Wine Bar Update: 9-30-2013

STICKER SHOCK:  I need to get one more item for closing on the loan for the wine bar – insurance.  I have gotten two quotes in this week and have experienced some serious sticker shock.  I have dealt with insurance for years in my position as a financial controller.  As a result, I have several connections in the industry.  I consulted with them as I built my business plan for the wine bar and prepared my projections.  I thought I had a handle on it, but the quotes (like everything else I have touched for this project) are WAY over budget.  A couple of things have led to this – being so near the coast (and hurricanes) and the fact that I don’t have an experience rating yet.  I am waiting for a couple of other quotes to come in hoping to find a policy that won’t break the bank.

CELEBRATION:  We also had reason to celebrate this past week.  For the last six months, I have been in South Carolina while hubby was still in North Carolina working.  One of us needed to keep a pay check and since the wine bar is my dream, he wanted to continue working while he helped me realize it.  This past week he was offered a job working for the City of Bluffton doing basically the same thing he has been doing for the City of Winston Salem.

Over the last few months, I have met with bankers, architects, and contractors by myself.  I have made major life-altering decisions with only a phone call to discuss these decisions with Hubby.  I even bought our new home with him only seeing it online, not in person.  But now we can be together again as the construction begins on the bar.

We celebrated by taking the family to The Old Oyster Factory on Hilton Head Island.

view oyser factory

View from our dinner table.

We opted for a bottle of Cakebread Cellars 2011 Chardonnay.  The wine was creamy with just a hint of buttery notes and spicy oak.  It had flavors of green apple, melon and citrus.  The finish had just enough bite to make it linger on the palate.  The delicate balance between acidity and minerality made this the perfect wine for  our meal.

cakebread chard

2011 Cakebread Cellars Chardonnay paired with Bruschetta

We started by pairing our wine with The Old Oyster Factory’s own recipe for Bruschetta, then moved on to our entrées.

Seafood Medley

Seafood Medley

Fried Scallops with Mashed Potatoes

Fried Scallops with Mashed Potatoes

Low Country Boil

Low Country Boil

We completed the meal with all the kids getting t-shirts from our waiter.


The Family

We’re home!

Please be sure to check us out on Facebook and give us a thumb’s up.  Our soft opening will be a special event for Facebook followers only and we would love to see you there!

Virtual Tasting #WITS2013

This wine was a media sample from Wine Twits.

I was invited by Wine Twits to participate in one of their virtual wine tastings and media event.  The wine selection was Morning Fog Chardonnay from Wente Vineyards, 2010 Old Vine Zinfandel from Renwood Winery and a 2011 Garnet Monterey Pinot Noir from Garnet Vineyards.  I love interacting virtually with other wine lovers for these tastings.  People share not only tasting notes, but great tips as well.

Typically I taste the wines alone for these virtual events and find it necessary to only open a couple of bottles, saving some bottles for a later date and individual review.  However, my move to South Carolina has opened the door to new wine friends so I was able to share the wines and get input for my tasting notes.

Morning Fog Chardonnay was first on the tasting list. It has been  a go-to Chard for me since I first tasted it last year for a virtual event.  For those of you that haven’t tried it, I highly recommend it.  From the soft floral aromas to the pear and vanilla notes on the palate,  this wine will never disappoint.

Morning Fog

Second up was the Garnet Vineyards Pinot Noir.  This is a very bold Pinot aged in 100% French Oak.  It is rich and velvety with aromas of blackberry and vanilla and flavors of dark berry and spice.  This wine was meticulously crafted by Pinot specialist Alison Crowe and retails for only $14.99.

Our third and final wine for the evening was Premier Old Vine Zinfandel from Renwood Winery.  Cool fermented at a maximum temperature of 75 degrees, this wine is dark and intense with jammy dark fruit flavors and a hint of spice.  Not only is this wine a gold medal winner, it was also awarded “Best in Class” at the Los Angeles 2013 Wine Competition.


So which wine fared the best with my tasting friends?  It was a toss-up.  Overall, the group (excluding me) prefers white wine, but we ended up with a convert.  One of the ladies actually preferred the Renwood Zinfandel over the Wente Chardonnay.

