Heritage and History, Concannon Conservancy Wines.

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Concannon has been in the Livermore Valley of California for over 125 years and is a pioneer in the US wine market. The family introduced the first Petite Sirah to the United States and is now celebrating 50 years of Petite Sirah! Other ‘firsts’ include hiring the first female winemaker in the 1950’s. Additionaly, they established a number of Cabernet Sauvignon clones which are being used throughout the Napa region today. Concannon is environmentally conscious and has been working to reuse materials, use green design, and employ renewable energy.

Concannon has four ‘conservancy’ wines, which are grown in Livermore Valley on protected land. Recently I was able to try two of Concannon’s Conservancy wines, Merlot and their acclaimed Petite Sirah.

Concannon Conservancy 2008 Merlot

The Concannon Conservancy 2008 Merlot has hues of deep purple and red and has a pepper and leather aroma. I have tried it both immediately after pouring and waiting 15 minutes for the wine to aerate. The initial sip tastes of berry with a crisp finish. After waiting for the wine to aerate, it tasted of berry and cloves and had a smoother finish. I think this wine is a great buy and would love to taste it again after another two to three years of aging. I enjoyed this wine with hamburgers and hearty pasta dishes.

2008 Concannon Conservancy Petite Sirah

This Petite Sirah is a very ink-like, deep purple shade. The wine smells of smoke and cherry. It almost reminds me of the scent of a dark, historic study. It tastes crisp with notes of oak and cherry. I preferred this wine after ten minutes of being poured. I enjoyed this Petite Sirah with pork tenderloin and lighter pasta dishes. Again, I think this wine tastes great now and would also be a fantastic wine to buy and keep to age another two to four years.

Concannon wines are available nationwide for under $20. The bottles also give you some quick tasting notes and pairing suggestions. Their labels are great for those that are new to wine tasting. Of course, you can always stop in and do a tasting if you are in Livermore Valley, California. You can see you the vineyard, experience the history, and taste their wines all at once!

For more information about the Concannon’s award winning wines, http://www.concannonvineyard.com/.


The Wine Mom has pledged to Blog with Integrity. What this means is that although we occasionally receive free products from PR and marketing reps, the recommendations we make are based on our own experience in the real world. We promise to only provide reviews on the products and services we absolutely love, and we define this as something we would purchase for ourselves or as a gift for others.

Restock with Octavin

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The New Year in my household always brings the need to restock after the holiday festivities. For those of us on a budget, I have a great way for you to restock on both your red and white wines. Replenish your wine inventory with Octavin.

Octavin wines hold three liters of Artisan Wine for approximately $20. There is an Octavin wine for every pallet: R.Müller Riesling, A•Mano Pinot Grigio, Monthaven Chardonnay, Pinot Evil Pinot Noir, Pinot Evil Pinot Grigio, Silver Birch Sauvignon Blanc, Seven Red Wine of Spain.

I have sampled both the Seven Red Wine of Spain and Silver Birch Sauvignon Blanc. As there are three liters to each Octavin, I was able to pair both extensively with meals as well as enjoy a glass alone.

Seven Red Wine of Spain

This wine is extremely versatile. It is comprised of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, my two favorite reds. The remaining grapes are Syrah, Petit Verdot, Temranillo, Grenache, and Graciano. The wine is full but finishes softer then a Cabernet and Merlot, making it great for those that don’t prefer strong tannic wines. When drinking this wine, I found I enjoyed it best ten minutes after pouring. Seven has a pepper and berry aroma which I paired with some hearty meals including roast beef and spaghetti Bolognese. I thought the wine tasted excellent with both meals. I also paired Seven with some ‘lighter’ meals such as pork tenderloin and found that the smooth finish allowed for a complementary pairing for the pork as well. I definitely plan to purchase more Seven to have on hand as a great dinner wine.

Silver Birch Sauvignon Blanc

This wine hails from Marlborough, New Zealand. I especially enjoyed this wine with white pasta dishes (Alfredo and cream sauces), chicken, and mild fish such as tilapia. This wine is very crisp with a full fruity aroma and flavor. A chilled glass of Silver Birch Sauvignon Blanc would be a great wine for a warm evening outside.

Octavin wines offer tremendous benefits for the ‘one glass a day’ wine enthusiast. The packaging protects the wine from the outside air for up to six weeks. You don’t have to worry about rushing to finish the bottle to prevent spoilage. There are three liters per Octavin at approximately $20. That is three bottles of wine for the price of one! The packaging has contributed to the reduced cost of the wine, but also reduced waste and carbon emissions.

If you are having a Super Bowl gathering, Octavin wines are an excellent choice for your guests that prefer wine to beer. Cheers!

Octavin wines are available nationwide. For more information visit:



The Wine Mom has pledged to Blog with Integrity. What this means is that although we occasionally receive free products from PR and marketing reps, the recommendations we make are based on our own experience in the real world. We promise to only provide reviews on the products and services we absolutely love, and we define this as something we would purchase for ourselves or as a gift for others.

