Saturday December 20, 2014SUBSCRIBE
New Jersey Monthly Magazine
Blanz, Sharla

Jersey Girl Plants West Coast Roots

Living in New Jersey, you run across all sorts if extraordinary people, often in the most ordinary places. At a recent fundraiser for my son’s elementary school, I was surprised to meet a fellow Montclair resident who is fulfilling her dream of running a winery in Oregon.

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Resolving My 2013 Resolutions

According to the marketing pitches I’ve received lately, my New Year’s resolutions should include taking Raspberry Ketone Extract to “drop 4 dress sizes just like Rachel Ray”; joining Weight Watchers; and subscribing to “Body-for-Life.” I’ve got some better, beverage-related ideas that will make 2013 a little more fun.

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Adding a Sparkler to Your Celebration

If you make it until midnight on New Year's Eve, chances are that you will be raising a glass of bubbly to toast the New Year. The good news is that there is a sparkling wine to fit any budget.

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Big Bottles Make Big Gifts

A wine gift can make an impact, especially when it’s out of the ordinary. To make a really big impact you might want to give a really big bottle of wine.

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Wine Gifts for Them (Not You)

Have you ever received a holiday gift that’s more about the giver than the receiver? Often such gifts hold subtle messages—such as a husband buying a vacuum cleaner for his wife. My husband will confess that I have received some of his favorite wine as a gift.

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Holiday Cocktails with Sparkle

This month’s issue of New Jersey Monthly is all about cocktails. Here are some additional ideas if you'd like to add some sparkle to the holidays with a sparkling wine cocktail.

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Think “Local” for Thanksgiving

With all of the devastation New Jersey and the surrounding areas have experienced in recent weeks, it surely will be a special comfort when family and friends gather this year for Thanksgiving.

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A Soft Spot for Hard Cider

Fall is the time harvesting grapes—as well as many other types of fruit that can be the basis for adult beverages, such as hard cider.

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Wine Festivals Pour it On

Fall continues to be a busy season for New Jersey’s wineries. In addition to the festivals I mentioned in a previous post here are a few more upcoming events around the Garden State:

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Wine and Headaches

Last week while chatting with my foodie friend Alison Bermack, the subject turned to wine. To my surprise, Alison informed me that she doesn’t enjoy wine because it usually gives her a headache.

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White Rioja: A Peach of a Pairing

If you’re familiar with Rioja wine from Spain, your first thought may be of the versatile red wine made in this region. But hang on a minute: 15 percent of Rioja wine is rosé and another 10 percent is white.

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Celebrating Jersey’s Grape Harvest

It’s harvest time in New Jersey’s vineyards and even though our winemakers are busy at work, they still have time to celebrate. The season kicks off this weekend with the Fourth Annual Summit Wine & Food Festival, a three-day celebration of fine spirits and dining.

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Mixing Merlot and Politics

In interviews about his new book, The Price of Politics, author Bob Woodward describes a meeting between House Speaker John Boehner and President Obama during which Boehner drank a Merlot while smoking a cigarette and the President enjoyed iced tea and chewed on Nicorette. Depending on your political point of view, this reference could be a shot in the arm for Merlot.

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A Champagne That Keeps Popping Up

It seemed wherever we went this summer, one name kept popping up on wine lists: Nicolas Feuillatte Champagne. I just couldn’t pass up having a glass.

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Manzanilla Sherry—Don’t Judge a Wine By Its Color

The first time I tasted a dry Sherry wine was at a blind tasting many years ago. I was beginning to gain some confidence in my tasting skills, which really means that I had just been drinking lots of wine for many years. Once a Fino Manzanilla was thrown into the mix my confidence was shattered.

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Celebrations of Wine and Food

While still savoring the last few weeks of summer, it’s not too early to think about September’s wine-and-food related festivities.

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A Revelation at Restaurant Latour

My husband and I have a routine when we go to an upscale restaurant. We begin the evening with a glass of Champagne and then order a red burgundy to share with dinner. We broke from that routine during a recent dinner at Restaurant Latour—and were rewarded with a wonderful wine discovery.

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From France, a White That Ages Well

Red is probably the first color that comes to mind when thinking about an aged wine, but many white wines age well, too. I opened one the other night: a 1996 Moulin Touchais, Coteaux du Layon from France.

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My Favorite Summer Beer

Jalapenos, chili rub, a dash of hot sauce. These ingredients seem to be included in every BBQ recipe I've seen this summer. Each can create a real wine pairing challenge—that’s why I spend a lot of the summertime reaching for a beer.

