Birthday Bubbles: NV Veuve Clicquot Rose

As a follow-up to bubbles off the beaten path: What would you do if you came across this bottle of Champagne?

Would you buy a bottle of bubbles with the foil like this, the cage open, the cork escaping?

What if you could get this Champagne for $35 when the regular price is $80?

What if your birthday was coming up? And you wanted some nice bubbles to celebrate your birthday?

This is what happened to me: I was snooping around Continue reading

Grateful for Exciting Sparkling Wine From Franciacorta Italy

Today is the second Franciacorta twitter tasting that I’ve had the opportunity to participate in, thanks to Balzac Communications.

Before September, I don’t think I’d ever tasted this sparkling wine from Italy that rivals Champagne in quality, but is much lesser known. You’d be amazed at the quality that you can get for the money–I know I was!

Tune in to twitter #Franciacorta to see what we think about today’s line-up. Post to follow soon with more tasting notes.1474638_10151785497985924_997366342_n

I’m also planning on spending some time with that massive map they sent to learn more about this region that I hope to visit one day soon!

PS And no, I am NOT going to let my son saber the bottles with his new Minecraft sword because Rusty Ginger fought him off!

Today (especially!) is Champagne Day!


In my book, every day is Champagne Day! But last Saturday was a super special occasion, my husband’s birthday, and Ima Zin’s, so we opened up this grand lady–a 1983 Cristal! (A report on that later!)5829_10151709885625924_913664121_n

Today, Friday,  October 25, 2013 marks the fourth annual Champagne Day, where wine lovers around the globe raise a flute to the quintessential wine of celebration, good cheer and toasts everywhere: Champagne. There will be terrific opportunities for Champagne lovers to celebrate in wine stores, restaurants, bars and in spontaneous gatherings with friends.

Share the love! Post about your experience celebrating with the #ChampagneDay hashtag.

In 2011 and 2012, I organized Champagne Day events where we paired sparkling wine with oysters at the Ventura State Beach. In 2011 we raised over $500 to contribute to reopen McGrath State Beach. At least 50 people came to the beach with picnics and bottles of sparkling wine to share and pair with oysters. 

In 2012, in addition to celebrating Champagne Day at the beach with oysters, we also held a twitter tasting for #PlanetBordeaux of a group of stellar Sauvignon Blancs and roses. This year we are taking our Champagne and heading to some hot springs!

Initially created by Vintuba wine blog to recognize and appreciate the sparkling wine that comes exclusively from Champagne, France, “Champagne Day offers the perfect opportunity to pop open a bottle, explore the beauty these wines have to offer and turn a moment into a 1378573_10151721292520924_320235983_ncelebration while remembering that Champagne only comes from Champagne, France,”  stated Sam Heitner, director of the Champagne Bureau, USA

Today, Champagne Day brings millions of wine lovers worldwide together to celebrate in a host of events, retail opportunities and a large-scale online celebration of all aspects of this unique bubbly. Consumers across the U.S. will have many special opportunities to enjoy Champagne today with a host of Champagne Day-only deals at retailers, tastings and menu pairings at restaurants and other spontaneous celebrations.  To find some of the events happening around the world and learn more about how to participate in the online celebrations, visit the official Champagne Day event page:

For more information about #ChampagneDay or the worldwide effort to protect the Champagne name, please visit or Remember, if it doesn’t come from the Champagne region of France, it’s not Champagne!

PS If you love sparkling wines like I do, and you live in the Ventura/Santa Barbara/LA area, be sure to watch for the Tasting at the Ventura Wine Company and Cave! That afternoon, you can taste real Champagne from France as well as local sparkling wines and sparklers from other parts of the world too! (I hopet eh get in some wines from Franciacorta Italy! Those sparklers ROCK!)  If you can’t wait until Sunday, December 8, they’re doing a Holiday tasting on Novembe993413_10151725546708434_1673351765_nr 10. Get your tickets now–it will sell out!

Discover Loire Valley’s Touraine Sauvignon Blancs 9/17/13

BUZVm8uCUAA0AzLSauvignon Blanc is one of my favorite wines–it’s flexible, affordable, and a great wine with some of my favorite foods like oysters, chevre goat cheese and french bread, ceasar salad, and pesto with pasta. It’s my go to wine, my always in the fridge or on the shelf wine.

When in doubt, I get the sauvignon blanc out!

After participating in a number of industry tastings, I’m a huge fan of Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand-even the ones that feature a fair amount of gooseberry or cat pee.

Living in California, it’s easy to find locally grown Sauvignon Blanc; a favorite of mine is by Adam Tolmach for his winery, Ojai Vineyards. Continue reading

Sparkling Roses for Mother’s Day: Lucien Albrecht

MomDayLAlbrechtA toast to Mother’s! Cheers!

Pictured right to left, is my mom Suzanne Lawrence, my son, and my self from 2004. This was a publicity photo for a Living History Performance we did.

