#ProstEveryMoment with Wines of Germany

This time of year in Germany is incredibly special because Christmas is a really big deal for the entire country. The temps have dropped, crowds are merry, and snow is falling. Big and small towns everywhere are covered with decorations and beautiful lights, while Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas Markets) take over the streets. The concept of Christmas Markets originated in Germany but are now setup around the world, including here in the US. December
is the perfect time to go out with a bang and explore something new, something you may be unfamiliar with as a wine novice…. and that something is German wine. Why Germany? For the Christmas vibes and rich history, of course! Travel may not be in the cards for everyone this year, including us, so the next best thing is to escape by glass. This past weekend we imbibed in all things German – from the amazing varieties and comfort food to German Christmas
songs. I’m officially in the holiday spirit thanks to German Wines USA! I don’t know if you know this about me, but I love German culture. I studied the language in High School all four years including AP classes and had the best teacher who would get carried away with tradition – it was contagious. German class influenced my perspective and had a positive impact on the person I’ve grown to be. That’s why this German Wines feature is very exciting for me! The
best way to learn is through taste, so let’s dive into some well-known varieties, but first let’s raise a glass and “Prost” which is the German word for cheers. Ready? Eins, zwei, drei…. Prost!

The region: Baden

(pronounced like Baa – den)

Baden is located in southwestern Germany, making it the warmest wine producing area and most
southernly anbaugebiete aka wine region. It’s the third largest winegrowing region in Germany and a great travel destination if you’re interested in adding Alsace, France or Northern Switzerland to your itinerary. Vineyards grow between the Black Forest and Rhine River, so it looks like a narrow strip that meanders down about 250 miles to the Swiss border. The best vineyards are planted on south-facing slopes atop Kaiserstuhl which is an extinct volcano with soils that give off a little extra heat. The volcanic soils, south-facing slopes (important because it receives more direct sunlight) and southern location of the region means that the wines here are full-bodied and concentrated with some of the highest alcohol levels for German wines. Baden wine producers are making some fantastic Spätburgunder aka Pinot Noir as well as Riesling and Grauburgunder aka Pinot Gris.

Wine producing countries in the European Union (EU) are categorized into zones according to climatic conditions. All of Germany falls under zone A with the exception of Baden. Baden belongs to wine-growing zone B which is the same as Loire, Savoy, and Alsace in France. If you’re a fan of wines from those three French regions, and to be honest it’s hard not to be, you really should consider exploring Baden as well! Fun fact: in German, Baden means baths. The name refers to warm mineral springs and the history dating back to Roman times – this was thee hub for Roman bath culture. Royals and nobles would travel near and far to embrace these magical “healing” baths and their positive effects.

Since we’re on the subject of translation… let’s break down a couple interesting translational tidbits about Baden’s wine, starting with Spätburgunder. In German, spät means late and burgunder means Burgundy which makes sense because Spätburgunder is German for Pinot Noir (Pinot Noir is thought to originate in Burgundy). The “late” part could literally mean that the fruit is left to hang on the vines a little longer, giving the grapes more ripeness and the wine a more concentrated flavor. However, the warmer and more arid climate of Baden compared to Burgundy may play a role as well. This could be a more romanticized translation and less factual, but I think it’s a fun anecdote to consider. Next up we have Grauburgunder (sometimes spelled Grauer Burgunder), or Pinot Gris. In German, grau means
grey. The color of the grape skin is greyish-blue, even though it’s a white wine.

Die Weine

Let’s start with a 2015 Grauburgunder, but not any Grauburgunder… Schloss Ortenberg GrauererBurgunder made with fruit from Alte Reben (old vines). This estate has deep roots dating back to WWII. It was once a hospice for the people of Offenburg, but was impacted by the events of the war and became property of the city, which it is still owned by today. This is a small production wine, so if you love it like we do, stock up! This rare beauty is smoky and nuanced with spice, ripe apple, and pear. It’s lean with bright acidity, so we paired this with homemade Bavarian pretzels and fancy mustard. Wowza, I think I have a new favorite wine + snack pairing!

Next up we have a 2019 Riesling Trocken from Weingut Burg Ravensburg located at the northern end of Baden. Riesling is really an exciting variety – it’s versatile and intriguing. It can age beautifully and drinks well young! It’s delicious dry or sweet, still or sparkling. If you’re all about dry wines, make sure to look for “Trocken” on the label. This means it’s dry while “Halbtrocken” is off-dry. Makes sense since halb means half in German so it’s halfway between sweet and dry. Burg (German word for Castle) Ravensburg is one of the oldest estates and towers high above the hills in Kraichgau where wine has been produced since the 13th century. All that to say it’s no surprise this wine is an absolute showstopper. It’s mineral driven, precise, and well balanced. The nose is perfumed and enticing as well while green fruit (apple and pear) mingle on the palate with fresh citrus and minerals. This wine goes down easily on its own, but I highly suggest pairing it alongside German Potato Salad. Shop this incredible bottle – I highly encourage you to stock up! We paired this with German Potato Salad and du meine Güte… this flavor combination made our spirits bright.

Our final wine of Baden is a 2015 Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) from Freiherr von Gleichenstein Hofgarten. Hofgarten translates to “noble house,” so this really is some elegant juice! This estate has been in the family for about 400 years in Oberrotweil which is the largest of the seven wine-growing communities near the town of Vogtsburg in Kaiserstuhl. This wine is earthy with mushroom flavors, juicy red apple, cranberry, pomegranate, cherry, subtle minerality and rose petal. This 2015 is drinking like a dream right now! We paired this with homemade spaetzle which is actually easy to make! Here’s a tip and probably my best idea of 2021: sprinkle in truffle zest AND sub your olive oil with truffle oil for the spaetzle. You can thank me later!

