Cousin Lover


Cousin Oscar – Jean-Marie Rimbert
Varietal: Cinsault
Region: Languedoc-Roussillon, France
Year: 2016
Price:~$19.99                                                                              Pair With: Summer in the City - The Lovin' Spoonful

Summer is for doing something bad, like falling in love with your own Cousin Oscar.

TECHNICALLY, the first day of summer is June 21st. But I know the season has arrived when my favorite recipes start feeling repetitive, my wine loses its flavor and I’ve done at least one thing that requires me to contemplate attending confession.

But that’s kind of the purpose of summer. It’s for unplanned and rash decisions that feel and taste so right.


Pretty soon you’re trying every flavor of Dippin Dots, climbing water towers at 3 a.m.

Pretty soon your stealing pies off Old Lady Wilson’s window and tagging the Third Street bridge.

Pretty soon you’re in love with Cousin Oscar.  

Cousin Oscar is a thirst-quenching, fruit-packed, dangerously easy summer wine. It’s named for the winemaker’s cousin, Oscar, who is apparently irresistible with the ladies and after polishing off the bottle, I can see why.

It’s a wine that in winter, feels rash and out of place, but in summer comes alive and feels so right.

From the French Cinsault grape, you can expect low tannins (that dry mouth feel) and low acid (that lemon pucker feel). It tastes like a blend of homemade cranberry dressing and raspberries stolen from my Aunt’s garden. Throw it in the fridge for a while and serve with a slight chill.

I like to think the real Cousin Oscar would approve of you taking this wine on every bad decision you make this summer.

P.S. For the Narcs out there - the statue of limitations have passed on anything I admitted to in this post.

Folk Machine Riesling


Folk Machine Riesling
Varietal: Riesling
Region: California - Santa Lucia Highlands

Year: 2015
Price:~$17.99                                                                            Pair With: Everywhere - Fleetwood Mac

In my family, if you said you were bored then, undoubtedly, you’d be volunteering the next morning at 6 am.

I made the mistake of being bored one summer and, sure enough, found myself standing in a lemon grove picking fruit for the local food bank.  

In California everyone has a friendly citrus tree in their neighborhood or backyard; use it for lemonade, salad dressing gin and tonics... Well the trees in this grove were NOT like your friendly neighborhood lemon trees. These fucking things meant business; three-inch razor-sharp thorns. They stood tall and foreboding, taunting any dumb SOB to steal from their branches.

Well, I spent the day being a dumb SOB.

None of the volunteers, expect for the owner of this lemon grove, realized gloves were a necessity when picking, so we spent the day carefully threading our hands in and out of the branches like a game of operation. From the top of my ladder I could see a vineyard of grapes in the neighboring field. As the sun got hotter, the thought of a chilled white wine was all consuming.

After picking our weight in lemons and having hands that looked like they went through a meat grinder, we finished for the day. One of the volunteers had a jug of ice-cold water, flavored with lemon wedges, waiting for us. It wasn’t the wine I was hoping for, but it hit the spot none the less.   

The 2015 Riesling from Folk Machine reminded me of that lemon water on a hot day; cool, citrusy, refreshing and hard-earned. The fruit in this wine comes from the Santa Lucia Highlands, where cool afternoon winds and prevalent fog make vineyards ideal for cool climate grapes – think Riesling Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. These Riesling vines, still on their original rootstock, were planted in the 1960’s meaning lower yield and more concentration of flavor.  The winemakers did a great job of letting the fruit show its unique character.

Bone dry with a high level of acidity and clean granite crispness, this wine pairs with a patio or day spent picking fruit. Lemon, apple and some lip smacking honeysuckle makes this wine incredibly interesting. And if you find it boring, take my advice and keep that opinion to yourself.



Radford Dale Thirst – The Winery of Good Hope
Varietal: Cinsault
Region: South Africa - Stellenbosch

Year: 2014
Price:~$18.99                                                                            Pair With: TAKE IT EASY - THE EAGLES

Trump bombed Syria. Ash is raining from local wildfires. I’m coughing up dust. My credit card bill is due. And I just saw some guy carrying a cross yelling “ARE YOU READY?!”.

Happy Friday the 13th -  it’s time for a drink.  