Fundido, Fondue, Melted Cheese

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I didn’t know if I would have time to make a Rick Bayless recipe during the Thanksgiving holiday. I was away four out of seven days this week. I didn’t want to go grocery shopping, knowing that we were not going to be around. I had some sweet potatoes that I haven’t used, so I looked up some recipes in Rick Bayless’ cookbooks. I found ONE recipe that called for sweet potatoes. While they tasted great, they didn’t really look appetizing. I made the Chile-Glazed Sweet Potatoes with Cinnamon and Orange. The marinade for this recipe includes dried ancho chiles, cinnamon, black pepper, cloves, broth, orange juice, garlic, and honey. This sauce is so dark and the potatoes looked burned after baking in the marinade. They tasted great, but didn’t make for great photographs.

Later this week, I asked my husband if he wanted some queso fundido (melted cheese literally). We both love it and hadn’t had any for a while. I checked for a recipe and found one in the Authentic Mexican cookbook. I have made queso fundido before, but not the way it was detailed in this recipe. The ingredients include sauteed onions and chorizo, and baked cheese (mozzarella or Colby Jack are recommended). After the cheese is melted, add the sauteed onions and chorizo to the top and bake for a few more minutes.

The recipe also called for fresh poblano chiles. I didn’t have any fresh chiles and we don’t usually add them to our chorizo fondue, so I made the recipe without them. You can eat this appetizer / snack as a meal with tortilla chips, and corn or flour tortillas. Add some lettuce and tomato for some additional flavor. If you like fondue, this is a great recipe and is very easy to make.


Sauteed Onions
Cheese in a Gratin Dish for baking
Cooking the chorizo
Finished Melted Cheese with Chorizo (Queso Fundido y Chorizo)

Mole Mole Mole

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Mole is my all time favorite Mexican dish. Every time I visit a new Mexican restaurant, I look to see if they have Mole and sample it to see how it compares to others that I have tried. The most complicated part of mole, is that everyone has their own recipe, preferred ingredients, and styles. The most common types of mole consists of any combination of these ingredients: chocolate, chili peppers, onions, garlic, nuts (including peanuts, sesame seeds, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds), raisins, cinnamon, and cilantro. Some of the most complex moles are said to have over 50 ingredients!
I don’t have 50 ingredients for mole but I have many of the spices, vegetables, peppers, and chocolate for the sauce. The only downside is that I am the only person in my house that likes mole. So I will be making traditional Enchiladas for my family and the Mole Enchiladas for myself. I roasted two chickens a night ago so that I would have plenty of meat for this dish.
After looking through two of Mr. Bayless‘ cookbooks, I realized that I didn’t have every single ingredient for any of his mole recipes. I did however, have a combination of ingredients across two of his recipes, so I improvised. My mole was based upon Oaxacan Black Mole and Mole Poblano de Guajolote (Dark and Spicy Mole with Turkey).
Here are the ingredients that I used:
1 dried ancho chile
1 canned chipotle chile
1 arbol chile
1 guajillo chile
almonds with skin on (I found out the hard way that blanched, sliced almonds burn)
olive oil
masa harina (as a thickener)
14.5 ounce can of tomatoes
semi sweet chocolate (Bitter sweet would have been better, but I didn’t have any. I didn’t add sugar though.)
ground pepper
ground cumin
ground cloves
ground allspice
cinnamon stick
chicken broth
sauteed onion
sauteed garlic
dried oregano
1/2 ripe banana
I recommend using a blender or food processor to make this a nice sauce! I poured the mole over chicken enchiladas and cooked it at 350 for about a half hour. I then topped it with queso cojito and some queso fresco. I enjoyed this mole by myself! As you can tell from the mixed recipe above, I still have a ways to go in getting my pantry set up with Mexican spices and ingredients. Adios until next time!


Finished Mole Dinner

Prep: Avocado for the side, onion, garlic, cinnamon stick and dried peppers.

Leftovers for Breakfast

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I am not a huge fan of breakfast. Eggs taste good on occasion, but I don’t really eat traditional breakfast foods such as cereal, toast, sausage etc. Really, I could eat lunch or dinner for every meal. I was trying to keep within the boundaries of breakfast and still satisfy my craving for dinner. Huevos Rancheros seemed like a great option and I had lots of leftovers to make them, although not necessarily traditional.

I also figured (or was told by my loving hubby) that I should work more on my presentation since I can make a decent meal. I decided to start with learning how to start piping and creating some designs. For my first attempt, I used a little baggy full of sour cream. I definitely cut too much off the baggy because the ‘drops’ of sour cream came out much larger then I wanted. For a first try though, I suppose it was OK.

I started cooking by boiling some water and a splash of vinegar. (Vinegar helps keep the yoke intact and you can’t taste it). You have to watch the yoke so that you don’t overcook the egg and keep the water to a slow boil. I heated some enchilada sauce and dipped a corn tortilla in the sauce. I then put the tortilla in the center of the plate. and topped it with some leftover fried beans. I put some of the reheated taco meat and chicken over the beans. The next layers were some pickled onions, the egg, and then topped it off with some more enchilada sauce and cojita cheese. I have to say, it tasted great. Of course, I made sure to go to the gym after that breakfast!!!
This is just one way you can use leftovers the next day, and personally I would eat this breakfast for dinner too!