There you have it!

The perfect ending to 2021 starts and ends with German wines! I hope you feel inspired to treat yourself with some of these exceptional bottles from Baden, Germany. I hope we can make the pilgrimage in the new year, but until then I feel lucky for what we have.

Thanks for sipping with us!

Ashley | @smashleythegrape

National Pinot Grigio Day with Mezzacorona Wine

I’m here to remind you that National Pinot Grigio Day is today, May 17th! I never met a wine holiday I didn’t like and this one is no exception. Few things are as refreshing as a chilled, crisp glass of Pinot Grigio and I’m honoring this grape with Mezzacorona Wine. Lets travel by glass to Trentino – one of Italy’s northernmost regions where you will find Mezzacorona Winery, established in 1904. This producer has over a century of winegrowing experience in this unique climate which is cooled by breezes from Lake Garda, the Adige River, and glaciers from surrounding alpines. Many associate red wine with Italy, but Italian whites are just as noteworthy.

Pinot Grigio is one of the most planted white grapes in Italy and thrives in the Adige Valley region aka alpine territory. This style of wine is zesty, crisp, and refreshing – if you want to experience saline minerality in wine, this is the one for you! Mezzacorona cultivates their Pinot Grigio vines on hillsides where they are trellised in a traditional pergola style. This variety is characterized by delicate honeysuckle, green apple, lime, lemon, and stone fruits such as nectarine or white peach. This wine’s hue is typically straw yellow with hints of green. It’s medium+ to high in acidity, light to medium bodied, and hangs in the low to medium abv range. Mezzacorona is consistently making a delightful, classic example of Italian alpine Pinot Grigio and this 2019 vintage tastes like spring in a bottle – plus, it’s an exciting value for around $15. 

Here are some fun facts about Pinot Grigio:

  1. It’s birthplace is Burgundy, France
  2. Pinot Grigio is a mutation of Pinot Noir – that’s why the grape color is grayish-blue
  3. Pinot Gris (French) and Pinot Grigio Italian) are the same grape
  4. It ripens quickly and is usually harvested first to retain brilliant acidity
  5. The ideal time to open up your bottle of Mezzacorona Pinot Grigio is within 5 years
  6. Pinot Grigio grows in tight clusters that resemble pine cones and that’s the translation; Grigio means grey so this is a very literal translation/description
  7. This grape is incredibly versatile and grows well in warm climates and cool; each climate expresses a different style

Pairing Pinot Grigio

The pastabilities (see what I did there) are endless when it comes to great wine pairings, but my favorite this spring is linguine with clams + Mezzacoronawine Pinot Grigio. Linguine with clams is elegant and surprisingly simple to make. Pair this dish alongside Pinot Grigio and you will be transported to Trentino aka the heart of the Italian Alps. This single varietal wine captures the essence of the Adige Valley – it’s incredibly vivid, crisp, and mineral driven. Here is our go-to recipe for this iconic dish!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 bag of linguine (about 1/2 lb or so)
  • 3 tbsp of butter
  • 2 tbsp of minced garlic (about 4 cloves)
  • 2 cans of chopped clams (16 oz total)
  • 1 cup of dry white wine (Pinot Grigio is great for this recipe)
  • black pepper (start with about 1/2 tsp)
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped (dry parsley works too)
  • 1/2 lemon

STEPS:

  • As pasta boils in water with a few pinches of salt, melt butter in a skillet and add in the garlic
  • Let the garlic cook for a few minutes and then add in the clams and cook over medium heat
  • Pour wine into the skillet and let clams simmer for about 5 minutes
  • Add linguine, about 1/2 of the parsley, and lemon zest into the skillet and toss all ingredients over low heat for a few
  • Serve and garnish with remaining parsley

*CHEF’S KISS*

Bonus pairing tip because charcuterie is basically an adult lunchable. Pinot Grigio is characterized by its high acidity so it pairs very well with soft, creamy cheese such as mozzarella, Brie, or midnight moon. This is literally my favorite combination of flavor components! Let’s go ahead and coin the phrase “Mezza and Mozza” for this heavenly pairing. When it comes to creating a cheeseboard, it’s all about the aesthetic. For me, a charcuterwreath makes any occasion special! It’s an incredibly simple, versatile concept that works for Christmas and spring time! Here we have a caprese inspired board with cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil, grapes, and rosemary for an enticing aromatic delight. Top with a pinch of salt + pepper and balsamic and enjoy!

Thanks for sipping with us!

The Social Grapes | @smashleythegrape on Insta

A Mother’s Day Gift Guide For Every Mom!

T-minus 18 days. Can you tell I’m ready to be celebrated?

Mother’s Day is right around the corner and I want to help you treat that special mother in your life because moms make the world go round! We do it all: clean, cook, teach, love, work, plan, etc. One of my favorite quotes about motherhood: “Mom is a title just above queen” and when you think about a queen, there’s a lot to her. She carries the weight of the world on her shoulders all while wearing a crown. The queen is the most powerful piece in the game of chess – able to move any number of squares vertically, horizontally or diagonally. There is not a single obstacle she cannot overcome. It’s a powerful concept that applies to moms. There is a force within us fueled by a love that cannot be measured or explained. We take the hard hits and get back up over and over.

