Friday, December 12, 2014

Holiday Addition: The Latest & Greatest You Must Try…

I saved the best for last – the last of the year, that is. I’ve been hard at working eating, drinking, and reading so that I could get everyone ready for holiday giving (and keeping).

Notorious Pink Grenache
First of all, I love this bottle with the glass cap. Right away you get the feeling that this is more than a $20 bottle of wine (it’s not). Inside you’ll get 100% grenache in a light, strawberry-filled rose that’s easy to drink for any occasion.

2012 Fiorfiore Superiore Todi Grechetto Roccafiore
I’ll bet you can’t say that in one breath! You’ll want to write it down so you get it right at the wine store because chances are it’s not up front. Grechetto may be a grape you don’t know, but the Italians of Umbria sure do. This will also only set you back around $20 and it’s hard not to like. Think pinot grigio with a little more bite. You’ll get plenty of lemon and a bit of acidity that will mix well with food.

Viva Diva Moscato Mango
This is not the wine you’ll serve with dinner, but you’ll love it before or after. It has the sweet fruity taste of a Moscato, but the mango adds a bit of tang so it’s not too sugar coated. The Viva Diva wines are owned by celebrity Christina Milan and while I can’t speak for the other flavors (it also comes in Strawberry, Peach, and Pineapple Coconut), for $10 each you’ll want to stock some of the Moscato Mango for holiday visitors.

Reyka Small Batch Vodka
To be honest, I asked reps to stop sending me vodka for a while. It seemed like vodka was being made on every corner and in every country. I reluctantly agreed to try Reyka, and I’m glad I did. This one is definitely different. The Icelandic spirit is produced with glacial water and is smooth and flavorful. It’s well worth $25.

Cana Brava Rum
I confess that I haven’t looked to Panama for my rum before, but Cana Brava certainly knows its way around sugar cane. They also decided to age this one for three years to give it a bit more edge. The result was a great rum with strong vanilla notes. Give it or keep it for $25.

Blue Bay Chair Spiced Coconut Rum
This rum is the complete opposite of the previous one, and, the complete opposite of what I expected. First, it’s white in color, not a brown like most spiced rums. It is more of a cream rum and I’d have to compare it with Rumchata more than anything. That said, this is delicious by itself over ice, or with some soda water for a mixed drink. It will also cost you about $5 less than that other cream rum.

Fords London Dry Gin
I’m a gin lover so it’s not easy to get me to endorse one, but Fords London Gin has my seal of approval. According to the company, this gin is made from nine botanicals, “juniper from Italy, coriander from Romania, lemon peel from Spain, bitter orange peel from Haiti and Morocco, grapefruit peel from Turkey, angelica from Poland, cassia from Indonesia, jasmine from China and finally, orris from Italy and Morocco.” The blend most certainly works, but the reason I really like it is the same reason I really like gin – this one really has strong juniper flavor. Pick it up for about $30.

Tin Cup and Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey
Jess Graber has been distilling in Colorado for 30 years. The Rocky Mountain water has been good to him, but he still likes to play around with making whiskey.

Stranahan’s is quite strong in the front, but it goes down smooth, but not sweet, thanks to 100% malted barley. Tin Cup is actually bourbon, through a blend of corn, malted barley, and rye. You’ll get more sweetness in this one, especially the caramel notes, while the Stranahan’s is a bit more vanilla. Stranahan’s lists at $61, while Tin Cup goes for half that. While Tin Cup is a good blend, you get more fine whiskey taste with Stranahan’s

Food, wine, and spirits books find their way on my doorstep quite often. I admit I’m way behind on my reading, but I have some ideas if you are looking for hostess gifts this holiday season. Here are my picks…






Of course, there’s always my books...

And More…
I mentioned Cascade Ice Organic Flavored waters once before. I just wanted to add that they sent me two more flavors – Mixed Berry and Blueberry. At zero calories with real fruit flavor, I would definitely stock up on these for mixers. The Blueberry was especially incredible with the rum.

*As is always my policy, I only share what I like, regardless of what is given to me complimentary.

Happy Holidays!

Friday, October 31, 2014

The Latest & Greatest You Must Try…

There is still quite a bit left here to checkout*, but I couldn’t wait to talk about some of my latest finds. After all, we are getting near the holidays. It’s time to put some ideas in your head…

Prinz Von Hessen Rieslings
Some of my favorite wines have been Rieslings. It’s a grape that’s gotten a bad rap because everyone presumes it’s supposed to be sweet. The truth is that Rieslings can run from super sweet (like a late harvest) to dry.

I tried a trio of Rieslings from Prinz Von Hessen in Johannesburg, Germany. They varied quite a bit in both taste and price, but I liked them all.

2012 Prinz Von Hessen-A semi dry wine with strong citrus, especially lemon. A great find for $16.
2012 Prinz Von Hessen Royal-A bit drier, with some apricot mixed with the citrus. Worth $25.
2007 Prinz Von Hessen Weingut-A lot less fruit, more toast and vanilla. This wine is closer to an aged chardonnay. A good splurge wine at $60.

Dark Chocolate Godiva Liqueur
It was hard to imagine there would be anything wrong with the combination of dark chocolate and Godiva and I was right. This is heaven in a bottle for the chocolate lover. I poured it in coffee, mixed it in a martini, and even tried some over cake. This is a must-have for every bar.