As always, it was a pleasure and an honor to be invited to participate in this virtual tasting.  My sincere thanks to Wine Twits for including me.  To learn about wine or to share your thoughts on wine, please visit their website.  And if you are a winery looking to host a virtual tasting for a new release, check them out!

Trader Joe’s Wine Haul – Part 6

Chardonnay Day is an annual event where wine passionistas all over the world open bottles of Chardonnay to sip its praises.  It’s a major event celebrated on all forms of social media as well at wineries and wine bars.  This year’s Chardonnay Day was May 26.   I selected Vintage Press, one of the wines I picked up at Trader Joe’s a few weeks ago.


I have been pleasantly surprised by most of the wines I picked up at Trader Joe’s.  This one, like most of the others, did not disappoint!  Vintage Press is a buttery Chardonnay with hints of vanilla and stone fruit such as nectarines or peaches.  I picked up delectable caramel notes as well, like the caramelized crust of Grandma’s peach cobbler.  Vintage Press is mellow with a silky smooth finish and bursting with flavor.  I highly recommend it for a relaxing evening of summer sipping.

Varietal:  Chardonnay          Alcohol:  13.9%          Price:  $8.99

For further reading about Vintage Press Chardonnay, I recommend, Aspiring Wine Geek:  Tasting Notes, Vintage Press.

And for more insider notes regarding Trader Joe’s wine, check out TJ’s Wine Community.

The Evolving Palate

You know how when you are reading or watching a good mystery, the plot thickens to keep you in suspense.  I think that is what wine does.  It is a mystery and your palate evolves constantly, sometimes keeping even you in suspense.  How lucky are we that we will never tire of wine as there is so much variety out there and at some point in our (wine) lives we will have a desire and an opportunity to try new and exotic wines?  I love it!!!

We’ve been over this before, I am called “Red Wine Diva” for a reason.  When I created this as my Twitter handle (I didn’t have a blog at that point and hadn’t even thought about branding), I didn’t drink white wine unless someone just forced me – not even Chardonnay.  Today I will try any white wine you put in front of me.  Actually, if I am having a bad day, I can count on a white wine to sooth my soul, to help me relax and make things better.  What a strange twist in this wine plot!

Stock photo from Kunde Estate

Stock photo from Kunde Estate

Kunde Estate has been my wine of choice this week.  I actually belong to their wine club so I always have some of their wines on hand and typically, the white wines they have sent in my wine club shipment tend to accumulate; but this week I have drunk three Kunde whites in a row.  I started out earlier in the week with their Sauvignon Blanc Magnolia Lane.  When I opened it, I anticipated finding that bitter taste that has always kept me from drinking Sauvignon Blanc, but this wine was delicate, almost sweet, but not too sweet.  A perfect sipping wine, I had chosen it because hubby had prepared a chicken and pasta dish for dinner and I wanted something light to pair with it.  I was absolutely taken aback by how good this wine was.  Not only was it a white wine, it was a Sauvignon Blanc (which by the way, I have never written about)!  I typically find notes of strong yellow grapefruit in any Sauvignon Blanc but in this one I found the sweet pink grapefruit (which I love) as well as lemon and orange zest.  The wine was heavenly.  Trust me, I dug through my wine closet but couldn’t find another bottle!

Well this Sauvignon Blanc had been so good, that I decided to opt for another white, still staying with wines from Kunde Estate.  The next wine up was their 2011 Chardonnay from CS Ridge Vineyards.  This was my style of Chardonnay – buttery, oaky, but with enough fruit on the palate to make it a true delicacy.

Kunde Estate Chardonnay

Kunde Estate Chardonnay

So today, I decided to continue down this path.  I opened another Sauvignon Blanc.  This one is from Vineyard Block 4SB20 and is just as pleasant as the Magnolia Lane.  Once again, I was a little leary about the first sip still expecting that bitter yellow grapefruit taste, but no!!!  It was slightly dryer than the Magnolia Lane, but still the perfect sipping wine.  You can drink this one alone. You don’t need a pairing, just a “wine kind of day” to enjoy this Sauvignon Blanc.

