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GrapeStone Concepts
Wine and Travel Writer,WSET® Advanced Level 3 Certified, C.W.P.
Recent Activity
Holiday parties are upon us. Nothing sets the stage more perfectly than walking in a party, pulling a glass of bubbles from an ornate silver tray, and drinking the heady sparkler. I receive more emails requesting sparkler and Champagne suggestions in December more than at any other time of the year. People are confused about how to select a type or style of a sparkling wine. Special occasions also call for a personal Champagne toast. A few guidelines. Spontaneous toasts only look that way. Select the right words and practice them. A touch of humor is rarely out of place.... Continue reading
Posted Dec 19, 2014 at GrapeStone Concepts
Is Merlot Live and Kicking? 10 Year anniversary of "Sideways" movie See my article in PRIME Magazine: October marked the 10-year anniversary of the premiere of Sideways, the movie that belittled Merlot and starred Pinot Noir. This Oscar-nominated movie–a pre-wedding buddy trip gone wrong—features Miles, the main character starring Paul Giamatti. Miles, who utters a notorious line, “No, if anyone orders Merlot, I’m leaving. I am NOT drinking any [expletive] Merlot.” During the next year Merlot sales dropped and Pinot Noir sales soared...... And the beautiful Fess Parker Winery in Santa Ynez/Santa Barbara wine country....or the infamous "Frass... Continue reading
Posted Nov 26, 2014 at GrapeStone Concepts
See my interview with George Miliotes and the entire article in PRIME Magazine. Today's post-recession restaurant customer demands a significant Wines-by-the Glass (WBTG) program. A truly inspired wine list drives curiosity, welcomes exploration, and invites sampling. Properly priced WBTG programs can motivate guests to sample specialized selections within affordable ranges. Finding such an inspired wine program in fine dining and casual chain restaurants can be challenging, but examples of excellence exist. Below are details of several multi-location, specialty restaurant, and Locavore restaurants that offer distinct wine-by-the-glass programs. Master Sommelier, George Miliotes is the Wine and Beverage director of the 42-location... Continue reading
Posted Nov 3, 2014 at GrapeStone Concepts
Join me for my interview in PRiME Magazine and YouTube Videos with Carissa Mondavi, granddaughter of Robert Mondavi, daughter of Tim Mondavi as she and her family continue Robert's dream of making world class wines. This Pritchard Hill, Napa Valley, location is optimal for making truly complex fine wines. Carissa discusses the unique terroir of the vineyards, winemaking techniques, and the changing environment of women in the wine industry. Enjoy! Youtube: Mondavi history and dream Youtube: Tour of Continuum Estates. Continue reading
Posted Oct 14, 2014 at GrapeStone Concepts
Our special trip to Barcelona and the Priorat region demanded that I scope out the best wine bars. Here are four of my favorite in a story for PRiME Magazine. Enjoy reading about the Four Best Wine Bars and learn the origin of Tapas. Tapas at Tickets Restaurant: Considered the Hardest Restaurant Reservation in Europe Monvinic Wine Bar's Cellar: Considered "one of the best wine bars in the world", Jay McInerney, Wall Street Journal Steve and I at Tickets, San Jordi Day, red rose in hand: Barcelona's San Jordi, or St. George's Day, is a tradition equivalent of Valentines... Continue reading
Posted Sep 28, 2014 at GrapeStone Concepts
When it was announced in February that the 2013 Chateau Miraval, a dry rosé wine, was sold out in an impressive 5 hours, I knew that the dry rosé revolution was in full swing. Chateau Miraval is a joint venture of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie and the Famille Perrin in France’s Provence region. Their 2012 vintage was ranked #84 in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of the Year, making it the 2012’s “Best Rosé in the World.” Some of my wine industry fellow sommeliers have been noticing this dry rose trend for the last 3 years. See entire article... Continue reading
Posted Aug 6, 2014 at GrapeStone Concepts
I've started a new series of articles on dominant women in the Wine Industry. One of the most powerful and prolific examples of women wine leaders is Jean Arnold Sessions, Board Director and former President, of historic Hanzell Vineyards, Sonoma, California. Jean is a 'Thriver" in a male-dominated industry, both personally and professionally. She has dealt with the recent death of her husband, winemaker Bob Session, a Stage 3 breast cancer bout, running a wine consulting firm, and several winery-related business challenges. My article also links to her interview this year in the Wall Street Journal and her TEDx presentation... Continue reading
Posted Jul 13, 2014 at GrapeStone Concepts
During our stay in Barcelona, we took the train southwest to the magnificent Priorat wine region. The Priorat region is named for its monestary, which is an area chosen in the 12th century as a quiet place with mountains that seemed "closer to God". And, the wines and view? To Die For. Check out the winery tour at Clos Mogodor on Youtube and the entire article in PRiME Magazine. Continue reading
Posted Jun 17, 2014 at GrapeStone Concepts
