Monday, July 13, 2020

The French Wine Revolution and Bastille Day Let's Drink

Photographer Marie Ormieres
French Wine Maker Gerard Bertrand

I really miss live wine tastings, I mean REALLY miss them.

With the pandemic forcing the cancelation of large gatherings--and for a time any gatherings--our world has shifted to the virtual realm and it's just not the same. Especially when it comes to wine tastings.

I so enjoy the interactions and discussions during wine tastings, which of course you can still have virtually. But then I'm left with a bunch of open bottles and very few people to share them with.

What is wonderful about virtual tastings is getting to see friends and colleagues from around the country and world. I look forward to seeing who logs in to each one so we can chat on the side.

At the beginning of the month I joined a group of wine friends in a tasting entitled The French Wine Revolution. It was hosted by one of my favorite French winemakers, Gerard Bertrand.

In advance of the tasting I received a box full of goodies from several of his wineries, all in the Languedoc region of Southern France.

Lining up ones for The French Wine Revolution virtual tasting
I was thrilled to see four of the Cotes des Roses. These are the most beautiful, artful bottles. The glass on the bottom is cut to look like a rose and they come with a glass enclosure. The bottles I received were 375ml but they also come in the traditional 750ml as well as large formats.

Photographer Geoffrey Lucas
Cotes des Roses wine bottles
The rose was refreshing with red fruit and character.  The sauvignon blanc was crisp and citrusy, a kind of cross between Sancerre and New Zealand styles. The chardonnay was tropical with flavors of peach and even a touch of mint on the finish. Finally, the pinot noir was light and acidic with black currant.

These wines were actually second in the order of the tasting.

We began with an overview of a few of Bertrand's 16 vineyards, along his wine making philosophy where the earth is first. He takes great pride in biodynamic farming and operating practices, and you can literally taste the difference these efforts make.

Virtual tasting with winemaker Gerard Bertrand
While he talked about taking care of the earth and the vines, we sipped Gris Blanc, Bertrand's most successful rose in Europe.

Photographer Marie Ormieres
Made from Grenache Gris, a grape with a pinkish grey skin, it makes you salivate. Light and minerals with a bit of strawberry, it's a most perfect hot weather wine.

Two wines in the Art de Vivre collection were next. The striking, heavy clay bottles are an homage to Greek and amphoras that were traditionally used to age wine.

Art de Vivre Clairette du Languedoc Adissan is a white wine that smells like pineapple. Made from clairette, it was fresh and fruity and fun with a lingering finish

The Art de Vivre red consists of syrah, grenache and Mourvèdre. A young wine it was complex with black fruits (red on the finish) and herbs such as thyme. I immediately wanted lamb.

Photographer Marie Ormieres

The final wine came from Bertrand's iconic Chateau L'Hospitalet. The award winning 2018 Grand Vin Red, is another blend of syrah, grenache and Mourvèdre. It smells full with white pepper and strawberry. With good tannins and structure, it's a wine that will only get better with time.

One of the best things about these virtual tastings is that many are recorded. If you missed this when it was live you can still watch it here. Purchase the wines locally or via and taste along.

BUT WAIT...there's more...another live event tomorrow, July 14th. 

On Bastille Day (July 14th) Bertrand is hosting another master class--with a twist. He's teaming up with chef Tim Kilcoyne to raise awareness and support for World Central Kitchen. Kilcoyne is director of chef operations of the food organization that was founded by renowned chef Jose Andres.

Chef Tim Kilcoyne in action with World Central Kitchen
The organization's mission is to provide meals to communities in need, those suffering from natural disasters such as hurricanes, and most recently COVID-19 relief. The operation is massive, it is impressive and it has made a difference in the lives of millions of people around the world

You can taste through the Cotes des Rose with Bertrand and Kilcoyne during the French Wine Revolution and Bastille Day event which begins at 1pm EST. Sign up here.

I can't think of a better way to celebrate Bastille Day while being "safer at home" this year. See you online.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Oregon Wine Month with Erath

May is Oregon Wine Month.

So many amazing wines are coming from this great state; especially ones that are low production and higher costs. But what about some every day wines?

I get calls on a regular basis from friends in bigger retailers and grocery stores who need help   selecting a wine for dinner or similar gathering.

Erath is one vineyard that consistently produces value wines. I recently tried the 2017 Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, along with a lovely Rose of Pinot  Noir, along with my Grape Minds co-host Julie Glenn and Erath winemaker Gary Horner.

He has an interesting story and takes a look back at what has made Oregon such a great wine making state.

Check it out here...

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Virtual Tasting with the Legendary Domaines Barons de Rothschild

Nothing takes the place of a face to face wine tasting with a wine maker. However, in these times of social distancing it's not an option. Like so many industries, there is a shift to virtual gatherings.

