10 Must-Try Virginia Rosés

By now, many of you know that I absolutely adore a great rosé. Hands down, it’s my go-to summer wine. I always have a chilled bottle ready to go in my refrigerator. Why? It’s incredibly versatile. Contrary to popular belief, many rosés are actually dry and make a great companion for many foods including salads, sandwiches, charcuterie, grilled meats and fried chicken. You get the picture. Think about all of the impromptu potluck parties you get invited to this time of year. A rosé would be the perfect companion to just about every summertime side dish you can think of. Rosés are the very definition of summer! They are easy-going, fun, light, fruit-forward with refreshing acidity that make it perfect for a summer sipper that works with many types of cuisine. They are also very affordable, many roses at your local wine shop range in the $15-$20 price point.

Rosés range from bone dry to sweet, so there is something for everyone’s palate. Some of my favorite dry rosés come from Provence, France, but I am absolutely loving some of the local options we have right here in Virginia.

Here’s my top 10 list of must-try Virginia rosés this summer (in alphabetical order).

  1. Barboursville Vintage Rosé – An elegant dry rosé made from a blend of Cabernet Franc, Barbera and Nebbiolo with aromas of summer ripe stone fruit. Pair with a charcuterie board. SRP: $14.95
  2. Breaux Rosé – A blend of three grapes are used in this dry rose. Tantalizing aromas of red berries, cherry and citrus zest dance in your glass. Pair with baked brie and fresh berries. SRP: $18
  3. Chatham Vineyards Rosé An off-dry wine made from Cabernet Franc and Merlot has notes of juicy red berries and white peach and a kiss of residual sugar for those of you that like a hint of sweetness in your rosé. Pair with succulent sweet crab cakes from the Chesapeake Bay. SRP: $18
  4. Chrysalis Vineyards Sarah’s Patio Red – The semi-sweet rosé made from the Norton grape (America’s forgotten grape), boasts juicy aromas of ripe berry and tart cherry. It’s perfection paired with a strawberry, rhubarb pie. SRP: $17
  5. CrossKeys Vineyards Fiore Rosé – The off-dry 2015 vintage is made from Chambourcin and Cabernet Franc. The lusciously sweet berry and vibrant graperfruit notes are perfection with a fennel, feta and citrus salad. SRP: $19.50
  6. Early Mountain Vineyards Rosé – This dry fruit-forward Merlot based rosé boasts aromas of strawberry, melon, peach and a hint of sweet anise. It’s perfection with goat cheese rolled in Herbs de Provence. SRP: $24
  7. King Family Vineyards Croset Rosé – A dry Merlot based rosé with citrus notes of ruby red grapefruit, cherry, watermelon and lime.Refreshing on its own or enjoy with watermelon and feta salad. SRP: $19.95
  8. Stinson Vineyards Rosé A complex and graceful dry rosé made in the southern France tradition using the Mourvedre grape. Juicy summer ripe watermelon and strawberries are followed by a hint of herbaceousness and smoke. Pair with smoked salmon. SRP: $20.99
  9. Trump Vineyards Sparkling Rosé – Whether you are a Republican, Democrat or Independent, all of our palates can agree on a delicious sparkling rosé when we taste it! This is such a delightful, crisp and refreshing sparkling wine made from 100% estate grown Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. This is the perfect brunch wine, think lemon-ricotta pancakes with fresh berries or a delicious frittata. SRP: $32
  10. Veritas Vineyards Rosé – A juicy, fruit-forward, dry rosé made from Cabernet Franc and Merlot grapes. Pack a bottle of this for your next picnic to serve with a great cheese & charcuterie board. SRP: $18

For more sips, tips and perfect pairings, join my exclusive membership to my online learning community for only$7.95/month.


Wedding Wines

wine.comTis the season for love, laughter, beautiful brides, handsome grooms, breathtaking venues, delicious food and inevitably bad “banquet wine!”  I am always amazed at how many brides obsess over every detail from the gown to the flowers to the photographer to the caterer, but when it comes to the wine selection, it’s usually a complete afterthought. Did you know that wedding wines can be affordable and delicious?! It’s true! I have been to so many  weddings where I end up drinking club soda or a beer  because the wine selection may as well be alcohol-infused cherry cough syrup.  Ladies, you deserve better and so do your guests.