One of my wine writer colleagues, Katie Kelly Bell who writes the wine column for, wrote an article for us in PRiME, a Magzine for Women in Their Prime. She talks about the advantages of wine clubs. But which one should you join? 11 of the best are profiled. Choose the right one for you. Katie's advice: "The list is by no means comprehensive, but it offers a few places to begin.....One more thing, once you do join, give your new wines wines at least a week to recover from bottle shock due to shipping. Otherwise they’ll just taste... Continue reading
Posted May 22, 2014 at GrapeStone Concepts
At a class in late September (an now offered monthly) I attended the CIA - Culinary Institute of America - my alma mater for Wine Studies - called "Tasting Wine Like a Pro". Traci Dutton, Manager, Public Wine and Beverage Studies, and a sommelier, taught the class. What a good start to a weekend of wine tasting in Napa Valley. How to taste, what to taste, even how to spit! See my article in PRiME, a Magazine for women in their Prime: Napa Valley Wine Country Travel Tips. Remember: Wine tasting is a "practice sport" - so hit the playing... Continue reading
Posted May 5, 2014 at GrapeStone Concepts
Featured in PRiME, a Magazine for Women in Their Prime, is my latest article on Hosting a Blind Wine Tasting at Home. You can find it at: 8 Tips for Hosting . Basically, this will give you tips for how to set up such a tasting. You can make the event entertaining for novices and experienced wine drinkers alike. Here is an example on a wine tasting onboard the Oceania Riviera cruise ship - which is known for their specialty theme tastings. We're onboard this week on our way to Barcelona, Spain. Some of the suggested "themes" for your event... Continue reading
Posted Apr 16, 2014 at GrapeStone Concepts
I am so pleased to be part of PRiME, a Magazine for Women in Their Prime. I am serving as the Contributing Wine Editor, but I'm also excited about the articles my fellow editors have written on fashion, finance, travel, lifestyles, health. How exciting to reach out to such an under-served demographic, the 50+ fashionable, astute, brilliant woman! My first article titled: The ABC's of Anything But Chardonnay details 9 Intriguing White Wine Alternatives, Highly Rated, Great Value. Today we are fortunate to have many expressions of chardonnay, not just the over-ripe, over-oaked choices. New-age chardonnays range from the tart,... Continue reading
Posted Apr 4, 2014 at GrapeStone Concepts
I just returned from the 2014 Syposium for Professional Wine Writers held in Napa Valley last week. Robert Parker was our keynote speaker. See Video This conference is sponsored each year by the Culimany Institute of America, The Napa Valley Vintners, and Meadowood Resort. Attendees included editors from Wine Enthusiast, New York Times, Sunset Magazine, Food & Wine, Worth Magazine, Wines & Vines and wine writers from Wall Street Jounal, San Francisco Chronicle, and Huffington Post among others. The Symposium featured sessions on wine analysis and flaws as well as writing styles, photography, video skill enhancement. There was also a... Continue reading
Posted Feb 28, 2014 at GrapeStone Concepts
Want to make the most of your trip to Napa and Sonoma Valleys? Start out your tasting adventure with a two-hour class, “Tasting Like a Professional” at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) at Greystone. The setting for the class is an impressive amphitheater in the Rudd Center for Wine Studies, an old stone structure overlooking the vineyards of Charles Krug winery. This semi-circular room is complete with individual stations equipped with tasting sinks, viewing lights, and rows of stemware. At the class on this Saturday in late September, we had couples and singles from Iowa, Texas, California, New York,... Continue reading
Posted Dec 4, 2013 at GrapeStone Concepts
Twitter Chat's have to feature the most up-to-date information available. Are you joining #SOMMCHAT every Wednesday at 11 Central? Today featured the first female MS in Canada who is now at Cleff Lede wines, Jennifer Huether. She discussed what's old is new in wine drinking...classic varietal as well as her journey to becoming an MS. Join us next Wednesday...always a good speaker. Continue reading
Posted Dec 4, 2013 at GrapeStone Concepts
TEXSOM 2013 has concluded with a BANG. The Grand Tasting was packed with wine professionals, media, winemakers, and wine industry executives. Over 50 wineries were featured, and the Best Texas Sommelier Competition winner was announced (Scott Ota of the Driskill Hotel, Austin, Texas- Congratulations!) This event was just the conclusion of several days of focused wine education. Where can you find 26 Master Sommeliers under one roof...not to mention all the Masters of Wine, Wine Educators, and Certified Wine Professionals? Top notch sessions were held on new topics, updates on news and experiments in the world wine regions, and research... Continue reading
Posted Aug 13, 2013 at GrapeStone Concepts
I gathered this week with several colleagues from our software firm for a wine tasting of Italian varietals. I wondered if the American palettes would be biased toward the California-grown Italian varietals. I was surprised by the “favorites” rating results. Our tasting menu included Italian appetizer pairing with appetizers catered by Cavalli's/Dallas/McKinney. Here is the wine progression with ratings: Wine Appetizer Pairing 2011 Gattavecchi Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG Salmon Puffs 2011 Costamolino/Argiolas Vermentino di SardegnaDOCG (WA 90 Pts.) 2006 Canneto Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG (WA 91 Pts.) Stuffed mushrooms (Vegetable herb stuffing) 2004 Casisano- Colombaio Brunello di Montalcino,... Continue reading