Wineries have come up with a variety of ways to connect with owners, wine makers and wine experts. has created an entire tasting series complete with celebrity vintners and with wines that have wide appeal.

It's quite simple. Select the tasting you want to participate in, sign up, and the wines are shipped right to your door.

I recently participated in a tasting with Saskia de Rothschild, chairwoman of the legendary Domaines Baron de Rothschild (Lafite).

We tasted four of Saskia's wines from the family's vineyards around the world. She tasted along from her home in France, commenting on the history of the properties and vines, while sharing what she was tasting and smelling in each of the four wines.

We began with Chateau d'aussières Chardonnay; a delightful surprise for me. From the Corbieres Valley in Langeudoc, it was rich but not oaky or buttery, rather fresh with lots of minerals, nice acidity, and citrus. My Sauvignon blanc drinking friends loved it.

Next was CARO Amancaya; a partnership with the famous Catena family in Argentina. A blend of malbec and cabernet sauvignon it was a beautiful deep ruby color, with flavors of cherries, fig, caramel and pepper. I finished it later with pasta and it was perfect.

Moving to neighboring Chile we tried Los vascos Grande Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. It smelled like violets and eucalyptus and had soft tannins. I tasted dark fruits like cherry and plum and agreed tis Saskia's suggestion of chilling it a bit and serving with grilled veggies.

Finally we moved to Bordeaux, where Saskia's roots are. Only the Chateau L 'Evangile Blason de L'Evangile was from the right bank; most of family's legendary vineyards are on the left. From the famous Pomerol region, it was predominantly merlot with a little cabernet franc as well. The wine was sensual and big, but still balanced.

The tastings are also recorded; if you miss the live event, you can still get in on the wine fun. Here is Saskia's. 

If there are too many wines in the tasting for you to open at once, you simply click on the link and pick back up with the next wine when you are ready. I unashamedly uncorked them all.

The majority of people tuning in would never have the opportunity to meet Saskia or visit all of the wineries featured here. It's a great way to learn and enjoy some delicious wines while sheltering at home.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Seafood Treasures Summer Dining

Summer may be hot and humid--and a tad stormy--in Southwest Florida, but it's one of the best times of the year for dining.

The number of summer dining specials at great establishments increases dramatically with things such as prefix menus and half off bottles of wine to name a few. For the rest of the month of August, Tarpon Bay at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point in Bonita Springs is one of them. 

The Summer Treasures Dining Special includes three courses (really four if you count the amuse bouche which is much more than a bite) and a bottle of wine.

My evening began with a nice, cold dirty martini while listening to the hum of jazz music coming from the alcove. Speaking of music, the restaurant puts on a killer Jazz Brunch on Sundays. 

The amuse is a ceviche of the chef's choosing; there are eight on the menu. On the particular night I dined, the selection was salmon with sweet chili, almond and cucumber on a crisp plantain chip; it took the edge off and got us excited about the next course.

Diners have two choices for each of the remaining courses. Next up was a 'naughty' (my description, not the chef's) roasted corn bisque topped with a corn fritter or a 'nice' spinach salad with citrus filets, feta cheese dust, red onion and Champagne vinaigrette. I opted for the naughty; it was sweet and decadent. 

The meal comes with a bottle of wine, made by the famous Michael Mondavi exclusively for Hyatt. I was pleasantly surprised that my options weren't white or red, rather several whites and several reds. In other words a pinot, cab or merlot, to which we selected the pinot noir. It was fruity and easy.

The entree course is a surf and turf with options; we love options. A petit fillet comes with either blackened shrimp or the catch of the day. The filet is cooked to your preference then topped with an herbaceous chimichurri and served over a bed of southern grits with a side of perfectly steamed, fresh vegetables. 

For me, the portions sizes were perfect; enough to be filling but not so much that if you didn't wear stretchy pants you would be uncomfortable. It also helped that the dessert was on the lighter side.

Gluten-free, the mango and strawberry shortcake with coconut cream in a martini glass. Cheers!

The Seafood Treasures dining special for two continues through August 31st and it is $90. Although Tarpon Bay is at the Hyatt, non-guests are welcome and your parking will be validated. Stay and enjoy the beautiful grounds, listen to music and maybe even continue indulging with smores around the fire pit or an after dinner drink.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Unboxing Wine-- Frosé

I've been waiting on this box to finish a story....

I've never been able to buy into the whole Frosé thing...not sure why. Maybe this will change my mind? The directions on this say I can add wine (even sparkling) AND vodka, so this could just be the ticket.

I put it to the test at a friends house and will post the story when it is published. No spoilers.

