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Recent blog posts

Posted by on in Signature Wines.com

Come join us for the Taste of Success on Saturday, March 29 from 3:00 to 6:30pm at the Golden Gate Club in the Presidio!

This exclusive wine and food tasting will benefit Junior Achievement of Northern California, and will feature more than 20 wineries. In addition, there will be gourmet food and a silent auction at the event, so there's a chance you can leave with some amazing favors. As a bonus, you can feel good about buying tickets and enjoying yourself! Per their website: 

"Junior Achievement partners with the business community, educators and volunteers to help children dream big and reach their potential. JA's hands-on, experiential programs teach the key concepts of work readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy to students around the world. Junior Achievement of Northern California, a member of Junior Achievement USA ®, will serve more than 111,000 students across 23 counties in Northern and Central California in the 2013-2014 school year. Throughout the world, JA operates in 123 countries and reaches 9.7 million students."

Can you think of a better reason to attend an event, drink incredible Californian wines, eat delicious food, and check out a silent auction? Do it for the kids!

As a bonus to SignatureWine.com members, Junior Achievement is offering a discount on tickets: Enter the promo code "WINE" at checkout to receive $10 off General Admission or General Admission/VIP Experience tickets!

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Posted by on in Signature Wines.com

It's not something into which most people put a lot of thought, but if you open bottles of wine regularly, the proper opener is absolutely something to look into. Everyone has their favorites, and I've used about a billion different styles of opener over the last couple of years.

Honestly? Most of them are absolutely terrible.

There are wine openers that are necessary for certain tasks (a two-prong Ah-So is perfect for opening a really old bottle without the cork crumbling) or help with arthritic hands (the automatic Rabbit corkscrew is great for people with limited dexterity of the wrist or fingers), but the majority of wine openers are too overwrought and ineffective to be useful.

If you've ever purchased or been given a "full bar kit," I can almost guarantee that the cheap "waiter's helper" corkscrew will have a dull knife, a hooked lever arm, or a shiny chrome corkscrew--or worse, all three! The knife or rotating foil-cutting blade will not effectively cut through the foil on a wine bottle neck. The hinge is hard to maneuver once you get the corkscrew into the cork, making it likely to chip the glass or break the cork. And the screw will rust and break the cork into small chunks that end up in your glass. Why do these cheap versions even get made?

Dealing with the awful versions of a waiter's friend opener is enough to go buy the lever-press corkscrews. I have one of these, and it works just fine. But it's bulky, and the foil-cutter has the stupid rotating little metal blades that don't cut through foil, and corks have a tendency to get stuck on the screw. Plus, if you ever want to get a full pat-down by a TSA agent, try sticking one of these in your carry-on luggage! Mine mostly stays in a drawer.

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Posted by on in Signature Wines.com

Wine Cellars are an investment in the future, and they’re currently being used as an accessory.

A lot of people who start drinking wine and have the opportunity to design or remodel their houses decide to add a wine cellar. However, so few of those people will actually get any added value (aside from the higher realty value) out of the addition. How many wine cellar owners are getting real use out of their wine cellars, and what are the circumstances in which building one would be a good investment?

A wine cellar has to meet certain specifications to be effective at storing and properly aging your wine. It must be temperature controlled to be 65 degrees (F) or under (most wine professionals recommend keeping red wine between 50 and 65 degrees and white wine between 40 and 55 degrees). It must be dim or dark to prevent UV damage to the wine. It must have humidity control to prevent the corks from rotting or drying out. It must have racks that will keep the bottles sideways and the corks expanded and wet. And those racks must keep the wine bottles visible, organized, and in pristine condition—ripped or marked-up labels hurt the resale value of the wine, if the owner plans on cashing in on his investment.

In order to make the wine cellar worth the price of construction, the owner should have a few goals:

1.       Buy wine that you plan on aging, and buy it in bulk. If you dedicate space in your house to a wine collection, it should be a wine collection that you don’t plan on removing the next day—you want to let the wine rest and age without disturbance, especially if you’re saving the bottles for a special occasion or resale. A wine cellar is not ideal for everyday-drinking wines. The setup and price of such a room is expensive and unnecessary if the bottles you own are going to go in and come right back out.

