#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

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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

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

Girls Night In ft. Risata Wines

GNI is the new GNO!

Today is the second annual GIRLS’ NIGHT IN Day! This is an opportunity for women to come together and celebrate friendship. As my fave TV character Leslie Knope once said, “anytime a group of women get together, we embody the spirit of the holiday.” Similar to Leslie, female friendship means the world to me! As a navy wife, my husband and I spend weeks or even months away from each other because deployment life sucks! There’s no way I could get through the time apart without a supportive, fun-loving squad. I love and adore my friends – they are basically like family to me. We’re constantly in group texts, tagging each other in memes, and show up when it’s needed most. That’s why I wanted to bring something special to the table this year. Luckily, my inner circle of women love wine as much as I do! This year, we popped bottles of Risata sparkling wine because it’s a freakin’ celebration anytime a group of women get together. Risata produces wine with grapes sourced from top vineyards in Italy. Our weekend line-up included Sparkling Rosé, Prosecco DOC, and Moscato d’Asti DOCG. Lets dive deeper into each of these, shall we?

Sparkling Rosé

What’s better than a bottle of bubbly? A bottle of pink bubbly! Our wine tasting started off with Sparkling Rosé because rosé is a state of mind! The varietal composition is 70% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir. It is made in an extra dry style with only 17 g/L of residual sugar. This is exactly what you want out of a rosé and is very easy to drink! It’s incredibly crisp and refreshing with notes of strawberry, raspberry, and layers of florals plus a touch of brioche. Ever wonder how rosé gets its beautiful pink hues? I will tell ya! Grape juice is typically free of pigment, so the color comes from grape skin contact during the first fermentation when base wine is produced. Sparkling Rosé is typically a little more intense in structure and flavor because of this. This one paired incredibly with chicken salad!

Prosecco, please

Next up: Prosecco DOC. I’m a big advocate of Prosecco and think this bubbly is simply delightful. The grape in Prosecco is Glera, but it hasn’t always been that way. In the 80s, Prosecco was the name of the grape as well as the region until this wine grew in popularity and the varietal was renamed. This wine is produced using the tank method which is rather affordable, this contributes to the accessibility and reasonable price point of this wine. In the tank method, there are 2 fermentations, no oak aging or extended time on the lees. The first fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks to preserve fruity and floral flavors that could potentially get overpowered by oak nuances. The second fermentation takes place in a sealed tank that can withstand the pressure of CO2 as it’s dissolved into the wine. Risata Prosecco is classic with notes of pear, peach, crisp apple, and citrus. There’s slightly more RS in this one, but I’m here for it! Paired well with popcorn and sushi!

@stayclassywalter loves girls night in!

Moscato d’Asti for dessert

Last but most certainly not least, we popped open some Moscato d’Asti! I tasted my way through Piedmont, Italy back in May and fell in love with this wine! Every time I sip on this I’m immediately transported to cobble stone streets and vineyard covered hilltops. It was fun to share this one with the gals and chat about travel destinations. Risata Moscato d’Asti DOCG is slightly sweet and offers flavors of peach, melon, lemon citrus, and honeyed apricot. This is made with 100% Moscato Bianco di Canelli and is low in alcohol which means you can drink two bottles instead of one! This pairs perfectly with dessert – especially tiramisu!

pop, fizz, clink with @travelandchampagne

Here’s to good friends, great adventures, and making moments sparkle. I hope you are spending today and tonight with some of your besties! Be sure to pick up a couple bottles of Risata sparkling wine – available at Target! Cheers!

Thanks for sipping with us,

The Social Grapes

Library Magic

You never drink the same wine twice.

Groth Winery & Vineyards

Have you ever sipped the same vintage of the same varietal produced by the same winemaker and somehow it tastes like nothing you’ve had before? I’m a firm believer that there is philosophy in wine and that tasting can be subjective and influenced by experience. Recently my husband and I took a trip up to Napa Valley for business and pleasure. I was scheduled to take my Level 1 WSET exam which happened to coincide with two events at wineries where we are members. I experienced two very different tastings at each respective winery. One event was fun and educational, because that is what I was looking for going in. The other was emotional and dare I say spiritual? There was an exact moment at event #2 that summoned the philosopher in me which completely took me by surprise.