Monday, April 22, 2019

It's always fun when UPS shows up

This unboxing is cool because I wrote about the Four Virtues Bourbon Barrel Aged Zinfandel in a column last year focusing on wines for grilling. So I'm looking forward to seeing how the cabernet holds up. Oh, and I can't forget about the pinot too. I'll post the results or links to the articles when they go live.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Farm To Glass Gin

You've mostly likely been to or at least heard about farm to table restaurants where chefs source food from local farms. Among other benefits, one of the most appealing is that the ingredients are fresher than those typically shipped.

I had never heard the term farm to glass spirits until I learned about Eau Claire from Canada. It is uniquely designated as a certified farm distillery. Owners compare the designation to that of an estate winery.

The ingredients used to distill the gin come from carefully sourced local grains. In addition, the natural botanicals are distilled along with the grains. The result is an amazingly smooth flavor and mouth feel. 

It is a London-style dry gin that has floral notes along with juniper, citrus, and spice, none of which are overpowering. Ideally suited for a gin martini.

Sunday afternoon I decided to try Eau Claire's gimlet recipe with a gin loving friend. Refreshing and so good, I could easily see getting into trouble with these. If you're searching for a new gin to try, give this one a go!

Parlour Gin Gimlet
2 oz Parlour Gin
3/4 oz fresh lime juice
3/4 oz simple syrup
Shake with ice and strain
Garnish with cucumber wheel or lime wedge

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

This delivery is pretty awesome as Pahlmeyer makes some impressive wines.

I'm torn with the Proprietary Red. Pahlmeyer has been producing this for 30 years. What I'm torn between is opening it now and being patient, letting it sit a few years. This wine has an amazing aging potential. 80% cab the rest merlot, cab franc, petit verdot and malbec. It's also pricey ($200) and not something I want to uncork with takeout on a Tuesday. This one deserves to be shared with special friends.

Decisions Decisions

Saturday, March 30, 2019


When I first heard of the "unboxing" phenomena, I really thought, this is the dumbest thing ever-- unless you are a friend of mine who does it. In that case it's BRILLIANT.

Unboxing is as simple as it sounds, taking things out of a box--filming and posting it on social media. I guess it's better than throwing slices of cheese on your toddlers face and filming that.

Then I got to thinking about it. I get excited every time a box of wine is delivered to my house. Sometimes I know what to expect, but more often than not I don't or quite frankly I have forgotten what's coming.

When I have friends over they too are excited to see what's hidden inside of that cardboard, what they might be helping me taste in a day or two, after things settle down in the bottle.

So I'm going to give it a go, not every delivery because once again, I'll forget. I will tell you that I was SUPER excited about this when it arrived, but didn't get that part on film, I'm learning..

The reason I was so excited about this? There are only 1843 bottles of this Besserat de Bellefon Cuvee 1843...and mama now has one. The packaging is beautiful and I can hardly wait to pop this cork and tell everyone about it.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Sharing Stories and Wine With Kimberly Jones

One of the best things about wine, besides sharing it with friends and enjoying it with food, is learning the stories behind it.

I met Kimberly Jones, founder of Kimberly Jones Selections several years ago and we hit it off immediately. I was fascinated by the story behind her becoming a successful wine importer and distributor. How she now has so many connections and friends in the wine world that she partners with big names to make wines.

And how with a phone call, she can get wines in front of famous wine critics who can make or break a brand.

Julie Glenn and I recently sat down with her for an episode of our Grape Minds Podcast, where she shared some of her journey over some new wine releases.

Hope you enjoy the conversation as much as we did. Please subscribe to Grape Minds. It's not a stuffy wine podcast by any means.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Good to Grill at The Melting Pot

It's been years since I've sat down for a dining experience at The Melting Pot, but I did just that with a group of fellow food writers and enthusiasts last week to check out the fondue restaurant's new tabletop grilling feature.

The Melting Pot is known for its interactive dining around bubbling cauldrons of goodness, which famously includes decadent melted cheese accompanied by a tray of crudité, bread, and apples for dipping. That's precisely where we began the evening.

Mixing the cheese for our first course
The cheese fondue we enjoyed was mixed in a base of white wine, garlic, and vegetable bouillon. Our server added a dollop of cream cheese and waited for it to melt appropriately before adding Wisconsin cheddar and Emmenthaler.

Before mixing and stretching for effect, a sprinkling of black pepper and black truffle salt was added. Our server kept a close eye on temperature to ensure the cheese maintained the appropriate texture and level of heat; no rooftop burns thank you. It was delightfully good and hard to stop eatting, especially with the chunks of pretzel bread. The next day had me thinking about the unlimited cheese and chocolate fondue offered at the bar for happy hour...hmmmmm.

