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Part of our gift package after my team one first prize at the Défi de Bacchus 2009 wine tasting competition in Lyon, France. Figured it was time to crack open the bottle. So cheers to the ONE-FOUR!

Château Mont-Redon Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2005
Tasting Notes: Ruby red in the glass. Predominantly grenache and syrah, with some mourvedre, Abeille-Fabre vineyard, 14.5% vol. Bright, fresh berries on the nose, accompanied by a subtle spice. Overall a fairly tight nose, lacking some expression. Fruit-forward flavors of black cherry and brambleberry, immediately followed by dark chocolate. This wine is full-bodied with balanced tannins and a juicy acidity. The finish is slightly bitter but would be balanced out nicely with a hearty meal.
Rating: 14/20 (87/100)
Price: US$44 @ Gift from Défi de Bacchus 2009 and the Sup’ de Coteaux wine club

By Claire Yeading, Grand Crew Contributor

Are you confused about the health benefits of wine? It’s not surprising! Check out any story in the media and you’ll find literally hundreds of contrasting views. Whereas one story will claim French wines can help keep you looking youthful, maintain a sharp mind, and even reduce the risk of heart disease, other stories tell of the many dangers of alcohol consumption. It’s hard to know what to believe and what to take with a pinch of salt, isn’t it? We all know the risks associated with heavy drinking, but then there is something to be said for the French Paradox – the fact that there are significantly lower cases of heart attack, obesity, and cancer in France — where wine consumption is rife — than in other parts of the world.

It appears that it’s not the wine itself that’s renowned for its health benefits, but rather the type of wine, and the type of grape. For example, white wines are believed to have very limited benefits, whereas certain reds are proven to have many positive effects on human health. The big question is – which wines will give you the greatest benefits?

Girò

The Girò grape is thought to have originated in Eastern Spain. Today Girò is commonly found throughout Sardinia, most notably in the Cagliari and Oristano area,s which are two of Sardinia’s biggest and most important wine growing regions. Whilst growing, the grapes produce large quantities of sugar, and they are often left on the vine well after harvesting season, allowing them to shrivel slightly and concentrate the sugars. The result is a very sweet, thick wine similar to a dessert or fortified wine. So what makes Girò so good health-wise? Apart from high quantities of sugar, Girò also contains a large number of Procyanidins – a natural compound frequently found in apples, peanut skin, and cocoa beans. Procyanidins have been found to encourage follicle growth in much the same way as some common alopecia drugs on the market. However, the results are believed to be much more restrained than when using medicines specifically designed for combating male pattern baldness. As a natural solution, however, it’s thought to be very effective.

Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the most widely recognized and widely drunk wines in the world. In fact, go to any bar and order a ‘red wine’ and chances are you’ll end up with a glass filled with a rich and fruity Cabernet Sauvignon. The reason for this is simple – the grape is grown all around the world. In fact, practically all major wine-producing regions will grow and harvest their own Cabernet Sauvignon. The differences in flavor largely come from how long the berries are left on the vine, and the weather conditions. Cooler conditions tend to produce a blackcurrant taste, whereas late harvests tend to create a somewhat sharp and bitter flavor that’s sought after by many. Other than being tasty, how can Cabernet Sauvignon help you? Compounds in the grape’s skin have been found to be a necessary part of wound healing. Research shows that Cabernet Sauvignon can work better at healing wounds than regular applications of lubricants such as petroleum jelly, encouraging faster tissue regrowth over the site of the wound.

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is yet another very common grape variety, and one that is grown, harvested, and served throughout the world. However, some connoisseurs argue that Burgundy produces the best Pinot Noir, full of fruit flavours such as strawberries and raspberries, whereas varieties from the US and Australia, for example, have somewhat of a more earthy taste. Regardless of taste, Pinot Noir has the potential to be very good for our health. Why? Because the grape has been found to contain very high levels of quercetin - a flavonoid often found in fruits. Quercetin is one of the most important antioxidants in existence, and boasts a variety of health benefits. Research suggests that the risk of certain cancers, bone conditions, and diseases related to the heart can all be lessened with increased consumption of quercetin. So don’t feel guilty for pouring yourself a glass!

