How to Throw a Cheese and Wine Tasting Party – Cheese Rules

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Wine Gift Baskets Are Cause For Celebration

by: Barry Crowther

Wine gift baskets in California are synonymous with the hint of a celebration, and wines and champagne are an exclusive part of our festivities and festive occasions. In fact, the festivities are not complete without a sip or two of tasty classic wines. And what better a gift can you supposedly choose for the lover of iron and wine other than the wine baskets? Whatever the occasion is – New Year, Anniversaries, Birthdays, Christmas or Weddings – you just need an excuse to gift your favorites the best picnic baskets around. As a gift idea, a wine picnic basket can be prepared with the help of certain innovative ideas.

Preparing Great Wine Gift Baskets in California

Wine gift baskets can be prepared with different kinds of wines such as the Cabernet Sauvignon and California Chardonnay. Put in a dash of cheese of the best variety such as Cheddar, Mozzarella and Goudar. You can also add the extra delicacies such as muffins, garlic and ginger bread. The toppings part is the most important and add to the glassware the fruits fresh from the farm such as apples, pears, strawberry and grapes. You can gift the wine basket to your beloved, or friend or family members who are going out on an outing or picnic. The care taken for preparing the wine gift baskets will ensure that they enjoy the gift.

It is also important to keep the weather in mind while you are preparing the wine aerator. The Conundrum is best suited for hot weather conditions. It is one of the best varieties of wines that are wonderful and delicate to taste. Conundrum is a kind of white wine blend which is savory and radiant. Added to this, there is a particular cohesion that comes with tasting every sample of this wine. Use the corkscrew to undo the openings from the bottles.

For the perfect gift to your girlfriend, the Merlot wine is an excellent choice. Merlot in Napa Valley California is the variety that you must seek as this is an excellent wine with high demand. Ideal for Valentine’s Day, Merlot is a red wine that is rich in terms of excellent plum aroma, explosive flavors of the fruits, spices and black cherries that wait being undone by the corkscrews. All ingredients catalyze the spark between the two of you.

For the ideal wine and cheese gift, Merlot wine and Chardonnay are excellent options for weddings and other gatherings. The special ingredients in this picnic basket category are the following:

– Cheddar Gouda cheese

– Partners Crackers

– Herb made almonds

– Heart shaped milk chocolates

Indeed, wine glasses are practically empty without a splash of vintage champagne, whether you are planning to gift a friend or are looking for corporate gifts with wine. Champagne is an evergreen item that is a part of every aficionado’s wine cellar. Gift baskets can be prepared with:

– Champagne

– Wine glasses

– Connoisseur chocolates

– Muffins

Prepare wicker wine gift baskets with gourmet crackers, cheese wedges and slices for the perfect gift option.
Barry Crowther has been working closely with Sandy Porto, who has been a wine connoisseur for more than 20 years. For more information about Wine Gift Baskets in California please visit   And  for those who live in Hawaii please visit Mi’s Wine And Cheese Shoppe as the owners can put together beautiful Wine Gift Baskets 

The author invites you to visit:

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Cheese with Wine

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Wine and Cheese – PERFECT PAIRINGS with Eric Ripert – Reserve Channel

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Health Benefits Of Cheese and Wine

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Punset begins its 2013 Nebbiolo for Barbaresco harvest on October 10th

Author: David Berry Green


From my office in Serralunga d’Alba, I nipped over to Neive – a 10 minute drive along the Langhe ridge – to meet up with Marina Marcarino of producer Punset as she harvested Nebbiolo in her San Cristoforo vineyard. As you can see from the photo, her organic vineyards stand out with their autumnal leaves while her neighbour, below and to the left, fertilises their vines giving them an unnatural ‘green’ colour.

Punset 's San Cristoforo vineyard

Punset ‘s San Cristoforo vineyard

Marina’s been organic since 1982, being certified in 1993. The vineyards are grassed over and the rows of vines are a haven for wild mint and wildlife. This means the vines are forced to compete naturally for the already scarce nutrients, so focus their energy into fewer bunches making them more self-reliant in the process, rather than waiting for the next drop of fertiliser to come their way.