When things go to shit, they really go to shit. Some of us will give it a laugh, pour a glass of wine and say, “that’s the way the world works”. Others go into overdrive and attempt to control or correct the situation. Winemakers, without a doubt, fall into the second category.

In a winery, things go great until your skating over a cliff. A fermentation will be humming along then BOOM – acid is out of balance, your yeast dies off, there’s too much sulfur, or maybe not enough – your wine is ruined. Modern winemaking has developed techniques to control some of these variables and winemakers use them like tools in a toolbox. But with too much manipulation and reformulation a wine can be robbed of its unique flavor and taste.

A growing number of wineries are producing “natural wines”. Which just means a wine with minimal additions or tweaks. It’s all naturaaal – you can imagine how it sells at Whole Foods.

You might assume natural wine is the path for lazy winemakers but it takes a massive amount of self-control and discipline. There’s so much uncertainty when creating this style of wine. For instance, using native yeasts that are found in the vineyard can lead to temperature sensitivity. Winemakers have been found by the morning crew asleep, or passed out, next to a fermenting tank with temperature gauge in-hand.  These guys are kind of like tweakers, resisting the urge to shoot up and modify their wine. They have a full toolbox but can't use the tools.  The result, when things go well, is a beautifully crafted wine that can show a depth of flavor, character and personality.

The 2017 “Thirst” Cinsault by the Winery of Good Hope is all about resisting the urge to control. These South African boys let mother nature take charge and don’t intervene. The result is a bright wine packed with sour-cranberry and dark-cherry. It seems to almost sparkle in your mouth and has a great funky character that raises your eyebrows.



Louis M Martini
Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon
Region: Napa Valley

Year: 2014                                                                            Price: ~$32                                                                            Pair With: IN MY LIFE - THE BEATLES

My first experience with wine ruined me. I remember the bottle, I remember the night, and I sure as hell remember the hangover.

"What was your first bottle of wine?" 

It's my favorite question to ask at dinner parties because it reveals so much about a person. If they tell you it was some $700 bottle (I've heard 1968 Chateau Margaux), then they're probably not much fun. If they tell you it was Boone's Farm, and can accurately debate the merits of flavor selection vs. chugging, then they're probably a WHOLE LOTTA fun.

My first bottle was Mad Dog 20/20, a painfully-cheap and fortified wine. Usually reserved for winos and bums (hence "The Wine Bum"), I developed an unhealthy taste for the "Red Grape" flavor. Also, I've had the other flavors so don't even let me hear your shit - Red Grape for life. 

The best part about wine is seeing how far you've come. Each bottle a different stage in life. 

Fortified wines = College or that time you were living under a bridge

Moscato = Got your first job and now you fancy

Light Reds = In your Mid 20's and parties quit serving Moscato

Red Blends = Needed something stronger for all those Facebook baby pictures

Cabernet = I can afford steaks now and was once referred to as "cultured"

I made the drastic leap from bum wine to Cabernet, then back to sweet wine for WAY too long. My big sister was slinging wine at the time and brought home a few bottles of Louis Martini Napa Caberent.

At dinner, we drank each bottle dry. Somebody cried. We all made up. And the night ended in a friendly match of Indian leg wrestling.

Now, when I walk the wine isles and see a bottle of Louis Martini, I think about that night. I can’t tell you how much acidity, structure, or cherry that first bottle possessed. But I sure as hell can tell you where I was in life.  

I brought home this 2014 Louis Martini Napa Cabernet and enjoyed every sip. Lush blackberry and cherry with a rich mouth feel and long finish. Just a fucking well-crafted wine. A great buy for the price and one that I'll continue to think of fondly. 


Folk Machine


Folk Machine Charbono
Varietal: Charbono
Region: California – Central Coast

Year: 2015
Price:$18.99                                                                            Pair With: BLACK SHEEP - GIN WIGMORE

Depending on what number glass of wine I'm on determines what version of me you get. 

Glass 1 – The Introvert. I’m happy to watch and listen as conversation floats by.

Glass 2 – The Entertainer. I'll dance to just about anything. Not very well, but I will dance. And that’s only two glasses deep.

Glass 3 to 5 – The “Prankster”. I don’t necessarily like the word “Prankster” because it conjures up an image of some 80’s letterman-wearing jock. Maybe “Rascal” is a better term. In any case, you won’t see it coming but hopefully laugh about it later.