Stocking Up

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I went to a general grocery store today. I left feeling pretty pumped because I scored some corn and flour tortillas, two varieties of dried peppers, pinto beans, queso fresco and queso cojita, and my favorite – Mexican style chorizo. I came home and started looking through our two Rick Bayless cookbooks. I realized that I still have a way to go in building up my Mexican staples. I wanted to use the ingredients that I have at home so it forced me to change recipes, or really just get some ideas to make my own. I also have to consider that whatever I make largely has to feed five and hopefully have something my three year old will eat.

I wanted taco’s for dinner, so I mixed a pound of ground turkey and some of the chorizo together. I added taco seasoning to the mix and a dried guajillo chile pepper at the end to simmer with the mix. I still had some leftover pickled onions from Monday’s dinner, so my husband and I used them to top our meal.

I did attempt to make Sonoran Fried Beans with Chorizo and Cheese. The recipe called for pure dried ground guajillo chile powder. I only had the dried pepper itself. I sauteed the dried pepper in the oil prior to cooking the beans in the mixture. The beans got very dry so I added some of the leftover chicken broth from Monday and some of the dripping from the cooked meat to the mix. They tasted great but the Fried Black Beans from Monday were actually more popular with the kids. I thought the added chorizo and turkey meat would be the tastier meal. I was wrong!

The kids love to help in the kitchen. The eight year old grated the cojita cheese by hand. It is great for her to be a part of the meal and she is always very excited to let the rest of the family know what she ‘made’ for dinner.

Overall, tonight’s dinner was much more low key. Wednesdays are busy for us so we needed to have a quick meal. I am glad that some of Mondays meal was able to help out as well. Next week I plan to go to a specialty supermarket to get some more ingredients to try my hand at cooking additional recipes. I can’t wait to see what new ingredients are available to buy!


Iguana, Chakaanab Park, Cozumel. Courtesy devinwesthause.com.


I Couldn’t Wait to Start

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I couldn’t wait to start my latest project. I have been scouring two of Rick Bayless’ cookbooks and pretty much drooling over the recipes. My husband is out of town and I didn’t have every single ingredient, but I just couldn’t wait. I was so excited, I started with four recipes right away. That may seem like I was overdoing it (like most things that I do) but they all went together so well. I decided on Shredded Poached Chicken, Roasted Peppers with Onions and Herbs, Classic Mexican Fried Beans with Onions and Garlic, and Pickled Red Onions.

The Poached Chicken was supposed to be cut in quarters and you could reserve the bones for the broth. I wanted to reserve the cooking liquid as broth, so I left the chicken intact. That did increase the cooking time by about twenty minutes, but the chicken tasted great and the broth was amazing. I saved the broth in batches for future recipes!

The recipe for the Roasted Peppers with Onions and Herbs called for chiles poblanos. I only had green peppers on hand. I wanted to see how the kids responded to the green peppers before switching to other types. I also added two spoon fulls of broth to this recipe along with the cream because the recipe called for either broth or cream. The older two kids liked this dish as well, but this was the least favorite of the four recipes.

The bean recipe by far was the best that I have ever made. My 14 and 12 year old raved about them. The 8 year old was not as excited, but she got them down. The recipe called for either lard, bacon or chorizo drippings, or vegetable oil. I only had vegetable oil, which obviously has the least flavor. I fried the beans on a cast iron pan and needed more liquid. I added a few spoon fulls of the chicken broth – which definitely gave the beans a rich flavor!

I have had pickled red onions at restaurants but I have never attempted to make them on my own. I was skeptical that they would taste anything like the pickled onions that I have had at restaurants. I should have known better then to smell anything that is sitting in vinegar. The onions smells nothing like they taste. I have to say, they tasted exactly like they do in restaurants (I guess that is why it is in a Rick Bayless cookbook!!!) I ended up getting more onions to put on the rest of my food throughout the dinner.

You can see the finished product below. This was one of my better Mexican style meals. The foods went well together, even on the same tortilla. I was most impressed by the onions and how well they complemented the food. I paired the meal with a Vidal Blanc from Alto Vineyards. It is labeled as Semi-Dry, but I felt that it was on the sweeter side and went nicely with the meal.
Overall, this was a great first meal to start my new assignment. I am so excited to try more recipes. I can’t wait to share them with you too! Salud, dinero, y amor!

Pictures in Order as They Appear:

Shredded Poached Chicken Authentic Mexican, Regional Cooking from the Heart of Mexico
Roasted Peppers with Onions and Herbs Authentic Mexican, Regional Cooking from the Heart of Mexico
Classic Mexican Fried Beans with Onions and Garlic Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen
Pickled Red Onions Authentic Mexican, Regional Cooking from the Heart of Mexico
Finished plate includes cheese, corn tortillas and avocado. Wine: Alto Vineyards Reserve, Vidal Blanc

Cooking Rick Bayless Style, One Recipe a Week

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Yesterday my husband and I decided to pack up the kids and take the train into Chicago (just an hour from our piece of suburbia) and visit Xoco. We have been wanting to try Rick Bayless’ newest restaurant for a while now. We watched a review of it on Unique Eats the night before and knew we had to do it before the winter freeze sets in. Let me tell you, the food was worth the 45 minute wait with four kids. Just fantastic. The sandwiches were great and their hot chocolate is to die for. They grind the cacao beans right in the restaurant.