A Nebbiolo bunch from San Cristoforo

A Nebbiolo bunch from San Cristoforo

This has been an unusual year, with the Nebbiolo harvest taking place in October amid the fog and autumnal colours. A very wet and cool spring followed the cold winter, complicating flowering and so reducing the crop naturally. What was left was ripened by a short but hot June, July and early August, while September was cooler than previous years, ushering in an early autumn. This is positive news for late-ripening, thick-skinned local varieties such as Nebbiolo: it needs the hang time to develop its complex aromas and flavours slowly. The harvested fruit tasted very fine, with racy acidity, fine tannins and a sweet note at its core: the resulting wine should be finely poised, rather than being rich as in 2003, 2007 and – currently on sale – the 2009 vintage of Barbaresco Basarin.

Perhaps 2013 is the start of a cycle of cooler vintages. Still, it hasn’t been unlucky for the Langhe so far…

  • Filed under: David in Piedmont
  • Posted in Wine Musings

    Champagne Thiénot launches in Hong Kong

    Ferorsa Choi, from Berry Bros. & Rudd in Hong Kong, takes a masterclass in Grower Champagne with Thiénot

    We were delighted to welcome Stanislas Thiénot, son of the founder Alain Thiénot, to launch Champagne Thiénot in Hong Kong.


    The highlight of the week was our tasting at Opera Gallery in Central, where guests were able to meet Stan in person and tasted five of the Thiénot wines. Stan also held several masterclasses, to offer a deeper understanding of Champagne blending by tasting the five Thiénot base wines which went into its Brut non-vintage.

    It is no secret that I have a soft spot for small, family run vineyards and Champagne Thiénot is certainly one of them.  After 20 years as a grape broker in Champagne, Alain Thiénot took the plunge and established his own Champagne house. Twenty years in the business gave Alain expert knowledge of the vineyards and growers, an important asset when producing Champagne. Being a newcomer, Alain could establish his own, unique brand with distinctive flavours. Champagne Thiénot now owns 27 hectares of vines and is producing nearly 1,000,000 bottles of wine per year. This is no mean feat in less than 30 years!

    thienotThiénot Champagnes are refined, have a lovely mousse, and have a beautiful roundness, elegance and a long finish. Their complexity makes these wines very food-friendly. Although I’d normally only have one or two glasses of Champagne at the start of the evening, last week I discovered I was quite happy to be sipping it all night.  We had a variety of events where the Champagnes were paired with both Eastern and Western cuisine. It was interesting to see how well the wines did all through dinner with different dishes. Not surprisingly, they held up well to seafood, but surprisingly but not unexpectedly, matches with a creamy risotto, chicken and cured meats were just wonderful.

    LA VIGNE AUX GAMINS 2002I must admit I was rather smitten once I learnt the names of their special cuvées. Father Alain Thiénot has named two cuvées after his children Stanislas and Garance while its premium label is name La Vigne aux Gamins, translates as ‘the Vines of the Kids’, which I find very sweet. Stanislas is in fact now the General Manager while Garance is the Director of Marketing.

    This warmth and love for Champagne are projected and expressed in the wines themselves, making this family team a force to be reckoned with. If you, like me, are looking for something a little different but with plenty of character, Champagne Thiénot is definitely worth a try.

    Posted in Wine Musings

    Ebro to the Duero: Viva España

    Laura Atkinson, a member of our fine wine team, travelled to Rioja to explore the difference between traditional and modern winemaking – and what that means for what’s in your glass…

    2013-09-23 19.13.33

    This was my first trip to the vinous regions of northern Spain: we had two days in beautiful Rioja, the historical hub, followed by two days in Ribera del Duero. Both have a booming food and drink culture that is naturally and elegantly entwined in everyday Spanish life.

    Bodegas in the fine wine areas of Spain are generally considered either traditional or modern which, in essence, refers to the methods and decisions that eventually determine how the wine will taste. What makes a Spanish wine traditional? The main choice to use American casks (rather than smaller French-oak barrels) creates the style we know as traditional Rioja. American oak is much less expensive thanks to the Spanish trade relationship with American wood used in Sherry production further south.

    This historic training has established an exciting breed of traditional vignerons and unique new producers. From this trip I wanted to understand traditional and modern winemaking and how the Spanish can make so many distinguished, characterful wines that are full of regional personality; wines with the ability to show a sense of place and complexities akin to the greatest fine wines of the world.

    First stop, Rioja.