Glass 5 to 10 – The Lover. Okay, now we’re best friends, kindred spirits, amigos, homies. We’re either taking another crack at the dance floor or one of us needs to buy some shots.

This wine, based on the Charbono grape, is a lot like the versions of myself. It has many alter egos and depending on its temperament will show a distinct personality in the glass.

The very history of the grape is shrouded in mystery and mistakes. I witnessed two wine shop dudes nearly go fisticuffs over Charbono’s true origin - making me an instant fan of the grape.

After a little “researching” (if you read AND drink wine it's research) I quickly realized the employees’ frustration.  

Grown in France, Italy, Argentina and California where it’s known as Charbono, this grape goes by many names and styles. It’s like the grape itself is just testing out what sounds best - Charbono, Bonarda, Dolcetto or Douce noir. The styles are just as varied as it’s names. In Argentina the grape is meant for early drinking, while in California it spends more time in bottle.

The frustrating part is that wine drinkers like to put grapes into concise buckets – origin, physical characteristics and associated wine style. We like to know EXACTLY what’s in our glass. But Charbono be like “Dat ain’t me”.  It's the unapologetic black sheep of grapes. And I love it for that reason.

From the dudes at Hobo Wine Company comes this piece of heaven - Folk Machine Charbono. 

The 2015 Folk Machine is bittersweet to the last drop. A visually dark and brooding wine, its emo exterior gives way to a bright and balanced wine. Surprisingly light with easy to drink acidity, this one leaves you salivating for more. 

Going, Going, Gone


Field Recordings "PETS"
Varietal: Petite Sirah
Region: California - Central Coast
Year: 2015
Price: ~$25

I sat around thinking about this wine for too long. And I only have myself to blame. Cause its gone. That's the problem with good wine, it's here one minute and gone the next. My advice? When you find one of those great wines, where quality and price meet, buy it buy the case.   

This central coast petite sirah was kick-ass.  Simple, balanced and well-crafted this baby was kicking around my mouth with cherry, plum and black pepper. A better chef than me would pair with some lamb chops and herbs. I'll be pairing with a hamburger. Same same - but different. 

Party on Garth


Matthiasson Wines "TENDU"
Varietal: Red Blend
Region: California
Year: 2014
Price: ~$24

Last week I had a party. The bottles were popping and the wine flowing. When my old wheelchair came out from the garage and a impromptu wheelie contest broke out, I knew it was time for the party wine.

A party wine is something you serve when you've been over-served. Light and easy to drink it usually has mass appeal. For awhile I was pouring a smooth Malbec that was cheap as shit, but tasted great. Then I found Matthiasson's TENDU Red Blend.

TENDU is the perfect party wine thanks to size, taste and the fact you can pry its cap off with your teeth. At a full liter in size it gives you an extra glass, or two, and can go the distance.  Light, zippy and hella refreshing it goes down way too easy. 

Also, for you Super Trooper fans:

Super troopers.JPG

A South African Summer


Mullineux & Leeu
Varietal: Syrah
Region: South Africa - Swartland

Pair With: Sugar Man - Sixto Rodriguez

It's a cold one out. It’s the type of bone-chilling cold where no matter how many layers, its just impossible to get warm.  I’ve heard you can raise body temperature by thinking of a warm place – I guess it’s worth a try.

This time last year I was enjoying a sunny South African summer, casually drinking chenin blanc and syrah, while crushing cheese plates. January is when the wine business slows down and I can sneak away for vacation.

Choosing my destination has always been based on one question – what’s the wine like?

I settled on South Africa after reading about the emerging wine culture and the possibility of swimming with Great Whites.

I spent a few days in Capetown before heading to Stellenbosch and the surrounding wine region.

My first stop was scheduled to be a bio-dynamic winery called Reyneke - but it was closed for the day. So, puling an audible, we started the day at Kleinood - Afrikaans for something "small and precious". This small lot Syrah producer was kickass and the farm, complete with roaming wine dogs, was a place you never want to leave. Their olive oil was also dope and totally worth buying.

South Africa.JPG

We bounced around for the rest of the day and finished at Mullineux & Leeu. A quick stop at Mullineux and it is evident why Wine Enthusiast named Andrea Mullineux the 2016 winemaker of the year. Pay for the premium tasting and you get a cool side by side soil comparison of Granite, Schist and Iron based Syrah.