Our interest in Rick Bayless’ cooking and Mexican food in general started years ago. I had been to Mexico in my early 20‘s, so I dragged my husband with me to Cabo San Lucas for his first taste of Mexico. Terrible of me, right? He loved it. Being that it was his first trip and I am prone to finding any bacterial problems with food, we didn’t get wildly adventurous with our meals. Still, we enjoyed eating authentic Mexican food and did venture to some establishments frequented by both tourists and locals. We have now been to Cozumel and Costa Maya and tasted fantastic food along the way.

We started watching Mexico–One Plate at a Time in 2006. My husband and I both love to cook Mexican food and make up our own ‘Mexican meals’. The show left us always wanting more (and better) Mexican food. A few years ago, my husband received two of Rick Bayless’ books as Christmas gifts. At the time, I was still working. I remember looking through them and thinking, these recipes look great but I just don’t have the time to cook. I think that was the last time I even flipped through the book until yesterday evening.

I am now a stay at home Mom and do a significant amount of cooking. Largely, because I have more time to make better meals then I did when I worked. I enjoy cooking and the recipes really don’t require that much work (at least not more then what I am currently doing). Even though I am super busy with four kids, I still have time to plan a great meal at least once a week. Then it hit me. We have two of his cookbooks and Rick Bayless has numerous recipes posted online, so I could start cooking his recipes at least once a week. The one thing that everyone in my house eats is Mexican food. This would be perfect. We took all 4 kids with us to Xoco last night, and they all loved the food. This should be great, at least one meal a week with little or no complaints!!

So here are some guidelines that I plan to use for my new cooking adventure:

  • They must be Rick Bayless recipes either from his books or his websites.
  • I do not plan to cook things like brains and liver (I have tried them, and I’m not a fan). I also have to be able to feed a family of six.
  • I must make every effort to adhere to the recipe and note when I absolutely could not (I tend to improvise and stray from recipes).
  • I will review my own cooking based on the recipes.
  • I will cook at least one recipe a week unless we are absolutely on vacation or sick.

So journey with me for my new project, “Cooking Rick Bayless style, One Recipe a Week.”

Pictures Courtesy Devin Westhause. www.devinwesthause.com

A Green Man Halloween

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Last night I was jogging through our neighborhood just before sunset. It was the first time I didn’t have kids with me and could actually pay attention to my surroundings. I was taken back by all the Halloween and fall decorations outside. Then I remembered that our eight year old has a Scary Story / Halloween Birthday party in a few days and she needs to select a story. As I jogged, I tried to brainstorm some ideas for her. Ironically, one of her favorite ghost stories is one that I shared with her and it actually has some true aspects. Her friends surely wouldn’t have a story like this because it originates in Pittsburgh and we live in the Midwest.

There are so many iterations of this story, but the popular version when I was in high school went like this: There is a scary, dark, long, one lane tunnel in the woods. No one lives near the tunnel except for the Green Man. If you drive through the tunnel at night, he will come out of the dark and try to get you. Of course, teenagers were his favorite prey. This meant that we had to drive down there with our windows down, really slow and sometime without lights. We wanted to see who would get scared first or if in fact the Green Man came out to get us! (Mwaaaaahaaaaaahaaaaa)
Now that I’m ‘so old’, my kids love to visit the tunnel. Every time we make our pilgrimage to Pittsburgh, we have to make at least one trip through the tunnel. Surprisingly, the eight year old loves the tunnel and the story (although the 3 year old loves to scream “TUNNEL” as we drive through it). After one of our trips in 2009, she spent some time looking up the tale of the Green Man in Pittsburgh. Her findings surprised me. There are actually details about this Green Man. None of them are remotely close to the gruesome tale that is told today.

The two most common background stories of this man are: He was disfigured since early childhood or that he was electrocuted and has been haunting tunnels through out Pittsburgh ever since. Neither are pleasant but the disfigured man (Raymond Robinson) was actually well liked. He got his reputation by walking around at night so as not to scare people during the day. Either way, these men have become a story that has not lost its momentum and kids are still driving through the tunnel to get a glimpse of the Green Man. The tunnel itself dates back to 1924, lending itself to be the perfect haunting ground.

If you happen to be in the Pittsburgh area, Green Man’s Tunnel is on Piney Forks Road in South Park, just before Gill Hall Road in Jefferson Hills. Are you brave enough to drive through at night???

For more information about Green Man’s Tunnel visit:



This link shows the side tunnel where supposed Green Man lives:


Many more sites discuss the Legend of the Green Man. Will he see you there this Halloween?

Pictures courtesy: Suzanne Ellis

I’m in Time Out

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Our schedule this year is wiping me out and I feel pulled in a million directions. I know you can relate. The days go like this, get everyone up and out the door, take our three year old to preschool/playdate/class, have lunch, pray for a nap, kids come home from school, homework/activities/work/youth group/piano lessons/playdates, make dinner, go to bed. My house has never been messier. I want more adult time and I’d love to get back to writing. As with most things, this has largely been on the backburner.