I cannot begin to explain what a wild ride my first year as a mama has been. Our first year journey has been out of the ordinary (read our birth announcement post for more deets) and our road to parenthood had ups and downs. I feel strongly that motherhood begins the moment you make a conscious effort to care for your own health in preparation for your child’s arrival. The parenthood journey is unique for every person and equally special. From the day you want to embark on that special journey until the arrival of your baby and loooong after, you will change a thousand times and learn a thousand different lessons. I was 7 months pregnant a year ago and a completely different person – this is why it can be tricky to find the right gift for mom. She evolves and grows with each phase of motherhood.

They say a baby’s brain grows most rapidly in the first year and this is a critical period for learning. In my opinion, the second most critical period for growth and learning is throughout motherhood. Wherever you are in your journey please know there is a sisterhood surrounding you…. cheering for you – believing in you – empathizing with you. Sure, there are those who judge other moms and raising a baby can be sooo incredibly political, but that’s not what The Social Grapes is about. Every mom is welcome to sip with us, complain, brag, laugh, cry, stay in pjs and just be who you are! With that said, here are some of the things that are helping me in this phase of motherhood. Also included some things that helped me through the days of wishing, hoping, and praying for our baby to arrive. If you are reading this and your partner or bff is fighting a silent battle or feeling discouraged, send her a reminder that she is amazing. Mother’s Day can be such a difficult time for women and a small gesture can go a long way in helping them through this day.

You are loved. You are supported.
  1. Angelite is not only gorgeous, it helps us connect to our higher self and the angels protecting us and guiding us on our path. It is believed to be connected to guardian angels of our future children.
  2. Overcome Rainbow earrings – wear these to remind yourself that you are more powerful than anything that arrives to break you, even if you don’t feel that at times. Let the rainbow guide you through. Check it out!
  3. Affirmation cards – a positive line a day can help increase positive energy. Love this set!
  4. Rose quartz is for love and acts as a purifying energy crystal and is said to aid in overall fertility.
These are a few of my favorite things!
  1. I own this mug and it both encourages me to stay strong while acknowledging that being a mama is tiring af (the back says tired as a mother)
  2. We all have moments when we feel like the worst mom, so remind her she’s the greatest. Also a to go mug is key for moms since we’re now always on the go and a thermos helps from spilling all over the place!
  3. This diaper bag is chic, clips to your stroller, and fits all the crap you need for venturing out with a tiny human.
  4. The first 5 months or so you will find it difficult to care about your hair. I lived in chic headbands and trust, you will too!
  5. You’re not just any mother, you’re a phenomenal mother and you should own that shit!
  6. I want all the mama branded things like this necklace in case this baby on my hip didn’t scream “I’m a mom!” loud enough.
  7. Fanny packs will be your best friend. I legit walk with this every day around our hood, hike with it, take it to the beach. I like a nice fanny, what can I say?
Elevate her wine game!
  1. Coravin bc when she is nursing you won’t be able to pound a bottle a night and dads, don’t bogart the wine!
  2. When the world is back to normal and park days are upon us, safely transport your vino and enjoy responsibly.
  3. I love these wine glasses – my favorite baddie designed them – Jancis Robinson. Enough said! I’m giving away a set in a couple weeks!
  4. Mirabelle Selects has monthly wine subscriptions. Since the thought of traveling abroad with a baby is terrifying and exhausting, let her travel there by glass. They source sustainable, boutique wines from family owned wineries in Spain and France. Here’s the Mother’s Day wine box!
  5. Bubbles! Because you’re a mom now and any time you can enjoy a bottle is a cause for celebration. We Drink Bubbles is female-owned by a San Diego mama and she sources the coolest bottles from all over the world.

Never was a tech lover, but Alexa legit has my back all day.

  1. My phone is never more than 10% charged and dies once a day. Portable chargers are all the rage for new moms. We’re using our phones for music, taking a ridiculous amount of photos, and recording every cute moment. I burned through one already and now this cute Rifle Paper Co. one is on my list (hint hint, Greg)
  2. Photoshoots are expensive and every day moments are precious. Let her have some fun with that creative side and step up her photography skills with this easy to use DSLR.
  3. Echo can connect to every smart device in your home and I shout at her daily to play “Baby Shark” and she always comes through. She sets alarms, makes calls, and reads you the news so you can pretend to be dialed in still.
Self-care is key, embrace all the cozy things!
  1. This silk scrunchie is kind to your delicate postpartum hair and helps prevents creases. It also looks adorable af in a high pony. I’m all about a fast, convenient boost to my up do and this is it!
  2. I own this Skims robe and it has changed my life. It is so incredibly soft and makes me feel like a million bucks.
  3. A foot bath needs little to no persuasion. Moms feet are aching after a day of chasing the kiddos around, probably without shoes on bc #pandemiclife. Bonus gift: make a promise to mom that you will keep it clean for her.
  4. These slippers say mama bear and I’m here for it. These are comfy and light for the upcoming summer months!
  5. Make her feel sexy with some satin pajamas but also this matching set comes with an eye mask. Never used an eye mask until having a baby and it WORKS! She will love — also the mask functions as a “do not disturb” sign.

I hope you enjoy these ideas! Tag me if you shop for these — I love connecting on the gram and seeing what you enjoy 💖

Thanks for sipping with us,

The Social Grapes

Sauv Blanc, hold the alcohol.

Introducing the world’s first alcohol-removed Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zeland: Geisen 0%!