French Gin
I am definitely a gin girl and two different brands of French gin were recently presented to me. I love tasting gin and trying to convince others to do so. It’s so hard to get people past the stage of “I don’t like gin.” Gin can be many different flavor combinations, as long as it has juniper in it.

Here are four totally different gins that I enjoyed:

Citadelle Gin
I love everything about this gin. It is super smooth, yet complex. The bottle says it has “19 spices from around the world,” but the flavor of each is so mild you’ll have trouble picking them out. I would have no problem drinking this with a little ice if I didn’t have a mixer around.

Citadelle Reserve Gin
I’ve previously tried barrel-aged gin and I was not a fan. This one is quite different. While it has a bit of an edge to it, I knew I was drinking gin, not whiskey. I still would prefer my gin to have more botanical and less vanilla when straight or with plain soda, but this really made an incredible gin and tonic.

GVine Gin Floraison
I hope all non-gin drinkers will at least try this. It’s a perfect example of gin that tastes nothing like you are used to. It’s definitely floral, with the vine flower making its way to the top of the tasting notes. On the other hand, I also get the herbs, especially the juniper and ginger. I will definitely drink this again.

GVine Gin Nouaison
This gin was created in small copper stills and it too has an unusual taste profile. I tasted more of the lime here. It’s also a bit more powerful, with hints of coriander and licorice.

Innis & Gunn
As everyone knows by now, I’m not a big beer drinker, but I always keep a list of friends who are beer connoisseurs to come over and give some a try. Innis & Gunn of Scotland sent over some samples and the consensus is that the Toasted Oak Indian Pale Ale (IPA) is the best. This oak-aged beer past the “a bit out of the ordinary” beer to drink test.

Also popular is the Innis & Gun Rum Aged beer, a darker beer. A friend did say, though, that he’d prefer it room temperature rather than the suggested chilled.

*As is always my policy, I only share what I like, regardless of what is given to me complimentary.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Wine, Spirits & Other Finds

It’s been a while since I’ve updated this page. I’ve been traveling, getting started on my new Midwest Travel section on, and keeping up with my other blog, Wine And Spirits Travel.  

I’ve also been doing a lot of sampling on and off the road. It’s about time I shared some of these great items. * I expect to start updating this column again at least monthly.

My favorite of what I’ve received this summer:
2013 Mercer Yakima Valley Pinot Gris
A must try for those like me who really appreciate a good light and white.

An easy drinking bubbly which has a hint of strawberry:
Montalbera Bollicine Roseus Brut

A peachy Moscato-like wine you can take this along anywhere:
Naked Wines Wanderlust White

For the dry red drinker, who likes that cherry nose:
2009 Reserve Abacela Tempranillo

If you like a sparkle in your apple, you’ll love the strong green apple notes in this:
Kramer Vineyards 2013 Celebrate Pinot Gris

Though it’s not one of my favorite wines, this not too heavy, black cherry and white pepper taste took me in:
2010 Mckinley Springs Cabernet Sauvignon


Straight up cold, or on the rocks, this one’s super-refreshing:
Malibu Sparkler

A smooth taste distilled with corn and wheat from the heartland:
Salute America Vodka

And More…

Cascade Ice
I love this brand of zero calorie sparkling water that is sweetened with real fruit. My favorite is the Coconut Pineapple (add some rum and you have a super skinny piƱa colada), but I also enjoyed the Peach Mango and Coconut.

*As is always my policy, I only share what I like, regardless of what is given to me complimentary.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Amazing Carry-on Luggage, National Spa Week & a FIAT Giveaway

It’s no secret that I have no place in the world of quick and condensed packers. I like my things and every time I attempt to cut down what I bring to bare minimum, I end up shopping! I was challenged to possibly change this when I received the Gate8 Trifold Cabin Bag.

Did this bag change me into a carry-on only gal? No, but it will certainly be my No. 1 carry-on and I suggest it for those who really can minimalize. 

The bag has lots of pockets and room to bring and separate lots of items which makes it a winner in my book. That’s not the key element, though.

I am just blown away by the simplest idea that makes this G* bag miraculous – it has a zipper off laptop bag! Whether you are putting your carry-on above your head or handing to a gate agent because you have a small item only plane (as I usually do), the idea that you can zip off a laptop big – which has room to add other items too – is great.  On my way home, I decided I wasn’t going to squeeze everything in so I checked the main bag and carried on the laptop bag and my pocketbook.

* * *

It’s hard not to get a smile on my face when I hear the word “spa” and National Spa week is coming April 21-27. This always means that $50 treatments will be available in spas around the country, and this year it also will be the time for some giveaways.

Among the prizes up for grabs are products from Jurlique skincare, Godiva, and FabFit Fun. You can enter to win at the Spa Week Facebook page.

* * *

MSC Logo
I haven’t yet traveled on MSC Cruises yet, but I’ve heard enough good things to pass along this contest. $21,000. Anyone booking a seven-night cruise aboard the MSC Divina to the Caribbean will be automatically entered. Just book by May 18, 2014 and sail between August 2-December 27, 2014. The winner will be selected at random in December.