Nickel & Nickel Winery

Our first wine event was an “Open House” at Nickel & Nickel Winery which was an opportunity for members to get together to enjoy some of the greats and maybe sample some new things as well. On the morning of I was reviewing my notes in preparation for the exam later that day. Aromas and flavors in wine were dancing around in my brain along with principal grape varieties and their classic characteristics by region. I was in full-on education beast mode as we made our way to the shuttles. The event transpired in the place where all the magic happens with each station setup along the production line. We sipped chardonnay by steel tanks and savored pinot near the cork lab. We’ve come to know the staff and enjoy seeing familiar and friendly faces each time we visit. The wine is always exceptional and the combination of an amiable ambiance and unparalleled vintages continues to draw us in. As we tasted our way through current-release single-vineyard wine, I took my time and analyzed the glass. Was there spice? If so what kind: baking or pepper? Are there notes of vanilla coming from oak? Is the wine high in acidity? What about the tannins – how smooth or structured were they? Did my notes align with the experts pouring for us? In addition to looking for these components I was doing my best to pair food with wine using the WSET standardized pairing chart. When food is salty a wine will taste less dry and bitter, more balanced in acidity, and full in body and flavor. If there is umami (aka savory foods) this will increase bitterness, dryness, and acidity while making wine less sweet. The result was me hovering over the cheese table for an embarrassing length of time. In my defense, there was an array of different cheeses to pair – from creamy goat to aged gouda-ness (see what I did there) and sharp cheddar. My stomach was having the time of its life while my brain and critical thinking was put to work.

Open House 2019 at Nickel & Nickel Winery

Event number two was a Library Tasting hosted at Groth Family Vineyards. The founders of Groth Vineyards & Winery are Judy and Dennis who have been rooted in the wine industry for almost 40 years. To this day, the production is family owned and operated in the heart of Oakville. We were welcomed with a glass of their most recent Sauvignon Blanc direct from the tanks since the wine hadn’t even been bottled yet. This was followed by an opportunity to sample a new undertaking that will only be available for their wine club: a rosé of merlot with the palest of hues and the richest of flavor. Historically Groth offers three varietals: Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Sauvignon. It was incredibly special to taste a brand-new release before it hits the market and provide honest feedback to the Cellar Master. While we loved the wine, of course, the experience made it even more enjoyable. I’ll just go ahead and say it, that welcoming will be tough to top! I was full of gratitude and feeling the buzz of cheer all around me. We continued to make our way from table to table tasting their Oakville and Reserve Cabernet Sauvignons from 2006, 2009, and 2011. We’ve tasted the same varietals and vintages a few times, all in different settings, and with different people. But, there was something about sipping the 2011 Reserve Cabernet in the cellar with my husband surrounded by barrels while overlooking the vineyards that elevated the wine to a new level. We were there for my WSET exam and at that moment I was reminded of how incredibly supportive my husband is. We also had so much to celebrate – the hardworking vintners, viticulturists, winemakers, and wine community filled with likeminded enthusiasts. I swirled, sniffed, sipped and repeated. I gave the wine detective in me the afternoon off and let my hair down! The wine was silky smooth with layers of green bell pepper that nearly dropped me to my knees.  This was a moment that lasted forever, but in the best way. It’s a moment I will always remember and one that elevated my wine tasting.

Groth 2009 Cab & Reserve Cab

In the end my faculty of reason and perception of wine tasting was annexed by emotion and passion. Approaching these events with two drastically different mindsets left me feeling incredibly balanced, surprisingly. Like in winemaking, balance in life is vitally important. When it came time for the exam, I was steady and ready to pour myself into this next phase of appreciating and learning about wine.

Groth Winery & Vineyards

Thanks for sipping with us!

The Social Grapes

IG: @smashleythegrape