just couldn’t drink anymore. We did slightly chill these wines, as BN should be, but perhaps we didn’t chill them long enough. {Beaujolais Nouveau should be served right around 55 degrees – colder than a red, but not quite as chilled as a white.}

We began to feel like we did when we came back from Tuscany. All the Italians keep the good Chiantis for themselves and ship the crappy stuff to the U.S. Same thing here perhaps?

Because of this, there wasn’t a clear winner.

photo 2(1)


Georges DuBoeuf (12%) – Rob said that if he had to choose one to drink, it would be this one. And if we opt to share a Nouveau next year, this’ll probably be it. The aromas mostly consisted of strawberries, violet and rose petal. Besides the strawberry, I tasted something a little more tart – maybe black currant. As expected, both the tannin and body were light, but there was definitely some acidity there, making it great for pairing with food.

Joseph Drouhin (12.5%) – Strawberry, prune and floral aromas. And although these wines see no oak, I got a whiff of vanilla and a hint of spice on the nose, as well. However, the taste was very tart and Rob described it as “almost aluminum” tasting. Again, light tannins, short finish, maybe a bit more complex than the DuBoeuf, but not quite as balanced either.

Mommessin (11% to 14%) – <–First off, how can you legally list that as the alcohol percentage on your bottle? Were you unsure when you made the labels what the alcohol content would be? Did you make a couple of batches then mix them together? Or not intend to label them separately? I’m thoroughly confused by that one. Whatever the case may be, this was our least favorite. Faint strawberry aromas, light-bodied with high acidity. On the first taste, I actually felt that dusty quality that I like in a good Pinot Noir. So it’s something I would not expect out of the Gamay grape. But that was short-lived because each subsequent taste was astringent and vinegar-like. Ack! Oh wait, Mommesin also made this unimpressive wine.

L’Ancien (12%) – Rob didn’t like this one at all; but to me, it was the first BN we tried that I thought tasted more like a serious wine. It was more complex with not only berry aromas, but also that of olive and white pepper. Rob hates that white pepper flavor that can be found in some Grenaches. That’s probably what turned him off here. I liked the label of this one the best because it was basic and not so gimmicky-looking.


But when it comes down to it, if we’re buying a fruity, easy-drinking Beaujolais Nouveau, we aren’t looking for complexity. That’s why Georges DuBoeuf would be our winner this year. But only by process of elimination.

Next year, we may step up in search of a Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau. Or maybe we’ll do a Battle of the Beaujolais: Cru vs. Nouveau, knowing full well who the winner will be. It would just be a great way to learn and experience the difference.

What wines would you like to see us review or describe next?


2013 – Le Beaujolais Nouveau est Arrivé!


It has arrived!


To learn more about le Beaujolais Nouveau, its history, what to pair with it and how to correctly pronounce it, click here.

We didn’t buy nor drink any Beaujolais Nouveau last year. And I’m ready for a little good luck. So I’ll be buying those from a few different producers to drink and compare. Don’t worry, my husband and I will do the research for you and review them over the next coming weeks…

If you drink Beaujolais Nouveau, do you have a favorite vintner/producer?


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?