Pictured right to left, is my mom Suzanne Lawrence, my son, and my self from 2004. This was a publicity photo for a Living History Performance we did.

On Saturday, the last tuna boat of the year came in to the Ventura Harbor. We bought a whole tuna and celebrated Mother’s Day eve with fresh seared sesame oil ahi tuna on a bed of field greens with flower petals, blueberries, white Stilton with dried apricots, walnuts, plus a raw oyster! I love this meal with a silky Washington Merlot, but it also pairs well with a Pinot noir.

However since it was a festive occasion, we popped the cork on this beautiful Lucien Albrecht Cremant  D’Alsace Brut Rose, made from Pinot noir grapes.

Lucien Albrecht Cremant  D’Alsace Brut Rose is a perfect wine for Mother’s Day! Continue reading

Invite Paco & Lola to play on Albarino Day, Thurs. May 9, 2013


Like the minerality and acidity of Riesling, the body and white stone fruits of Viognier, and the floral notes of Pinot Gris?

Then you should check out Albarino–and there’s no better day than today, the Second Annual Albariño Day,  Thursday, May 9th, 2013!

The second annual Albarino Day caught me by surprise but fortunately, I have a few bottles of Albarino from Paco & Lola around. I saw it on sale and I went for it because  it is such a wonderful wine with lots of bright acidity with tangerine and lime and  that’s seafood friendly–especially with my beloved fresh raw oysters from Jolly Oyster at the Ventura State Beach!

Plus just a few days ago I picked up two bottles of Old Creek Ranch Winery’s Albarino de Moto (regularly $22) at my son’s school fundraising silent auction! (Old Creek Ranch Winery is a my local pick for Wine Tourism Day; read more about it here).

Unfamiliar with Albarino? Probably because most of this dark green, thick-skinned grape is grown in Spain, with very little of it found in the US. Albariño accounts for 90% of plantings in the Rías Baixas region of Spain. But as it grows in popularity, expect to find more of it here!

Want to join in celebrating Alabarino? Continue reading

What’s On the Wine Predator Horizon: November 2012 Tastings

Over here at Wine Predator, last month was hectic with twitter tastings  and Champagne Day plus reviewing The Divining Rod for Halloween.

This month we’re harvesting wines like crazy and RSVPing to tastings and other events! I’ve got lots of exciting samples to review including the very festive Enza Proseco ($15) and a number of twitter tastings and events on the calendar. Remember, for these twitter tastings, all you need to do to participate is check out the hashtag# for the event on twitter. (And no you don’t have to be ON twitter to check out what’s happening on twitter! Continue reading

Happy Champagne Day 2012!

Corks will pop and bubbles spill from California to London to Sydney during the Third Annual Global Champagne Day Friday October 26, 2012.

Join Wine Predator for our second year at the Jolly Oyster located at the Ventura State Beach off Harbor at San Pedro (take the Seaward exit).

Show off (and please share!) your bottle of Champagne and enjoy 2 for 1 oysters between 3pm and 6pm! The event is free and parking plentiful for $5 per car.

While the best party in the world will be at the Jolly Oyster, you can celebrate the 3rd annual #ChampagneDay anywhere!

To participate, get some champagne (which only comes from the Champagne region of France–any other bubbly wine is sparkling and lovely but NOT champagne). Share what’s  in your glass October 26th 2012, post photos, tasting notes, experiences or videos on any social media site, and be sure to add the #ChampagneDay hash tag, so your friends from around the globe can check out the fun.

You can locate an event near you by visiting this interactive google map,-119.256592&spn=2.115887,3.268433 or by visiting the for more information.

Join These October Twitter Tastings for Wine from FOUR Continents!

This October, I am VERY excited by invitations to four Twitter tastings to experience wine from FOUR continents: Columbia Crest in Washington State North America, various Bordeaux Chateaus from France Europe, Concha y Toro Chile South America, and Chateau Tanunda Barossa Austalia! Continue reading

Port Pairs: Vertical Heaven

For Port Day which was January 27, a few friends and I gathered to check out my birthday stash of ports: I bought myself 20, 30 and 40 year tawny ports from Graham’s as well as a NV Krohn tawny (all at 60% off because the liquor store was going out of business!) Plus my friend Ima Zinner (aka Kathy) gifted me with a Smith Woodhouse 1985 vintage port and I had a sample of Croft’s Pink Port.

What a wealth of riches!

Even though Ima Zinner, Annie Any-Day, Bacchus Schmaccus and Marshall Moneybags were helping me celebrate my big birthday AND Port Day, we decided NOT to open everything and focus on three of the four tawny ports and the sample of Croft Pink Port.

Port, as you probably know, refers to a wine based fortified beverage from Portugal. Back in the day, the British added brandy to wine so it would last longer. (There’s a lot more to this story!)

