Wine Give Away – REALLY!!!

As promised, a Red Wine Diva exclusive!  An opportunity for reader’s of my blog to score free wine from Underground Cellar.   Underground Cellar is giving away a $50  gift certificate toward your first wine purchase.  Hop over to Rafflecopter by clicking this link to register.  ( a Rafflecopter giveaway )  The winner will be chosen randomly in two weeks and notified by Underground Cellar as well as announced here.  Once you register, you will have other opportunities to earn more entries in the raffle increasing your chances of being the lucky winner.

Underground Cellar is the hot new online wine startup which allows buyers to score amazing deals on fine wine. Every bottle you buy could be upgraded for free to a high-end bottle plucked from the winemakers private stash. To check out today’s wine deals, click on over to Underground Cellar.


At Underground Cellar, there is no wine club to join, no commitments or obligations on your part.  Just shop at your leisure and buy the wines you like.  And what better way to do this than with a $50 gift certificate.  I just made my first purchase from them and can’t wait for my wines to arrive so I can see if I end up with any of the high-end wines from the winemaker’s stash!!!

CHEERS!!!  And Happy Thanksgiving!

UPDATE – Underground Cellar has some cool stuff planned for Black Friday!  The good thing is, you don’t have to leave your house or fight the crowds to get it.  Everyone who is a member by Thursday at Midnight will receive a special surprise gift from us by email.  Use the link above and register – great wine deals all year long and surprises on Black Friday – what more can you ask for???

Cookie Week – 2013

Announcing Cookie Week – 2013!  We invite your participation.  Let me know if you post a cookie recipe and I will link back to it through my blog.  If you don’t have a blog, I will be happy to post the recipe for you, giving you full credit.

The week kicked off with this recipe:  Ginger Sugar Cookies .


Day #2:  Wedding Cookies

Day #3:  Carmel & Chocolate Pecan Bars

7 Days, 7 Cities – 1 Great Wine

Aquaoir – from aqua,(“water”) is the interaction between a submerged container of wine and the set of special characteristics that a body of water and its environment hold – temperature, pressure, light (or darkness) and motion.

And so the experiment began in the Spring of 2013.  Mira Winery dropped four cases of their 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon into the Atlantic Ocean just off the Charleston Harbor.  The wine stayed for three months.  Four cases of the same wine were left to age naturally in the bottle at the winery.  The wine was retrieved from the ocean and the tastings, along with the media frenzy, began.

I was fortunate enough to be invited as Mira’s guest to attend a blind tasting of the two wines side by side November 6.  The tasting event kicked off a 7 day tour where Mira was hosting a tasting event in 7 cities.  The tour lineup was:

  • Charleston SC – Nov 6
  • Washington, DC – Nov 7
  • New York, NY – Nov 8
  • Palm Beach, FL  Nov 9
  • Little Rock, AR – Nov 10
  • San Francisco, CA – Nov 11
  • Los Angeles, CA – Nov 12

The setting for the Charleston tasting was at Harborside East and you couldn’t have asked for a more picturesque backdrop for tasting wine

  • Charleston Harbor

    Charleston Harbor

The wine was initially aged in the ocean in an effort to discover a better process for aging wine.  The three-month experiment, by all accounts, was hugely successful.  The experiment was limited to three months to test equipment.  The bottles came out of the water covered with barnacles, but the corks were still securely in place.  Mira has now submerged eight cases in the water and plans to leave them eight months.  The difference in this group of wines is that they were submerged immediately after bottling with no bottle aging prior to submersion.  The labels were etched on the bottles for the new group of wines to avoid having to scrape barnacles off and attach labels after the fact.

Jim "Bear" Dyke

Jim “Bear” Dyke

So what was the result of the three-month aging as compared to regular bottle aging?  Answer: Significant and Amazing!

I have been following this Aquaoir experiment from the beginning.  I had already heard how significantly different the wines tasted.  With the blind tasting, I had no way of knowing which wine was in which glass.  Glass “A” appeared to be a young wine and was very tannic.   It had a great nose with hints of leather and spice.  I picked up licorice on the palate.  I felt like it needed quite a bit more time in the bottle.  Glass “B” didn’t have near as much on the nose, but the flavors were intense dark cherry, plum, and vanilla.  It was more evolved, silky with smooth tannins.  One would never guess that these were the same wine.  Glass “B” had been ocean-aged.  The difference was remarkable.

SIDE NOTE: The last case of the ocean-aged wine goes on sale TODAY.  The first case sold out to wine club members in a few hours.  Word of warning, this wine won’t last long.

So what created the differences in these wines.  As of right now, the science behind testing these wines hasn’t really given any clues.  The chemical analysis consisted primarily of  testing pH, alcohol, volatile acidity and turbidity and comparing the results of the land aged versus the water aged.  There was no significant difference in any of this.  When the wine was submerged, the bottles were at 57°.  The wine was set ay 60′ deep and stayed for three months.  When the wine came up, it was at 72°.  This was completely unexpected and they are not sure why it was so warm.  The warmth could have sped up the aging process, but the results are not conclusive.

