Category How To

Why We Love Champagne

March 6, 2012 Cellar WorthyHow To  No comments

Here are some facts of Champagne: It grows in a crappy climate, it's overpriced and many people think it's only for celebrations.  Ironically though, each of these facts has contributed to making this fizzy beverage something we love to enjoy. Let's examine each a little more closely.
Champagne Grows in a Crappy Climate
The Champagne region lies just East of Paris along the 49th parallel.  Also on the 49th parallel: North Dakota.  Sounds like prime wine country, right?  Not exactly, but this less than ideal climate has really made Champagne what it is today.  Most Champagnes are bottled non-vintage (N/V) which really means that they are a mix of multiple vintages.  This is because dramatic variations from vintage to vintage meant the grower needed a way to ensure quality and

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Why I Collect Wine (and You Should Too)

December 22, 2011 How To  5 comments

There are a few ways to buy wine.  1.) Buy it when you need to drink it, i.e. you are having a dinner party and need some wine to serve, or 2.) buy it because you like it, want it and/or think it's a great deal, though you don't have a specific plan for enjoying it.  There is a third way as well, which is to buy wine as an investment.

The vast majority of Americans buy wine to drink that night or within a few days.  A tiny number buy to invest, but purchasing a $3000 bottle of Petrus only to sell 10 years later hardly seems like fun to me.  I fall into category two, which is to say I buy wine because I know, at some point, I will enjoy drinking it.  I'm here to argue that you should buy for this reason as well and why it will make your life 46% better.

Over the past 4 or 5 years,

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Buy Labels Not Scores

April 26, 2011 How To  No comments

Wine writers focus so much on scores that the pedigree of a label is often ignored.  One of the great things about wine is how much a single varietal can vary in style according to the location in which it's grown, the winemaker or the oak treatment.

I'd like to submit this idea: if you like a particular wine, you're better off buying that label than buying a wine you've never had just because the latter scored a couple of extra points.  Poor vintages aside, your wine is likely to be made in a similar style year to year - a style that you recognize and like.  Wine ratings certainly serve a purpose but remember this - they are one person's opinion.  That rater likely tasted many wines, perhaps 100 or more, making the difference between a 90 point wine that you know you like and a 92

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A Photo Tour through Stags Leap District: Silverado Vineyards

April 5, 2011 High End ValuesHow To  No comments

In the middle of the Stags Leap District sits a rocky peak with a spectacular Tuscan style winery perched on top.  That winery is the iconic Silverado Vineyards, where we would found ourselves spending a beautiful Sunday afternoon during our three day tour of the district in which it lies.  The weather had shifted from sunny and warm to breezy and cloudy, with snow still falling on Mount St. Helena to the north.  As we stood on the back porch sipping a glass of Sangiovese Rose, we took in the view of the changing weather from what has to be the most beautiful place in Stags Leap.

Walking through the production area makes me realize how big this place is compared to some of the lesser-known wineries like Hartwell Estate.  But, much like Hartwell, Silverado controls every part of the winemaking process starting with the growing of the grapes in their own vineyards, mostly located in the Stags Leap District.  Unlike the vast majority of the wineries in the valley, Silverado bottles their own wines, much to the chagrin of winemaker Jon Emmerich, who we ran into in the barrel room.  Most wineries rent mobile bottling trucks the couple of times a year when they are needed, but keeping things in house makes sense for an operation the size of Silverado.  Emmerich considers it wasted space, confirming the winemaker as artist (not businessperson) mentality.

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A Photo Tour through the Stags Leap District: Steltzner Vineyards

March 22, 2011 How To  No comments

Our three day tour through Stags Leap began at Steltzner, a small operation on the east side of the Silverado Trail.  Allison Steltzner, daughter of founder Dick, was our host as we enjoyed the ambiance of the warm tasting room on a foggy February afternoon.  Dick was one of the first to plant in the valley in 1965 when he recognized what few had: the Stags Leap micro climate is uniquely suited to grow distinctive, long lived Cabernet.

At Steltzner, we tasted through a lineup of impressive wines starting with a nice rosé of Syrah that is very well priced at $10.50.  The Allison Rosé is named after the host herself who wanted to produce a Rose despite her dad telling her "I won't drink any pink s!#@".  Dick has changed his Rosé hating ways and now enjoys a glass of his daughter's wine next to the pool in the summer.

