Valentine’s Day Surprise

It came just in time, a Chocolate Lover’s Wine! And how timely, right on Valentine’s Day!  

Chocolate Shop Wine and Thirsty Girl have teamed up to put together a post Valentine’s Day twitter chat with Chocolate Shop’s winemaker himself, Hal Landvoight and GUESS WHAT, they have sent the Winepug 2 complimentary bottles to try.  Of course, I will be there tweeting about this wine for Chocolate Lover’s, since I’m a huge chocolate (and wine) fan! 

I just popped open a bottle, tried it with a fiancé baked Peanut Butter Valentine’s Day Cookie… tastes exactly like a Reese’s!  YUM! 

So, for those wine and chocolate lovers who want to explore this wine further, here are the details! And if you do tune in, I might be able to extend a discount to you all for you to purchase this lovely wine at Chocolate Shop’s online store!  

Now for the details of the tasting:
  • February 15, 2012
  • The tasting will start at 8 PM EST and end around 9 PM (sometimes we get a little carried away). 
  • The winemaker, Hal Landvoight will be on Twitter with the team from Chocolate shop to answer your questions too. 
  • Please use the Hashtag  #TGTaste for this event, and feel free to mention @ChocShopWine

Early T-Day Wine Picks!

At our annual Thanksgiving and Woodbury Commons Spree weekend, we previewed a few wines that we will certainly request on our TGiving dinner table this year… Here was the outcome (of the wines, not the shopping that would be far too long of a post!)…

Ruinart Champagne Brut Blanc de Blanc: To start off our lovely tradition and meal we toasted  our pre-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving with a special aperitif from the oldest established Champagne house in the world – Ruinart.  With extreme bubbles and hints of a minerals and fruit, we got our hunger going for what was to be a feast of a meal (as it always is)!

Mark West Pinot Noir: His motto is true to its taste – “Pinot For the People” and should be a staple not only on the Thanksgiving Day table but in your wine cabinet as well!  It’s oaky notes and rich spice with hints of vanilla and lots of fruity/cherry flavors will be superb with your Turkey and gravy dinner!  Outstanding to drink throughout the entire feast

Bogle Vineyards Pinot Noir 2009: This is also a nice alternative to a Mark West with lots of spice and strawberry flavors and is amazingly smooth!  I would suggest pairing this with the darker meat of the turkey!  Delish!

Spellbound Cabernet Sauvingon 2009: This was supposed to be a fun Halloween wine (we skipped on Halloween this year so figured I had to bring something ‘spooky’) but it turned into a pleasant Thanksgiving wine that can be enjoyed after dinner when you are taking a break between dinner and dessert! Start enjoying right before  dessert,  take it with you into dessert and enjoy with some pumpkin pie, blueberry pie and dark chocolate!

Still searching for that perfect Thanksgiving Day Wine… Food & Wine Online has a list of easy to find TDay wines that will do the trick! {here}

Waffles and Wine on a Friday!

Who knew that a casual after work drink could lead to a fun night at home with a waffle maker and wine!  I must say, tonight I discovered a great pairing that was definitely not in the plans for this evening, but I just couldn’t resist!  A great dessert treat – chocolate and peanut butter chip whole wheat waffles paired with a Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Coast!  How delicious.  See the steps unfold below and try this next time you are having a relaxing Friday night and are looking for a dessert idea with wine of course!

1 egg, cup of skim milk, 2 tbsp olive oil, cup and half of whole wheat pancake mix – easy peasy!

Mix batch well!

Pour batch into waffle maker. Add in decorations (i.e. the good stuff) chocolate and peanut butter bits

Leave for a few minutes in waffle maker until it’s a magnificent golden brown

Serve on a large plate with maple syrup and whatever other additions you’d like (strawberries, whipped cream) and Viola!  A lovely dessert or breakfast!

Pair it with a Pinot Noir for a dessert and you will be in heaven… trust me!


Red Wine Ice Cream!?? No Way! Might have to be incorporated into the festivities this weekend brings! Enjoy!


Serves 8

2 bottles full-bodied red wine, like cabernet sauvignon
2 cinnamon sticks
1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
2 cups milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 1/4 cups sugar
9 yolks
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract.

1. Pour wine into a large pot and bring to a simmer. Add cinnamon sticks and peppercorns. Simmer until the wine is reduced to 1 cup (it should take about 1 hour).

2. In a large pan, bring the milk, cream and half of the sugar to a boil and turn off heat. In a bowl, whisk together yolks and remaining sugar. Temper the yolks into the boiling milk by gradually whisking about 1 cup of milk into the yolks and adding this back into the pot with the remaining milk. Stir in the salt and the vanilla. Whisk in the reduced wine. Set pan over a bowl full of ice to cool. Pour the chilled ice cream base through a fine mesh strainer. Process the base in an ice-cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Freeze at least 2 hours before serving.