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Groovy Grüner Veltliner

I spent a summer in Austria years ago. I wish that I could say I had toured the vineyards and wineries that produce one of my favorite white wines, Grüner Veltliner. At the time, I was more into bars and beer. This was a long time ago. Please forgive me.

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Beating the Heat, Spanish-Style

I’ve been drinking rosé, Sancerre and lots of cold beer, this long, hot summer. For a change of pace, I’m thinking of Albariño, a light, flavorful white wine grown on the northwestern coast of Spain.

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Touring Latour

Enjoying an eyeful (and a taste) of the state’s most impressive wine collection. more

A Week of Wine by the Glass

"Should we order a bottle or wine by the glass?" This was the first question posed to me by my companions, as we took our seats at dinner each night during our recent vacation.

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Pink is the New White

Until recently, whenever I was sipping a pink wine, someone would comment, “I don't drink sweet wines.” Today the usual remark is, “Can I have some?”

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How Not to Get Drunk

“It looks like you’ll be training your dog, taking pictures and drinking everyday this summer,” the librarian commented. He assumed this based on the books my family was checking out at our public library.

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Sunshine and Wine

Summer is officially here. Not because the calendar says June 20, but because I’ve already finished a case of my favorite summer wine. Now I’m hoping it’s not sold out.

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Thanks for the (Sancerre) Memories

Particular scents elicit specific memories – good and bad. Many of my most pleasant memories are conjured up by the aromas of certain wines, and none more than Sancerre.

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Bellview Takes Top Jersey Wine Honors

Let’s hear it for Bellview Winery, named the 2012 Winery of the Year in the annual New Jersey Wine Competition conducted by Rutgers University Cooperative Extension. Bellview was one of 25 wineries showcasing 250 wines in this year’s competition.

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Good Wine or Bad, Open Those Bottles

“I collect bad bottles, because if the wine is ready and the person is there, I'm opening it.” states Ric Elias. This is an interesting statement; personally, I want to collect good bottles.

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Ship n’ Sip: NJ Eases Access to Local Wines

It’s time to celebrate. As of May 1, a new state law allows small wineries—those that produce under 250,000 gallons per year—to ship directly to New Jersey wine enthusiasts.

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Argentina Cries Out to Wine Lovers

While the spring weather is nourishing our vineyards in North America, the grape harvest is winding down south of the Equator.

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A Taste of French Diversity

I am often asked, “What is your favorite wine?” Well, that depends on what I’m eating, the season and the setting. But if I could only drink wine from only one country, I would choose France.

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Humor and Wine: A Perfect Pair

“Good humor is one of the preservatives of our peace and tranquility.” Thomas Jefferson, a wine lover and vintner, said that. He would probably agree that humor and wine are a good match. Doesn’t everything seem funnier after a few glasses of wine?

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Chill Out With a Chilean White Wine

White is the new red in Chile. Many of us are familiar with Chile’s delicious red wines made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Carmenère. Now Chile is producing some very palatable Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay white wines from their cool coastal regions.

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Wine Labeling: Simply Confusing

A friend of mine loves Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, and with good reason. It’s a fresh aromatic white wine with grapefruit tastes and bright acidity. But would she enjoy it just as much by a different name?

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Easter Dinner and Me: Not an Easy Pair

Wine pairing for Easter dinner should be easy. Riesling is a perfect match if you are serving ham, but if you’re having a heartier meal of lamb look for highly tannic bold reds such as Syrah or Cabernet Sauvignon.

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Israeli Wine for Passover

It’s spring, and Passover and Easter are almost upon us. The first of these holidays is Passover, which begins at sundown on Friday, April 6. Whether you are hosting a Seder or bringing wine as a guest, you may already be thinking about your choices.

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Rating the Wine Lists

As a wine lover, I’m pleased to report that New Jersey ranks fourth in the nation for per- capita wine consumption. By comparison, for every four glasses of wine a Jersey girl or guy raises to toast, someone from Mississippi is only drinking one.

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Get Educated in NJ About Wines

In this month’s March issue, you can read all about the past, present and future of New Jersey’s wine industry, get a taste profile of the Garden State’s wines and learn about building your own wine cellar. Your curiosity may be piqued and you might like to explore more about wine. Here are some places to start whether you are a novice, an enthusiast, or an enthusiastic novice.