The Why:

YOU GUYS! I am so excited about this for several reasons. First of all, I’m a lady who plans on growing a family and I’m also an avid wine drinker. Having gone through one pregnancy, let me tell you… alcohol removed wine is a real treat! Surprisingly, I loved taking a break from alcohol for 9 months and instead sipped on delicious mocktails and alc-removed wine; that’s not to say I didn’t think about wine from time to time. The one I missed most during my pregnancy was Sauvignon Blanc – probably because I had intense cravings for all things citrus throughout the second and third trimesters. Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough is known for being deliciously tart with flavors of lemon juice, lemongrass, lime, grapefruit, pear, and passionfruit – basically all the things this mama bear craved! Also, if you’re nursing and on the fence about whether or not to consume wine, because lets be honest there are arguments on both sides, this is a really great option! Secondly, dry January is becoming a very real trend and I actually love this concept. Greg and I decided to partake in a modified version we’re calling *damp* January. We’ve cut out alcohol Mon – Wed, allowing ourselves to open bottles Thurs – Sun. I’m not gonna lie, some days are harder than others which is why this option of alcohol-free wine excites me! For us, wine isn’t just about getting a nice little buzz. We enjoy the social aspect and how it reminds us to slow down and take time to relax. We also enjoy food and wine pairings – a great way to treat yo’ self for surviving parenting + work during a pandemic day in and day out. Giesen 0% allows us to do all of this while sticking with our goal of cutting out the buzz part-time. Lastly, the Giesen brothers have a great reputation for making fantastic wine from the top Sauvignon Blanc regions of Wairau Valley and Awatere Valley in Marlborough, New Zealand for almost four decades. Marlborough is at the top of my list for wine travel once the pandemic ends!

The How:

Giesen uses premium, full-strength Sauv Blanc in their process and combines tradition with modern technology known as an advanced spinning cone. Spin cone technology contains upside cones – half of which spin while the other half are fixed. In an environment that feels like it’s in a vacuum, cones start to spin until wine transforms into thin liquid films. A cool vapor-like element rises from the wine, carrying the yeasts and volatiles away from the liquid film. Using this advanced tech, first the aromas are removed followed by the alcohol. Aromas are collected reintroduced into the wine so you don’t miss out on the enticing nose. The final blend of Sauvy B grape juice + natural yeasts adds texture and body. This results in a dry, refreshing, aromatic, and delightful wine sans alcohol.

The Where:

More on Marlborough because if you love Sauvignon Blanc, you need to explore this region since Sauvy B makes up a majority of the plantings here. Most vineyards are planted to either Awatere Valley and Wairau Valley which is the larger of the two. In Wairau, the days are long and sunny, resulting in tropical flavors in the wine. It’s an interesting spot though… there are many sub-valleys that have different altitudes and aspects, so producers have various elements to work with. On the other side, we have Awatere Valley which is drier, cooler, and windier than it’s big sister. This makes a style of wine with pronounced herbaceous flavors and higher acidity. Giesen uses Sauvignon Blanc grapes from both regions, so you get the best of both worlds: passionfruit, pineapple, lime zest, lemongrass, grapefruit, and green bell pepper. It’s high in acidity, crisp, and light – medium bodied. I would pair this with a salad or chips and guacamole. Of all the alcohol removed wines I’ve tried, and I have tasted my fair share, this is the best!

This wine glass was specifically made for sipping Sauv Blanc – highly recommend trying this!

Thanks for sipping with us!

The Social Grapes

Follow me on Insta for daily wine inspo @smashleythegrape

Make Your Holidays Sparkle

Sure, champagne is always a good choice and I can’t get enough of it. But, today I’m advocating for sparkling wine outside of the Champagne region. Although these bubbles hail from other regions they are just as delicious, budget friendly, and unique in their own right.

1. Crémant… ever heard of it? It’s a group of sparkling wines made in 8 appellations throughout France. It’s a great alternative to champagne and won’t break the bank! Crémant is made like champagne using the traditional method with secondary fermentation happening in the bottle. The cool thing is that a wider range of grapes are used in crémant winemaking and I’m here for it. You can expect varieties like Gamay, Cab Franc and even Chenin to name a few. Here are some of my go-to choices!

2. Let’s talk about Sekt, baby. Let’s talk about you & me… had to throw in at least one #momjoke! Did you know that Sekt is a German word for sparkling wine? Ja, darling. Grapes used to make Sekt range from Riesling to Spätburgunder, Pinot Gris to Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer to Pinot Meunier and many others. Similar to champagne, Sekt can be made in a range of sweetness levels from Naturherb (0-3 g/l RS) to halbtrocken (32-50 g/l RS) and even mild which is >50 g/l RS. The thing to know when shopping for a bottle of Sekt are the quality levels. Starting from the bottom we have Sekt. Wines labeled as Sekt are basic & made with grapes from literally anywhere bc imported grapes can be used. One level up is German Sekt – this means the grape juice comes from just about anywhere in Germany. Now onto the good stuff… Sekt BA indicates that a minimum of 85% of the grapes are sourced from one of Germany’s 13 wine regions. The best of Sekt is Winzersekt, made with 100% estate-grown fruit in the traditional method & spends at least 9 months on the lees. Winzersekt labels must include the varietal and vintage, so you know you’re getting the good stuff! Ich liebe Sekt, especially the one below!

3. Cava aka the champagne’s Spanish sister. It’s made in the Traditional Method, the same way Champagne is made, with secondary fermentation happening in the bottle. Cava is made with some of Spain’s native grapes including Macabeu (Viura), Xarel-lo, and Parellada. Expect flavors of pear, citrus, green or yellow apples, chamomile, and almonds. Checkout some of my favorites below!

