Photo Confessions: Philadelphia Art Museum

My weekend view of the Philadelphia Art Museum.

My weekend view of the Philadelphia Art Museum.

What better way to close down another manic Monday with a little photo confession.

In case you may be new to this reoccurring segment, "photo confessions" are short posts I write describing fun photos taken during my day to day. The majority of these photos are shared on the blog's instagram account,  but every once and a while I like to share a fun photo that was worthy of more than just the usual instagram post.

The feature this time - the one and only Philadelphia Art Museum! I admit, most of us have probably seen it - either in real life or at least in one of the Rocky movies. Personally, I walk by at least once a month. But I don't care how cheesy it is, I still run up the steps with Eye of the Tiger blasting - and it's fun every time. It is just an iconic cultural site. And that's why I love Philadelphia.

Philadelphia is definitely one of the most underrated cities on the East Coast. There is so much culture to soak up - and most of it is free! The food is delicious - where local chefs aim to feature inventive flavors without the steep price tag (viva la BYOB)! And it's just a great town to live in!

I challenge you to think about your favorite place! Whether you live in a big city or rural town, always strive to find those hidden gems that make your community special. 



Wine Winter Project: Jean-Claude Dagueneau Domaine des Berthiers Pouilly-Fume

Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

As much as I love Ralph Waldo Emerson, describing my passion for this next style of wine as "enthusiastic" may be a bit of an understatement. In this post, I will review of one of my personal favorites, Pouilly-Fume! 

Every time I start a new post, I look back to see what I have written on the topic previously. Since the blog is relatively young, I usually find a few sparse details. However, when it comes to Sauvignon Blanc, specifically the French style from Pouily-Fume, there is an abundance of information on the topic already. (Not surprising, since it's delicious!). If you want a review my earlier posts, be sure to check out my comparison of California style Sauvignon Blanc with a Pouilly-Fume from France here. I also discussed Pouilly-Fume in my French Wine 101 magna-post.

But today the focus is on Pouilly-Fume, so let's get to it! When I initially tasted Pouilly-Fume, I assumed that the "Fume" meant the wine may have a smokey flavor. While there are many theories on this, most industry people (including Kevin Zraly - a favorite!) suggest that the name came from the "white morning mist that blankets the area." Personally, I think the "Fume" stands for steely gun barrel and minerality with a citrus finish. I know, what a crazy description, but when you taste it you will understand what I mean! A few final facts, this wine is not typically aged in wood and ready to drink within three to five years.

Remember to note the distinction between Pouilly-Fume (Sauvignon Blanc from Loire Valley) and Pouilly-Fuisse (Chardonnay from Loire Valley). 


Jean-Claude Dagueneau Domaine des Berthiers Pouilly-Fume


Grapes. 100% Sauvignon Blanc

Where it's From. Pouilly-Fume AOC, located within the Loire Valley. Pouilly-Fume is considered within the Central Vineyards (called Central because they are located within the center of France, not the Loire Valley). The climate is continental. The soil consists primarily of clay and limestone topped with gravel and flinty pebbles (flint = gun barrel).

Alcohol. 12.5%

Winemaker's Notes. No official winemaker's notes were readily available, but the Wine Spectator did give it a 90.

My Thoughts. This was a total impulse buy that gave me a bit of sticker shock at the register, since it cost $24. Now even with the tax-free shopping available in the great state of Delaware, this is a bit over my usual price range for a weeknight wine. However, just the smell alone reminded me immediately of how much I love this style of wine. It smelled of steely citrus, spice and green pepper. The taste was much softer than the aroma - I expected an acid bomb - but it was super smooth and mouthwatering with a hint of lemon. I would argue that the wine is the best choice for sipping - it would really thrive if paired with food. I was thinking fish, or similar seafood, with a citrus based sauce.



Last Minute Gift Ideas: My Favorite Things

So, you have just realized that Christmas is only a few days away and you still need to pick up something special for that someone special. Below I have listed a view of my favorite things as inspiration. While this list is geared toward the ladies (or a gentleman with awesome taste and an interest in entertaining, food or travel) it is full of a variety of items that anyone could love - wine enthusiasts or not. Happy Holidays!

1. Books.  It may be just me, but this technology revolution seems to be devouring whatever free time we used to have to relax with a good book. And I must be really old fashioned, but I miss reading from an actual book (even though I have a kindle). NYTimes has a great list of their favorite books from 2013 - check it out and pick on up for someone. (Join my read 1 book a month goal - I dare you!)

