2017 Holiday Gift Guide for Winos

Happy Holidays Winos!

We know how hard it can be to find creative presents this time of year. What do you get for that wino who already has everything? Let your fave wine bloggers help you out. Here’s our 2017 wino gift guide to help with all your holiday shopping! (Click the word links for buying options!)

Merchandise:

Wino T-shirts from Francesca’s!

Burgundy Labeled Bottle Umbrella

Wine bottle umbrellas from Vinrella 

 I%27m Real Holiday Red Wine Face Mask  Unwined Red Wine 10 In 1 Leave-In Spray

Wine/Grape health benefit beauty products from TonyMoly and HASK sold at ULTA

Sonoma Mulled Zin...Sonoma Cabernet Iced...Sonoma Rosé...Sonoma Chardonnay...Organic Milk Thistle...

Sonoma Wine Teas for the season and Milk Thistle Tea to CLEANSE THE LIVER from Republic of Tea

Wine Folly’s Guide to Wine Book

Wine Tools:

Kristen’s Favorite adjustable wine aerator from HOST

Cat Wine Bottle Opener

Rose Gold Cat Wine Opener from Kohls

Emergency Kit Wine Stain Remover

Emergency Wine Stain Remover sold by True

Simpkins Hangover Drops 200g Tin - 3 Pack

Simpkins Hangover Sweet Drops from the UK! Sold as an import on Ebay

  

Adorable wine stopper sets from Modcloth.com 

Experience:

Fall Harvest Wine Fest

DISCOUNT tickets to Boston Wicked Wine Fest from Groupon. Selling Fast!

Winc: Four Bottles of Wine Customized to Your Palate with Shipping from Winc (56% Off)

DISCOUNT on your first WINC home delivery wine club from Groupon.

Luggage:

Rhino Wineo double bottle tote bag from Red and Wolf Paper Co.

Insulated Tote Papaya by Blush

Concealed wine totes! Secretly holds up to 3L wine bag (boxed wine) in the bottom! Sold by True

 

Happy Shopping and Happy Holidays Winos!! Stay Thirsty!

 

Feature Image credit: ‘Happy 2013, World’ created by Asral

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Cava’s Little Sister, Summer White!

Just when you think Spain can’t get anymore ingenious after inventing sangria, they share yet another one of their long standing traditions: vi d’agulla from Avinyó

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In Catalan, the name means ‘prickly wine.’ But despite it’s Spanish origins, this label reads ‘Petillant,’ which is a French wine designation meaning ‘slightly sparking.’

Avinyó’s Petillant white wine is produced in Catalonia Spain, with 80% Petit Grain Muscat and 20% Macabeu grapes. After being fermented in stainless steel tanks, the wine is given its light bubbles from the Charmat Method (tank method)  in a secondary tank.

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Why is it Catalonia’s summer drink of choice? Probably because it’s everything you need from a summer white. Crisp, lightly acidic, blooming with lychee and green apple flavors, floral, with tiny almost metallic bubbles that are a match made in heaven for summer seafood pairings – as if the tiny silver fishes on the label didn’t give it away.

If you happen to come across any petillant or vi d’agulla wines in your travels this summer PLEASE take the opportunity to taste them ice cold with all your summer food choices.

¡Salud!

Holiday Wine and Cheese Pairing Guide

We know the major holiday season is on its way, with Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa all falling on the same week this year. Don’t panic: we have created an easy cheese and snack pairing guide to help you this season!

White Wine:

**Quick Tip:

Acidic wines ⇒ fresh cheese

full body wine ⇒ hard, chewy, bloomy cheese

sweet wines ⇒ strong or spicy cheese.

Bubbly:

Prosecco or Champagne ⇒ Asiago, Parmesan, Camembert

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Camembert

Light, Acidic, Floral:

Sauvignon Blanc ⇒ Goat cheese, Chevre, Mozzarella,

Riesling (dry) ⇒ fondue, creamy blue cheese

Pinot Grigio/Gris ⇒Ricotta, feta, burrata

Medium to Full Body:

Chardonnay ⇒ Brie, Humbolt Fog, funky cow’s milk cheeses

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Humbolt Fog

Viognier ⇒ Comte, Farmer’s cheese, Baked Brie

Semillon ⇒ Cheddar or Gruyere

Sweet:

Gewurtstraminer ⇒ cream cheese, goat cheese herb roule

Chenin Blanc⇒ Triple Cream, swiss, gruyere

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Triple Cream

Moscato/ Muscadet⇒ aged cheddar, gorgonzola

Riesling (sweet) ⇒ creamy blue cheese

Red Wine:

Light body:

Gamay ⇒ Munster, swiss, gruyere

Pinot Noir ⇒ Mahon or manchego

Medium Body:

Cabernet sauvignon ⇒  sharp cheddar , Havarti

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Sharp/aged cheddar

Merlot ⇒ gouda

Zinfandal ⇒  pepper jack, smoked cheeses

Heavy body:

Malbec ⇒ spiced cheese, aged manchego

Syrah/Shiraz ⇒ truffle cheese, asiago, parmesan

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Truffle cheese and Mahon

 

What else do I buy?

The ultimate match made in heaven is cheese and fresh grapes. It’s a good idea to have bunches of grapes around for any cheese platter. As for other wingmen, try fruit jams, honey, and lots of different crackers. Heating up cheeses like for baked brie is guaranteed to please. You may even want to make two.

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If you still have no idea or can’t track down some of the cheeses we listed, trust the quick note above! Simply pick a cheese that can handle the intensity of the wine. Mild cheeses will taste like nothing next to a strong wine.

Good luck and get cheesy!

 

 

Move over Pinot, Here Comes Tino

Pinot Grigio lovers: get ready,  because your world is about to change.

Have you heard of Vermentino? It’s a grape famously grown in Sicily, Italy but you can find it in other countries like France. Check out Wine Folly for an in depth description of the grape!

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Kristen got to try Groppolo from the Colli di Luni region in Italy produced by the Il Monticello winery. Most websites say it’s similar to Sauvignon Blanc, but this bottle screamed that it was the more successful yet underrated cousin of Pinot Grigio. The slightly lower acidity level made it a smooth glass of wine that smelled of green pears. It was fresh, fruity, but very light with a small yeasty presence that made very tiny bubbles around the rim.

Have you ever had a wine that could float across your palate but quench your vino craving? Kristen did!

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This particular bottle might be a little harder to find than most others we post about. Kristen nabbed it from her European wine shop job but you may have luck at some of the larger wine shops like Wegmans and Total Wine. If you cannot find this particular bottle we hope you have the opportunity to try the Vermentino grape by another producer at least! It’s SO worth the taste! You also might want to buy two bottles instead of one; Kristen drank hers in a blink.

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Saluté!

 

Winescopes -Pick wine by your sign

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aquarius

 

Aquarius

You just got back after an exhausting day at work, and the last thing you need is a night out surrounded by even more obnoxious strangers. You’re independent by nature, and don’t mind the idea of a night-in with Netflix and a tall glass of wine. Try a smooth, soft white that can soothe your nerves after a long day!

We recommend: A Chenin Blanc or Semillon

pisces

Pisces

Perfect combination for a Pisces: a nice venting session with a bottle of sweet, fruity wine! Get together your drinking buds, because you’ll want to share your stories and bottles tonight. We recommend fellow water signs, Scorpio and Cancer, for your drinking company. 

We recommend: A sweet red from a local vineyard, or a fruity Zinfandel 

aries

Aries

You need a wine to match your feisty spirit! You don’t have time for pale whites and sweet reds. You need a bold and bright wine that can hold its own against your spicy personality! Bring in friends with equal gusto, like Leo and Sagittarius, and get your drink on!

We recommend: A Cabernet Sauvignon or a Malbec

taurus

Taurus

You’re not about the wines with the fanciest labels and highest awards. You just want a good, affordable wine that gets the job done. Find a common brand wine in your favorite varietal, and stick to that; there’s no shame in keeping it simple!

We recommend: Common, affordable (yet tasty!) brands like Robert Mondavi. Perhaps a Gamay or a Pinot Gris.

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Gemini

We know what you’re thinking. We’re going to tell you to go for a Merlot/Cab Sav blend to encapsulate the image of the twins. But we know you better than that, Gemini! What you need is a soft wine with a light flavor to please your pallet. The last thing you need is a complicated wine that will confuse your taste buds!

We recommend: A fresh, chilled New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc or classic Pinot Noir

cancer

Cancer

Cancer, we know you don’t want to go out and slam back the cocktails tonight. It’s time to settle in to your favorite spot on the couch, pull up a cozy blanket, and sip your favorite red. You’ll do best with a warm, comforting red or – if you’re feeling adventurous – a sweet white wine. If you want to be social, we’d recommend sticking with your fellow water signs (Pisces and Scorpio). They’ll be up to your relaxing night in!