4. Prosecc-ho-ho-ho… ok I lied, one more #momjoke for the holidays! Prosecco is highly underrated but nevertheless beloved in this house. Probably bc the hubs and I have an affinity for all things Italian wine. This is Italy’s no. 1 sparkler and hails from Northeastern Italy. This one is made using the tank method. That means there are 2 fermentations, no oak aging, or extended time on the lees. The first fermentation happens in stainless steel tanks to preserve fruity and floral flavors. Fermentation #2 happens in a sealed tank capable of withstanding the pressure of CO2 as it dissolves into the wine. Fun fact: Prosecco is a region in Italy and the grape used in winemaking is Glera. To be labeled Prosecco, the wine must contain a minimum of 85% Glera, the other 15% can be made of other Italian indigenous grapes. Expect flavors of green apple, honeydew, pear, and cream.

5. California Sparkling Wine – I’m a Cali girl through and through so I obviously love bubbles from my home state. There are so many fantastic producers making bubbly on trend with champagne… same grapes (Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay) and same winemaking method which is the Méthode Traditionnelle we chatted about above. I could go on and on with recommendations, and I plan to, but for now here are my favorites!

There you have it! 5 of our favorite sparkling wines. These bottles will dazzle your guests this holiday season. I could on and on about bubbles, but it’s time for this mama bear to hit the hay. Don’t forget to follow along on Insta for daily wine inspo and more wine edu. As per usual, feel free to reach out with any questions. Tag me if you purchase any of these – I love hearing your thoughts!

Thanks for sipping with us,

The Social Grapes

@smashleythegrape on Instagram

VinGarde Your Wine with VinGardeValise

https://vingardevalise.com

If you’re reading this, there’s a chance you’ve done it. We all do it, everyone’s doing it. We travel for wine. It’s how we experience other cultures and the perfect way to relax. If you’ve traveled into wine territory there’s a very good chance you’ve purchased your favorite bottles to bring home. There’s no judgement here, Greg and I are notorious for finding insane, crazy ways of getting our bottles home. Most of the time we’ve been successful, but there is one major loss we’ve suffered. Last May we went on the trip of a lifetime to Piemonte in Northern Italy and wine tasted our way through Barolo and Barbaresco. We visited some amazing wineries, one in particular was literally on top of a mountain. We drove vertical up a hill to a small, biodynamic farm with fantastic wine. We bought a few bottles to enjoy on the train and take home, but we were going to Switzerland from Italy.

Swiss wine country was basically the entire itinerary and we visited some remote, under the radar, unknown wine regions. I don’t know if you know this, but Switzerland does not distribute Swiss wine outside of the country. To get the wine, you have to go there. Long story short, we were tired of lugging around a half case of wine so we left our gems with our hotel in Zurich – the staff said they could ship the wine home for us, but as soon as we caught our train to our next destination they called to let us know this was impossible. We ended up selling our wine from across the pond bc we just couldn’t get it home. I still think about those lost bottles every single day. If we had known about VinGardeValise, I wouldn’t be living with the pain and regret of leaving those bottles behind without a secure plan.

Now we know and I hope this horror story helps the future you. VinGardeValise is absolutely necessary for wine travelers. In addition to making life so much easier, VinGardeValise is a wonderful way to get your bottles home in great condition. Allow me to explain…

In order to get the best out of wine, storage and temperature are key! If bottles are incorrectly stored, exposed to too much heat or light, or even moved around too vigorously for too long, the wine will become faulty. Wine should be stored in a cool, dark place. Exposure to too much heat will cause a wine to lose it’s freshness and flavors will become muddled or even resinous, and not in a good way in my opinion. This is why VinGardeValise is my new favorite toy and the ultimate travel solution. Each suitcase has sturdy foam inserts that protect your treasures from breakage. Additionally, you can add chiller sheets to preserve freshness and travel with ease knowing that your babies are safe from harm’s way. In a perfect world wine should not exceed 18°C / 64°F. VinGardeValise suitcases coupled with their sleek, flat chiller sheets protect your bottles from irretrievable damage caused by heat. We have two of these suitcases and two chiller sheets because we take this very seriously.

Let’s talk about the VinGardeValise® Piccolo. This is the perfect size for weekend getaways. It’s got a hard shell, is FAA and TSA compliant, has a crazy good lock system, and it’s a smooth ride. You can store clothes and books on one side while 5 of your bottles rest in their cozy foam homes on the other side. I’ll be reaching for this luggage every time I need to travel. It’s as essential as a passport or drivers license.

VinGardeValise® Grande 05 is the stuff dreams are made of. This suitcase holds 12 bottles securely, it’s got a hard shell to enhance the integrity of the product, this one glides like a dream and it comfortably fits bottles with longer necks. Again, this is a travel essential for us. We usually pack one large suitcase and one travel size, so I’m very excited that we have the proper equipment to lug wine around safely. It’s providing some much needed peace of mind!

I wouldn’t trust my wine with anything other than VinGardeValise® — even Condé Nast agrees! To sum up why we love it, here are my top 5 reasons you need to invest in this product:

1. Your wine is protected from breakage. I literally shook and scooted the suitcase across the floor and my bottles didn’t budge.

2. It’s secure. This is my first piece of luggage with a lock. The lock is easy to use and adds a layer of protection from theft.

3. This is covered by a 10 year warranty. I’ve broken a handful of suitcases over the years. We even had to buy a replacement in Prague. Although we’re only traveling locally right now and using this for holiday travel to see family and share wine with them, once covid is gone we are on the first place out of here. And we won’t stop traveling! It’s nice to know we’re protected from wear and tear.

4. Temperature matters. There are some amazing accessories available, like chiller sheets. These sheets are reusable and help moderate the temp of the wine to keep it fresh.

5. It will save you money in the long run. Shipping wine is expensive and somewhat of a hassle. Keep your wine with you at all times and simply check your bags.