    When a winemaking area becomes a brand, then there’s a danger that the influence of that brand name can lead to bulk planting on any slope regardless of aspect, exposure or soil. I was pleasantly surprised with the sophistication in Rioja, which for the most part had a respect for the unique geography. Vines were planted for a reason with what felt like aspirations of quality. I did not make it to Baja, but the two Rioja A’s (Alavesa and Alta) should be taken most seriously thanks to their higher altitudes and unique geology.

    2013-09-23 13.19.56

    Have you heard of López de Heredia? If not, you simply must seek out the wines from this family-run bodega which was founded in 1877, during the dynamic decade which established Rioja as the world-class region we know. If ‘Traditional Rioja’ appeared in a dictionary, the definition would surely reference this winery, complete with a dedication to protecting spiders in the ancient cellars. Spiders are treated with total respect which was a concept difficult for my arachnophobia to comprehend. I didn’t make as many notes as I should as my tasting book became head protection from an enveloping canopy of cobwebs.

    The López de Heredia family were actually the first modern producers in Rioja: when everyone else was planting vines on the mountains, they planted theirs in between a sweeping arch of the river significantly away from the hills, in their own protected area. However, since this modern start, the current generation (Maria José) has absolutely refused to move with modern times. Their wines are a true taste of the historic past and provided me with one of my most memorable food and wine moments to date. Picture this: plates of fresh home-grown tomatoes from Maria José’s mum, homemade boar chorizo from her brother-in-law, lamb chops cooked to perfection on an open fire in the vineyards and half a dozen bottles of mellowed white and red Rioja to taste dating back to the Seventies. Lunchtime spent basking in sunshine and rustic Rioja – perfection.

    2013-09-25 17.30.21Another property that deserves maximum attention is the magical Estate wines of Remelluri in the hills above Labastida. Hermits had settled on the lavender- and rosemary-scented hills surrounding the estate and created vineyards to contemplate life and landscape in the 14th century, prior to a monastery being built as their sanctuary. Oh, what a spectacular home this must have been! The Remelluri estate is simply one of the most peaceful and beautiful in the world, making soulful, traditional and ecological wines under the influence of Telmo Rodriguez. Try to taste these wines: they are the best representation of Rioja landscape in a glass.

    From a more modern perspective, I would like to introduce Finca Allende. Winemaking is in stainless-steel as much as wood, intensive pumping-over to extract colour, tannin and flavour then ageing in small Bordeaux-style new French-oak barrels. The wines are much more intense and powerful but less led by sweet fruit and spice from American wood. They work like a dream with richer, flavoursome dishes such as venison or the smoked and spicy peppers which you find in the local markets.

    Let’s journey from the Ebro to the Duero River.

    The Ribera del Duero area on the banks of the river Duero houses many famous bodegas that are carving a new vision as a fine wine treasure trove in Spain.

    2013-09-23 15.04.59

    Like López de Heredia in Rioja, Vega Sicilia have their own unique way of making wines: old vines, low yields, Spanish and Bordeaux grapes and long ageing. The main reason for the individual style at Vega Sicilia is that they were a winery in the middle of nowhere for 120 years with absolutely no regional rivals. They managed to survive traditionally without having to compete with the Joneses (I am not sure of the Spanish equivalent?) until the area fashionably sprung into life in the Eighties. Ribera del Duero vineyards lie at higher altitudes in enchanting countryside with plenty of limestone, imparting mineral flavours. The risk of frost is much more common but summer days are warm and breezy. This circulation of air adds a coolness and purity to the fruit. Bordeaux varieties are more established in a Ribera del Duero blend and oak is not so rigidly American. These subtleties add to the detail here.

    2013-09-23 13.53.48

    On the south-facing slopes opposite Vega lies Hacienda Monasterio, established in the relatively recent 1991 vintage. This winery embodies a Bordeaux concept: vines surrounding the property; a consultant winemaker as legendary as Peter Sisseck; French and Spanish grapes; Bordeaux casks, and parcel blending. The wines have a modern Spanish class and personality but without any traditional pomp or circumstance. Hacienda Monasterio is a well-judged bodega that embodies the best of both worlds, with wine that is consistently amongst the finest in Spain. We are delighted to welcome these wines to our range.