So here I am trying to get back into the swing of writing…………..and trying to explain where I have been. It has been a wild year, I’ve taken some amazing trips that I’d love to tell you about. My husband has been taking some amazing pictures and is working on doing some photography on the side. I am so proud of him, his new website is amazing. I am not aloud to share it yet though.

As far as wine tasting goes, I have dipped into our reserves. I have had some fantastic bottles from North American wineries (Canada, Michigan, and California). My parents have spoiled the family with their brandy making hobby. I have enjoyed receiving bottles from their new interest. We did the Annheuser Busch and Miller tours this year. Both are free with samples at the end. My plan is to get caught up on the travel and share some great experiences and affordable activities for the family.

The best part of this year, is that I spent a lot of quality time with family. We traveled with both sides of our family this summer, had relatives visit, and took the boys on an amazing trip out west. We are very blessed to have had some time to relax and take in some of the beauty of this country. Writing will help me relive some of those moments. In the meantime, I will have to daydream of our next possible vacation to tide me over through the school year bustle.

Until next time……

Valentines Day – Love for the Whole Family

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Love is in the air this month, but not just romantic kind. I like to share the importance of love with my family, and Valentines Day is the perfect day to do that. When I was growing up, my sister and I always got a nice Valentines gift or treat. We looked forward to that day and celebrated it as a family. I have since carried on that tradition with my own family. Below I have listed some family friendly ideas for Valentines Day:

  • Sit down with your kids and make Valentine cards for each member of the family. This is a great art project and will let the kids express their love individually.
  • Plan a ‘fancy’ dinner at home on (or very close to) Valentines Day. Fancy doesn’t have to break the bank, but little things can make the dinner fancy. Use kitchen gadgets and table settings that you reserve for guests. Get out supplies like fondue pots, crème brûlée sets, punch bowls, or make the families favorite dinner.
  • Make table settings out of art supplies and write special messages on each setting.
  • A simple gift for each member (like chocolate) is a great touch.
  • A glass of sparkling cider or juice is a nice addition that the whole family can enjoy.
  • Have a small gathering of friends for a Valentines Day party.

Prep for the School Valentines Day Party:

  • The Valentines Box can be made out of a shoe box and art supplies. My favorite Valentines Day memory is making a mailbox for all of my cards in elementary school.
  • Hit your local party or dollar store. They have great holiday supplies for those of us on a budget. This is great if you plan to send treats or decorations to school for the big party.
  • Of course, nothing says I love you like homemade cookies or baked goods. They are sure to please the entire family!

These ideas do not take weeks of planning, but will still show your family that you love them on this special day. Have a wonderful Valentines Day and love to all!

Heritage Link Brands: Supporting African Vintners

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I know many people have cut back their spending not just out of need but also to set money aside to help others. But what if your guilty pleasure, actually helps others? You may not skip purchasing a bottle of wine on your next shopping trip if you know the wine is supporting others. Heritage Link Brands founder, Selena Cuffe, started her business after visiting South Africa’s first annual Soweto Wine Festival in 2005. She and her husband created Heritage Link Brands after learning that people of color (which includes blacks, coloreds and Indians) were poorly represented within Africa’s wine industry.

In 2007, the company launched in 26 states throughout the United States. Now, it not only imports and distributes African wine in 41 states, but its expanded portfolio also showcases wine harvested by vintners of African descent throughout the world.

The company initiates fair business practices, civic leadership, and contributes to social causes that improve conditions in Africa. They also support the International Society of Africans in Wine (Atlanta, Georgia, USA) and the Mohau Centre (Atteridgeville, South Africa).

Heritage Link Brands is the largest company that imports wine from Africa. They have two collections of wine, The Continent Collection (which consists of numerous varieties) and The Diaspora Collection (the highest quality wine produced by people of African descent throughout the world.)

I was able to sample three Sauvignon Blanc’s from Heritage Link Brands….

2007 Vivian Sauvignon Blanc, Seven Sisters. South Africa.
This pale yellow, almost light green, wine smells of sweet tropical fruit. The taste is quite dry and earthy (with hints of vegetables). The vintner notes that you should serve this chilled alone or pairs well with grilled seafood, poultry, or veal. This wine is available for $14.99 (2009 vintage).

ISong 2008 Sauvignon Blanc. South Africa.
This Sauvignon Blanc is very pale. It smells and tastes of tropical and citrus fruits. The vintner notes a green pepper flavor as well. My husband and I enjoyed this wine with friends while sampling appetizers. This wine retails for $12.99, such a fantastic deal!!

M’hudi 2008 Sauvignon Blanc. South Africa
. This was my favorite of the three. It smells of citrus and pear but has a smooth, dry, and fruity clean finish. I enjoyed this wine so much, that I tried to make it last as long as possible! This wine is available for $16.99. M’hudi Sauvignon Blanc can be paired with fish, sushi, or another spicy dish.

So now you’re asking, where can you get these fabulous, affordable wines that support African Vintners? Numerous retailers including Costco, Jewel Osco, and Whole Foods and Wine and Spirit Stores (Pennsylvania) sell wines from Heritage Link Brands. For more retail and wine information visit: http://www.heritagelinkbrands.com/.