6. BONUS REASON: VinGardeValise® is running amazing promotions for the next few weeks — like rebates and free magnum inserts. Now is the time, people!

Thanks for sipping with us! Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram @smashleythegrape 🍾

The Social Grapes

Featured

Amelia Belle Lewis

Welcome to the world, little one.
Holding Amelia in my arms for the first time on 5/16

Amelia Belle Lewis made her debut at 2:13 pm on 5/16 weighing 6.5 lbs and measuring 19 in long. It was quite the journey for both of us, but she’s here! It feels appropriate to share a little context about her name before I dive into the complicated details of labor. Her name is inspired by Amelia Earhart, a strong female icon who was an aviation pioneer. Fitting since her dad is a pilot & mom is a firm advocate of strong females doing badass things! We also love the meaning: work & industrious. Amelia has already impressed us with her strong will and determination to fight through the challenges presented to her since she was born. Belle means beautiful in Italian/French. She’s not only a gorgeous little girl, but we hope she has a beautiful heart full of love grace. Her middle name is also special bc it’s one of our favorite wineries! Together we have a diligent, hard-working, beautiful, strong baby girl who exceeds these meanings and inspires us!

It’s taken some time to get the words right for this post. The first 48 hrs of parenthood have been the most devastating and challenging days of my life, but for the first time since her birth I’m feeling some hope!

Early & active labor went off so smoothly considering I was induced. I was naturally dilated to 4 cm and with the help of some Pitocin, my body was ready for Amelia to come out. By end of Friday night I was about 4 cm dilated and ready to push by 10 am the next morning. I was motivated and ready to take on the final step in delivering a healthy baby. The first hour of pushing was actually pretty great and I enjoyed it, but 3 hours later we had made no progress. The hospital doesn’t allow pushing past a certain time and our time was up. This is where things started to slip.

Saturday 5/16 saying our goodbyes before Amelia was transferred to another hospital in prep of her surgery.

It was at hour 3 that I got an infection, temp spiked, become physically ill and was taken to OR for an emergency c section. I have only a few memories of what happened between hour 3 of pushing and her arrival. I remember briefly coming to and seeing her beautiful face but she wasn’t crying. I heard one doctor say to another that the baby was in shock and they immediately took her away. After about 10 min I finally heard her first cry! It was the best sound in the world. Next thing I know I’m being wheeled off in one direction while Amelia was taken to NICU for further evaluation. I was feeling relieved bc the hardest part was behind us. We did it! It was a challenge but we made it over the hill.

I was swollen everywhere and hardly coherent in recovery when the NICU dr stopped by to provide an update with tears in her eyes. My heart sank. Was I about to get the worst news a mother could receive? Did she not pull through? The dr started with good news… Amelia was stable and breathing. Then she followed with the bad news. She was diagnosed with vacterl – a rare syndrome that 1 in 10,000 infants are born with. It’s not something that can be diagnosed or detected during pregnancy. Ultrasounds can’t find this so it was a complete surprise. The underlying issue is that Amelia’s esophagus was disconnected from her stomach, so she had no way of receiving food and needed surgery ASAP. She was transferred over to Rady Children’s Hospital that night. I was wheeled down to NICU and spent about 30 min cuddling and praying over Amelia. She was so sweet and perfect, it was heartbreaking to let her go.

Day 2 of Amelia Belle post surgery on 5/17

I don’t remember much else from the night of her birth. I had some complications of my own to recover from. Blood in my urine, fluid in my lungs, low oxygen, an infection, low blood pressure and inflammation in the cardiovascular area along with a surprise diagnosis of the uterus that prevents me from delivering naturally – my OB hasn’t seen anything like this and it wasn’t picked up on any of my screenings before trying to conceive or even while I was pregnant. None of this compares to the pain of being separated from our newborn and recovering at two different hospitals.

On Sunday Amelia was scheduled for her big procedure. It’s a high risk surgery with a couple different ways of going in. Luckily, Greg’s boss and his wife have been so supportive and were able to get me in contact with Greg so we could weigh out the options and risks of each method together as parents. After a few hours, I got a call from Amelia’s dr and the surgery was a success. The process of attaching the esophagus to the stomach was a challenge but they successfully managed to fix it. There was one complication with her trachea during the procedure but the surgical team handled it well and prevented any further damage while fixing it. Amelia also received a blood transfusion during the operation. She came out of this beautifully with healthy vitals and in a stable condition. She’s been resting peacefully, connected to tubes, and being looked over 24/7 by her nurse. Amelia is such a fighter and stronger than anyone I know. I wish I could take on her pain but for now all I can do is pray, stay positive, and stay healthy so I can be by her side as she recovers in the hospital for another 5 weeks.

Day 3 of Amelia Belle – breathing tube was removed today on 5/19!

This experience has been challenging and I’ve cried more times than I’ve laughed over the last few days, but the pain is only temporary. I’m so blessed to have my parents here helping with everything. I’m beyond grateful that both hospitals allowed my mother to go in and out so she could be there for both Amelia and myself. We weren’t sure how things were going to play out with the pandemic still in effect. It hasn’t been easy and I wish we could see more family, but for now I’m blessed and thankful for what we have to work with. I was discharged late afternoon yesterday and spent time with our baby before my body needed a break. I’m full of hope and motivation to get better so I can be there for Amelia every day until she’s home.

Thank you for all the prayers, messages, and texts. Your love and support means more than you know! It’s beyond difficult going through this without Greg while trying to recover from surgery, but it’s been possible bc of our amazing and uplifting support system.