@ The Plaza w/ Mitch Hawkins from Hawk and Horse Vineyards…

Hidden in the hills of Lake County, CA lives 18 acres of a picturesque naturally wild vineyard of rolling hills that looks on to infinity. What once was overgrown and untamed land inhibited from growth is now a miraculous field of wildlife, greenery and vines.

I had the pleasure of meeting and having a lovely chat with the vineyard manager/partner, Mitch Hawkins, of this fascinating biodynamic vineyard, Hawk and Horse Vineyards.  We met at the Plaza Hotel in NYC where he was just getting back from the New York International Wine Competition tasting.  With his 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, a gold medalist at the 2011 Tasters Guild International Wine Competition, in hand, he poured me a glass and took me through his remarkable story of getting to where he is today.

Coming from stopping at a few parties way back when with the likes of Santana and the Grateful Dead and bartending in San Francisco to now living on this beautiful vineyard (owned by renowned attorney, David Boies and fam), Mitch and his wife Tracey (Boies’ step-daughter) have created an oasis so special that can only be established with tender loving care, which is what makes his wine SO perfectly balanced and delicious.

The farming is done by hand mainly with the help of their small herd of Scottish Highlander cattle to create natural preparations which omit chemicals. “The cornerstone of our Bio-dynamic program is production of our own vineyard preparations. Cow dung is the key ingredient in our most important applications. This necessitated the addition of cattle to our ranching operation. After careful research, we selected the Scottish Highland breed. The Highland is an ancient breed known to have grazed the rugged Scottish landscape since the sixth century. They are the oldest registered breed of cattle with the first herd book being established in 1884. These striking creatures are highly desirable animals and are noted for their ease in calving, high quality beef and superb hides. They are also known for their gentleness and intelligence as well as their distinctive and beautiful appearance. They add a sense of true loveliness and grace to the landscape” as Mitch describes in an excited and imaginary way.

They take pride in and treasure their old world practices and even take orders personally by offering their phone number on their website where either Mitch or Tracey will greet you hello and take your order. To add to the magic that happens at the ranch, his two lovely daughters Nina and Francesca Hawkins train in their indoor ring to compete in traditional rodeo’s in Northern, CA and beyond.

To end our lovely chat he exclaimed that they also make a stunning Port and I mentioned to him that I love a nice port paired with 80% dark chocolate! He told me to wait right there and went up to his hotel room and brought down a bottle of Latigo, a fortified wine produced in Port style, 2006 vintage.  This wine is of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes fortified with varietal high-proof Brandy (he uses the best of the best).  How nice  and I can’t wait to try it!  What a lovely boutique-y type winery that produce bottles filled with extremely special and elegant red wines!!

Be sure to visit their website and purchase a delicious bottle of what they are most known for, Cabernet Sauvignon.  You will not be disappointed and will most definitely feel giddy and special when you sip on this wine! Spread the word!

The Tangled Vine… THE WINE RUNDOWN

A truly overlooked treasure on the Upper West Side hidden between a row of other more dominating italian restaurants and wine bars, this gem could be considered yet another wine bar that the average passerby probably ponders, “I walk by this place 1000 times and always have wanted to go”.  If you find yourself in this train of thought, then I must say, GO!

Don’t be fooled by it’s small and quaint appearance categorizing it as another ‘traditional wine bar’ as this place offers something special.  First off it could easily live in the West Village as both the food, wine and atmosphere is in par with Vyne, Turks and Frogs (although Turkish, a Tangled Vine could be a nice Italian complement) and a few others but overall it would blend in nicely.  When you walk in although looks coy feels like a party!  Loud, great music, and knowledgable bartenders add to the overall spirit of the wine bar and make this place a great after work happy hour spot, early dinner turned into late evening of after dinner drinks and laughs and a casual 2nd date spot.  Also definitely going on my list for wine bars i’d rather sit at the bar with wine and bites vs. at a table.

Enjoying ourselves at the bar, we went straight to the wine list which I would categorize as an “easy read” since it serves as a great “guide” to the wines they offer per glass and bottle.  It is organized by grape variety which makes it easy to quickly flip to what you are in the mood for – red, rose and/or white.  After each glass listed, it has a brief description with non-intimidating wine words that tells you exactly what to expect. It almost forms a story of the wine for you to make the wine decision that much easier and enjoyable.  Something that I have yet to see throughout my NYC wine bar ‘journey’ is their offering of ‘Wine Trios’ that offer “variety of different wine trios, grouped for comparison between grapes, regions, or winemaking styles. Each glass is a 2oz serving, for a total of 6oz of wine in each flight. All of the trios come with optional food pairings in tasting-sized portions, a traditional service found in European cafés.”  This presented a great way for people to explore wines and spirits in an organized style. Another fun element to their list are their “rules” that they present to you when you first open the wine list to get you and your party EXCITED and ready to DRINK!