We recommend: An Argentinian Merlot or an Italian Moscato

leo

Leo

You’re bubbling with personality, so your wine should, too! Embrace your desire for charm and pzazz, and go for that bubbly wine! If we know you as well as we think we do, then you won’t want to be drinking alone. Invite your friends Aries and Sagittarius to share that bubbly or, if you’re looking something that’ll give you that warm and fuzzy feeling you love, a nice spicy red!

We recommend: A Prosecco or South African Shiraz

virgo

Virgo

You don’t want your wines to mess around. You want direct labels that tell you what your wine is about – extra points if it’s organic or local! Keep it in your budget, and stick to the fresh, earthy and crisp wines.

We recommend: A nice Sauvignon Blanc or an oaked Chardonnay

Libra

Libra

You love the outdoors, and you want your wine to respect that. Why not check out the organic wines section of your local specialty grocer? If you’re not looking for anything fancy, stick to the sweet, gentle wines with floral aromas. And don’t forget to invite Gemini and Aquarius! They’ll be your perfect drinking buddies.

We recommend: Gewurztraminer or German Riesling

scorpio

Scorpio

You’re the toughest of the water signs, and so if your pallet! Pisces and Cancer might be sipping the fruity wines, but you should be sure to mix up the night with a bolder wine with intense, rich flavors. Try dark reds, and make sure that the varietal matches the region! You want the best of the best.

We recommend: An English Claret or Australian Shiraz

sagitarius

Sagittarius

The world is your oyster, so find the pearls of the wine world! Try out wines from countries you don’t associate with wine, or different varietals your drinking friends (Aries and Leo) don’t usually bring to your wine nights.

We recommend: Worldly unique wines like Austrian Gruner Veltliner or Portuguese Tempranillo.

capricorn

Capricorn

You’re in charge of picking out a wine for your family dinner, and you always want to please the ones you love! Keep it strong and classic, Capricorn: you value tradition, so a French wine or a table wine would work perfectly for you.

We recommend: Classic French GSM blend or the white French Marsanne Blend

 

Feature image credit Stephen Cruickshank

The wine game you MUST play!

THIS is ZinZig -The Wine Edition- 

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and this is game you must play with your friends or family!

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It’s simple: All you need is at least 2 – 3 players and 2 – 3 bottles of wine. You can make this game as challenging or as easy as you like. It all depends of the wine you choose.

Study those bottles! What vineyards are the from? Do they have a vintage? Where in the world are they produced? What is the variety of grape(s) in the wine? Try your best to remember everything on the label. Remember the flavor! Yes, you need to open and have a few sips of each wine before starting the game.

Do you know absolutely nothing about wine? DON’T WORRY! The game provides booklets of information on grape varieties, wine characteristics, wine terms, tasting notes, and the most common red and white wines. So you don’t need to be a wine genius to play the game. We promise!

So I have my willing participants and my bottles of wine. What’s next?

Simply pick a winemaker and start on a vineyard of your choice. It’s your new home.

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Now slide those wine bottles into those red silk wine bags (that come with the game) and make your way around the board by taking turns rolling the die. On each space you will answer a trivia question about the wine industry in general or about one of the wines you have chosen to play with. Get the question right and you will usually win a resource card. Get the question wrong and you may lose a resource card or just plain lose that round.

You need one of each resource card to win the game. You must have one Cork Card, one Barrel Card, one Bottle Card, and one Grape card. Once you have one of each proceed to the center of the board.

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Here you will see the 4 stages of wine production. You only move through the stages if you answer the trivia correctly. Once you answer 4 trivia questions right you WIN!

The Half Past Team beta tested the game for all of you and we discovered even more fun aspects of the game.

*insider scoop* there are even spots on the board where all you have to do is “Sip and Savor” whatever wine is in your glass. No trivia required! We all agree that the game is fun, educational, and the learning booklets that come with game are WONDERFUL for beginners!

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Now that we’ve got you all pumped to play, Where do you purchase this game?

We stumbled upon the game one day when our Selective Contributor Demi took us for a shopping spree at the Merrimack Outlets in NH. They have a store called The Winemakers Kitchen and the game was waiting right inside the door. For those of you who don’t want to drive to NH, we found the board game for cheaper on Amazon.com Click Here!