Kunde Estate Sauvignon Blanc

Kunde Estate Sauvignon Blanc

So I am wrapping up a week of white wines and my appreciation of them has deepened.  But the mystery continues – where will my palate take me next?

I encourage each of you to try new and different wines with an open mind.  Evolve and enjoy!

Six Pack – Trione Vineyards & Winery

I love a good six-pack! (No, wait, we are supposed to be talking about wine!) 🙂

I actually received a special treat in the mail the other day through Tasting Room (who has recently partnered with Lot 18) with a six-pack of sampler bottles from Trione Vineyards & Winery enclosed.  I was not familiar with Trione Vineyards & Winery but thought it would be fun to do a blog post about all six wines which is their current wine offering through the tasting room.

Trione Sampler

Trione Sampler

For more than 30 years Trione has been growing award-winning grapes for other wineries, then in 2005, decided to take it to the next level and start making their own wines.  What a great business decision!!!

The sampler included their 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, 2009 Chardonnay, their 2008 Syrah, their 2008 Pinot Noir, 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon and  a 2007 Red Blend.

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you have probably noticed that I have never reviewed a Sauvignon Blanc or a Pinot Gris (Grigio).  I have never found one that I like.  The tannic bitter finish and the strong grapefruit taste just turn me off.  So I opened this one with trepidation, hoping to pair it with the right food to make it palatable.

Trione pairings

Trione pairings

The pairing line up consisted of (in order by the picture) a white cheddar, Smithfield spiral cut ham, white cheddar Cheez-It’s, smoked cheddar and bruschetta.  (We will ignore the fact that I was eating alone!)  I was trying to get creative so that I had a pairing for each wine.

Apparently I hit a home run!  The white cheddar and the Sauvignon Blanc were the absolute perfect pairing.  These sample bottles are only a couple of ounces so this first sip paired with this cheese  begged for more.  I begged for more – I could have truly enjoyed a whole bottle!  Yes me, the Red Wine Diva – I could have drunk a whole bottle.  There was no bitter aftertaste, no over-powering tannins, no bitter grapefruit – yeah!!!  The winemaker describes this wine as crisp, but I found it mild and sumptuous, almost a delicacy – one that should be enjoyed by all.  (Trione Sauvignon Blanc – 14.0% alcohol, price – $23).

Next up was the 2009 Chardonnay.  I typically like a Chardonnay, but once again, this one was exceptional.  The smooth buttery, Creme Brulée leads to a long, silky finish.  The winemaker suggest that this wine could actually age another three to five years which speaks highly of his winemaking style.  One of my pairings was a simple brushcetta on an olive oil toasted bread.  Once again, the pairing worked, the wine worked and I highly recommend it!  (14.3% alcohol, price – $30).

Moving on to the 2008 Russian Valley River Pinot Noir, we find classic examples of black cherry and earthiness lending itself to a long, silky finish.  I paired this wine with the Smithfield ham and the Cheez-It crackers.  As a Pinot Noir fan from way back, I can attest that this wine will hold its own in any competition.  You will notice the characteristic watered-down red color of the wine as you pour it which is indicative of any great Pinot. (no winemaker’s notes on the 2008, but the 2009 is 14.3% alochol – price, $35).

Now for the 2008 Syrah.  Syrah has long been a favorite of mine.  The first sip of this wine and I knew I had just tasted a bit of heaven.  Reaching for the smoked cheddar to pair this with, I once again found myself wanting a whole bottle instead of just this 2-ounce sampler.  The smoky cheddar and the ham both melted in my mouth as I paired them with the earthy notes of this smooth, silky wine.  (15.3% alcohol – price, $32).

The 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon presented itself as a classic bordeaux blend with 10% Merlot and 2.5% of both Petit Verdot and Malbec.  Having been aged for a total of 24 months, this inky colored wine oozes allspice, black currant and clove.  It is bold and commands its place at the table but has a velvety texture and smooth tannins that linger just long enough on the palate to allow you to reach for the glass again.  This wine paired exceptionally well with both the white cheddar and the smoked cheddar as well as the ham.  This is definitely my recommendation for the next “Cabernet Day.”  (14.5% alcohol – price, $64).