I’ll do my best to update here but for now my focus is on baby and my own recovery. Please continue to keep Amelia in your prayers as we inch towards being home together as a family 🙏🏼💕

Mom holding baby’s hand for the first time in 3 days! So much love.

Jackson Estate Wine Pairing 2019 at the historic Westgate Room

Fine California Wine Meets Fine California Cuisine

A wise man once said that drinking good wine with good food in good company is one of life’s most civilized pleasures. This combination of words perfectly captures the experience we recently had while dining at The Westgate Hotel, an iconic San Diego landmark located in the heart of downtown. Visiting The Westgate is like traveling back in time – think glitz & glam of the roaring 20s meets rich & romantic French charm. Add a touch of San Diego’s laid back vibe and voila! You have the fixings for a one-of-a-kind experience. When we first arrived, I loved the ambiance but must admit that I was concerned we were about to revel in the spirit of snobbery and pretension. I have never been more wrong! The staff, company, Executive Chef Fabrice Hardel, and Sommelier were incredibly kind, down to earth, and personable. This building’s architecture is incredibly meticulous and grand – two things that will definitely make you stand out in an otherwise laid back city. Adding friendly service on top of such grandeur puts dining at The Westgate Room in a league of its own.

The Westgate is doing a fantastic job of producing high quality food & wine pairing dinners. What exactly does this mean? Basically, the Executive Chef prepares a menu and the Sommelier curates the perfect glass to accompany each course. This dinner is planned in advance, so make sure to check the event schedule and book a spot! At this event there were a total of 8 guests. Each group or couple had their own table and we were served not one, not two, but three courses.

This particular event highlighted the versatility of Kendall Jackson’s Estate Collection. If you think you know Kendall Jackson’s portfolio, think again. It’s so much more than an accessible wine sold at grocery stores for a reasonable price. There’s a whole other side to this winery – a side I’m excited to write about! We kicked off the night with Chardonnay from Santa Maria Valley. Please note that Kendall Jackson is located in Sonoma, but this particular wine is made with grapes grown in Santa Maria Valley AVA which is located in Santa Barbara County. Because of it’s close proximity to the Pacific Ocean, Santa Barbara’s cool climate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are considered world class – and this glass was the perfect example of that. It was full of delicious notes of zesty lemon, stone fruits such as Asian pear and nectarines, minerals, and lively acidity. As we swirled, sniffed, and sipped, our very knowledgeable Somm guided us through the vineyards and cellar. If you’re a wine nerd like me, you will love this! She made wine tasting user friendly. As she guided us through our first wine, the servers brought out an Amuse Bouche – Ahi Tuna on lime supreme rice cracker. It was incredibly refreshing and paired excellently with the Chard.

We got topped off – because that wine went down way too easy – and moved onto our first course of the night. My favorite… drum roll please… Day Boat Sea Scallops with Maui pineapple, shiso, and peach vanilla gastrique. To say this was prepared to perfection is an understatement. I’ve dined at my fare share of upscale, fine cuisine restaurants and these scallops blew me away. Perhaps it was the wine pairing that elevated my dining experience. Regardless, the team knocked it out of the park with this one.

Our second course was Grim Beef Tenderloin. Now I’m no meat connoisseur, but this cut was perfectly juicy and flavorful. Accompanying the beef was smoked potato puree, roasted parsnip, and and truffle jus. All the savory and herbal goodness was perfectly curated to pair with Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley. Anderson Valley AVA is located North of Sonoma in Mendocino County. Mendocino has a reputation as being coastal, cool, elegant, and organic. Anderson Valley is producing some incredibly exciting expressions of Pinot Noir. The fruit is bright, acid is high, and alcohol is medium. Wild strawberries take the lead as well as minerals, plum, and cedar. The higher acid on this wine perfectly cut through the savoriness of the dish – so much balance and harmony here.

Cheese lovers, this third course is for you! After a savory second course, it was refreshing to enjoy Warm Goat Cheese Crottin plus herb salad with aged balsamic vinegar. We sipped Petaluma Gap Pinot with this baby. Fun fact: this is the first vintage of Jackson Estate Petaluma Gap Pinot! This AVA benefits from marine breezes, fog, and gusty winds making this a cool climate pocket. The result? Small berries with thicker skins. This Pinot was full of red and blue fruit – it was just savory enough with high acid. The savory notes and high acid went incredibly well with the saltiness and high acid in the food. Pro tip: two components in food that make wine taster softer are salt & acid. These components make wine taste less dry and bitter while highlighting fruitiness.

Think Cabernet and dessert pairings are off limits? Think again! I’ve actually done cake and wine pairings before, and let me tell you… it works. It works really well. I was pleasantly surprised to wrap up the evening with Alexander Valley Cabernet paired alongside Cocoa Crumble Vanilla Gelato. If Napa Valley Cab is king, Sonoma Cab is queen. This is why the pairing worked so well! Sonoma Cab has all the complexity, depth, and balance without the austerity that is often found in Napa Valley Cab. It feels lighter on the palate and overall very approachable. This wine was full of rich blackberry, red fruit, and finished with high acid and supple tannin. It was a treat in and of itself!

We’ve said this a few times and I’ll say it again, experience and hospitality can make or break a wine tasting. This applies to the culinary world as well. The friendly staff, knowledgeable / personable Somm, and talented Chef made this evening exceptional!

Dining at The Westgate Room is worth the time and money, but it’s not your average restaurant. This place is special which makes it the perfect destination for holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, or couples who are looking to step up their date night game! This is officially on The Social Grapes approved and must-visit list.

Thanks for sipping with us!