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A Photo Tour through the Stags Leap District: Hartwell Estate

March 15, 2011 Cellar WorthyHigh End ValuesHow To  One comment

As our guide at Hartwell Estate Winery said, "This is Cabernet country".  The Stags Leap AVA is indeed Cabernet country ever since Stag's Leap Wine Cellars put California Cabernet Sauvignon on the map when it won the famous 1976 Paris tasting.  Since then, wine production in Napa Valley has grown exponentially, but Cabernet from the Stags Leap District remains arguably the most sought after in the country.  This is the first in a series of posts where we will take a tour through this historical district of the Napa Valley.

A little known property on the west side of the Silverado Trial, Hartwell Estate should start to make it on the wine loving public's radar if the quality of their product is any indication.  The winery is perched near the top of a dormant volcano, offering sweeping views of the surrounding valley.  The Tuscan inspired look was inspired by Bob Hartwell's wife Blanca.  As is a common theme in the Napa Valley wine scene, Bob Hartwell didn't make his money selling wine, but rather in another industry, in his case aerospace.  It turns out Velcro might actually be a key ingredient to good wine, along with a great site and a talented winemaker.

That talented winemaker is Benoit Touquette assisted by consultant (and his mentor) the famed Michel Rolland.  As expected, no expense was spared at Hartwell.  From the $35,000 cement fermenting tanks (imported from France), to the 100% new French oak all of their Cabernet calls home, everything is top notch, and it shows!  In fact, I would say the Hartwell wines were the some of the best we tasted during our three days in the Stags Leap District.

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Video Blog: How to Fold a Wine Bottle Drip Guard

February 17, 2011 How To  2 comments

Lookout YouTube. has arrived with our first video blog.  This post answers a simple question: How can I get wine to stop dripping down the side of the bottle, staining my table and ruining the label?  Yes, you could buy one of those fancy rings or put a pouring spout on, but where's the fun in that?  Below, I will show you how to simply and easily fold a classy drip guard from a paper towel.  For my next act, I will video myself drinking an entire bottle of wine in 10 seconds.  Or not...

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Rating the Wine Raters

February 7, 2011 How To  One comment

Wine lovers are constantly citing a wine's accolades from the various rating outfits.  I believe buyers should consider a particular wine's ratings as one of a number of factors when making a purchasing decision.  Only after you know you like a particular wine's style, track record, and price should you look at the rating.

All of these publications spend their time judging wines.  Well today is their judgement day.  Read on as I rate the raters.

Cellar Tracker 100 points

Okay, so this doesn't completely fit the mold of a wine rating publication, but consider this: When the people/publications discussed below rate a given wine, they are formulating a score based on one or two sips on a day when they might have tasted 100 or more wines.  Cellar Tracker on the other

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A 92 point Chardonnay with a perfect pasta recipe.

December 15, 2010 Daily DrinkersHigh End ValuesHow To  One comment

What is it with Monterey Chardonnay?  Something about the cool climate produces Chardonnay with complexity and richness but with a cutting acid that keeps everything in balance.  The 2008 Bernardus Chardonnay is one of the best examples I've had this year, and at $16.95 it's a great value from one of Chardonnay's best regions.  In fact, 2008 seems to have been a better Chardonnay vintage in Monterey than it was in Napa and Sonoma.

That crisp acid and rich oak made this wine a perfect accompaniment to one of my favorite easy dinners, Sicilian pasta.  I attempted to do a video of how to make this pasta.  So the video wasn't too long, I chopped everything in advance and preheated the oil in the pan.   Unfortunately I got the oil too hot and nearly caught my kitchen on fire.  I'll attempt

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Prosciutto and Potato Pizza Recipe

November 17, 2010 How To  No comments

I posted a picture of my prosciutto and potato pizza on the Nickel and Dime Wine Facebook page yesterday, and a number of people asked for the recipe, so here ya go!  I love making pizza at home because it's easy and so much tastier than what you get at Domino's.  Before I get into the details of this particular pizza, here are keys to making a good pie:

1. Buy raw frozen or fresh dough at the grocery store.  Never buy already cooked pizza crust.  You can also try the local pizza parlor but my wife tried this and they wanted $14 per dough ball.  Not a good deal given their pizza is $18.  Raw fresh dought is around $1.50 at Fresh and Easy (my personal favorite) and Trader Joe's.

2. Cook all pizza as hot as your oven will go (mine is 550 degrees).

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