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Spring Fever Means Spring Festivals

Spring is just around the corner and that means the start of a season filled with wine and food events in the Garden State. The season includes two major events the final weekend in March: the New Jersey Wine and Food Festival in Sussex County, and the Spring Fever Wine and Food Tasting in Monmouth County.

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Why Not Jersey Wines?

Why New Jersey wines now? Not a hard question by any means, yet I froze. Not just a chill, a freeze of glacial proportions. That was the first question posed to me by Andrew Meyer in a recent radio interview on WBGO Jazz FM 88.3. My first thought was: Why not?

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A Taste of Jersey Wines

As the saying goes, if you love what you do you’ll never work a day in your life. That certainly rang true while working on the March issue of New Jersey Monthly. It’s all about wine—specifically Jersey wines.

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Syrah and Shiraz: The Same Grape

Last week I conducted an Old World vs. New World wine tasting in a client’s home. This is one of my favorite tastings to do blindly because you have to rely on your senses; pre-conceived notions are useless.

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Everything's Coming Up Super

This week everything seems to be “super” to me, from Jersey’s own Super Bowl champion Giants (hooray!) to a category of wine called Super Tuscans.

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Toasting Italy, the Land of Wine

The February issue of New Jersey Monthly is all about Italian food. I thought we should give some equal time to Italian wine, which is as essential to the Italian dining experience as bread and pasta.

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Wines and Weather

The latest Wine Spectator Vintage Chart arrived recently as the first snow of winter was accumulating in my front yard. Given that we had a few feet of snow by this time last year, the flakes reminded me of how the weather changes from year to year.

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New Law is a Win-Win for Wine Lovers

The growth of New Jersey’s wine industry has long been stunted by what our vintners viewed as troublesome regulations. A reform bill signed into law this week should change all that—and could energize a growth spurt for the state’s wine biz.

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Be Happy, Drink Safely

The New Year celebrations are over and it seems all the fun is behind us. Today this seems to be especially true. Last month, I wrote about Champagne and wine gifts; this month I’m thinking about one of my Grandfather’s favorite sayings: “Everything in moderation.”

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Feasting on Fondue

A warm fire, the football playoffs (go Giants!) and cheese fondue are long-standing winter traditions in my home. This traditional Swiss dish not only goes well with wine but also has wine as a main ingredient.

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A Happy New Year Ahead for Jersey Wine Biz?

As 2011 draws to a close, New Jersey winemakers are eagerly awaiting a vote in the state Assembly that will affect the future of the Garden State wine industry.

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Ring in the New Year With Something Unique

As the New Year approaches, I like to think that each year is unique, with its own milestones. In that spirit, I will be welcoming in 2012 with a Champagne that is also unique.

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Fitting Gifts for Wine-Loving Friends

I generally don’t buy a bottle of wine because I like the label, but sometimes rules are meant to be broken (I hope my kids don’t read this). This exception is for gift-giving, if a wine’s name or label appropriately fits the recipient.

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Gifts to Cheer Your Favorite Wine Lover

There is no dearth of wine gifts and accessories. I entered “wine” in the search field of Amazon’s website and was able to find more than 317,000 matches, all while in the comfort of my own home. Holiday shopping is so much better than it used to be. Here are a few suggestions to help you narrow your choices.

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The Bubbly That Doesn’t Break the Bank

A bubbly wine is a universal sign of a celebration. But how do you give your holiday event that extra sparkle while staying within a reasonable budget? The answer: Prosecco.

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Bigger is Better, Sometimes

Bigger is better—at least for some things, such as my hair and shoulder pads in the ’80s. When it comes to wine during the holidays, I’m still stuck in that decade: Bigger bottles can be better for a large holiday feast.

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Hot’s Not Good for Red Wine

It’s going to happen again this holiday season. With the oven on high in the kitchen, a blazing fire in the living room and lots of warm bodies in the house, it’s inevitable that I will serve my red wine too warm.

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Something’s Brewing in New Jersey

I’ve visited a number of breweries, but never participated in the actual process of brewing. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, beer has been brewed since 6,000 AD. I’m glad to have some good friends that have been carrying on this centuries-old tradition.

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Wine, Beer Alcohol Levels: Not Created Equal

Last week my family and I visited Penn State University and stopped by a local bar before dinner. It was our first stop of the evening, and I did not want to over indulge. In the mood for a cold beer, I asked our waitress if she knew the alcohol content of the Victory Hop Devil. Her response: “One beer is equal to one wine.”