Also, a simple google search of the term ‘ZinZig’ will provide many other online sellers of the game.

So put on your thinking caps and get your buzz on fellow winers!

Happy Sipping!!

p.s. send us some pictures or comments of you playing the game!

How to Run a Wine Tasting Party

There are plenty of reasons you may want to have a wine tasting party. Maybe you’re having a bunch of friends over, but don’t necessarily want to go out for the night. Or perhaps you need an excuse to have a wine shopping spree, and want to share your findings with your friends. Or, if you’re like us, you have an overflow of wine collecting in the basement that needs to be tasted stat!

Whatever the reason, it’s a fun, tasty way to spend an evening. Here are the steps to a perfect wine tasting, laid out by our wine expert, Kristen, and practiced by the whole Half Past Wine-O-Clock team!11943357_900467160041337_521691704_n

Start with the bubbles

Yes that’s right. If someone brought the champagne, Prosecco, the fritz, or the spritzy, the party should always start with that. Not just because it’s fun, but because the bubbles tend to make the wine lighter on the palate. We, however, did not have any bubbly at this party so we had to change our “Step One.”

Start with a traditional white wine

If you jump right in to the sweeter or heavier-bodies wines right off the bat, a white wine won’t stand a chance on your pallet! Always start off with a white wine to begin the party so you can fully appreciate the lighter tastes and aromas the wine offers.

If you have multiple white wines remember body and flavors!  Here’s the typical order to taste in with major white grapes:

  1. Riesling  2. Sauvignon Blanc   3. Chardonnay

    Have a white that isn’t listed? Drink the heaviest bodied wine last. Chardonnay is the heaviest white wine (that isn’t a dessert wine) so always drink those last anyways.

    Don’t know about the body of wine you bought? Check out the vintage year and alcohol percentage. Drink younger vintages FIRST and higher alcohol percentages LAST. Why? The older the wine the stronger flavor it develops and strong flavors will stick to your mouth even after moving on to a new wine. Secondly, high alcohol content can “burn” the palate too early so you wont taste weaker wines after.

Move on to a rosé

It can be tempting to start off with a rosé, since they are typically lighter and sometimes sweeter than a white. However, rosés offer the perfect transition between your white wine and the reds to come. There’s no better way to switch from white to red, and adding a rosé in between can smooth the transition! 
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Move on to reds, but order them correctly!

All reds are not made the same, as all wine lovers know. They aren’t all equal, either, so ordering them the wrong way can throw off a tasting. Start with any red varietals (single grapes), like we did, to transition from the lighter rosé into a heavier-bodied red that relies prominently on one grape instead of a flavorful mixture of many. This way, your pallet can easily transition from less complex, fruitier reds into the more heavily bodied reds.

The same rules apply here as with the whites. Heavier body wines go last and so do higher alc % and older vintages.

However, red wines can be harder to figure out. Here’s a list in order of body (drink first to last):

  1. Pinot Noir 2. Merlot 3. Zinfandel 4. Cabernet Sauvignon 4. Shiraz/Syrah

    Watch out! There are always exceptions with red wines. Check the label to see where the wine is produced. Warmer climate produce grapes with stronger and more pronounced flavors. Cooler climates are crisp wines. When in doubt do colder places first.

Always end with dessert wines

We ended with a sweet coconut wine from our favorite winery, but not before cleansing our pallets! It’s tough to find a placement for a sweeter wine, especially right after a fuller red. We recommend fully cleansing the pallet and perhaps waiting between the reds and sweeter wine.

Why can’t we start with a sweet wine, you ask? It’s just that after a dessert wine, the other wines will taste too harsh and heavy, so it’s easier to finish with them.

Let everyone take their favorites home

There’s no better way to end a party than by divvying up the wines based on who loved which one most! This way, everyone leaves with a small gift – the remainder of the bottle – and has a takeaway from the party. If everyone agrees on one favorite, finish it up before the night’s over – who says the party has to end with the tasting?

Alfalfa Farm Winery – History comes to Life

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On the hunt for local wine gems, my parents and I (Kristen) stumbled across this small winery in Topsfield MA. Located quite literally next to route 1, Alfalfa Farm Winery is a beautiful 10 acres of historic farm property. Hoping to work with nature, the owners chose to grow four varieties of  French- American hybrid grapes that are known to thrive in New England type climates: Marechal Foch, Seyval Blanc, Aurore, and Léon Millot. Their wines have won many awards from local and international competitions. You may have even seen their wines at events like the Topsfield Fair and “The Big E.”

