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Sarah's a wine nerd and sommelier who moved to the Bay Area to work in the wine industry after going to school at USC (Fight On!). She grew up in Denver, Colorado, and she fell in love with wine on a visit to Amador County, California in 2008. She adores drinking wine with people who don't know a lot about it, and organizes wine tours to help spread the knowledge about how awesome the drink is!


She also loves rye whiskey, baking cookies, and singing to her steering wheel on road trips.

Lightheart Cellars Pinot Noir

Lightheart Cellars Pinot Noir

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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When is a wine ready to drink?

When is a wine ready to be drunk?

That’s a good question I get asked a lot. I know quite a few people get nervous when buying wine that was made within the last couple of vintages. They think it’s too young to drink, and they’ll try to find something from an older vintage, something that’s been sitting in the bottle for five or six years. But when was the last time you saw mostly 2007 vintage wines on the shelf at the wine store? It’s all 2010-2012 currently (and soon we’ll see more 2013 vintage wines taking over).

I’ve seen people get upset over the youth of the entire selection. They want a wine with a lot of age, a wine that’s “open,” a wine that has had time to develop the secondary flavors that come through with years in the bottle.

But most wines these days are not meant to sit in a cellar or a wine fridge for years before they become drinkable. In fact, about 99% of the wines available for purchase today are meant to be drunk *tonight.*

Sure, there are high-end Bordeaux, Burgundy, German, Italian, and sometimes American wines that are meant to be set down for a couple years, but by and large, you’re going to be paying quite a hefty sum for these wines. If you’re spending less than four figures on a bottle of wine, it’s a safe bet that you could pop the cork on it tonight and it would absolutely be ready to drink.

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Wine "Snobs" at Beer Week

A lot of people who “don’t like wine” have the idea that wine is for old, rich snobs, not an everyday drink. I talked about this a little in my February 1 article about drinking wine during the Superbowl—wine is just as fitting for casual settings as beer and mixed drinks. However, I’ve noticed that the prejudice goes the other way, too. Wine drinkers, when put in a setting where beer is more prevalent, can have a tendency to turn up their noses at the selection.

I can’t have that happen! Sure, it’d be great if every restaurant and bar had an unlimited budget and a full liquor license and a Master Sommelier and a Cicerone and all that, but that’s not reasonable for 99.99% of venues. But restaurants choose their drink menus to fit a certain atmosphere and attract certain clientele. If you frequent a restaurant that is more of a beer-centered drinks list, you shouldn’t turn up your nose at the paltry wine selections; you should find a beer that works for you!

The Bay Area kicks off Beer Week (February 7-16th this year) tonight, and although I’m a wine drinker by trade, I plan on indulging in the festivities as much as possible. I can’t wait to go up to Russian River Brewing Company to taste Pliny the Younger—this will be my third year doing so! I will be heading to as many of the Beer Week events showcasing sour beers (my personal favorite beer style) as I can, and I’d love to see a ton of wine-drinkers there. It’s something of a personal mission of mine to help spread the idea that we wine lovers aren’t snobs, and we can enjoy trying new beers just as we enjoy trying new wines. If something isn’t your style, try another. Like wine, there’s enough variety in beer so that everyone can find a type or a brewer that suits their taste.

So please, help me change that stereotype, and join me at the SF Beer Week! Here are some of the events that I'm looking forward to:

-Almanac Beer Donuts at Dynamo Donuts (www.dynamodonut.com)

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Judging Wine by Its Label

Judging Wine by Its Label

The over-used cliché that “you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover” is absolutely something to keep in mind when faced with the task of picking a bottle of wine at the store. It’s hard to escape, though; at least with books, you can open the front cover, flip through, read a couple paragraphs, and decide if it’s to your liking. How do you do that with wine?

It’s unlikely that the store will allow you to just open the bottle and taste it before committing to the sale. So you are faced with the dilemma of whether to go with something that you know is decent and will suit your needs, go off of a salesperson’s recommendation, or select a wine based on the label.

For argument’s sake, let’s assume that you don’t recognize any of the wines on the shelf or that you’re in the mood to try something different, and that you don’t want (or, sadly, can’t find) assistance from a sales clerk. You’re flying blind in the wine aisle!

Don’t panic.

First, focus on what you want; varietal, price range, region. Narrow down your search as much as you can, and then focus on that area of the department. When you’ve done that, you can start to have some fun with selecting the exact bottle you should bring home.

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Brut Rosé for Valentine's Day

 I haven’t made any plans for Valentine’s Day yet. I think that particular Friday night is going to consist of me, my boyfriend, and a couple friends cooking dinner at home and avoiding the public chaos that descends on the restaurants in our neighborhood for the evening. But I’m still going to be in charge of handling the wine for our dinner.

Wine for Valentine’s Day is easy, though. Get some bubbly, get a bottle of red with the three-course prix-fixe steak dinner, maybe do a glass of port with dessert.

Then continue the romance by getting too stuffed on the rich meal, sleepy from the wine, and dealing with some interesting gastrointestinal sensations for the rest of the night.

There’s a way to do wine for Valentine’s Day that isn’t predictable, won’t cause the discomfort that the traditional choices do, and will feel just as romantic.

First thing to keep in mind: don’t over-drink. That red wine and steak pairing may be classic (and delicious) but the temptation to go through the whole bottle once your waiter places it on the table is high. Couple that with the aperitif Champagne flutes and several courses of buttery, rich foods, and you’ve got the recipe for a full-blown food coma, an early end to what should be a romantic night, and the potential temptation to drive while intoxicated. Don’t do it!

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