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Posted by on in Signature Wines.com

It's rare that I'll open a bottle of wine without the intent of finishing it. I don't drink alone, but I like to make sure that if I'm going to open a bottle, the friends who are with me are ready to empty the bottle over the course of our evening together. However, when we get distracted from finishing the bottle, I end up using the leftover wine to cook, or dumping the dregs. I'm not often in the mood to drink the same wine two nights in a row--I like to mix it up!

I was asked, however, to fight my natural instinct in order to review this wine accessory, The Wine Doctor. It's a sleek pump that comes with stoppers that indicate when the air has been removed from your unfinished bottle of wine, with the aim of preventing wine-ruining oxidation before you can finish the bottle at a later date. It's easy to use (insert stopper, place cylinder on top, and pump until the red bar disappears), pretty enough to leave on the counter, and at $25 a pop, it's not too pricey for an everyday wine drinker.

So does it work?

I tasted a pinot noir one night, along with my boyfriend and a friend he had visiting. We talked about the wine and what we tasted when it was freshly-opened. I was familiar with the wine's profile already, and it delivered on my expectations: full of acidity but medium-bodied, good fruitiness and mild tannin. We fought the urge to pour ourselves a second glass, and I sealed the top of the now-half-full bottle using the Wine Doctor stopper. It was slightly awkward, both because the up-and-down pumping motion with a silver cylinder skews a bit pornographic, and because I kept pinching my fingers in the groove where the two cylinder portions meet. But I'm not the most graceful person, and once I figured out that I should probably move my hands away from the seam, it was much less painful!

The red disk in the stopper seemed to disappear much too quickly for the oxygen to have been completely removed from the bottle. It turns out the red disappears only when there's a seal between the stopper and the bottle, which happens on the first or second pump. At that point, the bottle can be lifted off the table by the stopper, but there's still air in the bottle that will continue to oxidize the wine. You need to keep pumping until it gets reeeeeeealllly difficult to pull up on the pump--there will still be oxygen in the bottle, but it's going to be a lower level than before.

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Posted by on in Signature Wines.com

Last night, I had my second chance to taste Lightheart Cellars' 2011 Carneros Pinot Noir. I'm going to keep this review (and all my wine reviews) simple, since I think the best way for anyone to learn about wine is to drink it themselves, not read about what others thought!

This wine is from a "rough" vintage in California, though you'd never know it judging by this wine. The color is light orange-red. not as pink as most California pinot noir, and there's a hint of cloudiness to the liquid (which you can see in the photo). It has a lot of blood orange, raspberry jam, and cherry jelly to the nose--there's a lot of interplay of tartness and fruitiness here, which I find really refreshing. I'm a huge fan of acidic wines (if it feels like it's going to burn a hole in my tongue, I want more!) but this is nicely tempered with the bold fruit. There's a hint of toasty vanilla and rye bread, which is surprisingly strong on the nose, considering that the wine was aged in neutral French oak. A little bit of smokiness and salinity add depth to the wine and speak to the Thompson Vineyard in Carneros, where the grapes were grown.

I enjoyed a glass of this sans food, which was quite enjoyable. This wine shines without the need of a dish to complement its flavors, but would also be great with a salad with some bitter or acidic elements, such as goat cheese, arugula, or pomegranate seeds. Because of its light body and great acidity, this is not a pinot you want to serve with salmon or white chocolate (two classic pinot noir pairings), but it would be great with tilapia and mango salsa or lots of lemon juice.

Lightheart Cellars is a great example of a small-production winery--I attended their Holiday Party a couple months ago, and got to taste through their portfolio of wine, mead, and cider! The tasting room is wonderful, and I'd highly recommend a visit; there's a great likelihood that you'll meet the winery managers and winemakers, and the entire experience is delicious!

For more information on Lightheart Cellars, please visit their website at www.lightheartcellars.com.

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