• Every wine on this list is here for a reason. Either it‘s got great taste, historical vineyards or honest winemaking to its name. Ideally all three.

• We are a European wine bar focusing on the old world and old vines, primarily from the historical wine producing regions of the Mediterranean.

• We concentrate on small grower-producers or vintners who practice organic, biodynamic and sustainable viticulture, resulting in natural, un-manipulated, and above all, DELICIOUS wines.

• Don‘t just drink what you know; drink what you don‘t.

• Wine without food is always a pleasure, but wine with great food is a sheer delight. Now eat something, you look hungry.

After getting acquainted it was time to pick our glasses of choice! We went for a French white wine that was crisp with hints of peach and apricot with lots of acidity a bit of tannin and a nice after taste of citrus. A nicely balanced wine.  It was a very easy drinking wine that you could bring to an outdoor picnic and drink for hours..  Actually, remember how addicting and easy to eat Fruit Roll-ups were?  A certain someone I was with described the taste as “An old-school apricot fruit roll-up…” and loved every bit of it!  Guess who! The wine:  Anjou Blanc “Cuvee les Rangs de Long” Château Soucherie 2010

To end our night we ventured to the after dinner drinks and since I’ve been very into spanish wines, ordered two Oloroso Sherry’s for us to try which we accompanied with the Pan con Chocolate; Belgian chocolate, Maldon salt, Arbequina olive oil.  Both the drink and dessert fused nicely together as it was the perfect sweet and salty treat!  It was very tasty and afterwards we both felt relaxed and were put into a magical trance for the rest of the night!

Overall, a highly recommended wine bar for a casual night of food, wine, music, and relaxation.  Check out their website for their Monday deals and Happy Hour details!  Enjoy!

Tapas and Sherry – A Love Story…

Let’s praise Spain and Sherry for inventing one of the most raved about food concepts in the US and even specifically NYC – Tapas! Way back when in Andalusian, Spain, after a hard days work men would go out to taverns and order something to take the edge off – drink of choice, Sherry.  Since sherry is so sweet, it would attract fruit flies which as you can image was problematic and clearly annoying.  So, bartenders/owners began to serve their sherry with a piece of bread that hovered over the glass to prevent the fruit flies from attacking.  Then to top that, meat was also served, as it triggers thirst, thus creating more business for the taverns.  Then in lieu of competition, other restaurants started to embrace the positive feedback and trend, enough to start to offer a variety of other small snacks and plates to go along with the sherry which increased customers and alcohol sales.

Of course, gratefully this concept caught on and spiralled out of control and now there are numerous tapas restaurants all over the world… Too many to count in NYC however, one of my favorites is ALTA!

Here are some great sherries to impress your friends with when you are entertaining… for a great price too! Remember, they last a very long time so it’s ok to spend a little extra on a great Sherry!

Jerez, Matusalem Oloroso Dulce Muy Viejo, G. Byass – Retails $66 - Tastes of hazelnut, really mature fruit of prunes and figs. Very delicious and sweet

Bodegas Dios Baco Jerez-Xeres-Sherry Oloroso – Retails $24.00 – Similar in taste with the above however has a spicier finish

Wine Essentials – Class #2 – FRANCE

Wine Essentials # two was all about the Burgundy and the Bordeaux regions in France one of the most elegant yet complicated winemaking regions out there. Here are a few fun facts that will be helpful when navigating through France bottles in your store…

Wines are classified in four categories governed by very specific laws which will help you pick your bottle out…

Classifications (Lowest quality first)

  • Vin de Table (Table wines – lowest classification)
  • Vin de Pays (must use specific grape varieties on the bottle; increasingly popular and rather cheap and perfect for daily-drinking wines)
  • AOVDQS (Smaller more regional areas – this classification has basically disappeared
  • AOC (Highest classification; name of origin which are controlled – rules cover grape-variety, methods of growth, producing, localization, alcohol contents)
Therefore, whenever you look for a French bottle the more specifics it has on the label the better quality the wine
Vineyard Ratings (rating in highest quality first)
  • Gran Cru -  wines are produced from the small number of the best vineyards in the Côte d’Or, that strictly abide by the AOC classification
  • Premiere Cru - wines are produced from specific vineyard sites that are still considered to be of high quality, but not as well regarded as the Grand Cru sites.
  • Unclassified – produced by a blend of wines from lesser vineyard sites
Bordeaux’s are almost always Cab Sauv, Cab Franc, Merlot (sometimes Malbec)

Tastings (wine’s I liked BOLDED)

Bordeaux, ‘Lillet Blonde’, NV.  - Retails $18 (Bordeaux Region) – Fortified

  • Notes: Orange, herby, stoney, honey scents; Sweet, Fresh, a little syrupy, orange, honey and bitter on the palate
  • Pairings: Savory salty foods, hard cheeses, anything with spicy mustard; great sipping wine before dinner

Entre Deux Mers, Blanc Reserve, Chateau Tour de Mirambeau 2009 – Retails $12 (Bordeaux Region)

  • Notes: Bright vibrant, lemon/lime in smell; Acidity, fresh mineral tasting, vibrant, attacks then goes away
  • Pairings: amazing with goat cheese, shell fish with herbs etc..