    You now know the more traditional wines: the modern alternatives can be found throughout the region, and at one winery in particular – Pago de Los Capellanes. When you arrive at this winery you can instantly guess how the wines will taste; their modern identity is clear. Granted the winery looks more like a minimalist hotel lobby with its various shades of black than the home of fine wine production, that is your first clue. Next, rather than a standard vineyard tour, you are escorted to an impressive cinema to watch arty shots of landscapes and the vine cycle set to piano music composed by the owner. The place is immaculate, solid, well designed and sings of quality and cleanliness. The wines are equally clean cut, well designed and with maximum attention to detail. They offer a brighter, fuller and flavoursome version of modern Spanish winemaking.

    2013-09-25 13.31.16

    When it comes to white wines, the unique Viura is certainly distinctive and very food-friendly. Many examples offer white-pepper flavours and spices similar to Gruner Veltliner, the vanilla and buttery wood influence akin to Meursault in Burgundy. plus the peach and tropical vibrancy of whites from the Rhône. The producers which understand this style of blending white Virua with other local grapes to produce Rioja can make exceptional wines. The mix-and-match of characters create a special white expression of Spain.

    So what happens next for Rioja and Ribera del Duero? The intelligent attitude of winemakers seems to be dedicated to making better and better wines with a human honesty, be that with a nod to the traditional or modern styles. The more producers who step away from generic winemaking recipes to carefully create wines that show specific vineyards and regions, then the more exciting things become for drinkers.

    Traditional winemaking is no better than modern winemaking; there is much to learn from both. In fact the contrasting camps show the unavoidable and encouraged evolution of Spanish style, like nowhere else in the world.

    Winemakers understand their responsibility to learn the details of the individual villages where the vines grow to create wines that does not dilute the message and history of these two infamous regions. There is so much history.

    If you are not familiar with the vinous delights of Spain, then I’d thoroughly recommend you begin to explore its offering – you will be rewarded with affordable, glorious wines full of personality and a natural affinity to food. Viva España.

    Posted in Wine Musings

    Wines and seasonal produce

    Sophie Nicoll, our resident foodie, uses her latest Wine Club case to inspire some hearty autumnal cooking.

    Matching wines with seasonal food is nothing short of pleasure in October, which brings with it game, truffles, figs and mushrooms. Not only is this the time for harvest in wine country, it also is the time for harvest of much food produce.


    Our taste for wine largely changes at this time of year from lighter summer-time wines to to rich, warming reds and full-bodied whites. This really complements this richer seasonal food because one of the key principles of food and wine pairing is to match the weight of the food to the weight of the wine.

    And in the land where food and wine matching is traditionally the forte – France – their farmer markets were a feast for my eyes and temptation for my stomach on a recent trip to Provence. Seducing me with ripe juicy figs, vibrant orange squash, horse chestnuts and earthy mushrooms freshly picked from the ground, the rows of tables were just a sea of ripe fresh vegetal flesh.


    The following Sunday that I returned to the UK, I was hosting a small farewell party for one of our friends using a case of wine recently bought. Using local seasonal farmshop I prepared a menu inspired from that French market. Here is the menu:

    To start, we ate french onion soup with a doorstop of freshly baked French baguette (of course not with the fresh French garlic butter that you’d get in the homeland of this special dish!) paired with Berrys’ Own Selection New World Chardonnay, a fleshy white with fuller body to complement the weightiness and strong flavour of the soup.

    20131003_115827For the main I braved cooking rabbit and mushroom risotto, arguably a more Italian- than French-inspired choice but nonetheless delicious. Two wines were offered to give interest: a Fleurie made from the soft Gamay grape which is unoaked and low in tannins to promote the strong savoury flavours of the mushrooms, alongside a crunchy red cherry Valpolicella. to complement the delicate gamey flavours of rabbit. These both went well, but the Valpolicella pipped the Beaujolais to the post this time as the slightly heavier body allowed both the ceps and rabbit to shine in the heavier base of the risotto.

    20131003_115903To finish, we cooked freshly baked fig and cinnamon tartlets and ate with cream which we tried with the effervescent Cerutti Moscato D’Asti. Possibly not a traditional pairing, but the slight acidity cut through the cream while the pretty meringue-like sweetness worked well with the figs.