Last, but not least, is the Trione 2007 Red Blend – a luxurious wine made in the bordeaux style similar to the Cabernet Sauvignon.  This wine is full-bodied but still balanced with a smooth tannin structure.  The winemaker suggests you could age this wine for 5-10 years.  (14.9% alcohol – price $48).

You can join the Trione Estate Guild wineclub and have these wines delivered directly to your door; and if you are ever in Geyersville, CA, I recommend a visit to their tasting room located at 19550 Geyersville Avenue, Geyersville, CA  95441.

Discovery 2012, A Good Year for Sipping Wine

Tis the season for fine wine at


I know I am a little late in getting this post out, but I took a couple of weeks off for the holidays. We have kids scattered from North Carolina to Georgia to South Carolina and decided to visit all then left out of Charleston December 30 to celebrate New Year’s Eve on a cruise ship – more about that in an upcoming post. But for now, I want to recap a few wine discoveries I had in 2012. It was a good year for sipping wine!

Chardonnay has long been a favorite of most wine drinkers and possibly a typical house wine for a lot of you.  For me, I was well into this “wine lifestyle” before I became a fan.  But today I truly enjoy a chilled white wine – it has to be on the cool side for me to drink it, a little cooler than even the recommended temperature but not so cold that you lose the flavors and aromas.  With that said, my new favorite Chardonnay discovery this year is Morning Fog from Wente Vineyards.  A crisp chardonnay with just a hint of cinnamon, Morning Fog has become one of my house wines.  I keep it on hand mostly for myself but love sharing it with friends.  If you haven’t tried this wine, I highly recommend it!

Moving through my 2012 lineup of favorites, I have to recommend “Rosé of Cabernet Franc” from Raylen Vineyards located in Mocksville, North Carolina.  Raylen Vineyards is part of the Yadkin Valley AVA, the largest AVA in North Carolina with more than 30 wineries, each serving up their own unique spin on your favorite wines.  I know some people refer to ice wines as “romantic” wines, but I think that is what Rosé is, a wine that can be enjoyed by everyone for every occasion.  It adds a touch of romance to life and we all need (and deserve) a touch of romance.  A lot of people think that Rosé is going to have a flavor profile similar to a white zinfandel, but that is not the case.  Today’s Rosé is dry but soft and full of flavor.  This particular Rosé has a tart strawberry and citrus finish that lingers slightly on the palate.  It is an excellent wine to drink by itself but also pairs well with spicy foods and chicken or turkey.  I recommend buying it by the case and even then, it won’t last long.

Last, but not least, on my list of new discoveries is Castillo Catadau Gran Reserva 2005 Tempranillo from Naked Wines (another new discovery/favorite).  Tempranillo was new to me.  I had received this wine in a shipment from Naked Wines and had saved it for Tempranillo Day – a day dedicated to the wine where wine enthusiasts all over the world are encouraged to drink Tempranillo and post your thoughts and comments through your preferred means of social media.  I was completely blown away by this wine!  It is mellow and smooth with hints of both caramel and vanilla.  You will notice that it is a 2005 which means that it was aged in the barrel for a good long while before it was released so there is no need for you to age it at home – just pop the cork and enjoy!  You can read reviews and comments about the Tempranillo on Naked Wines website.  It gets rave reviews and you won’t be disappointed.  Again, I recommend ordering it by the case.

And if you are not familiar with Naked Wines, check them out.  Become an “Angel,” find your new favorite wine and help support the winemaker’s in living the dream of making great wine.  Naked Wines has a bargain price on all their wines, but the Angel price is a real bargain.  So my final recommendation for the New Year, is Naked Wines.

Each of these wines is very affordable making them perfect for your house wine and for your everyday wine but they are also elegant enough to be the wine you share with friends and serve at special occasions.

I predict that 2013 is going to be another Great year for sipping wine so explore something new and enjoy!