Despite the complex argument over whether wine really is good for you or not, there is significant evidence to suggest that some wines, particularly those made from red grapes, can do more good than harm. If you’re looking for a way to boost your health whilst not giving up all your favorite treats, then indulging in a glass of wine or two every so often is perhaps one of the best ways to maintain a happy and healthy lifestyle.

By Claire Yeading, Grand Crew Contributor

For wine lovers there are many reasons to make a wine vacation your vacation of choice for 2014: and no, we’re not just talking about the chance to sample a wide variety of vintages! Colorful landscapes, beautiful vineyards and the chance to meet a host of interesting and likeminded people are also all great reasons to make a wine vacation the vacation for you. But which trip is the best one for you? If money were no object, where in the world should you be booking that flight to? Here are some ideas:

Try Tuscany

Tuscany is renowned as being one of the greatest wine regions in the world. A trip here is worth undertaking simply to try the famous Chianti Classico at source! But as well as the wine, Tuscany is an incredibly beautiful part of the world to visit. Think stunning landscapes, leafy vineyards and rolling hills. Many of the wineries are found in converted castles, which only adds to the excitement and drama of a visit to the region. When you visit Tuscany you’ll find endless sunshine, and your wine can be complemented by the fabulous plump olives that the region is famous for too. If you love your food as much as you love your wine, then Tuscany is the perfect vacation destination for you.

Love the Loire Valley                         

You can’t write a list of places to visit for a wine vacation without mentioning France! And the Loire Valley is one of the most fascinating parts of France to visit for a wine vacation. Smoky cabernet, sweet muscadets and crisp sauvignon blancs should all be on your must-drink list when you visit this famous wine region.  The Loire Valley is one of the most beautiful and picturesque parts of France. It is famed for the lush greenness of the landscape, and you’ll often hear the gentle sound of the Loire river passing by the vineyards you choose to visit. You’ll come for the wine, stay for the beautiful chateaux, and contemplate moving here forever before you leave!

Book a Wine Cruise

If you’re interest is in European wine and you’d like to explore more than one region during your vacation, then a great option would be to book a European food and wine cruise. This will enable you to explore some of the continent’s most famous and popular wine producing regions from the comfort of your cruise ship. You can also enjoy some especially fine wines, hand-chosen to enhance your journey, whilst you travel.  According to Iglu Cruise, these kind of cruises enable travelers to immerse themselves in this important social and cultural aspect of the port of call. Everything from regional cuisine, wineappreciation and dining etiquette await you on this type of gastronomic adventure. Many cruises will even have expert wine tasters on hand to help to guide you through the grape varieties of each region and teach you everything you need to know about the art of wine tasting. For the wine lover, this really and truly is the trip of a lifetime.

Closer to Home in Napa Valley

If you want to stay within the United States and travel a little closer to home then there’s only one place to go. Head to the Napa Valley. With over fifty different types of grapes on offer, as well as some beautiful vineyards and cozy caverns where you can sit and enjoy a glass of fine wine, this trip is the perfect way to relax and unwind whilst exploring the world of fine wine. Napa Valley is just fifty miles north of San Francisco, meaning that you could also combine your tranquil wine trip with exploration of this vibrant city too. It’s a best of both worlds vacation, and one that is especially suited to those new to the concept of wine-based vacation.

If you’re thinking of taking a wine vacation for 2014, then there are endless wonderful possibilities for where to travel. So what are you waiting for? Why not start the New Year by booking your dream wine vacation today?

Thanksgiving

It’s the day before the Thanksgiving holiday in the US.  It’s my favorite holiday (and to a certain extent, my favorite time) of the year.  Up until recently, anyway, it’s been the one holiday that is about gathering with family and friends around a table, sharing a great meal, stories, and perhaps a few bottles of wine.  I’ve been blessed with a wonderful family, and Thanksgiving dinners are some of my fondest family memories.   This year, my wife and I have inherited the tradition of hosting dinner from my Aunt (Auntie!).