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Perfect Pairings for Apple Pie

I practice what I preach. Last week, I wrote about combining family activities and vineyard tours. This week I have more than 100 apples in my kitchen. (Yes, we hit the orchards, too.) What’s a girl to do with all of these apples? Make apple pie and pair it with wine, of course.

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Vineyard Visits: Bring the Family

As much as I wish all of my travel revolved around vineyards and wineries, this would not go over well with the rest of my family. My sons are still in elementary school, and are more interested in grape juice than the fermented version. With that in mind, here are a few New Jersey day trips that include vineyards and other family activities.

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The Case for Cleanliness

Call me a freak, but I’m a stickler when it comes to cleanliness. And that’s especially true when it comes to wine glasses.

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Soave Ready to Span the Generations

There seems to be a generation gap when it comes to Soave for the American wine drinker. If the name rings a bell, you also remember muscle cars and listening to the Eagles at high school graduation. If Soave is new to you, hip-hop was probably on your iPod when you graduated.

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Where am I? Heritage Vineyards

High-quality wine is made from high-quality grapes. Who better to produce those grapes than a fifth-generation farmer tending to his family’s fruit? Am I referring to a vineyard in France or Italy? No, this is about Heritage Vineyards right here in the Garden State.

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Drinking Wine: Pour on the Fun

I had fun drinking wine at the Summit Wine and Food Festival. Maybe that doesn’t seem like news, but it was a revelation for me. And I owe it all to one of the sessions I attended there.

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Now is the Time to Taste Barolo

A festival is defined as an occasion for feasting or celebration. There are community festivals, religious festivals, and many others, but the kind of festival that piques my interest has either food or wine in the title. The Summit Wine and Food Festival this weekend meets both of my criteria. There will be celebrity chefs, sommeliers, cooking demonstrations and wine tastings.

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A Glass of Chablis, Please

Years ago, when I first started ordering wine, my standard request was for “a glass of Chablis.” I had witnessed an attractive, sophisticated woman order this and decided that if it was good enough for her, it was good enough for me.

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India Pale Ale, American-Style

When I’m not drinking wine, chances are I’ll be enjoying a nice cold beer. Years ago, my criteria for the foamy stuff were cheap and flavorless, in that order. Lately, craft breweries have emerged, providing beer lovers with more flavorful options.

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A Taste for Blind Tastings

One of the events I’m looking forward to at this year’s Summit Wine and Food Festival is the blind tasting. If you’ve never experienced a blind tasting, have no fear. No blindfolds are needed—and you won’t be spun around in a circle until dizzy and asked to pin a tail on a donkey.

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Sparkling Wine at Sparkling Prices

“The wonderful thing about Paris is that you can get French Champagne at domestic prices,” states Roland Young (as C.J. Dabney) in the 1949 film The Great Lover. If you are not in Paris this summer but in New Jersey like me, you can still find worthy sparklers that are easy on the wallet.

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Champagne in the Summer? Why not?

At a cookout this summer one of my friends popped open a bottle of Champagne to celebrate another friend’s birthday. We toasted, drank a glass, and then everyone moved on to wine or beer. Except for me: I poured myself another glass.

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A Taste of Santa Barbara

“Do you live in town?” asked the woman pouring our wine at the Corks n’ Crowns tasting room in Santa Barbara, California. “No, we’re from New Jersey,” I responded, but I felt flattered that we were blending so seamlessly into this community with a wine region nearby and fabulous weather.

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American Wine for An All-American Day

Ancestry.com is constantly emailing me with hints “that could lead you to new facts about your family tree.” The Zinfandel grape went through this experience years ago.

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Wine Cocktails: A Good Mix for Summer Eves

“Drinking is a way of ending the day,” said Ernest Hemingway. Personally, I like ending my summer days with one of several favorite cocktails that include wine.

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Wine on the Rocks? Not for Me

After discussing chilling wine in my previous post, I was asked about the subject of ice cubes in wine.

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Wines to Cool Down as NJ Heats Up

When it’s 96 degrees in Jersey, it’s time to reach for a refreshing drink. On the top of my list are cold beer and chilled white wine, but don’t serve these beverages at the same temperature. Most beer is best cold, while white wine should only be moderately chilled.

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A Guide to the Garden State’s Wineries

New Jersey has plenty of wineries. Now it has a guidebook to help us appreciate the Garden State’s bounty of grape.

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Don’t Judge a Wine by its Color

“I never thought I’d see my brother sipping pink wine while holding a miniature poodle,” quipped my husband’s brother. Are pink wines and small fluffy dogs not masculine? Looks can be deceiving. Why is there a misconception that pink wine, also known as rosé, is sweet and feminine?