The eight cases that have just been submerged will age through the winter months.  Will this make a difference?  Only time will tell.

Could ocean-aging be the answer to the global wine shortage that is being talked about lately in the news?  It is definitely something that should be looked at closely.  Mira is the first US winery to try ocean-aging, but several wineries around the globe have experimented with ocean-aging.


Wine Bar Update 11-11-2013

The wine bar is coming along great!  I have been shopping (one of my favorite pastimes) for everything from bar stools, to mirrors to lights to wine.  The mirrors for the bathrooms have already arrived and the bar stools have shipped.  They should be here this week.

I have also been working.  As most of you know, the overall look for the wine bar is vintage using repurposed items where possible.  I purchased tables and chairs from a restaurant that had closed its doors a few years ago.  They have been in storage all this time so we are now tasked with cleaning them up and making them presentable.  My son-in-law is working on the tables.  He is stripping them down and sanding them lightly so we can refinish them but still maintain the vintage look.  Hubby and I have been doing the chairs.  They are just getting an intense scrubbing with a rejuvenating product called WATCO.

Before "Rejuvenating"

Before “Rejuvenation”

After "Rejuvenation"

After “Rejuvenation”

I am going to save pictures of the tables until we are ready to open as the finish on them is such an integral part of our overall look and besides, we need to have some surprises.  😉

We have also been working on the menu and playing around with prepping some of the items.  I plan to offer a “Red Wine Lover’s Trio” consisting of strawberries or cherries, chocolate and pecans.  I would like to do a “White Wine Lover’s Trio” as well but am having trouble coming up with just the right combination of foods.  I would really appreciate your input and suggestions.  I am thinking of apples drizzled with caramel syrup or a dried fruit such as apricots, cheese, and almonds.  Thoughts???

Before 1 Menu1

Poles drizzled with Caramel, cheese, and Almonds

Apples drizzled with Caramel, cheese, and Almonds

We have also met a distributor who specializes in organic and sustainable farmed vineyards.  Everything they have available is estate grown and from small family run wineries with small production.

We anticipate opening by the first of the year so please join us on Facebook for your personal invitation to our soft opening for Facebook followers only.

Finger Lakes Wine Region

I have been very fortunate over the last few yeas and have been offered media samples of wine from various wineries and their public relations firms.  This past summer I received samples of four different Rieslings and an ice wine through the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance.  As I have received wines from them before (some of these same wines actually) I decided to write about the Finger Lakes Region instead of the specific wines.  This decision made for some interesting research.  Enjoy!


  • 1829 – first grapes planted in Finger Lakes (Isabella & Catawba), cuttings from the Hudson River Valley
  • 1850 – a “vinedresser” from Germany, Andrew Reisinger, plants the first vineyard and introduces pruning & training
  • 1860 – Hammondsport & Pleasant Valley Wine Company, first bonded winery was created.  This later changed to the Great Western Winery.
  • 1865 – The second winery for the Finger Lakes was started, Urbana Wine Co., but history was created because Hammondsport & Pleasant Valley Wine Co. bottled the first sparkling wines from the area, Great Western Champagne.
Picture borrowed from The Democrat and Chronicle

Picture borrowed from The Democrat and Chronicle

  • 1873 – Great Western Champagne takes a gold medal in Vienna
  • 1919-33 – Prohibition shuts down most of the wine industry, but some wineries survive by producing sacramental wines and growing grapes for home winemakers.
  • 1934 – Charles Fournier joins Urbana Wine Co. as winemaker from Veuve Cliquot Ponsardin
  • 1945 – The origins for Constellation brands began
  • 1950 – Charles Fournier wins the only gold medal at the California State Fair.  His entry was New York State Champagne Brut.  Fair officials subsequently barred non-California wines from competing.
  • 1960 – (ca. 1960) Urbana Wine Co. (now known as Gold Seal) releases its first Riesling

And the history continues today!

The Finger Lakes AVA was established in 1982.  It is the largest wine region in New York and home to more than 115 wineries.  Out of the 9,200 acres of grapes planted each year, there are 848 acres of Riesling.  Each Riesling producer has 2-3 styles of Riesling ranging in taste profile from bone dry to sweet.  Riesling is the fastest growing white wine in the US.

But what makes the Finger Lakes so perfect for growing Riesling?  Answer:  The Lakes!

We all know that great wine starts in the vineyard.  The vineyards of the Finger Lakes are cut from centuries-old glaciers with beds of shale running deep into the soils.  This shale helps produce wines with a natural acidity.  These glaciers have created large, deep, fresh-water lakes.  The Finger Lakes area runs North/South providing optimal grape growing sites on both the eastern and western slopes.  During the winter, cold air is pulled naturally from the sloping vineyards to the lakes.  This same cool air delays the start of growing season in the spring and helps the vines avoid exposure to late frosts.  Then in the fall, the warmth provided by theses same sun-drenched waters prevent early frosts and allow for an extended growing season.

