Corkage Explained | Utilizing Corkage Like A Pro

Corkage Explained | Utilizing Corkage Like A Pro

Corkage Fee

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Dining out is almost always expensive when you consider the margins restaurant need to cover high overhead costs, and that’s before even considering tax and tip. But what about for us wine lovers? That’s where it can get prohibitively expensive, since the average restaurant charges between 2 – 4 times a wines retail price on their wine list.

Luckily, there’s a little thing called CORKAGE that every wine lover absolutely needs to know about – and most restaurants aren’t going to tell you about.

While the definition of corkage is the charge exacted by a restaurant for every bottle of wine served that was not actually purchased on the premises – what it really means to you is a tremendous cost savings when you want to enjoy a nice bottle of wine with dinner.

Simply put, utilizing corkage allows you to bring your own wine from home to enjoy at a restaurant and is an incredible way to enjoy wine and drink well for less! Follow these tips and you’ll know exactly what to expect and look like a pro while you’re at it!

Call Ahead – Know Before You Go | Utilizing the Corkage Fee

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Wren Hop Vineyards | Crafting Pinot for Cab Lovers

Wren Hop Vineyards | Crafting Pinot for Cab Lovers

Wren Hop

Google “Wren Hop” and amongst the results is Google’s own description as a ‘Place of Worship’. So you might understand my confusion after looking for directions to a winery that was the top recommendation of Nora Mahan, a well-connected travel concierge for American Express’ destination club Inspirato.

While Wren Hop Vineyards might not be a place of worship in the traditional sense, you might not find this to be such a gross mischaracterization after you visit and taste through their portfolio. To be frank… I’d be surprised if you didn’t find yourself worshiping their Pinot Noirs. Wren Hop

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Ty Caton Sonoma Cabernet | An Estate Grown Gem

Ty Caton Cabernet Sauvignon Caton Vineyard | An Estate Grown Sonoma Gem

Ty Caton

As the hunt for good Napa Cabernet under $20 becomes an increasingly arduous one, you might consider treating your taste buds to a sojourn in Sonoma.

If it’s Pinot Noir that comes to mind when you think of Sonoma, keep in mind when you head further west towards Sonoma Coast is where you’ll find the highest concentration of vineyards dedicated to Pinot (and Chardonnay). But just across the Mayacama mountain range from Napa Valley you’ll find warmer days along with some great Cabernet’s such as this example by Ty Caton Vineyards.

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Summer Wine | Keep Cool with these Summer Sips!

Summer Wine | Keep Cool with these Summer Sips!

Summer Wine

Taken in the gardens at Beringer Vineyards this Summer in Napa

Summer is officially well underway! And here in Washington D.C. that means staggeringly high temperatures coupled with collar soaking humidity. It’s a combination that calls for the type of relief that only a cold bottle of wine (or pink) wine can deliver – so I’ve put together a list of the Summer wines I’ll be reaching for myself over the next few months.

Feel free to take inspiration from this list or have your own fun and come up with your own Summer wine menu. Regardless of what you choose, I hope that you’ll share you’re Summer wine selections with me via Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram, too. Keep cool and enjoy your Summer wine safely!

Summer Wine

Summer Wine | Bodegas Valdemar Conde de Valdemar Finca Alto Cantabria 2013: Boy that was a mouthful, but you can rest assured that what’s in the bottle is simply excellent white Rioja. This elegant and versatile white wine is produced from 100% Viura and will impress with its near weightless, mineral-inflected personality. You can read my full review here.

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Davis Estates Winery | A Changing Landscape in Calistoga

Davis Estates Winery | A Changing Landscape in Calistoga

Davis Estates

This renovated historic barn at Davis Estates is a California Historic Landmark

As the epicenter of America’s evolving and increasingly interesting wine scene, Napa Valley is the hottest place to be – and having its namesake on your label lends quite a bit of cachet and prestige in the marketplace.

Being so sought after has translated to the highest prices nationwide per buildable acre, with prices ranging from $150,000 all the way up to $2 million. While it’s still primarily an agricultural-centric region, long gone are the days of diversified crops in this fertile valley – today the cash crop is the wine grape – and it thrives here.

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Best Wine for Sangria | The Perfect Ingredient

Best Wine for Sangria | The Perfect Ingredient | Plus My Simple Sangria Recipe!

Best wine for Sangria

Stock photo credit: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

The Best Wine for Sangria is of Spanish Origin – Just like Sangria!

Much like the origin of this quaffable summertime favorite, the best wine for Sangria also hails from Spain – and should be an inexpensive, dry wine of good quality.

Because most Sangria Recipe’s call for the addition of fruit and sugar, the perfect wine for Sangria should not be sweet or overly fruity itself – resulting in a harmonious and well balanced Sangria. Once you’ve finished with my Low Calorie Simple Sangria Recipe below you should find yourself with the perfectly uncomplicated Sangria: a refreshing wine cocktail that’s fruity and semi-sweet with just a hint of citrus tang.

Origins of Sangria | The Best Wine for Sangria

Sangria is a wine cocktail that traces its roots to Spain and has been around for well over 50 years. It’s refreshing and fruity personality have not just stood the test of time but actually positioned Sangria as one of the most popular wine cocktails in the world, right up there with the ubiquitous Mimosa!

The name is actually derived from the Spanish term for ‘bloodletting’ due to its typically deep red color. Sangria is defined as a sugar-sweetened fruit and wine cocktail.

Low Calorie Sangria Recipe | Simple and Easy Sangria Recipe with only 3 Ingredients!