2. Cookbooks.  Yes, cookbooks are different from books generally and deserve their own shout out. I love cookbooks because they are like a window into a foreign culture. I will admit it, I jumped on that latest cookbook bandwagon for "Jerusalem." Sure, I could have found recipes for many of those dishes online, but I appreciated the stories included with each recipe. Plus, many cookbooks these days contain great ideas for entertaining. Some of my favorites include Ina Garten and Giada.

3. Non-essential Decor.  If you are not sure what to get someone, sometimes a little something special for the home is perfect. I'm thinking an interesting throw pillow, an awesome scented candle with a fun name (my favorites here), or something just to decorate a room. It may seem silly, but especially for someone just building their home, it is nice to add a new item that would have been a total impulse buy for them.

4. Something Personalized.  I am a sucker for anything personalized (And you can throw initials on literally everything these days). Check out They have so many great items, including mongrammed leather wallets, personalized jewelry and unique home decor.

5. Fun Trinkets.  Every magazine under the sun will definitely have fun items featured in a holiday gift guide. But reviewing all those magazines takes time. (too much time!) So I have done all the busy work for you and featured some of the best items I have seen this holiday season:

  • Not your Grandma's style Thermos.  Klean kanteen has some really fun thermoses that are great for packed lunches or travel. Fill them with your favorite fresh snacks and skip the depressing airplane pretzels. 
  • Spice up your dinner with Gourmet Jarred Sauces.  That foodie in your life will really appreciate it (and maybe even cook you dinner!) I tend to forget about these easy yet meaningful gifts. Pick up a gourmet pasta sauce, salsa or even mexican mole sauce and it will definitely liven up any meal. Check out Bunches and Bunches, for some fun ideas! If you are crafty, you could even make your own! 

6. A Night Out.  (Let me get out my soap box...) It is a bit sad how the holidays have been consumed by consumerism, especially in America. So fight the urge to battle people at Target, Best Buy or Walmart and give that special someone in your life a night out on the town. Plan something that is meaningful rather than extravagant (or if you have the funds, do both!). Even better, start a family tradition that involves volunteering within your local community. Every little bit really does go a long way.


Happy Holidays and Cheers!

Tis the Season: My Favorite Hot Holiday Drinks

One of the main reasons I love the holiday season are the festive parties! Whether you are celebrating with co-workers, old friends, or family, holiday parties are just tons of fun. Especially because its time to break out all the fun holiday cocktails that we only see around this time of year. Below are a few of my personal favorites (specifically because they are easy to make with a few ingredients). Feel free to share your favorite twists or recipes in the comments below!

Glühwein.  (pronounced "gloo-vine") This drink is both delicious and very sentimental for me. It's a traditional German drink that my Oma would make during the holidays. I love it because its traditionally served at the outdoor holiday markets (Christmas/Easter) in Germany and Austria. It's a perfect way to bring the community together. 

Ingredients: 1 bottle red wine (Recommended Blaufrankisch, Zweigelt, or fruit forward red); 1 cup water; 1/4 cup sugar; 2 cinnamon sticks; 4 cloves; 1 orange peeled for zest and juiced.

Directions: Heat water, sugar, juice and spices. Once infused, and red wine and heat through, be careful not to boil. (Easier option, warm all ingredients in crock pot for at least an hour).

Traditional Mulled Wine.  While Glühwein is traditionally made with red wine, you can make Mulled Wine (the American version) with other types of wine. A few of my favorites include fruit based wines. Try Apple Spiced wine with cranberry juice. Or Apple Cranberry wine with cinnamon, cloves and orange zest. Don't be afraid to experiment. The only thing you can do wrong is boil the drink.

Mulled Cider.  While fall is over, there is still room for apple cider at the party table. To make a base mulled cider follow these instructions: Heat 2 quarts of apple cider with one apple, 2 teaspons of whole cloves (typically cloves are studded in the apple), 1 orange thinly sliced, and 1 cinnamon stick. Add light brown sugar to taste. Once warmed through, remove from heat and add 1 cup of rum. I would likely substitute the rum for bourbon.

Irish Coffee.  The classic irish coffee is just black coffee, brown sugar and 3 tablespoons of Irish whiskey. Add Bailey's for fun. Given the popularity of Keurig's these days, I would recommend making these individually. 