According to Graham Port’s blog, the Instituto do Vinho do Douro e Porto (IVDP), the regulating body for the Douro region, provides these guidelines for identifying a true Port wine:

  • Only fortified wine produced in the Douro Demarcated Region which conforms to the technical characteristics defined by the IVDP is Port
  • The maker must be registered and authorised by the IVDP to produce Port
  • The label must be approved by the IVDP
  • The bottle must bear the IVDP issued and numbered seal of guarantee

Basically, port is a Portuguese wine that’s on the sweet side. Because of this, it is traditionally served alone or with desserts or cheeses at cellar temperature or on ice.

We tried it both ways–one night after dinner and on another night WITH a steak dinner served with a baked potato and a portabella, white stilton with apricot, and arugula salad where I sauteed the portabellas  in butter and 20 year port. Wow–it worked! I also paired the meal with a Parducci Petite Sirah which gave the meal a completely different experience.

Would I pair port again with a steak dinner? I think I just might do anything with that 20 year tawny!

Croft Pink Port $20. This rose port by Croft was supposed to arrive for a Twitter tasting back in August but it didn’t so it’s been hanging around waiting for me to open it! This non-vintage port is designed to be served cold, poured over ice, or used as a cocktail mixer. At 19.5% alcohol, you could drink more cocktails made from this than a vodka or gin. Bottled in clear glass, it shows off it’s deep pink color. When nice and cold, you don’t get much in the nose, but in your mouth, it’s a party of  sweet strawberry and raspberry flavors. Paired with a Belgian chocolate, it really brings out the hazelnut. With a manchego, gorgonzola, or white stilton, it brings out a spiciness in the pink port. It’s not a particularly complex beverage so the saltiness of the cheeses benefits this wine. They suggest serving it with soda and a lemon twist and that sounds good for a warm day (like today!) Or try Croft Pink Port with St Germain, Brut, and berries–sounds dangerously yummy! I’d put that drink in a martini glass…About $20 a bottle.

Krohn Tawny Port $15. For a tawny, it’s dark and muddy in the glass. In the nose, we found alcohol, cigar box, and stewed fruit. On the palate, it’s raisony and pruney with a quick finish. Tasty with the cheeses especially the dried apricot white stilton, but not so good with gorgonzola–too sharp and salty for this mild port. Nice with a sweet, buttery almond cookie but not so good with a almond biscotti. This is a great cooking port; I used almost the whole bottle sauteing portabellas! It’s a decent, enjoyable port.

Graham’s 20 Year Tawny Port $70 This wine is as impressive as its price. In the glass, the 20  is a liquid amber, rich and warm. On the nose, caramel and honey. Reminded us some of Gran Marnier–honeysuckle, honey, pollen, and orange blossom. So lovely with the creamy blue cheese and delightful with the white stilton. We preferred it with milk chocolate and Belgian over dark chocolate since it brought out the caramel notes. It also went well with dried fruits like cranberries and raspberries but NOT with Trader Joe’s “Powerberries!” Nice finish.

Graham’s 40 Year Tawny Port $170.  I did mention it was a special occasion and I was able to buy this wine at 60% off, right? Yes, this wine is almost as old as I am! With a port like this, you only need a little bit–it’s so ethereal it whips your head into the stars! The finish goes on for days–you’re not going to want to brush your teeth that night! In fact,

we thought the Graham’s 40 year port was like being kissed by Elvis!

In the glass, it’s very similar to the 20–a beautiful clear amber. The Graham’s website says it has a green tinge; some of us could see this and others couldn’t. Nose of honey, rich, buttery, butterscotch,  complex, orange blossom. Amazing with pate, and the more intense, salty, aged cheeses like manchego and gouda. Better with dark chocolate than milk or Belgian but that could be taste. Nice with dark chocolate dipped biscotti. We bet it would be insanely good with a chocolate dipped strawberry. We tested it with a fresh strawberry and chocolate truffle and we were happy. Very happy.

And that finish! Wow!

This is a wine to savor, sip, linger over, save.

Since we’re clocking in at close to 1000 words, it’s time to stop! This group of Port lovers will return one day soon to compare the 20, 30 and the 40 AND we have a vintage port tasting on the agenda too!

Wine Predator Recruits Ima Zinner, Bacchus Schmacchus & Annie Any-Day

Because life is short and wine is best shared with good friends over fine food, I have decided to share the wealth, the wine, and the fun as well as the responsibilities of taking notes and helping me write Wine Predator posts with three good friends.

Annie, Dave, and Kathy have all joined me on numerous treks to Los Angeles for industry wine tasting as well as twitter tastings I’ve hosted here at the house on various occasions. These friends not only have a great appreciation of wine, but they are funny, witty, and have a flair for coming up with great descriptors for wines.

We celebrated our new venture last night by tasting five very different wines: NZ pinot noir, a French bordeaux, and three tawny ports–a 40, a 20, and a NV. As we tasted, we merely took notes; in the future we will also tweet as Art Predator and possibly do some youtubes for the Art Predator channel. We thought doing the videos in lingerie might get people more interested, but maybe someone is already doing that? Continue reading