Duet – Hopkins Estate

I am blaming Pinterest!  I have been in the Biggest Christmas Spirit over the last couple of weeks – so excited about shopping for the grandkids and seeing our oldest son and then our daughter.  If I didn’t have a day job, I would be soooooo busy making homemade gifts of dessert and specialty drinks and preparing baskets full of home baked delights.  But alas, I have a job so my time is not my own.  I have learned to value the time that is my own however.  And like I said, I am blaming Pinterest, but I have had so much fun shopping and planning the special treats that I will take with me to Atlanta and then to Hilton Head.

2012-12-16 16.05.32

So as I started preparing Nacho Dip tonight for dinner, it brought back memories of my daughter being young.  This was always one of her favorites – and my husband still loves it today.  It would most likely pair well with any number of wines, but I was in the mood for a white – an intense dry white.  And I found it in this “Duet”, a 50/50 blend of Chardonnay and Vidal Blanc made at Hopkins Vineyard.

I was digging through the wine cooler looking for a chardonnay, when I found Duet.  I had already passed over a couple of other white wines, but this one caught my interest especially when I noticed the label said it was a “dry white wine”   – just what I was looking for!

2012-12-16 19.40.34

This Duet has flavors of crisp apple, melon and honeysuckle.  It calms the spicy peppers and cumin  in the Nacho Dip with a nice long finish.

Varietal: 50/50 Blend Chardonnay & vidal Blanc     Alcohol:  13.5%     Price:  $12.99

Pepi Chardonnay

This wine was a media sample from Balzac Communications.

Ever wonder where the name, “Red Wine Diva” came from.  Well, first and foremost, I had to have a Twitter handle, and actually this wasn’t my first choice but thankfully, it was easy to change when I finally had this epiphany!  Second, red wine was the only wine I drank – seriously!

I started out like most wine people with a white zinfandel or a blush wine – and thought I was SO sophisticated.  The wine palate is an ever-evolving thing so shortly into this wine lifestyle, I was ready to move to the next level of wines.  I don’t know why, but for some reason I thought the next logical step in tasting wine was to go to Chardonnay.  I thought white wines were a lighter fruitier wine than reds.  (Boy, was that a misconception!) I tried and I tried and I tried.  I just couldn’t do it.  I couldn’t find a Chardonnay I liked.  I found them all too dry, too bitter.  This was years ago so I don’t remember the names of any of them, but I do know I just couldn’t drink them.  Then one day I decided to try a red wine – I think it was a Cabernet Sauvignon but again don’t remember which one.  What I do remember is how good it was.  It was simply scrumptous!  And I was hooked on red wine truly believing I would never look back at Chardonnay.  I just couldn’t figure out what all the fuss was about.

So Red Wine Diva dove head first into the wine life style and started learning to appreciate wine for what it truly is, complex, beguiling, and wonderful all at the same time.  I still had friends who were big into white wines though and occasionally I would imbibe.  I eventually was able to drink a white wine and actually enjoy it.  Then in the summer of 2010, North Carolina experienced an incredible heat wave and draught that brought us all to our knees.  It was great for the vineyards! North Carolina produced some great wines that year!!!  And it brought me full circle in my wine lifestyle – back to the crisp, clean refreshing taste of a good chilled white wine.  It was way too hot to be sipping a heavy red wine.

Today I actually enjoy white wines, especially Chardonnay – and I am so glad, otherwise, I would have missed out on this wonderful Pepi Chardonnay.  Bursting with flavors of pear and crème brulee, this wine is a real bargain and a true interpretation of what Chardonnay is all about.  All the Pepi wines sell for around $10 making them the perfect house wine for everyone, the wine you keep on hand just in case.  I know I will!

Varietal: Chardonnay          Alcohol:  13.33%          Price: $10

World of Flavor – Grove Winery

Congratulations to Berl & April – they were the winners of a special give-away for the World of Flavor” dinner at sponsored by Grove Winery.  Then Berl generously agreed to do a guest post on my blog to tell us all about the fabulous meal & wine pairing.  Thanks so much, Berl.  Sounds like I missed a great time!

