Alara Cellars: Wine Meets Fashion
10 Reasons To Drink Tokaji
The Bitters Truth

Bernard Portet, “A Winery Without Walls”

It’s not everyday you get to have lunch and taste wine with a Napa Valley icon.  Bernard Portet, founding winemaker at Clos du Val invited a small gathering of journalists to reflect on his 40 years making wine in the Napa Valley.  He officially retired from Clos du Val at the end of 2009, but as so often happens he was going stir crazy and he knew he just had to get back into making wine.

Even sailing can’t keep Bernard away from wine.  He has a 36’ sailboat named Obelix and loves to get out on the water.  He’s also involved with the 34th America’s Cup through the Napa Valley Vintners.  The weather for the upcoming weekend is perfect sailing weather but Bernard says he can’t go.  He’s harvesting grapes instead.

The crush is for Bernard’s new label, Heritance.  The project developed after Bernard bumped into Clos du Val’s former COO, Don Chase who also wanted to get back into wine.  So they hatched a plan where Don would handle the business aspects and Bernard would make the wine.  But the set up is nothing like Clos du Val.  Bernard calls Heritance “a winery without walls.”  

Wine In My Lipstick

If you’re a cosmetics junkie and wine lover like me, no doubt you’ve heard about skincare products and makeup that contain some form of beneficial ingredients from wine grapes.  Polyphenols in grapes and resveratrol are powerful antioxidants.  Grape seed oil extract helps protect skin from free radicals and hydrates at the same time.  You’ll find these anti-aging ingredients in many products including the French skincare line Caudalie to 29 Cosmetics, created by Lydia Mondavi, which uses grape seed extract in its skincare and color cosmetics.

Blending all this grapey goodness into beauty products is not groundbreaking.  But two newcomers are focusing on what you put on your lips, especially since we all end up ingesting our creamy lipsticks and shiny glosses.

25 Vintages of Wine Growers as Rock Stars at Patz & Hall Wines

Patz & Hall - Patz & Hall 2010 Hyde Vineyard - Carneros Pinot Noir

Dutton Ranch.  Durrell. Hudson. Hyde. Chenoweth Ranch. Pisoni.  What do all these names have in common?  Yes, they are all vineyards, and some are wine brands too.  But they all provide grapes for the single vineyard Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines of Patz & Hall.

The Sonoma-based winery isn’t the first to put single vineyard designations on their wines but they also champion the grower.  “The longest grower relationship we have is with Larry Hyde.  We started to buy Hyde Vineyard Chardonnay in 1990,” says winemaker James Hall. 

Don’t Drink That Drink This! 6 Go-To White Wines That Are Anything But Chardonnay

How Chardonnay remains the most popular white wine sold in America is a mystery to me.  Maybe because it is easier to pronounce or remember?  At least some California winemakers  are now showing restraint and instead of using lots of new oak they’re making unoaked wines instead.  I just had a yummy Chard which was crisp with apple and citrus from Chamisal Vineyards in the Central Coast called Stainless Chardonnay.  This bright vibrant wine is totally unoaked, very nice for sipping.

I’ll admit it, Chardonnay gets more than its share of bad raps.  People are proud to say he or she is an ABC drinker – Anything But Chardonnay that is.  So what’s the alternative?  Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio are options, but sometimes I want something richer and creamier than a zippy Sauv Blanc or citrusy Pinot Grigio.  Thank goodness for the white Rhone varieties grown in California that make wines memorable enough to compete with Chardonnay and even best it.  You may even agree with me that the white Rhones are so much more complex and interesting.  

6 Indie Perfumes You Need To Sniff Now

Twice a year fragrance lovers descend upon New York City for the tour de force that is Sniffapalooza.  One of the fragrance event group’s signature perfume odysseys is the annual “Spring Fling,” a weekend event that explores scents all over the city.  While many large perfume houses introduce new scents to our group, Sniffapalooza is also known for the debuts of small boutique labels. I love discovering new fragrances and sharing the stories.  While we tried over 100 scents, I fell in love with six of them, all different, but complex and interesting.  Some are just launching, others have been around for a few years, but all are making a big splash in the perfume world. 

