Video: Winemaker Mark Beringer on why the 2012 vintage was stellar

Winemaker Mark Beringer being interviewed

The 2012 vintage in Sonoma and Napa was legendary – lauded by many a wine writer as well as those who really know, the winemakers. The red wines from 2012 are starting to hit the shelves and I wanted to find out the real deal on the hype. So I had a chat with Mark Beringer, a fifth generation winemaker at Artesa Winery in Sonoma’s Carneros region who has wine in his veins. I figured this guy would know the scoop.

Read more: Video: Winemaker Mark Beringer on why the 2012 vintage was stellar

Wine review: Brancott Flight Song 2013 Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc

Sometimes less alcohol goes a long way. Imagine sitting by the pool or enjoying a spring picnic with some cool white wine in the GoVino or plastic wine glass. Less alcohol will allow you to enjoy this scene a bit longer — lingering over tasty snacks or ogling the people at the pool. Kinda dreamy, huh? Brancott Estates, known for their New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs, has launched a new line of wines called Flight Song, pimping them as having 20% less calories (than their other wines). And lower alcohol. About 4% less alcohol actually, weighing in a 9%.

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Food and wine pairing heaven: Sweet Vouvray and blue cheese

Foreau Demi Sec 2011

Some wines are for everyday… you knock them back without a care or thought. Those are freeing and ephemeral days. But then, there are wines that give pause… stay in your memory like your first dance with a sweetie. They grab you and hang on for the ride. I recently experienced a sexy slow dance . Tasted back in November, I still remember the wine’s sensations and flavors. But not necessarily when I drank it alone — it’s really too sweet for my palate. But when I paired it with some salty, creamy, thick-veined blue cheese, it transformed. My tweet read: “Blue cheese + Foreau Demi Sec is freakin’ unbelievable”. Not sure I need to say more.

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French wine review: Domaine Bruno Clair 2010 Marsannay “Les Vaudenelles”

Bruno Clair 2010 Marsannay

Discovered during a blind tasting, I mistook this stellar red Burgundy for a Chambolle Musigny, a Côtes de Nuits wine region up the road which can be twice the price. This Bruno Clair hails from Marsannay, a newer, French village-level appellation (established in 1987) which is no slouch Burgundy wine region. The Pinot Noir grapes, from which this gorgeous wine is made, are aptly worshiped in this area of the world. It shows.

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Sparkling wine and Champagne: Bubblies for all budgets

champagne glasses

‘Tis the season to grab the bubblies and head to parties (or host your own at home). About 80% of all sparkling wine sales happen between November 1 and December 31st — there’s something about celebrating the holidays which creates a Pavlovian response to sparkles in our glass. We. Must. Drink. Them. And drink them we shall… whether you have a Hamilton or a Franklin in your wallet, it’s easier these days to toast with bubbles. Fairly easy to find through the U.S., ask for these wines by name at your local indie wine retailer.

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White wine review: Franciscan 2012 Equilibrium Napa Valley

Franciscan Equilibrium 2012

Sweet wines are everywhere. Previously eschewed for fear of being snubbed by snobs, wineries now proudly tout their full-frontal sugar on their labels. Consumers who love dessert for their appetizer should be in high heaven. Leading the pack is Moscato, whose popularity has shot up like blood sugar after a glass of it. But, sadly, most Moscatos lack balance. When I first started drinking wine in Europe, Swiss-grown Muscat (as it is called in French) tantalized my palate with sweetness and acidity. I reveled in its dry finish after my tongue feasted on a fruit salad of apricots, peaches and juicy, red apple. I had not experienced this same sensation in a wine until recently in Franciscan’s 2012 Equilibrium from Napa.

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Celebrity wine review: Train's Soul Sister Pinot Noir

Soul Sister Pinot Noir

As a general rule, wines embellished with a celebrity name aren’t particularly well made. Relying on their fame to sell the wine, they siphon schlock into a bottle and call it a profitable day. (Read my blast of this trend from a few years ago.) But I have admit that the pop group Train at least tried to make a decent Pinot Noir. Jimmy Stafford, the quiet lead guitarist for Train, is a huge wine fan and teamed up with California winemaker, James Foster, to make their line of Save Me San Francisco wines last year. James is Senior Winemaker at The Wine Group, the same company that introduced generic Flip Flop Wines, Franzia and Big House to the wine drinking public. Not a huge endorsement for making great juice, so I didn’t have major expectations when I popped the (fake) cork on this bottle of 2011 Soul Sister Pinot Noir.

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The beauty of wine and food pairings: Carmenere meets quinoa mushroom risotto

Quinoa Mushroom Risotto

I’m a quinoa lover. Although I love my animal protein, this savory, high protein grain is a savior to many vegetarians. Quinoa originated in the Andes mountains and is super versatile, has a uniquely nutty flavor and substitutes for practically any nutritionally neutral grain (think white rice or pasta). I featured a mushroom and quinoa risotto on my site late last year, but this recipe — recently enjoyed at a wine luncheon — sadly puts it to shame in the flavor department. The host chef, Ruth Van Warebeek, works for Concha y Toro in Chile and she paired this delectable recipe with a 2011 Marques de Casa Concha Carmenere (CAR min YARE), a grape originally from France now happily residing in Chile’s welcoming climes and soils. Marques de Casa Concha created a soft, silky yet robust Carmenere that cozies up to food in a friendly way.

Read more: The beauty of wine and food pairings: Carmenere meets quinoa mushroom risotto