The Wine Mom has pledged to Blog with Integrity. What this means is that although we occasionally receive free products from PR and marketing reps, the recommendations we make are based on our own experience in the real world. We promise to only provide reviews on the products and services we absolutely love, and we define this as something we would purchase for ourselves or as a gift for others.

The Wine Mom’s Top Nine Wines of 2009

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2009 was a great year in wine for me personally. I have had the pleasure of sampling wines, meeting some fantastic people in the wine industry, launching my own blog and contributing to The Average Parent and Momfuse.com this year. Through these unique experiences, I thought I’d share some of my personal wine high lights from 2009.

1.Geyser Peak Winery, Winemakers Selection, Sparking Shiraz Vintage 1998, Sonoma County. I don’t remember when I got this wine, but I wish that I did. It is wonderful. The taste of shiraz with the additional bubbles dancing across your tongue. Just wonderful. We enjoyed this with friends recently to celebrate a special occasion. I did not realize how much I would enjoy it! Geyser Peak now has the 2005 varietal available on their website for $34.

2.Moet & Chandon White Star – this is a favorite of both my husband and I. We share and buy this Champagne for all of our special occasions. This is a well rounded wine, with pear flavors. I still need to buy a bottle for New Years Eve! This typically sells for around $30 but is well worth it!

3.HALL 2008 Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley. This by far has been the best Sauvignon Blanc I have had this year, and probably ever had in my life. This wine had such a clean taste with a fruity finish. Remarkable. This is one wine that is perfectly enjoyed without being paired. It tastes perfect and is available for $20 a bottle.

4.Heart of the Desserts Pistachio Rosé. This was a totally different wine for me. It has a vanilla finish (although others have noted a pistachio finish). It is a smooth rosé, slightly dry, has an amazing taste and retails for $12. Try this if you are looking for something different!

5.Alto Vineyards, Rocko Red. This semi dry table wine is from Alto Pass, Illinois. It initially tastes like a dry red wine but with a smooth sweet finish. I really enjoyed this wine and it goes well with some spicier meals. Rocko Red sells for $11.99 per bottle.

6.M’Hudi 2008 Sauvignon Blanc, South Africa. This wine smells of citrus and pear, tastes smooth, fruity, and clean. M’Hudi is widely available for around $16.99. Visit Heritage Link Brands for more information.

7.The Big Red Monster – This deep purple wine is a crowd pleaser. Drink with a hearty meal, take to a dinner or as a gift (the label alone gets people talking). My husband and I enjoyed this with chocolate – fantastic versatile and well rounded. Best of all, this wine is $10 a bottle. Buy a few to keep on hand for any occassion from Total Beverage Solution.

8.Quattro Leoni, 2007 Barbera D’Asti. This spicy red went well with a lot of hearty winter dishes. The berry flavors came through and was just an enjoyable wine. This wine sells for $20 a bottle, visit Marquee.com for more details.

9.Best bang for you buck – Barefoot Wine and Bubbly, all varieties. I have yet to go wrong with a bottle of Barefoot wines. They are under ten dollars and have never disappointed. If you are just starting to try wine, this is a great brand to start with. You can sample the different varieties and get a feel for what you like. I love to cook with their wines too! Sold at retailers nation wide.

Have a fantastic and safe 2010! Thanks for following The Wine Mom and I look forward to tasting with you next year.

Artisanal Wine that supports the Arts

This post is by from Mother of the Vine by The Wine Mom

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Kim Crawford Wines is an artistic yet well rounded company. They start by taking the art of wine making very serious. In fact, their goal is to have all of their vineyards operating under sustainable wine growing methods by 2010. They understand that this improved process will help them deliver the fruit quality that they desire for their wines.

But Kim Crawford didn’t stop there. The company launched The Artists’ Lounge online community. This is as a place for emerging artists and those who appreciate the arts to share inspirations and artwork with each other. This is also a chance to inspire and win original artwork; and even a trip for two to New Zealand. All of the artwork displayed within the community will be a true living anthology, reflective of the times.

The Artists’ Lounge features four emerging artists representing the artistic genres of music, photography, print making and poetry who will be searching for inspiration within the community to create original artwork. Visit http://www.experiencekimcrawford.com/artistlounge for more exciting details!

Kim Crawford Wines is a trend setter in other areas as well. They offer an unoaked Chardonnay, use screw caps (which ensures that their wines won’t be damaged by tainted corks), and even provide a Music Lounge that offers a party play list. Visit http://www.experiencekimcrawford.com/ for more information and to get recipes, party ideas, and find out about Kim Crawford news and events.

Recently I had the opportunity to try Kim Crawford 2008 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. This New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc has a mix of complex flavors and aromas. The wine has an earthy, fruit aroma (which is said to be representative of the Marlborough area). The taste is initially fruity but has dry, herb-like finish. This Sauvignon Blanc almost tests your palate (especially if you are accustomed to California Sauvignon Blancs).

The Winemaker suggests serving this wine with asparagus, oyster, and summer salads. I enjoyed it with light appetizers and on its own. You can sample this wine now or you can let it age another 2-3 years.