FLX map

Great Rieslings from Alsace and Germany are produced with the intent of aging.  Typically white wines from the US, especially sweeter ones, are meant to be consumed  within a couple of years.  But the Rieslings coming out of the Finger Lakes today can be aged for a few years.  Exactly how long is yet to be determined.  Two ice wines I received for review back in 2012 are a 2010 Gewurztraminer Ice Wine from Standing Stone Vineyards and a 2010 Vidal Ice Wine from Knapp Winery.  My plan is to open one of these in 2014 and the other in 2015 to see how gracefully they have aged.  I also am holding onto a Swedish Hill 2012 Dry Riesling and a 2012 Red Newt Cellars Medium Sweet Riesling.  I will hold each of these for at least 3 years (2015) and will attempt to taste them side-by-side with their then current vintage counterparts.

The other wines I received and tasted during the virtual event were:

  • 2012 Riesling Ice Wine from Fulkerson Winery.  This wine had 19.7% residual sugar and is definitely a dessert wine.  We paired it with a really moist cream cake.  The sweetness from the wine melted away as the flavors blended on the palate.  Each sip and each bite left you wanting more.
  • 2012 Standing Stone Old West Block Riesling (a vineyard started by Charles Fournier in 1972 – see above).  Nice acidity and well balance with 1.4% residual sugar.
  • 2012 Riesling Select from Wagner Vineyards.  This is their sweetest Riesling with 4.2% residual sugar and comes from a vineyard more than 30 years old.

Previous articles about Fine Lakes Wines:

A Celebration of New York Wines

Virtual Riesling Tasting: Finger Lakes Wines

Wine Bar Update: 11-4-2013

Hard-hat and High Heels

hardhar highheels

Yes, construction has finally started!!!  We are actually a couple of weeks into the build-out.

My days are now full of wine tastings, shopping for supplies and furniture and meeting with food distributors.  This past week I was invited by US Foods to a special culinary event in Savannah.  I have been really concerned about my menu as we don’t have a real kitchen.  We will use a convection oven, Panini press and an induction burner for most of our food prep.  These food distributors know what they are doing.  They make both the menu decisions and prep work so easy, but of course, nothing beats the right recipe!  (Our menu will be finalized over the next couple of weeks and I will publish it here first!)  What is your favorite wine-pairing?  Any suggestions for our menu?

construction 1

This image lets you see the shape of the bar as well as the door into the kitchen from behind the bar.  The plumbing is set and hidden under he concrete floor.  Next week they should start the electrical wiring.  Lights have already been purchased.  Wires for the point of sale and security have already been pulled.  We are going with the industrial look so the open ceiling was being painted black Saturday, but the fumes were too bad for us to go in.  It is coming together!!!

I have been stressed (seems to be my middle name lately) over the last couple of weeks as I am not able to get the great bar stools I found online.  Every time I find a stool I like it is not available in the US.  One company offered to ship to me for a guesstimate of $1,300 for shipping alone.  I have looked at hundreds of bar stools trying to find the right vintage style to compliment the rest of the bar.  Your bar and bar stools actually make a statement to every person walking through your door.  They have to be right.  I finally found them just yesterday; but I think I am going to save the pictures for the completed bar.   So I am ready to jump the next hurdle thrown at me this week.  I am still waiting to hear back from the health department.  I understand that can be a fine line to walk!

Please check us out on Facebook to get our daily updates regarding opening and special events we are planning.  Did you see the logo we’ve come up with?!?!

Another week down and a step closer!

Another week down and a step closer!

Everyday Italian – The Cavit Collection


These wines were a media sample received for review purposes.

Angry Shrimp paired with Cavit Riesling

I thought this would be an easy article to write, after all, we have all at least heard of Cavit and most of us have drunk some.  But information about the “winery” is difficult to find.  Maybe because it is not really a winery, instead, it is a cooperative of several small wineries and sources its fruit from 4,500+ wine growers in the Trentino region of Italy at the foothills of the Dolomites.  Cavit started their cooperative in the mid 20th century.  They were by no means the first wine or agricultural cooperative to pop up, but have been consistently one of the most successful.  The fact that they are still around 60+ years later is testament to that.

The wines being produce by Cavit are varied, much more than what we see here in the US at our local grocery store or wine shop.  Anselmo Martini, one of Italy’s top enologists, is the lead winemaker for Cavit.  It is under his direction that Cavit has garnered their reputation for good, affordable, everyday Italian wines.

The wines I received in my media kit were:

  • Cavit Riesling – 100% Riesling, elegant with floral notes, 2% residual sugar
  • Cavit Moscato – 100% Moscato, peach aromas with hints of mild spices, well balanced, 105 grams per liter residual sugar
  • Cavit Pinot Grigio – 100% Pinot Grigio, floral and fruit aromas, no residual sugar
  • Cavit Chardonnay – 100% Chardonnay, aromas of granny smith apple and tropical fruit, nice finish, no residual sugar
  • Cavit Cabernet Sauvignon – 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, herbaceous with hints of bell pepper, smooth with clean finish

Retailing for les than $10 a bottle, these wines are perfect for light Italian meals.  Most are available in the small individual size bottles (187ml) in a four pack for picnics and beach trips.

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