Forget the fancy, artisan Sangria Recipe’s you’ll find elsewhere and leave those for the bartenders. This simple and easy Sangria Recipe is all you need for an incredibly tasty and refreshing yet surprisingly low calorie wine cocktail:

  • It’s simple, you only need three ingredients!
    • One bottle of red wine (see below for the best wine for Sangria)
    • One bottle of chilled lemon-lime soda (I prefer Sprite Zero)
      • (Provides just the right amount of citrus tang without the need for actual citrus!)
    • One to two apples
  • Slice the apples into small bite-sized squares/chunks and place in a large pitcher.
  • Pour the entire bottle of red wine over the fruit in the pitcher.
    • Tip: Allow the fruit and wine to marinate together in the refrigerator for a few hours before mixing in the lemon lime soda.
  • Mix 2 cups of chilled lemon lime soda in with the wine and fruit and stir gently.
    • [Optional] For a Sangria with a little extra kick, consider adding a shot of Brandy or your favorite fruit flavored Vodka. 
  • Now simply pour over ice and enjoy!
    • Tip: To make a sweeter, more effervescent Sangria simply increase the ratio of lemon-lime soda to wine. You might try adding one more cup to the pitcher. Adjust to taste.

Don’t miss my article on the Best Champagne for Mimosas with my Simple Mimosa Recipe!

The Perfect Ingredient | The Best Wine for SangriaBest Wine for Sangria

1. Tempranillo: It doesn’t get much more Spanish than Tempranillo, so if you want your Sangria to have a little punch without the Brandy why not honor this traditionally Spanish beverage with a nice bold Tempranillo.

While some of the finest Spanish wines are produced with Tempranillo, there are plenty bargains also like the Protocolo Tinto which is widely available around $6!

Or, let’s say you’re feeling like splurging on something a little less pedestrian and want to make a Cadillac Sangria!

I suggest trying a wine such as the Casado Morales Rioja Reserva. It’s so good that its like paying for a coach class fare and getting a free upgrade to first class!

Sangria Recipe

2. Garnacha/Grenache: Typically fruitier and softer than the darker, more structured Tempranillo is Grenache, or Garnacha as it is known in Spain. Grenache is the most popularly planted red grape in Spain and while it is often discounted as being second tier compared to Tempranillo, there are many fine examples available.

Plus it’s fruity, easy going personality would be right at home in a great Sangria recipe. It’s also usually less expensive than than many Tempranillos, too. You might consider trying the organic Espelt Garnacha that I found under $10!

Sangria Recipe

3. Monastrell/Mourvedre: For a bolder, meatier Sangria, Monastrell is a great Spanish option. Known as Mourvedre in France where it plays a part in providing structure to many Rhone Valley blends, it delivers a more masculine and savory personality supported by firm tannins. Consider trying the Tarima Hill Old Vines Monastrell located in the Costco Wine Section.

Sangria Recipe

Reserve des Cleons Muscadet | Summer Seafood Partner

Reserve des Cleons Muscadet Wine Review | Perfect Partner for Summer Seafood

Muscadet Wine

Muscadet might be tough to pronounce (try Moose-cah-Dey), but if you’re familiar with this popular Loire Valley white then you already know just how easy it is to drink, especially paired with seafood during summertime.

Many of the best Muscadet’s hail from the Sevre et Maine appellation and are aged sur lie, which means on the dead yeast cells. This process adds complexity and lends a certain creaminess to the resulting wine.

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Bodegas Valdemar | A Legacy of Innovation in La Rioja

Bodegas Valdemar | A Legacy of Innovation in La Rioja

Bodegas Valdemar

My incredibly loyal readers know just how fond I am of Spanish wines. They often seriously over-deliver for the price and have an endearing ability to combine the best aspects of old-world wines (balanced, food-friendly and terroir-driven) with those of new world wines (more fruit-forward).

As a Sommelier friend was recently explaining to me, if he is looking to introduce a new world wine drinker to the old-world wine scene, he always starts in Spain. And if he were introducing them to the wines of Bodegas Valdemar, he would have both modern and old-world options to choose from within the same portfolio!

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Smith Madrone Vineyards | A Spring Mountain Must…

Smith Madrone Vineyards | A Spring Mountain Must

Smith Madrone

The views of Napa Valley below from Smith Madrone Vineyards

Something From Nothing | The Beginnings of Smith Madrone Vineyards

Tucked away at the very end of Spring Mountain Road lies Smith Madrone Vineyards. Situated at the highest point in the Spring Mountain District, its steeply sloped mountain vineyards reach grades of up to 34% at elevations between 1300 and 2000 feet.

Notable and familiar neighbors include Bothe Napa Valley State Park directly to the North, Barnett Vineyards immediately to the West and Keenan Winery lies due South.

The history of the property dates all the way back to the 1880 when a man by the name of George Cook secured a land grant authorized by then President Chester A. Arthur and planted vineyards and olive trees on the estate.

But when Stu Smith discovered this special parcel of land, with its expansive views of Napa Valley and rocky, well-drained volcanic soils, the existing vineyards were in disrepair and the property was still mostly just a forest!

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Alamos Malbec Reviewed | Still A Robust Bargain?

Alamos Malbec 2014 Reviewed | Still A Robust Bargain?

Alamos Malbec

First things first… I realize that I’m not bringing you anything groundbreaking or immensely exciting here with an Alamos Malbec review. Its long been a perennial favorite now and is practically the poster child for the Malbec craze. It’s tough not to like its plush, intensely fruited profile and soft, approachable style.

But I hadn’t actually tasted this wine in years and am curious if it’s still a halfway decent bottle for the price. And did I mention how popular it is?

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