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Premium Cava Perfect for Celebrations

amy reileyWoman on Wine

with Amy Reiley

You’re probably already familiar with Spanish sparkling wine, or Cava. But the wines you most likely know are the ones from two or three producers that are priced around the ten-dollar mark. Don’t get me wrong, I drink my share of them, too! These are perfect, dry and reasonably sophisticated sparkling wines for the price. But Spanish winemakers are also capable of producing sparkling wines that compete with the best of the best in the world. One house making premium Cava is Castell d’Age. And if you like sparkling wine, this is a winery I think you should get to know. Read more


Chardonnay from Napa Valley That Won’t Break the Bank

The Wine of the Week: Hess Collection Napa Valley Chardonnay

by Annette Tomei

2015 Hess Collection Napa Valley Chardonnay, CaliforniaHess Collection Chardonnay from Napa Valley

The Napa Valley and its world-renowned wineries have had a difficult year. As one who called the area home for nearly a decade, I want to do all I can to show my support. This includes drinking more wines from Napa and Sonoma. And I’m happy that I can share a Chardonnay from Napa Valley that falls into the affordable range. Read more


Organic Wine from Italy – Si, Grazie!

The Wine of the Week: Cirelli Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, a bargain organic wine from Italy

by Annette Tomei

2016 Cirelli La Collina Biologica, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC, ItalyCirelli Montepulciano d'Abruzzo a great organic wine from Italy

Francesco Cirelli is building a strong reputation for his dedication to organics, natural wines, and true biodiversity on his farm in the Abruzzo region of Italy. In under two decades, Francesco and his wife Michela have built a thriving organic farm. They have a diverse production that includes wine grapes, olives for olive oil, grains, and even geese. Read more

Why Make Buying Thanksgiving Wines Complicated?

amy reileyI tend to focus my monthly column on wines that are unusual, small production or somehow obscure. I somehow feel as though it’s my duty to share my knowledge of those things that are exciting and possibly little known about the wine industry.

But we don’t always need an education. Sometimes we just need a good drink. That’s why I took a step back and reevaluated what I had planned for my Thanksgiving column. Just as I was kicking around new ideas, a letter arrived in the mail accompanying a couple of samples of California wine. For some reason I was touched by the sentiment of the letter. It was written by winemaker Jamie Benziger of Imagery Estate Winery. The sentiment compelled me to open the two bottles of enclosed wine right away. The wines happened to be perfect for a Thanksgiving article.

The wines, a Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, fit the bill for what I think wines for a Thanksgiving table should be: affordable, approachable, available nationwide and made in the USA. After all, this is America’s holiday. We should drink American wine! But more importantly, Imagery is a Sonoma winery, from one of the areas hardest hit by the recent wildfire disaster. And what that area needs more than anything is for Americans to support the region by buying the wines.

Tasting notes

Have trouble picking Thanksgiving Wines? Imagery Chardonnay is a good choice.2016 Imagery Estate Winery Chardonnay

This wine is made from a blend of 95% Chardonnay and 5% Chenin Blanc. The addition of Chenin Blanc gives the wine beautiful floral and melon notes which harmonize nicely with the Chardonnay’s apple and pear. The result is something pretty, fresh and fruity. It is the super easy drinking sort of wine that tastes great before dinner and won’t overshadow the delicious flavors at the table.

2016 Imagery Estate Winery Cabernet Sauvignon

Imagery made this wine with the addition of 15% Petite Sirah to the Cabernet. The wine is a super smooth, boldly fruity style of Cab. The Petite Sirah gives it a sexy hint of baking spice and pepper that I, of course, love. If your table is full of serious oenophiles, this is not going to be the wine for you. But if you are like most of us and want to enjoy an easy-to-drink wine that will compliment rather than overpower the meal, this is not only going to fit the bill at an affordable price, it will likely absolutely delight many of your guests.


Honey, This is Not Your Average Mead

The Wine of the Week: Floralia Botanical Mead

by Annette Tomei

2017 Floralia Botanical Mead, Enlightenment Wines, Brooklyn, New York

Wine, by definition, is fermented fruit juice. So, maybe I’m going a bit beyond the scope of this column by including a “honey wine”. I hope you’ll agree that it is well worth a diversion to discover something new – a taste adventure.

Mead is an ancient fermented beverage in which honey is the primary sugar. Fruits, botanicals, aromatics, and herbs may also be incorporated. Though often associated with vikings and Renaissance “faires”, mead is an international beverage with its deepest roots in China and India. Mead is also one of the fastest growing beverage markets in the US. It helps that mead is generally produced from local bounty, gluten-free, natural, and seasonal.

Enlightenment Wines was founded in 2009 by mazer (mead-maker) Raphael Lyon in New York’s Hudson Valley. Production has recently expanded to include a facility in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Enlightenment Wines has a cultivated reputation for experimental, artistic adventures in flavor. Lyon’s everything-but-grapes approach to wine making delivers deliciously exotic experiences. I’ve tasted his meads made from local apples, hand-foraged dandelions, tea, cassis, and tart cherries. Styles range from sparkling to still, sweet to bone dry. All are made from local raw organic honey (though their products are not certified organic).

About this Wine

Floralia is an off-dry style mead made with juniper, lavender, and marjoram. It is intensely aromatic. The essence of fir trees combined with a warm sunny hillside along the Mediterranean. The off-dry style means there is a bit of sweetness on the palate, but not so much to detract from the overall savory flavor profile. The finish is quite dry.

Serve chilled by itself, this mead makes a wonderful aperitif or digestif. As an accompaniment to food, I recommend earthy cheeses and buttery olives, or maybe a warm Provencal bean stew. I also recommend this mead as a substitute for gin in some cocktails. The aromatic composition is similar, the alcohol content significantly lower at about 12% ABV. Or, include it IN your gin cocktails as a complementary component far superior to nearly any vermouth.

The Verdict

The aphrodisiac properties of each ingredient are only enhanced by their combination, so consider this an ideal aperitif to more than a meal! It is available online for approximately $25/375 ml bottle. It is produced in extremely small quantities, so hurry. (if not available, Enlightenment has numerous other delicious options)

If you happen to be in Brooklyn, visit Honey’s in Bushwick for a variety of items on tap and cocktails made with mead and more.


My new mission… to taste things I’ve never tasted before – either because I’m a snob, I can’t afford it, or it’s just a little too weird. I’ll let you know what I thought, and then you can decide for yourself if you will make the splurge, or take the leap into the strange but potentially delicious unknown!