One of my recent clients really wanted to serve Veuve Clicquot for the wedding toast, however the venue had a very steep mark-up on that bottle. Let’s keep things in perspective, your guests will most likely never see the bottle of bubbly. The venue or caterer typically pours the sparkling in the back and hand-delivers or tray-passes the flutes to your guests. There are some amazing bottles of Champagne and other sparkling wines around the world that won’t break the bank.  By selecting a lesser known and equally delicious Champagne, I was able to save the bride more than $1,200, just on the sparkling selection alone. I love Veuve. It’s a great choice, especially when budget doesn’t matter, but it’s like buying a high-end car, you are paying for the name. Why not save a special bottle for toasting in your honeymoon suite instead. 

For the toast, why not choose a Cremant, Cava, Sekt or American bubbly? No need to stress out over this, I am here to offer some tips on selecting the perfect wedding wines for the most important day of your life. I also offer bridal consulting services, if you need some personal guidance! After all, every detail really does matter.

Sparkling – Sparkling wine is produced around the world. If you’re looking for a budget-friendly alternative to Champagne look for a Cava, Sekt, Cremant or a great bottle of American bubbly. Here a couple of my favorite bottles under $30.

Here are some great white and red ideas for food friendly varietals to serve at your wedding:

White Wine – Believe it or not, you don’t have to serve a Chardonnay at your wedding. While it’s the most planted white grape in America, the quality level varies greatly! It is one of the world’s most manipulated grapes. Truth be told, it’s difficult to find an astounding thought-provoking delightful Chardonnay for under $25 bottle. The budget wines boasting bare feet and fuzzy animals are not varietally sound and don’t resemble anything near a true Chardonnay. Why not be creative and serve a crisp, refreshing Albarino or Soave? Most people will ask for white or red, it’s that simple. Just because your great aunt only drinks white Zinfandel or your neighbor only drinks Chardonnay, don’t cater to one guest! If the wine is delicious and it works with the food and the season, they’ll love it. Trust me!

  • Off-dry Riesling – A touch of residual sugar and intense acidity make this an incredible versatile wine with an array of dishes from a raw bar to soups to salads to spicy dishes.
  • Albarino  –  A  briny, crisp and delightful white offering floral notes or gardenia, white peach and citrus makes for a great choice for spring and summer weddings.
  • Soave – A fabulously fun alternative to Pinot Grigio. This wine made from the Garganega grape hails from the same region in Italy, but has a bit more personality than the run of the mill Pinot Grigio. Dare to be different, your guest will thank you for it. Think hors d’ouevres, salads, vegetarian and seafood courses

Red Wine – I like to opt for a lighter, fruit forward red for wedding wines when possible. They tend to be more versatile with a wide selection and they have less tannins, which stain your teeth. I am just thinking about your photos here!

  • Pinot Noir – Pairs equally well with beef tenderloin and mushrooms as it does with salmon. This thin-skinned grape offers bright acidity, moderate tannins and tends to boast bountiful aromas of red berries, currants, cranberries, with hints of earth, spice and mushroom, depending on where it’s grown. Looking for values? Try a Village Burgundy, Spatburgunder, or Chilean Pinot Noir.
  • Pinot Meunier – It’s one of the three grapes allowed in Champagne production and it’s one of the most widely planted grapes in France. It’s a unique and great alternative to Pinot Noir.
  • Beaujolais – This lovely wine produced from the Gamay grape is best served with a slight chill. It’s just as versatile as Pinot but a little more fruit forward and laid back.

If you are interested in learning more about my bridal consulting services, send me an email at events@foryourloveofwine.com. I would love to hear from you. Here’s to many years of wedded bliss and great wine!