Speed Wine Tasting and Blogging in Portland

You know about speed dating, but what about speed wine tasting?  In Portland at the annual Wine Bloggers Conference we’re tasting Oregon whites and rosés at a breakneck rate, and blogging about it live as it happens.  10 wineries showed up to pour, trying to convince us that their wines are blog worthy all in five minutes.  Is this a good way to try wine, or just a gimmick?  Let’s go…

First up – Amity Vineyards.  Matt from Amity offers a 2009 estate dry Riesling.  91 cases made.  Old vine Riesling – some planted in 1971.  There’s petrol and flowers on the nose and it is super dry with lots of citrus.  Not bad for $20, but you have to get it at the winery.  This one has potential. The bell rings for a winery change.  Go!  

4 Late Summer Reading Picks on Wine and Perfume

Margrit Mondavi_s Sketchbook_ Reflections on Wine, Food, Art, Family, Romance and Life_ Thomas Keller_ 9780615604947_ Amazon.com_ Books

Remember those days when you had a required summer reading list from school?  Yeah, those lists made reading a chore.  Now as adults, we lament that we have no time to read.  But we get to choose what we read.  There’s still time before the summer ends to pick up a book or two, especially when the subjects are wine or perfume.

In The Juice by Jay McInerney,  the Wall Street Journal wine columnist takes you on a journey through the world of wine.

LA’s Scent Bar Now at a Target Near You

If you are what Scent Bar co-owner Adam Eastwood calls a “perfume head” then most likely you know the fragrance boutique Scent Bar in Los Angeles and its companion website LuckyScent.  “Our core business is helping people find very hard to find and rare types of fragrances that are not readily available in the marketplace,” says Adam.  I’ve ordered countless samples on LuckyScent, a great service that’s offered so you can try these exotic perfumes in your own home.

You won’t find celebrity fragrances here.  “Our market is a much smaller segment of perfume users, people who are really serious about it.”  He describes his clients as willing to experiment with perfumes to find new and unusual scents.  The fragrances they stock are from very small brands made in very small amounts.  They are not scents for the masses.

Then Target came calling.

The Best German Wines You’ve Never Heard Of

Whenever someone talks about German wine, it’s usually about Riesling.  The noble grape defines Germany, especially when it is from the Mosel or Rhinegau regions.  This glorious varietal makes some killer wines — and no, not all of them are sweet.  In fact many good bottlings are labeled “trocken”.  That means dry.  You should ask for and try the trocken Rieslings without fear.

While you’ve most likely heard of Riesling, you may not know about Franken wine.  Not Frankenstein wine but Franken wine.  Franconia (Franken) is one of the 13 wine regions in Germany.  I’ve known about this region for years thanks to my mother bringing bottles home from her German travels.

I think what makes it easy for me to remember these wines is the unusual bottle shape, called the Bocksbeutel, a flat and round distinctive glass bottle.  Some have corks, others have screwcaps and the glass is either green or brown.  But they’re also memorable for the good wine inside. 

A Fragrant Affair: The First Artisan Fragrance Salon

I am a wine lover, unabashedly passionate about wine.  That I’m also a perfumer lover should come as no surprise, because I find them so similar in the way that perfumes have a top, middle and base note, and how wine has a bouquet, mid palate and finish, with both perfume and wine changing in similar ways over time.

So I was excited to learn that on July 8, 2012 a scentsational event will be taking place in San Francisco.  The first annual Artisan Fragrance Salon celebrates independent perfume brands from across the country and Canada.

“The growth of the artisan chocolate market has really taken off in the last few years,” says A.K. Crump.  He’s been producing events across the country called Chocolate Salons since 2007.   “I think that we are poised to start seeing a similar growth in artisan fragrances.” 

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