We follow a very traditional meal plan; we’re cooking a turkey, and we’ll have many traditional accompaniments.   We love to serve and share wine, and feel the wine should be as good and as special as the food.

Many people get hung up on the diversity of the meal.  What goes with turkey?  Does it also go with the stuffing and the greens?  What about the sweet potatoes?   There’s no reason to worry; I think the diversity of the meal actually makes it easier to pick wine.  The secret:  serve something great!  A good wine (with a good story), will “go” with everything.  I also think that serving wine from the US is fitting given the origin of the holiday, but we’re breaking that guideline a bit this year

Here’s what we’re serving::

Champagne

All good parties start with Champagne.  This is going to be a good party.

Chilean Sauvignon Blanc

I happen to have a few bottles (courtesy of my friends at The Thomas Collective and Wines of Chile).  It’s a great pairing with oysters, and some of them have a little richness that will go with an oyster stuffing.  They are also fantastic aperitif, of course, and crowd pleasers.  Bonus:  They tend to be inexpensive.

Vouvray

Most people recommend Riesling, as it’s very food friendly and can have a little sweetness.  We’re going with Vouvray this year, as Chenin Blanc has the same qualities, but I think tends to have a bit more richness along with the versatility.   Plus, we happen to love it, and it’s often eye opening for folks who haven’t had it before.

California Chardonnay

I think this is one of the wines you really must have on the table at Thanksgiving.  I steer clear of over oaked (typical) California Chardonnay in favor of some more subtle and austere varieties.  However, one of the nice things about serving Vouvray is that it can hold it’s own in place of Chardonnay, if you’re trying to lower your SKUs, so to speak.

American Pinot Noir

I struggle to find affordable Pinot from the US that’s good.  It is often over extracted, too fruity, and mass produced because everyone saw or heard about ‘Sideways’ and decided Pinot was what the cool kids drink.  However, there are some more austere varieties out there.  They tend to remain on the fruity side, which is a crowd pleaser, and really are the great versatile food match for the traditional Thanksgiving meal.

California Cabernet

In my opinion, this is the ultimate American wine, and should be on the table for the ultimate American holiday.  We tend to serve something really special here; something from a vineyard we’ve visited in Napa, something from a vintage we remember.   While perhaps not exactly the best food match, there is a lot of richness on the table, and if it’s a wine you love, it’s fun to share.

The most important thing to remember:  drink what you love.  Drink something that evokes some emotion.  Drink something you want to share with people you love.

This? Outstanding, food friendly, and under $20!

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Easy drinking Rose

Rose can be a little daunting to navigate, but this is great stuff. Easy drinking, juicy, great fruit, but with some mineral backbone. Inexpensive, too!

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This bottle was a gift from a close French friend, Marie, who visited me and my family in Worthington, Ohio, as part of her 3-week US road trip vacation. She was visiting from Paris. Merci beaucoup Marie!!!

“Givry, famous as the preferred wine of King Henri IV, produces mostly red wine in the Côte Chalonnaise district of Burgundy. The rare white wines, a tenth of the total production (predominantly with Chardonnay), are often particularly interesting with a soft bouquet reminiscent of licorice. The reds have more structure and ability to age than those of neighboring Rully, but less depth than Mercurey. About one-sixth of the vineyard area is designated Premier Cru, including Clos Marceaux, Clos Salomon and Clos Jus.” (Source: The Oxford Companion to Wine)

Remoissenet Père & Fils Givry Blanc 2011
Tasting Notes: 100% Chardonnay, 13% vol. Golden honey hue in the glass. Very fresh, pleasant and mildly herbaceous on the nose, balanced by a fruity richness with notes of peach, citrus fruits and subtle sweet spices. Juicy and well-balanced tartness on the palate with flavors of green apples, fresh lemons and oranges and mild notes of green grass. A fairly straight-forward, unassuming and very enjoyable wine, perfect for sipping on the porch or pairing with shell fish, white fish or other light fair.
Rating: 15/20 (89/100)
Price: ~US$ 30 @ Nicolas in Paris

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