Posted Feb 1, 2013 at GrapeStone Concepts
Taste of the Seacoast Magazine by Tricia H.Conover, C.W.P. Initially, Chanticleer’s founder George Grodahl and his wife Caddy were just going to grow grapes to supply other vineyards. “Then we got serious and partnered with Chris Dearden, a veteran winemaker and consultant,” he says. Grodahl successfully made the transition from investment banker to boutique winemaker, recovering his start-up costs following his first vintage, a tribute to his business acumen in a valley where profitability is hard won. “Chanticleer was the proud rooster who used wit and cunning to succeed in the story ‘The Nun’s Priest Tale’ from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales,”... Continue reading
Posted Jun 7, 2012 at GrapeStone Concepts
While the wine news is reporting a record Premiere Napa Valley auction event, where 10 cases of Dana Estates sold for $70,000 or $1167/bottle, it is important to note the incredible contribution of women winemakers among the Napa Valley vintners. One of the 10 top wines to be sold at this auction was from Amuse Bouche, Heidi Peterson Barrett's Pomerol-style Merlot. Heidi's successes are legendary including early clients like Screaming Eagle. Prior to the auction I attended a preview event exclusive to some of the more well-known women winemakers. There were some spectacular wines featured in-preview including: Meander's "Conspire" Sauvignon... Continue reading
Posted Feb 28, 2012 at GrapeStone Concepts
Many of my associated wine professionals have been raving about the quality and value of Cameron Hughes wines. So, I thought I would do some sampling on my own. I purchased the 2009 Lot 303 Stags Leap District, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2009 Lot 271 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. The Cab had wonderful scents of blackberry and plum, and had a good minerality with overtones of dark chocolate. It had very fine tannins. For $34 where are you going to find this quality of wine? Not any other place in Stags Leap appellation. Perfect for that rib... Continue reading
Posted Dec 23, 2011 at GrapeStone Concepts
In the latest issue of The Tuscan Magazine, you will find my detailed Top 10 tips on "Hosting a Tuscan Wine Competition at Home". Wine professionals recommend having tasting exercises often and recording your handwritten observations immediately. Can you image a wine judge tasting over 100 wines at a competition and not taking notes? Our recommendations for a Tasting Competition at Home can apply to any vertical or horizontal tasting exercise. Expose your guests to some new as well as some familiar wines. Broadening the palate and "sensory rolodex" is important for improving sensory detection for any level of wine-drinker.... Continue reading
Posted Jul 26, 2011 at GrapeStone Concepts
I was asked to put together a snack-friendly wine list for my editor at Tuscan Magazine. It's soccer/footie season in Italy. Italians have the same desire as we do in the States to find wine that is a complement to their snacks. Go Fiorentina! Check out the Tuscan Magazine Blog at: Tuscan Magazine Blog Continue reading
Posted Apr 8, 2011 at GrapeStone Concepts
I'ts April Fools Day. You don't want to be the fool caught drinking a poor value wine. The most commonly asked question I get is: Are there any good value wines out there? The answer is "yes", literally there are hundreds of them. Be discerning, do a little research, and you should be able to find some wonderful wines. Here is my "No Fools" list of some great finds: 2009 Cameron Hughes Sauvignon Blank (Leyda Valley) $12 2008 Castle Rock Cabernet Sauvignon (Columbia Valley) $12 2009 Sand Rita Reserva Malbec (Colchagua Valley) $12 2009 Tangley Oaks Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast)... Continue reading
Posted Apr 1, 2011 at GrapeStone Concepts
I just returned from the Premiere Napa Valley Wine Auction and the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers. A new star has emerged from the Auction - Scarecrow - by winemaker Celia Welch. A Japanese importer paid $125,000 for a 5 cases, or $2083 per bottle. Two years ago that same lot went for $80,000. The Auction took place at the Culinary Institute of America, Napa Valley, where the crowd of 1,000 consisted of vintners, retailers, restaurateurs, distributors, brokers and media from across the country and around the world. The PNV Wine Auction began in 1997 as a "bake sale" by... Continue reading
Posted Feb 28, 2011 at GrapeStone Concepts
Since the SuperBowl is in Dallas next week, the partying in our hometown has started early. Last night I was at a wine event – Côte du Coeur Wine Society of the American Heart Association - and this wine/snack pairing discussion came up frequently. Beer is terrific with snacks, but some of us just want a great value wine with our nachos, sliders, and chili. Here are my best rating-for-the-dollar recommendations (under $20/bottle in most places) for the best wine that will hold up to unusual and spicy tastes of snack foods. (RATINGS NOTE: WS-Wine Spectator, RP Robert Parker, W&S... Continue reading
Posted Jan 27, 2011 at GrapeStone Concepts