Chablis, 1er Premier Cru, Montmains, William Fevre 2006 – Retails $35 (Burgundy)

  • Notes: Smells fruity, heavy weight, earthy flavors ‘acidicly’ rich, smooth finish
  • Pairings: Aged goat cheese, roasted veal, salmon

Meursault Poruzots, Premier Cru, Louis Jadot 2005. – Retails $60 (Chardonnay; Cotes de Beaune, France)

  • Notes: Earthy, smokey, aged oak in smell; calm acidity, bitter, tannins, bitter edge – tastes like buttered popcorn!
  • Pairings: Brie, something with a crisp skin – Chicken, Veal w/ wild mushrooms

Beaujolais Villages, Georges DuBoeuf 2009 - Retails $8 (Gamay grape; Bourgogne, France )

  • Notes: Smells of light cherry, strawberry; Acidic strawberry, sour cherry and vibrant, does not have a lasting taste in your mouth – drink while young
  • Pairings: Poultry, Caesar salad, pasta, pizza – great for outdoor picnics!

Bourgogne, Pinot Noir, ‘Maximum’, Laboure Roi 2007 – Retails $16 (Bourgogne, France)

  • Notes: Dark cherry smell; Tannic savory cherry flavor, very elegant and a well-rounded wine
  • Pairings: delicate dishes such as roasted chicken, vegetable salads, and cheeses like Gouda.

Fixin, 1er Cru, Clos Napleon, Pierre Gelin 2007 – Retails $48 (Bourgogne, France – Pinot Noir) 

  • Notes: Earthy, tobacco, wood, sour cherry in smell; acidic, tannins, sour fruits/rich
  • Pairings: Mushrooms with veal and fish

Saint Emilion, 1er Grand Cru Classe, Chateau Gaffeliere 2005 – Retails $110 (Bordeaux, France – Merlot, Cab Franc)

  • Notes: Dark cherry, plum smelling; chalky tannins, rich dark plums, cherry, elegant and not too earthy
  • Pairings: Softer meat, roast beef, seared duck breast

Pauillac, Cru Classe, Chateau Grand Puy Lacoste 2004 – Retails $60 (Pauillac, France – Cab Sauv, Merlot, Cab Franc)

  • Notes: Woody, cedar, dark blackberry in smell; Strong tannins, leather, “cigary”, smokey in taste
  • Pairings: Meat, lamb, beef, seared steak

Stellenbosch, ‘John X Merriman’, Rustenberg 2007 – Retails $30 (S. African (new world) – Bordeaux Blend)

  • Notes: Green pepper, ripe fruit very robust in smell; spicy dark cherry, fruitier tannins woody in taste
  • Pairings: Braised BBQ, short ribs; great for outdoor bbq’s!
Sauternes, 1er Cru Classe, Chateau Lafaurie Peyraguey 2006 – Retails $65 (S. Bordeaux, France – Semillion, Sauv Blanc)
  • Notes: Sweet, honey, stone fruit in smell; fruit syrup, ripe, honey in taste
  • Pairings: Amazing with blue cheese – This pair makes for a great dessert!

Chocolate + Wine = Heaven???

Oh my goodness, my two favorite things, chocolate and wine have been smooshed together!  I have yet to try it but it seems more like an after dinner drink complimented to any type of sweet dessert or fruit! I’m wondering how it tastes and even how this will do in restaurants and in stores?  I have a feeling it might not go over too well when ordering in a restaurant but you never know! I definitely want to give this a try!  A great new concept to bring to the wine world – Love it or Hate it?!  See some production and tasting notes below taken directly from the website Cocoa di Vine Chocolate & Wine


An intoxicating blend of chocolate  and wine, Cocoa di Vine* is the ultimate indulgence! The chocolate flavors are produced at one of the top creameries in the United States. The wine – a blend of Torrontes, Pedro Ximenez, and Moscato – was produced at a US winery as well, making this an all-American product.

Tasting Notes:

Rich, velvety-smooth chocolate flavors, combine with undertones of vanilla and caramel.  Best served chilled.  Enjoy within 9-12 when refrigerated or within 6 months when stored at room temperature.

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