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Beringer Wine Dinner

Last Wednesday, we had an opportunity to attend a Beringer wine dinner at Cunningham’s in Towson.

Beringer is a big, big name in wine, and they made their mark (and their money) selling inexpensive wine.  They may be best know for White Zinfandel.  So we had tempered expectations on the wine, but were looking forward to the food, and spending some time with our friend M.

We also look forward to meeting new people at these events.

Overall, the food was outstanding, and the wines were pretty good, too. (more…)


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And I’m ready. 

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Note:  I know Kenny said we’re not actively posting here any more, but, hey, I had a post.  I crossposted it to my personal blog paulstagg.com.  I’d welcome you there.  

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to participate in an online tasting of Austrailia’s Jacob’s Creek Two Lands wines.  I happened to be having a small party that evening with some colleagues, so a few of us got to taste and talk about the wines.  (I’ve been so busy lately I am just now getting an opportunity to do some blogging – it feels like I haven’t had a day off from my business to do any wine writing.  Clearly we haven’t been updating our blog much, but I’d like to change that.)

Online tastings are always a fun experience, and not only because, as a wine blogger, they send me the wines (thanks to The Thomas Collective!), but it gives me an opportunity to get and share education about wine in general.  Certainly this is a marketing event, but every wine tasting includes not just information about the wine/winery, but about the winemaking process, different varietals, climate, and all sorts of other things that make wine interesting.

Here are my notes on the four wines we tasted.

Two Lands Pinot Grigio 2014

There’s a lot going on with the nose, and it’s a little tough to narrow down everything (which is a good thing!)  There’s some apple coming through. This is not my favorite style of wine.  It’s got a big mouthfeel, almost oily, but lacks acidity and has a bit of sweetness.  It’s good wine, but not my cup of tea.  Would pair well with richer seafood, and maybe Asian flavors.  At $14, it is well priced for the quality. Good.

Two Lands Chardonnay 2014

To me, this smells like California Chardonnay that you’ll find with an animal on the label.  Melon, tropical fruit, and vanilla come through.  Another wine with lower acid and higher sweetness, there’s peach and some citrus.  Soft, a bit of texture, but to my palate, a little off balance.  I find myself enjoying drinking it, though.  I would pair with stinky cheese, or just drink it on it’s own while grilling something for dinner.  Another $14 bottle of wine that’s well priced.  Good.

Two Lands Shiraz 2013

I need to tell you right now, I’m not typically a fan of Australian Shiraz.  Unless it is very high end, I’ve found most of it is far too much fruit bomb and cloying, and not enough complexity or finesse.  I understand that’s the style, it’s just not my thing.  What I do like?  Northern Rhone.  Well, this leans toward the latter while still having that Aussie rebellious streak, which makes for a fun wine.  I get some darker fruit on the nose, but taste more red.  Well balanced, full, rich.  It still has some of the ‘hit you over the head’ Shiraz, but the balance and complexity are there as well.  $14, a value at that price.  Very Good.

Two Lands Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Cassis and dark fruit on the nose.  Big nose.  It has nice fruit, but it’s unbalanced.  I think it might be too young, but I don’t pick up the tannin structure that would tell me waiting a couple of years would make it much better.  $14, I think it’s not bad for the price point, because there isn’t much good Cab available under $30.  OK.

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Hello Grand Crew!

My apologies as I should have posted this a LONG time ago. I’ve tied myself down on numerous, unrelated projects and professional travels… electronic music and event production especially!

As such The Grand Crew is no longer actively posting. 😦 However, I will keep the site online at thegrandcrew.wordpress.com so that all fellow winos and fermenters can still access the very juicy and informational posts from 2008 to 2010, in particular.

Happy drinking and cheers to good wine and good life!

Kenny, Founder & Editor

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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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For many people finding the right wine to pair with spicy foods is a very real challenge. They’re sure that something as red and meaty as chili should only be paired with a red wine, and that sweet whites are commonly known as dessert wines, so they must go with desserts. They know that there are rules, but no one has ever really helped them to understand those rules, which can leave a person feeling confused and frustrated. Offer them a dish like jerked chicken, with a white meat and a red sauce, and there is a danger that they’ll throw up their hands all together and walk away from wine pairings.

Unfortunately, the logical red-to-red and white-to-white thinking that they’re employing leads many people down the wrong pairing path. Think about the last time you tried to drink something sweet with a sweet snack. Whether it was soda and a candy bar, chocolate milk and cookies, or a nice Riesling with a fancy soufflé, you were probably at least a little disappointed.

The reason for this is that sweet things generally don’t work well together. One will overpower the other, or bring out bitter or sour undertones you may never have noticed before. You may find that your dessert doesn’t taste sweet at all, while your drink tastes like nothing but sugar syrup.

On the other hand, spicy foods will compete with very dry reds, and tannin-rich wines will actually intensify rather than sooth the burn. A sweet wine will complement the heat, and a white that is higher in acidity will actually stimulate the salivary glands, helping to move the capsaicin along and allowing you to get down to the flavors of a dish.


This lightly carbonated white has a fruity taste that is almost candy-like in its sweetness. This may account for its recent surge in popularity among young American wine drinkers, and makes it an excellent match for spicy foods.

The flavor of wine can be drastically changed when food enters the equation, and a spicy meal will bring out some of the complexities hidden under the sometimes too-intense sweetness of this white. The bubbles will also actually carry away more of the capsaicin, which will make this a very effective palate cleanser. Consider trying a Black Muscat, which will be red and have more of a plummy, jammy flavor than its lighter cousin, which has more than once been compared to Life-Savers candies.


This may be the most recognizable white on the American market. Rieslings come in all shapes and sizes, from the very sweet and even lightly carbonated to the quite dry, almost cooking wine varieties. These wines range widely, but tend to have an undertone of apples and other familiar fruits, which will be accentuated by a spicy meal. Because of their familiarity, Rieslings are an excellent choice for a connoisseur looking to share a toast with a wine noob.

Another advantage of the wide range of choices in Rieslings will be the ability to choose how much or how little alcohol the wine contains. A higher level of alcohol can emphasize the spiciness of the meal, while a lower level will help to balance it out.


These German dessert wines are complex and captivating on their own, but once paired with spicy foods the many nuanced flavors of this intricate wine will be even more evident. Not only will the Gewurztraminer serve as a cool, crisp palate cleanser in between bites of heat, but the spiciness will emphasize the delicate and intricate nature of the wine.

The key is not to get stuck in the old, red meat/white meat paradigm. In reality you want to pair the wine to the sauce, and avoid making the mistake of thinking that matching them visually is the best method. Consider the flavors that should be most conspicuous in the meal and seek out a wine that will show them off rather than competing or overpowering them. Don’t be afraid to try a pairing that seems unconventional. Like most other aspects of cooking, trial and error is the best and most effective way to find winning flavor combinations and contrasts.

Author Bio:

Kayla Stevens is a freelance writer and a dedicated wine lover. She never passes up an opportunity to share a bottle of wine with friends, and if there also happens to be food, that’s cool too. She currently writes for Midwest Brewing, which provides supplies wine making equipment for the most daring drinkers among us.

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