Hot Toddy.  If you are looking for something on the stronger side (hey, we all have annoying siblings right?) then I recommend the Hot Toddy. Simply put, its hot tea with a shot of whisky (I would prefer bourbon or brandy over rye). But here's the recipe if you need it: combine liquor, 1 tablespoon of honey and the juice of 1/4 of lemon. On the side, prepare a cup of hot black tea, once fully steeped, combine with liquor. 


Happy Holidays and Cheers!

Gifts for the Wine Lover: Gadgets and Gizmos

So what if that special wine lover in your life is not into books or art? No problem! This list is full of great items that every wine drinker should collect during their lifetime (or all at once if necessary)! When it comes to wine accessories for me, I prefer basic functionality over the latest technology. Affordable and functional beats high-tech any day - so check out my suggestions below!

1. Wine Opener/Corckscrew.  Every wine drinker needs a decent wine opener, period. One of my personal favorites is the Metrokane Vertical Lever style opener. It is by far the easiest opener I have ever used and almost 2 years in it still works great. However, after working in a few tasting rooms, I have come to appreciate the traditional hinged corkscrew. You can buy them at any liquor store for around $3 and they work just fine.

2. Wine Saver.  Now, I haven't had much experience with these wine savers because I don't really understand the concept of leftover wine... But if you really wanted to open that Cabernet on a Tuesday night and still want to be functional at work the next day - you should look for a wine saver. Vacu Vin is one of my favorites because it is simple to use and affordable. Jury is still out on whether it really helps save the wine for an extended period of time, but it definitely helps for a few days.

3. Decanter.  If you enjoy reds, you really should look into buying a decanter. Traditionally, decanters were used to separate the wine from the small amount of sediment that collects at the bottom of the bottle. But more commonly today, they are used to help aerate the wine (or let it "breathe"). In all fairness, some wine experts criticize aeration and don't think it actually helps the wine - so I will leave that up to you. I like decanters because they and to the table decor. My main recommendation, be sure to buy one that is easy to clean.

4. Wine Aerator.  Moving along to something that is more impulsive than essential - aerators. I have one, have yet to use it, but I think it is an interesting idea. I have the Vinturi aerator, which is interesting because you can use it with a decanter or straight to the glass. 

5. Whiskey Stones.  I know, I know, this has nothing to do with wine. But, there are tons of fun accessories out there for beverages other than wine. I actually prefer whiskey on the rocks, but if you (or that whiskey lover in your life) likes their liquor straight up - whiskey stones are great for cooling down without watering down the drink. If you want to cool down your wine in a fun way (or I usually do this for sangria) freeze grapes. They have the same effect of whiskey stones, but are edible at the end!

6. Drink Charms.  Do you have that one family member who always loses their glass at parties or family gatherings and ends up stealing everyone else's? Then you definitely need to get them some wine charms. There are so many wine charms available these days - both online and in your favorite store on main street. Check out these mustache drink markers - hilariously cute!

7. Wine Refrigerator.  For that serious wine enthusiast in your life, you may consider a wine refrigerator. There are thousands of models out there - but I prefer the smaller models (holding approximately 30 bottles) with one temperature setting. This is mostly because I don't really believe in collecting wine to age for decades, but you may have a special bottle or two that you what to hold one for a view years. 

8. Wine Apps (iPhone).  Now if you are looking to save money or pick up something fun for yourself - check out my favorite wine apps!

  • First, for tips on pairing wine with food, occasions, etc, check out Hello Vino. It's a simple app that is great when you head to the wine store (or restaurant) without a specific plan and need a quick idea. Plus it's free!
  • Second, Drync Wine Pro. This is my favorite app by far, it's a great way to keep track of wines you drink or purchase with it's cellar tracking feature. But, it also allows you to look up wines by taking a picture of the label (so cool!). It costs $4.99, but its totally worth it if you like to keep track of wines you tasted.
  • Third, Snooth Wine Pro. It's like a virtual cellar and facebook combined. Plus it's free!
  • Two new apps I am looking into: Wine Events and Wine Wherever. Both help put you in touch with local wine events - definitely a fun idea

If you have any favorite wine gadgets, gizmos or apps that I did not give a shout out to, leave a comment! 


Happy Holidays and Cheers!

Gifts for the Wine Lover: Art and Decor

With the countdown to the end of the year winding down quickly, I have some more gift ideas for the wine lover in your life. Do you know someone who enjoys interior design or picking up fun items to display around the house? Then, this list is full of great ideas for you! Below I have featured some of my favorite wine themed art and decor items, some are DIY, but all make great gifts for the holidays.