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The Long and Short of Aging

“Contrary to popular opinion, only a small subgroup of wines benefit from extended bottle aging,” according to the Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson. This may mean that the special bottle you’ve been saving, may have been better if opened sooner.

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Wines—Like People—Have Their Peaks

I played tennis for years and it should have been easier for me to recognize when my performance peaked. It was at the point when I wasn’t getting any better, no matter how hard I tried, and believe me, I tried. The same goes for wine.

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Turning On to ‘Vine Talk’

It’s no surprise that I am already a fan of “Vine Talk,” the new series on PBS. Vines are essential to produce my beverage of choice and talking happens to be one of my favorite pastimes.

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Flights before a Flight

Dashing through Concourse C at Newark Liberty Airport recently, a new establishment caught my eye—Vino Volo. Yes, the terminal has its own stylish wine bar.

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Malbec Has its Day

“Every dog has its day”—and these days, so do some grapes. Take April 17, which has been declared Malbec World Day.

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Big Winemaking Dreams

I like to dream big. Growing up, my dreams mimicked Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, with yachts, fabulous parties and endless Champagne. My current fantasy is to own a winery and vineyard. That dream is likely to remain unfulfilled, but there is another option to satisfy my winemaking whim.

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Wine Down the Drain

A friend of mine poured a case of red wine down the drain recently. “Why?” I asked. She said that she was saving the wine but it had developed “stuff” in the bottle. That stuff is sediment.

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A Beaujolais for All Seasons

Beaujolais wine deserves attention year-round — yet it gets the most attention in late November, when each year’s Beaujolais Nouveau is released. It reminds me of the movie industry with its strong promotional push around the Academy Awards at the end of February.

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Irish Beer for an Irish Day

It would be nice if I could write about Irish wine to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, but that presents a challenge. There are few vineyards in Ireland due to the cool climate. Lucky for me, I also enjoy a good pint.

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The Drift on Corked Wine

The moment I brought the glass to my nose, I knew it was bad. My wine was “corked.” The smell is distinct; for me, it conjures up memories of an old wet basement and hours laboring with a wet vac.

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Let’s Talk Tannins

A friend asked if I was going to call this post “Get a Grip!” because that’s what tannins can be—gripping. They can also be astringent, harsh, mellow, smooth, velvety, coarse, fine or grainy. These are all tactile descriptions because you can feel tannins in your mouth, but not taste or smell them.

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Viva Rioja!

Good news for Rioja producers and American wine drinkers: Rioja’s exports to the U.S. have increased 33 percent in the past year according to Vibrant Rioja, an organization whose goal is “to introduce the extraordinary wines of Rioja to American wine lovers.”

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Green Wine and Little Vacations

“Would you like to have the green wine or the white?” That question was posed recently to me and my friend, Carla, at Taste of Portugal in the Ironbound section of Newark. “Green, of course” was our response.

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There’s Grapefruit in My Wine

How can wine have flavors of grapefruit, apple, peach and green pepper? It’s just grape juice, right? Well, fermented grape juice to be exact.

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The Perfect Couple: Dark Chocolate & Port

Valentine’s Day is a time to decelerate, quit texting and spend time with the ones we love. A gift of something sweet—like chocolate—is often part of the ritual. Paired with the right wine, that sweet treat is emblematic of a perfect match.

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Fortified – for Portability

Lately, so much of what I eat and drink is fortified. My cereal is fortified with vitamins and minerals, my orange juice is fortified with calcium, and even the Port wine I drank last night is fortified, but not with anything that will make my bones stronger.

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Post-Holiday Wine—on a Budget

My holiday credit card bills have arrived, and I feel the need to tighten my belt in more ways than one. When it comes to wine, I look for values in the under-$15 range. Here are a few that I’ve recently tried.

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Feeling Spicy?

If you like spicy food and also enjoy wine, I have one word for you: “Gewurztraminer.”

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Never Having to Say You’re Sorry

Have you ever gone into a wine store and apologized before you bought a bottle? If your answer is “yes,” you are not alone.

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When Ice is Nice

With snow still blanketing our neck of the woods, here’s part two of my discussion of ice wine.

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Warming Up to Ice Wine

Having grown up in Buffalo, it makes perfect sense that I love Ice Wine. And with New Jersey enduring some Buffalo-like weather lately, this might be the right time for the Garden State to warm up to Ice Wine.

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