Wine Spectator has ranked their Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc at 91 points and above for last seven consecutive years. This may make you think that you will break the bank, but it is available for $19 a bottle!

For more information about Kim Crawford and their wines, visit:



The Kim Crawford 2008 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc would make an excellent gift for the upcoming holidays (if you are still looking for gift ideas!)


The Wine Mom has pledged to Blog with Integrity. What this means is that although we occasionally receive free products from PR and marketing reps, the recommendations we make are based on our own experience in the real world. We promise to only provide reviews on the products and services we absolutely love, and we define this as something we would purchase for ourselves or as a gift for others.

Don’t let the flu stop your kids from enjoying winter

This post is by from Mother of the Vine by The Wine Mom

Click here to view on the original site: Original Post

By Dr. JJ Levenstein, M.D., FAAP, president and co-founder of MD Moms

Winter is the time for building snowmen, hot cocoa and unfortunately the flu—or in the case of most flu viruses this season, H1N1 flu.

As a pediatrician and mom, I see many children get a visit from the flu bug this time of year. In addition to a flu vaccine, however, there are preventative measures children and parents can take to enjoy a healthy winter.

Get outside
Indoor areas that bring together a large number of people are a hotbed for germs. That’s because the flu virus spreads easily when respiratory droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze move through the air to the mouth or nose of others in close proximity. If possible, instead of frequenting areas such as indoor play lots or malls this winter, usher your kids outside to enjoy the fresh air if temperatures aren’t dangerously cold.

Keep hands clean
The flu is easy to catch when a person touches his nose or mouth after touching respiratory droplets on another person or object. Two of the best — and most simple — protective measures you can teach your children are to 1) wash their hands frequently and 2) cough or sneeze into their elbow or shoulder if they don’t have a tissue. The CDC recommends washing hands with soap and clean, warm running water for 20 seconds. I also suggest keeping non-alcohol cleansing wipes, such as MD Moms Cleansing Towelettes Travel Pouch, on your child’s person at all times. When soap and water aren’t available, this is a great alternative to alcohol-based hand sanitizers, as their alcohol component can become a safety concern for babies and children who often put their hands in their mouths.

Take care of yourself
As parents, it’s our job to prevent any germs that we come across from infecting our children. This means doing our best to refrain from coming into close contact with those who are sick. Remember that if we get sick, chances are we’ll get your children sick, too.

Scrub those surfaces
It’s important not only to keep your hands clean, but to also keep objects, telephones, computer keyboards/mice and furniture clean—both inside and outside the home. Use disinfectant furniture wipes around surfaces such as door knobs and shopping carts. A combination detergent to clean and disinfectant to kill germs can be used on surfaces that aren’t visibly dirty. When a surface is visibly dirty, use a soap or detergent, rinse with water and then use disinfectant.

Care for sick children at home
If your child does get sick, keep her at home and avoid traveling until she’s feeling better—typically until 24 hours after her fever is gone. This is especially important, as young children may be contagious for longer periods of time. Also, allow her to rest in a room away from the main areas of the house so that you don’t put your family at risk for catching her bug. In addition to rest, antiviral drugs can be used to treat the seasonal or H1N1 flu.

About Dr. JJ Levenstein
Dr. JJ Levenstein is a board-certified pediatrician and fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics with a thriving private pediatric practice in Encino, Calif. She serves on the clinical staff of two hospitals and has been consistently voted one of the Best Doctors in America® from 2003 through 2008. Drawing from her experience as a pediatrician and mom, Dr. Levenstein serves as president and co-founder of MD Moms, makers of Baby Silk, the first personal care line for babies developed by pediatrician moms.

Do you have a Smart Potty?

This post is by from Mother of the Vine by The Wine Mom

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Potty training is something we all have to do with our toddlers. My son is two years old and hates being wet or dirty, so potty training seemed like the next logical step. Our master bathroom is relatively large but the toilet has its own ‘stall’. We did not want to purchase a large potty that we would trip over in the middle of the night. The BABYBJÖRN Smart Potty is perfect for both small spaces and just the right size for travel.

The Smart Potty has been in our bathroom for about two months now. My son loves to sit on the potty, read, and occasionally even go!! It is definitely comfortable because he doesn’t seem to mind spending time there. The ‘bowl’ lifts out of the potty for easy emptying and cleaning.

Some potty training ideas and tips:

• Don’t force your child to sit and try to learn how to go potty, the child will just want to avoid it if there is pressure.

• Relax! Don’t sit on the potty when you have a lot going on at home or are in a rush. Your toddler needs to feel comfortable and at ease.

• Make ‘potty time’ fun. Keep books, flash cards, and magazines on hand for them to sit and read.

• Some recommend rewards, including stickers. We use a lot of verbal recognition. He is very excited to show everyone that he went on the potty just so that he can hear “Good Job!!!”

• Remember, there is no timetable for kids to learn how to use the potty, every child learns at their own pace.

The Smart Potty is available for just under twenty dollars in bright red, sunflower, pink, spring green, ocean blue, and snow white. You can find a potty to match almost every bathroom décor or find one of your child’s favorite colors.