I’m a big Shark Week fan so I couldn’t’ pass up the chance to swim with these beasts. After sipping wine for a few days, we jumped in a van and headed up the coast to cage dive. The sharks were as hungry as they are on the Discovery Channel, just a hell of a lot closer.

I don’t know if thinking about the South African weather has made me any warmer but drinking a few glasses of Mullineux Syrah has helped. This single vineyard Syrah is full of dark fruit, pepper and spice. You can tell the winemaker's put a massive amount of thought into creating this wine - I highly recommend. 

Sex Sells


Orin Swift "Machete"
Varietal: Red Blend
Region: California
Year: 2015
Price: ~$60

Back in college I had an advertising class called "Sex Sells" - there wasn't an empty seat in the house.

Now once a week someone will tell me, half ashamed, "I buy whatever wine has the coolest label". 

Listen, there's no shame to label shopping. In fact, I'd argue it's hardwired into our DNA.

As hunter-gatherers we picked fruit. And Mother Nature makes eye-catching fruit as a way to say - "Hey idiots, eat me!". I'm assuming Eve, even though it was her first apple, went after the best looking one. After all, there's no sense damning yourself for eternity over a half-ripe piece of fruit. 

Nowadays Mother Nature is replaced with a clever marketer, and tempting fruit has been traded for a luscious Cabernet. But you get the analogy. Buy what looks good.  

The Machete label was chosen after a causal naked photo shoot. And what better place to have a naked photo shoot than the Calistoga city dump. God, I wonder what the dump employees were thinking? The creative team ended up taking thousands of shots from which winemaker Dave Phinney chose his 12 favorites - each label in a case is different. 

Orin Swift's 2015 Machete is as bold as its label. A delicious, big-boned red blend the Machete starts with ripe cherry and moves into charred meaty goodness. This baby has a lot of charachter and should be paired with a big meal. 

Cologne - The City Not the Spray

Some left over red blend, perfect for mulled wine

Some left over red blend, perfect for mulled wine

Originally Published in The Fairfax Chief on Dec 21, 2017

Christmas, for me, is Cologne – the German city, not the spray.

In Cologne and across Germany, December is marked by the tradition of Christmas markets. City squares are transformed into winter wonderlands. Giant Christmas trees and twinkling lights illuminate vendor stalls, selling everything from nativity scenes to samurai swords. Children stand on tippy toes longingly staring at every candy, chocolate and salted licorice imaginable – I always passed on the last one.

And amid this dentist’s dream, lies the holy grail – potato pancakes and mulled wine.

Gluhwein, or mulled wine, is the cure to all holiday woes. The wine is sweetened, spiced and then warmed in large pots making it perfect for cold evenings. Kartoffelpuffer, or potato pancakes, are golden-fried heavenly morsels. Germans enjoy this potato dish year-round but it truly shines when paired with Gluhwein. The artful dance of spice, salt and sweetness is a delicious combination only a long-standing tradition like the German Christmas market could devise.

But the best part of these foods was always the company we shared. Relatives visiting from America were ushered immediately from airport to Christmas market. Standing in awe, under the gaze of a gothic bell tower, with Gluhwein and Kartoffelpuffer in hand, you could see the stress of an American Christmas slip away.

This year, try your own slice of a German Christmas!


My own attempt...

If you drink wine while also cooking wine, it's important to remember both. 



·        1 bottle of red wine (Merlot or un-oaked Cab will work)

·        1 lemon, juiced (roughly 3-4 Tbsp of juice)

·        5 Tb sugar (more to taste)

·        3 whole cloves

·        1 cinnamon stick

·        1 orange, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces

·        1 orange, sliced for garnish, (optional)


1.      Put all the ingredients (except the orange garnishes) into a pot or large saucepan. Bring the mixture to a light simmer. Cover and reduce the heat to keep it just barely at a simmer. Simmer for 1 hour.

2.      After simmering, turn off the heat and let the wine continue to steep for 30 minutes. (At this point you can take a small spoonful and taste your Glühwein. If it needs more sugar for your tastes, go ahead a mix some in!)

3.      Remove the cloves and cinnamon stick.

4.      Serve the mulled wine warm with an orange slice garnish, if desired.