The Social Grapes | @smashleythegrape

You Stay Brunchy, San Diego!

brunch (n): a socially acceptable excuse for drinking champagne in the morning.

Example: Brunch without champagne is just a sad breakfast.

Who else agrees that Saturday mornings were made for mimosas and brunch? San Diego is known for outdoor dining and day drinking by the beach. Greg and I wanted to class it up for brunch this past week, so we paid a visit to JRDN at Tower 23 in Pacific Beach. The weather could not have been more perfect. It was sunny and 78 with the coolest of ocean breezes to moderate our temps. JRDN is known for delicious food, good wine, delicious AM cocktails, and beautiful beach views. You can build your own mimosa or simply rely on your waiter/waitress to recommend a good wine…. PS Order the Languedoc Rosé. You can thank me later. The ambiance is modern meets beach chic. Mimosas and wine flowed all around us as friends gathered for a little hair of the dog!

Surround yourself with good food, not negativity

Regardless of your hungover state, the brunch menu here will give you new life! If you’re like me, champagne is a must for brunch! Not only did we get a good deal on champagne splits, but it was freakin’ Moët & Chandon – one of my favorite champagne producers. Moët & Chandon NV Brut is recognized for its bright fruitiness, crisp palate, and elegant finish. All three champagne varieties are included in this bubbly: 40% Pinot Noir, 40% Pinot Meunier, and 20% Chardonnay. This champagne is golden in appearance and pronounced on the nose! It opens with green apple and lemon citrus followed by white florals, limestone minerals, and my favorite flavor in good champagne… brioche! We paired shrimp cocktail with this sumptuousness wine and it was a match made in seafood heaven!

Now let’s chat about our entrees. My mouth is watering at the thought of these dishes! Greg ordered a customer favorite – the Lobster BLT. People come from all over San Diego County to indulge in this masterpiece of a sandwich! Between the bread you can expect delicious tarragon aioli, savory bacon, crisp butter lettuce, and juicy tomato… did I mention the bread was brioche? So. Much. Yum. This entree paired very well with 2 wines …. yes, we paired this with 2 different wines because that’s what you do when you’re a foodie & certified wine pro! We had to pair this with our champagne because the lemon citrus + brioche notes in the wine popped alongside the dish!

Another MUST and classic food + wine pairing is Chardonnay and lobster. The Chard BTG (somm talk for “by the glass”) is from Hartford Court Winery located in Russian River Valley, Sonoma. This style of Chardonnay held up nicely against this savory yet light Lobster BLT. There were pronounced flavors of butter and cream, indicating that this wine undergoes secondary fermentation. These notes were complimented by stone fruits, hibiscus, and slate minerality. It was medium body and high in acid – a perfect match for the acid squeezed from the lemon onto the sammy. Side note regarding the side dish, Greg ordered TRUFFLE fries that were made for this Chardonnay. Not going to lie, I think this is what I’m ordering next time we’re here! Greg, you won the dish off yet again…

Don’t get me wrong, my entree was fabulous and totally extra in the best way! Yours truly ordered the Eggs Benedict. This wasn’t just any eggs benny, nope. It was eggs benny with Kobe beef! Yes, you read that right! If you’re a meat lover like me, this hot ticket brunch item has your name written all over it! Bonus: this hollandaise sauce has a touch of ponzu. Ponzu is great because just about every end of the flavor spectrum is covered – salt, bitterness, sweetness, and acid. This balanced out the creamy hollandaise sauce for a harmonious flavor composition!

About the wine… It was a little too warm and early for a red wine, plus I was craving something crisp. So, when you’re in between white and red the best course of action is rosé! Lucky for me and all JRDN goers, they offer a Languedoc rosé BTG! It was fantastic and I can’t stop thinking about it.

Like Provence, Languedoc is a well-established French rosé region. Languedoc is located on the SW side of the Rhone Valley, so by knowing that you might have an idea of which grapes were used in the making of this wine. I’ll give you a hint: Syrah and Grenache. I’m all about a Syrah or Grenache rosé these days… the two blended is even better! This rosé is medium bodied with medium + acidity. When you have food with high acid, you want equal levels of acid in your wine. As for the flavor I was hit with pronounced wild berries, macerated raspberry, some stone fruit, lemon zest, and sandy minerals. This wine also had great structure for being a rosé! I may have sipped it too fast and needed a second glass to enjoy with my breakfast potatoes!

Saving the best for last!

Dessert is my love language. The dessert menu at JRDN is full of sweets, treats, and post-meal libations that will make your heart sing! We shared a plate because #waistbandprobs are real. After perusing the options and some spirited debate between them, we compromised on something light, crisp, and delicious:  a lemon-lavender panna cotta. Er. Mah. Gerd. So good. The delicate flavors were perfectly intertwined, and the swirl of sugar cookie was the perfect sweet crunch. Oh, and did I mention the blueberry glaze on top? Yeah, there was a blueberry glaze. Now, I know what you’re wondering… whatever did we have to drink with this tasty treat? The dessert wine list did not disappoint and offered the perfect companion:  a late-harvest Cuvee Auslese from Kracher Wines.  This balanced, golden goodness from Austria is a blend of Chard and Riesling and brought the perfect addition of honey, cream, and stone fruit to round out the course.

To top off all the amazing food and wine, the incredible views, and stellar atmosphere was some impeccable service. Our waitress was friendly, efficient, and helpful with any questions about the menu. For those visiting from out of town or locals looking for an opportunity to #treatyoself, we highly recommend JRDN at Tower 23. This is a fantastic restaurant for bigger groups, FYI. We can’t wait to visit again!

Thanks for sipping with us,

The Social Grapes | @smashleythegrape