BABYBJÖRN is a Swedish company that develops safe and effective products for children up to the age of three. They work closely with pediatricians from Germany, France, Sweden, and the United States on product development.

For more information on the Smart Potty or other BABYBJÖRN products, visit http://www.babybjorn.com/Start. You can also purchase BABYBJÖRN products at Target, Babies R Us, and Amazon.com.

Be Smart with your potty training!


The Wine Mom has pledged to Blog with Integrity. What this means is that although we occasionally receive free products from PR and marketing reps, the recommendations we make are based on our own experience in the real world. We promise to only provide reviews on the products and services we absolutely love, and we define this as something we would purchase for ourselves or as a gift for others.

Don’t Miss this Marquee!

This post is by from Mother of the Vine by The Wine Mom

Click here to view on the original site: Original Post

Marquee Artisan Wines lives up to their name of headlining, superior wines. Marquee offers artisanal wines that are hand crafted, produced in small batches, fantastic quality and best of all, offered at affordable prices. Their selection of wines hails from Australia, Argentina, Italy, Portugal, Spain and California. If you are looking for superior quality at a great price, look no further!

My first taste of Marquee Wines was their Classy 2006 Zinfandel from Lake County, California. This deep red wine has aromas of spice, berry, deep fruits (almost prune or dried fruit) and even currant. It is a smooth wine with berry flavors and a light tannic tingle. I enjoyed this wine with a variety of foods including veal and bread with olive oil and herbs.

My next Marquee experience was with their Quattro Leoni 2007 Vino Rosso, Barbera D’Asti from Italy. I loved this wine! It too is deep red in color, smells of pepper and spice with berry flavors. My Father-in-Law usually only has one glass of wine at dinner, but he went back for a second glass because he liked this wine so much. We enjoyed this wine with pasta, meat balls, and I was surprised that I still enjoyed it with pumpkin cake!

Both wines that I sampled would work well at Thanksgiving. Most suggest Pinot Noir with turkey, but I struggle with recommending a traditional pairing because most meals vary. Some families have stuffing, ham, goose, pumpkins, yams, green beans, bread, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, gravy and of course turkey. The stuffing alone can be mixed with sage, herbs, apples, sausage and more. I sampled both wines with different meals and thought that they would work well with foods that have all different flavors and aromas.

So how do you get your hands on Marquee Wines? There are a few ways. You can visit: www.marquee.com. However, you can order directly from Marquee (depending upon State regulations) and they will offer a 15% off discount on the Retail Price! In your email, you need to include the discount code WINEMOM. Orders can be sent to Marquee Cellarmaster, Craig Skopec at cjskopec@marquee.com.

The retail price for both wines is $19.99 a bottle, but you can buy them for $16.99 directly from Marquee with your discount code.

No matter what time of year it is, Marquee Wines are phenomenal in both taste and value. Make sure to check them out next time you are looking for superior quality at an affordable price.

Review Disclaimer:
The Wine Mom has a review policy in effect that promises to only post reviews on products my family or I absolutely love. You likely won’t hear about the products we didn’t like, and you can be guaranteed that I won’t post a review just because we got a product for free.

Clean and Protect Those Kids!

This post is by from Mother of the Vine by The Wine Mom

Click here to view on the original site: Original Post

I am always looking for products that safely clean and protect my children’s skin, especially since all four kids have sensitive skin. MD MOMS has answered the call in two important areas for me: cleanliness and sun protection.

Having been diagnosed with my first bout of basal cell skin cancer at the age of 25, I am always trying to ensure that everyone has a sufficient amount of sun block when they leave the house. Many of us only use sun block during the summer months, when we are outside for an extended amount of time. However, you get sun exposure year round and 15 minutes is enough to do damage. MD Moms baby silk offers a fantastic product for families on the go. They are babysafe sunscreen towelettes and offer SPF 30+ protection as well as protect against both UVA and UVB rays. They are hypoallergenic and clinically tested and developed by Pediatrician Moms. These packs are great for your purses, diaper bags, and can easily be stored in the compartment of your car. The best part for Mom’s is that they are sweatproof and there is NO MESS! There is no lotion or spray to rub in. You can also have your kids store some in their backpacks for recess and field trips. They smell great and don’t have that typical sun block aroma.

MD MOMS also offers gentle all-over cleansing towelettes. They too are clinically tested, hypoallergenic, phthalate, paraben, and alcohol free. They have a fresh baby scent and are extremely soft. I loved using them to clean my two years olds hands and face. (They are noted for being safe for both cheeks!)

MD MOMS offers products in categories including cleansing, soothing, skin care, protection, and travel. The products are priced competitively with other online, hypoallergenic, boutique products.

You can purchase MD MOMS products at mdmoms.com. They are offering a discount of 25% off when you buy 6 of an item, using the code LOVEYOU.

You can also shop for their products at drugstore.com and landofnod.com.

I recommend both the babysafe sunscreen towelettes and gentle all-over cleansing towelettes. They are convenient, safe, and best of all – mess free!

Review Disclaimer:

The Wine Mom has a review policy in effect that promises to only post reviews on products my family or I absolutely love. You likely won’t hear about the products we didn’t like, and you can be guaranteed that I won’t post a review just because we got a product for free.