What a night.  My wife April and I just had one of the best nights out we have had in a while.  It started off with a wonderful surprise from Red Wine Diva with tickets to the World of Flavors Dinner at Grove Winery.  Grove Winery is located in Gibsonville, NC and this was their first of what I hope to be annual dinner pairing some of their wines with foods from different wine regions.

The night was kicked off with a melody of music from all the different wine regions being showcased by Gary Brunotte.  While Gary is an accomplished jazz pianist he brought his accordion and transported us to each of the wine regions with traditional and not so traditional music.  Some of the diners were even moved to dance.

Award winning Chef Mitchell Nicks of Muse Catering started us off with a Trip to France where he paired Grove’s unoaked Chardonnay with a Neufchatel Cheese, Tomatoes and Crisp Prosciutto stuffed artichoke heat. This French Chablis-style of Chardonnay with its clean finish complemented the delicate flavors of the artichoke hearts.   Then it was off to Spain with a Catalan Tomato Bread that was paired with the Tempranillo.  I especially loved the white anchovy.  This estate grown grape is the primary grape in Spanish Rioja wines and I am a big fan.  Grove does a great job of capturing the traditional Spanish style of this grape. Love it. We took home three bottles after dinner.

There were three main courses from Germany, Italy and North Carolina.  The Grove Traminette, a German style of grape, was paired with a German style braised pork shoulder atop a bed of German Sauerkraut.  We were very surprised by the strong floral nose and honeysuckle notes of this wine and it paired nicely with the tender white pork and kraut.  The Italian style Sangiovese known best for the Italian Chianti was a perfect match for a very traditional Tortellini Bolognese adding the perfect touch of smokiness to the dish.   Finally we came back to North Carolina with a wonderfully slow braised boneless short rib that was braised and paired with the Grove’s Norton.  A native American grape, Norton held up well to the richness of the short ribs with its slight tartness and big fruit flavors.

Thank you John and Max for a great time.  I highly recommend Grove Winery for some of the best wines North Carolina has to offer.

Carolina Blue – A Trifecta of NC Wineries

The Carolina Blue sky envelopes the state on this perfect late August Sunday afternoon.  What a perfect time to visit some local wineries.  Sometimes we get so caught up in looking for something new and different, that we forget what we have just down the road; so like Dorothy in the “Wizard of Oz,” I decided to look no further “than my own backyard.”

First up was supposed to be one of North Carolina’s newest wineries, Medaloni Cellars , but with disappointment, we pulled up in the vacant lot of what will one day be their tasting room.  (Will definitely have to add this one to my “to-do”list.)  Not to be discouraged, we moved on down the road to Westbend Vineyards & Brewhouse.  Being one of North Carolina’s oldest vineyards, Westbend planted the first ever vinifera grapes in the State back in 1972 and they have been going strong ever since.   

Today with a menu of wines to suit every palate, you are sure to find something to please.  I opted for their barrel fermented Chardonnay while hubby chose the Chambourcin.  The Chardonnay was like biting into caramel-coated popcorn with rich caramel, fig and vanilla flavors.  The Chambourcin had earthy notes with slight cherry on the palate.  We sat outside under the covered pavilion and enjoyed the cool breezes of an early fall and the beautiful scenery. 

We moved on from Westbend to Weathervane Winery.  As we both really like a dry red wine, we decided to go with one of their newest releases, “Forecaster’s Reserve Meritage.”  One might think that on an August day in North Carolina, you wouldn’t want to drink red wine, especially outside; but the air already has that little nip in it indicating that we have a long “red wine” drinking season in front of us. 

A blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot, this wine is bold with hints of tobacco and leather, a big mouth feel with a silky finish.  As a matter of fact, it was so good, that we decided to stock up! 

Last on our triple header day was Zimmerman Vineyards.  Zimmerman Vineyards is actually renowned across the State for their Cabernet Franc and since hubby had never been there, we each chose to imbibe of this particular nectar and enjoy the exquisite view.  Nestled far off the road in a tranquil valley in the middle of Randolph County, NC, the scenery is absolutely breath-taking.  The wine had cherry aromas, soft tannins and a smooth, long finish.  The perfect way to wrap up a day spent in our own backyard.

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