After a fresh salad with strawberries and goat cheese, a cast iron grill was placed on the burner in the middle of the table for the debut of the new cooking style. We had an entree combination course of garlic pepper angus sirloin, peppercorn filet, and sweet and spicy shrimp.

Steak and shrimp seasoned and ready for the grill
The entrees come with a plate of vegetables that includes asparagus, zucchini, and mushroom caps, and sampling dishes of six signature sauces for dipping and mixing at will: gorgonzola, green goddess, spicy cocktail, mild curry, teriyaki, and ginger plum.

Tabletop grilling in progress
We were given suggestions and instructions, including precautions on transferring the raw meat, and then left to our own creativity and cooking styles. The meat was tender, the seasoning so good it was almost a shame to experiment with the flavorful sauces but we did anyway.

When we flipped over the mushroom caps, we filled them with green goddess for a flavorful treat. The cooking time was quick, except for the vegetables, and placing only a couple of protein items on the grill at a time ensured they stayed the optimal temperature for eating.

Traditionally, guests at The Melting Pot choose between fondue pots filled with various broths and oils for cooking vegetables and meats. While it's not fondue, there is something about the grill that is fun to watch and feels healthful. It did get a little smoky for us at one point and our server adjusted the grill temperature to help.

The last of the four course dining experience was the famous dessert fondue. The  menu has a number of options or you can create your own combination. Ours was White Chocolate Strawberries Foster.

A dash of cinnamon adds sparks to the White Chocolate Strawberries Foster Fondue.
I can still smell the white chocolate, dulce de leche, strawberries, and cinnamon combo. The addition of the cinnamon after a dash of alcohol produced festive sparks; perfect for Instagram stories.

One of my favorite things about dining here is that things are not rushed. It's a place that fosters conversation, it's fun, it's romantic, it's whatever you want it to be. And the best part, the food is fresh and good.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Pinot Party

I was lamenting last weekend about not being able to attend the fabulous International Pinot Noir Celebration in Oregon, yet again. 

So to sooth my sorrows I decided to host my own pinot party.

It was also a good way to turn a party into a story for my next wine column in the Fort Myers News-Press; Gina Drinks. I opened almost a case of pinot noir, mostly from California with a couple of selections from Chile and New Zealand thrown in for giggles.

My friends actually cooperated quite well, at least in the beginning, offering impressions of the wines, guessing how much they cost, etc. As the night went on, it got a little more difficult and a lot more fun. Thanks to all who participated in helping me with this latest column which you can read here. You'll see I focused on California. With Oregon and Burgundy being the motherships when it comes to pinot, those will come another time. 

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Retired Firefighter Turned Winemaker

Earlier this year I was fortunate enough to attend an epic tasting through 6 decades of Charles Krug Vintage Selection Cabernet Sauvignon in Napa. We started with a 1964 vintage. Did I say epic?

I caught a ride from the airport with Ray Hanson, owner of Destiny Wine Tours. As we chatted it up on the drive from SFO to Napa I learned about his past life as a firefighter and how he now makes wine from the cabernet sauvignon growing on his property.

He was so kind as to give me a bottle to try which I feature in my Memorial Day wine column for the Fort Myers News-Press, "Gina Drinks." Since I have a limited word count, I wanted to share an excerpt from our conversation during our ride.

Not only does Ray talk about his wine, but what it was like as a retired fireman, to go through last year's devastating fires. Take a listen:

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

An Afternoon of Drinking with Rob Mondavi Jr

Drinking bubbles with Rob Mondavi Jr in Naples
I recently was privileged to spend an afternoon drinking wine with Rob Mondavi Jr., winemaker at for the family's Michael Mondavi Family Estates in Napa Valley, California.

We tasted through his current releases at The Continental on the famous 3rd Street South in Naples, Fl, over an amazing array of food.

During the course of the tasting Rob sat with us telling stories of the vineyard, the fires, the wines in our glasses and even through the tragic tales, there were lots of laughs. It was also the most beautiful afternoon in Southwest Florida and since we had also shared our mutual love for bubbles, there was no escaping a bottle.

Walking across the street to Sea Salt, where Rob had a wine dinner scheduled later that night, we ordered a bottle of Schramsberg before calling it a day.

Read about Rob's current releases with Michael Mondavi Family Estate and which wines survived the fire here.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Wine That Works; New Years Resolutions

Have you made or are you still in the process of making resolutions and setting goals for the New Year. Better health is one of the most popular declarations, loosing weight, eating better, etc. Why do so many people fail? I say it's because while challenging yourself, you still need to be realistic.

You don't have to eliminate wine from your diet. Cut back? Sure. Lower calorie wine options? Even better. And these are actually good...story here from my latest column in the Fort Myers News-Press.