    All in all, a rather ambitious plan for the evening but was rather a fun and great way to indulge my food and wine experimentation with friends.

    Posted in Wine Musings

    Cheese And Wines of France Produces More Wines Than The Whole USA

    The French Wine Regions Produces More Wine Than The Whole USA

    French Wine Regions Makes France The Globe’s Biggest Wine Producer

    French Wine Dominates The Global Wine Market



    Mi's Best Wine And Cheese Shoppe carries a variety of French Wine

    Mi’s Wine And Cheese Shoppe carries a variety of the best Wines And Cheeses From Around The World.

    The French area of Languedoc-Roussilion produces more red wine than the entire of the USA, and this is merely among several locations producing distinctive red wines.

    French Wine Region Languedoc-Roussillion  Wine Region

    The Largest French Wine Region In France

    The English and the French have actually had their arguments in the past, however most English people would certainly agree, albeit begrudgingly, that the most effective red wine worldwide comes from throughout the stations. More than two thousand acres of French land is turned over to the trailing plant, which translates into a spectacular quantity of containers. Although 2nd to Spain in location of cultivated vineyards, France appropriately declares to be the globe’s biggest wine producer, with the Languedoc-Roussilion area in the South alone, producing more wine than the whole USA.

    By the time Jesus turned water to wine, viticulture in France had actually been established for lots of centuries. It was the Greeks that started all of it with their emigration of Marseille, and later the Romans were all too about to get the baton and keep it up. In the Middle Ages, Monks were the guardians of the wine-makers abilities. They not only made wine for their own use, yet also sold it to a grateful public, that took into consideration wine from the abbeys to be of the finest quality. Today, French red wine manufacturers are secured and policed by the’Institut National des Apellations d’Origine’, that ensure that a wine meets with the strict rules imposed.

    Wine producers throughout the nation are normally honored of their globe renowned item, and appropriately so, with each region having its distinct preference and style.

    Alasace, in Eastern France shares the Rhine Waterway with Germany, and is predominantly an area concerned with the production of white wine. A lot of grape selections made use of in this region are also utilized by the Germans.

    Map Of French Wine Regions

    Bordeaux on the various other hand is a producer of red wine, although it does boast a few of the globe’s most well-known pleasant whites, such as Chateau d’Yquem and Barsac. The popular red cabernet manufacturer, Chateau Lafite depends on this area. Situated on the Atlantic coast, Bordeaux has a long tradition of wine exportation, which I believe will certainly proceed for years hence.

    In Wine red, red and white wines share equal billing, with Cote d’ Or being the most popular and possibly one of the most costly too. The three main different red wines in Burgundy are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Aligote. Beaujolais, although in the Wine red area is fairly typically taken into consideration as a different area. Right here, cabernet is king, Beaujolais Nouveau is the only red wine that can be consumed in the year of its production. White wines are made in Chablis, which also comes under the territory of Wine red.

    Sparkling wine in the east of France has the coldest environment of all the significant wine areas. Although a little amount of  still’ wine is made, the region is obviously well-known for its champagnes.

    Corsica creates a neighborhood wine that really rarely leaves the shores of the Mediterranean island. It has nine of its own wine regions and a vin de pays designation system in place.

    The lower understood Jura is a hilly region near Switzerland where Vin Jaune and Vin de Paille are produced. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grape selections are used right here.

    Languedoc Roussillon has the biggest expanding location in France and accountable for the huge quantity of cheap red wine created in the country. As discussed earlier, more wine is created in this region compared to the whole of the USA of The United States of America.
    Checklist of French Red wines

    The Loire Valley generates generally white wines along the stretchof the Loire river in central and western France. It is divided in to the four sub-regions of Sauvignon Blanc, Touraine, Anjou-Saumar and Pays Nantais. Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc originate from Touraine, whilst Sancerre is from the Upper Loire (Sauvignon Blanc).

    Provence lies in a temperate area on the South-east coastline and is the home of Bandol, where the now renowned wine celebration is held every December.

    The Rhone Valley is mainly a producer of red wine with the north and southern locations varying in style.

    Lying in between lakes and hills, The Savoie or Savoy region makes white wines in a towering region near to Switzerland.

    The South West of France is home to such names as Bergerac, Cotes de Gascogne and Armagnac.

     Mi’s Wine And Cheese Shoppe’s French Wines

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