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Wine Tasting:

Their wine tasting times change per season. In the Summer they are open Saturdays from 1 to 5pm  and in the fall tastings are Saturdays AND Sundays from 1 to 5pm. We happened upon their “Green Harvest Festival” last week which included wine tasting with souvenir wine glasses, live music entertainment, cork crafts that were available for purchase, and wine tours of the property. We paid 10 dollars (tastings are usually $6)  for 5 tasting tickets and a tour of the property. The wines available for tasting do change often based on demand and which wines were produced each season. My family’s favorite was the local made blueberry wine and the winery’s homemade Sangria. Although my personal favorite was the Silo White Wine for its slightly sweet almost crisp Riesling like flavor. All of their wines however had great body and incredibly diverse flavors. I highly suggest stopping in to try the selection!

p.s. Mom loved the sangria so much that she used most of her five wine tasting tickets on it and took the recipe home.

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Events and Opportunities:

Alfalfa Farm prides itself on community involvement and its long history. In accordance with these ideals, the winery has a whole calendar of fun events for the public like their Harvest Festival in October, Crafts & Cranberries in November, and their Customer Appreciation Day at the end of every season. Not only do they want their customers to feel comfortable but they encourage participation in their wine production through their volunteer list. Volunteers help with every step in the wine process from pruning the vines, to harvesting, to pressing the grapes, bottling, and labeling. It’s an amazing opportunity for wine lovers to better understand the wine process!  Alfalfa farm even offers internships to students who wish to learn more about the wine industry. So if you are interested, saddle up to get your hands dirty!  Reach out to the winery’s website for more details and to join the email list.

My Review

I was so impressed by this winery’s staff. It’s a family run business with incredibly dedicated and friendly employees. They didn’t seem to mind me asking a million questions or taking just as many pictures. They made us feel right at home and their wine tour was filled with information about the winery’s history, their wine process, and the scenery around their property is breathtaking in the summer. It has the most adorable old barns from the revolutionary war era that are mixed with modern wine making technology. I loved how much pride they took in hand labeling and corking every bottle. It was the real definition of “Handmade.” Please stop by and help support this amazing local wine stop!

5 Wines Paired with 5 Comfort Foods

Some days are so rough, you need comfort food and a glass. But it isn’t always easy to pair your fave indulgences correctly. Here are a few of our favorite comfort foods matched with a wine that will only add to the comforting experience, brought to you by our wine expert Kristen!

1. Mac and Cheese and Sauvignon Blanc

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Sauvignon Blanc’s crisp tartness cuts well into the cheesy taste of this favorite comfort dish. Chardonnay could have been a good choice, but might be a bit too heavy to combine with the cheese sauce.

2. Pizza and red wines

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We think we can pair pizza with just about anything if we put our heart to it, but there are a few rules to go by. We recommend pairing a white wine with white pizza, and red wine with red sauce. Easy enough to remember, right? However, we’re not matching colors, but tastes; a white wine won’t stand a chance next to a red saucy pizza, so we need to pair it with a fuller bodied wine. For your average pizza, we recommend Pinot Noir, red Zinfandel, or Cabernet Sauvignon.

3. Fried Chicken and crisp wines

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Our wine expert Kristen has tried sangria with fried chicken because of its stronger mix of fruit juices to counter the greasy fried chicken. She also recommends Gewurztraminer-based wines, although they are difficult to find, its crisp flavor would cut the poultry taste well. We don’t recommend red wines for poultry, excepting a good duck!

4. Vanilla Ice cream and dessert wines: double the dessert!

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Sweet wines pair best with vanilla ice cream. We would even suggest pouring a thick dessert red wine over a vanilla ice cream, especially if the wine is cherry or blueberry flavored!  Examples of these wines are Jackson-Triggs Ice wine, Sweet Baby vineyard Blueberry table wine, and Apfel Eis apple icewine from Harvard Ma winery (Still River Winery).

5. Dark chocolate gooey brownies and dark reds

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Perhaps the greatest comfort food of all, we need a wine that can perfectly compliment a chocolaty brownie. In order to balance the deep sweetness of a brownie, we recommend dark reds like Shiraz, Merlot, or Temparnillo.

Did we miss any of your favorite comfort foods?

Image sources (CC Attribution):

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