1. Wine Cork Cage.  If you are like me, you have tons of extra wine corks lying around. Turn those corks into a piece of art by displaying them in an interesting way. You can buy a simple glass vase or wire basket to display them. But if you are looking for something for interesting, check out this wine cork cage. (Definitely not for those unsure about their passion for wine).

2. Painted Wine Bottles.  This was one of my favorites DIY projects I saw this season. Take an empty wine bottle and your favorite paint (I would suggest chalkboard paint or silver) and fill it with silk flowers or something sparkly to liven up the holiday table. Here are some step by step instructions.


3. Cork Holiday Wreath.  I love this idea because it can be a simple DIY gift or something more complicated and beautiful. The wine cork wreath that I featured to the left can easily be made with some leftover corks, a few items from the craft store and a hot glue gun. However, there are some more complicate versions available online that involve a woven cork pattern. 

4. Unique Painted Wine Goblets.  Any wine lover would love a personalized wine glass. Generally, painted wine glasses are quite easy to find, especially for 21st birthdays. But there are unique painted glasses out there. Some of my favorites can be found online at Etsy, the vendor RealGlassAct sells painted wine glasses with some cinema favorites on there - Audrey Hepburn from Breakfast at Tiffany's, Johnny Depp, and even the main characters from the Wizard of Oz. Be sure to check them out!

5. Fun Wine Prints.  One of my favorite gifts ideas is finding a great quote online, printing it on high quality paper, and framing it. Its simple, affordable and classic. Here are some ideas:

These are just a few ideas and there are many more out there! Get creative!


Happy Holidays and Cheers!

Gifts for Wine Lovers: Books

So you have finished up the last of the Thanksgiving leftovers. The radio is playing holiday music 24/7. And Baby, it's officially cold outside. You know what that means - it's the Holiday Season! 

If you are in search of something special for the wine lover in your life, look no further! I will be featuring some of my favorite wine related items, including: art and decor, gadgets and gizmos, or just a few of my favorite things. But first, I have a list of my favorite wine books!

1. Thomas Jefferson on Wine, By John Hailman.  This was the first book I ever purchased specifically discussing wine. Being the history nerd that I am, it played a huge role in sparking my interest in wine. A great choice for anyone who loves history and wine.

2. Wine and War: The French, The Nazis, and The Battle for France's Greatest Treasure, By Donald Kladstrup & Petie Kladstrup.  Another choice for someone who loves history and wine, but this book focuses on World War II. Just finished reading this book and loved it! I have so many interesting stories to share with friends at holiday parties about how the French would go to great lengths to protect their wine from Nazi seizure. 

3. Wine Wars: The Curse of the Blue Nun, the Miracle of Two Buck Chuck, and the Revenge of the Terroirists, By Mike Veseth.  Finally, a book that combines economics and wine! A great read for the Economist in your life. This book discusses some recent changes in the wine business and how these changes will affect wine production in the future.

4. Wine Politics: How Governments, Environmentalists, Mobsters, and Critics influence the Wine We Drink, By Tyler Colman.  I have yet to read this book, but it is definitely next on my list. A combination of my two favorite things - wine and politics. The world of wine is definitely (if not completely) drive by politics and law. Looking forward to 

5. Wines of the New South Africa, By Tim James.  Finally, a book dedicated to one of my favorite wine regions - South Africa! There are hundreds (if not thousands) of books covering France, Italy and even Germany - down to the individual region - but there are few specifically covering South Africa. This book covers the history of wine making and the trends of what is to come. 

6. The Essential Scratch and Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert: Take a Whiff of That, By Richard Betts.  I saw this book on a list in Wine Spectator and absolutely loved the idea of it! One of the most important things in learning more about wine and the styles you like as an individual is learning how to use your nose! Smelling wine is half the fun. Be warned, don't take this book too seriously when it comes to the actual scents, as some reviewers have described them as off, but definitely an interesting and unique book for the wine lover that is looking for something new!

Looking for something that provides a more straight forward approach to learning about wine (aka wine reference books), anything written by the following authors will definitely be a great resource:

  • Jancis Robinson 
  • Oz Clarke
  • Mark Oldman (A personal favorite, informative an hilarious at the same time!)

Happy Holidays and Cheers!