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2008 Heron Wines Pinot Noir – Sonoma County, CA

Deep ruby red with ripe fruits and plum notes, this is a classic California Pinot Noir. Light, flavorful and beautifully balanced, the Heron Pinot Noir picks up on the savory flavors of the caper berries, olives and vinaigrette while being right at home with the grilled vegetables. Owner and winemaker Lealy Heron’s motto might well be “less is more,” but in my case, I just want more of this well-priced and addictive Pinot.
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2008 Bonny Doon Vineyard Vin Gris de Cigare – Santa Cruz, CA

I will confess I am partial to Bonny Doon’s wines, but the 2008 Vin Gris de Cigare is one of the finest rosés I’ve tasted. I keep several bottles well chilled at all times. A blend of grenache, cinsault, roussanne, mourvèdre, syrah and grenache blanc, it is perhaps untypical of a Southern Rhône rosé since two white grapes (roussane and grenache blanc) have found their way into the blend, but to me the 2008 Vin Gris de Cigare is a quintessential rosé. Crisp and light yet round in the mouth, the strawberry and summer fruit notes harmonize with the sweetness of the tomatoes, while the citrus notes and crispness of the wine cut through the richness of the olive oil. You’ll keep sipping this one long after you’ve licked your plate clean.
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Mouthwatering Salads and Vegetable-Friendly Wines

Most people can confidently pair wines with seafood, meat or pasta—but pairing wines with salads can put even an avid wine drinker into a quandary. With the warm weather upon us, salads are about to take up more room at the dinner table. If you are stumped about what wine to serve with your salad, you’ll be pleased to know that many wines lend themselves beautifully to this more often than not underappreciated course.
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2006 Unti Vineyards – Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley

This wine is actually a blend: 88% Zinfandel, 9% Petite Syrah and 3% Barbera. And what a marvelous blend it is – a refined wine that might even be a bit sophisticated for a Super Bowl party, but an indulgence I surely wouldn’t forgo. Yes, I did decant it and I was glad to have done so, as it allowed the wine to unfold in the most beautiful way. The aromas swirling in the glass are seductive enough to make you close your eyes as you take it all in – it’s all about dark fruit, cherry and vanilla. In the mouth, though, the fruit intensifies while subtle notes of spice and anise are revealed. The wine pairs perfectly with the chili, but it’s one you’ll want to keep sipping long after the meal is over. Winemaker Mick Unti says he wishes he could make Zinfandel like this every year… and so, I’m quite sure, will you! Check out the full article on Big Chili and Bold Wines.
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2007 Joel Gott, Zinfandel, Mohr-Fry Ranches, Lodi

This small-production bottling of 60- to 85-year-old vines from the Mohr-Fry ranches is simply spectacular. One sniff of this wine and I was seduced! Deep aromas of dark berry, currant and mocha make you want to sink your nose deeper in your glass, until the urge to taste it takes over. A gorgeous mouthful: this is a beautiful, smooth and complex wine with dark, juicy fruit notes up front and clove, cedar and even a hint of roasted coffee in the finish. The marvelous thing here is that the wine picks up all the roasted spices and the smokiness of the chili, making them come alive with every bite. Check out the full article on Big Chili and Bold Wines.
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2006 Vinum Cellar – Zin 91, Old Vine Zinfandel

This small artisanal winery with an Old World approach to winemaking has always been a favorite of mine. It doesn’t hurt that winemakers Richard Bruno and Chris Condos have loads a humor to go with their talent! “Quality, Value, Fun” are the three words that greet you on their home page, and they certainly live up to it—the quirky label alone of the Zin 91 will prompt a smile. But at $15 a bottle, this is not just a fun wine, it’s one that really delivers for the bucks. On the nose, it has typical Zin aromas: cherries, plums and dark fruits – altogether quite pleasing. In the mouth, the dark fruits are the first thing you’ll taste, but they’re quickly followed by spicy notes, a hint of licorice and an ever-so-slight bitter finish. It’s a chewy wine with good tannins and a smooth texture that make the spices in the chili come to life with each sip—a wine that can be enjoyed all night long (no matter how long those “football minutes” turn out to be!). Check out the full article on Big Chili and Bold Wines.
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Big Chili, Bold Wines

There are a couple of rules I follow when putting a menu together for a Super Bowl party. The food has to be copious (having to feed large men with equally large appetites for long hours–I learned about the infamous “football minute” early on in my football education), and it has to have kick!