Top 10 Must-Try Restaurants Mid Cape

There’s something about Cape Cod that never seems to get old.  My husband and I just returned from a lovely ten day vacation through southern New England. I grew up in central Massachusetts and have spent most of childhood vacations in New Hampshire, Maine and Cape Cod, but this year we added a couple of stops in Connecticut and Rhode Island before heading to the Cape (I’ll cover those spots in another blog post).

I have been spending time on the Cape nearly every summer for about 20 years now. I got married on the beaches of  Cape Cod Bay in 2011 and I still have family there. Cape Cod is divided into four sections, Upper Cape, Mid Cape, Lower Cape and Outer Cape. No matter where you visit, there’s just something about the air, the sand, the majestic views, the history and the small quaint towns that run along Route 6a, the main coastal road, through the Cape.  And, don’t forget about the deliciously decadent seafood! While the fruits de mer are plentiful, it’s all about the lobstah and clam chowdah for me. As you take a leisurely drive along 6a, you will see sign after sign through just about every town proclaiming, “Best Chowder” or “World’s Best Lobster Roll!”  While I have visited just about every area of the Cape, I have spent the most time in the Dennis and Chatham areas. Here’s a list of my top 10 must-try restaurants in Mid Cape, I have some great casual places and a couple of fine-dining options for your next visit to this seafood lovers paradise.


Impudent Oyster – A tradition in Chatham for 40 years now! The chef here is quite inventive, putting a unique spin on many popular New England dishes. For starters, the clam chowder, oysters rockafeller and thai mussels are outstanding.  I love a Chardonnay with the chowder and oysters and a glass of Riesling the with thai mussels. For entrees, the pesca fra diablo with lobster, littlenecks and other fresh, local seafood in a  spicy white wine tomato sauce is heavenly. Select a Riesling to tame the heat in the sauce.  Stopping in for lunch? The fish tacos and Nantucket scallop sandwich are delicious.  Grab a glass of Roséwith the fish tacos and a sauvignon blanc with the scallop sandwich or raw bar selections. Walk off your meal by taking a leisurely stroll through downtown Chatham and explore the amazing art galleries and shops along the way.

Chatham Squire – A local favorite since 1968. Come as you are to this super casual pub featuring well-made classic fare like clam strips, whole belly clams, cod sandwich, fish n chips, whole lobsters and fish tacos. You can’t go wrong with any of the local seafood options here. Grab a Lost Sailor IPA or a delicious Squire Sangria for a great pairing with this casual food.

The Red Nun – Here’s another casual spot in Chatham  that’s great for a low key meal after a long day at the beach. The Red Nun has won numerous award for having the best burgers on the Cape. All burgers are served on a sandwich-sized english muffin. The fried lobster and steamed clams are also worth the trip here. This is definitely more a beer and margarita type of place. So, why not grab a local beer and enjoy!

Wild Goose Tavern –  The inside is well-appointed and tastefully decorated, but I love sitting on the cozy covered patio for some delicious food and great people watching on the streets of downtown Chatham. As you’ve probably figured out by now, I love lobster and the chef here is some super fun and tasty variations on this decadent crustacean. From lobster rangoon, to lobster quesadillas and lobster mac n cheese, you really can’t go wrong! Other delicious menu items include the fish tacos and the bacon apple and brie sandwich for lunch options. They have a nice diverse wine list. Try an Albarino with the fish tacos and a white Bordeaux with the lobster mac n cheese.


Sesuit Harbor Cafe – This super casual and rustic marina setting has the best lobster (lobstah) rolls on the planet, in my humble opinion.  Perfectly toasted New England style roll with overflowing lobster claws! Not into lobster? I won’t hold that against you. 🙂 Enjoy some great treats from the raw bar or choose from a wide selection of menu items. I also love the fact that it’s BYOB. Grab a cooler with a great bottle of Chardonnay, I grabbed a bottle of the  Schug 2014 Carneros Chardonnay and created the perfect pairing with the sweet, succulent and buttery lobster roll. There’s nothing better than taking in the briny sea air and the fabulous panoramic views of Cape Cod Bay while enjoying lobster! This place is one of my favorite spots on Cape Cod. Tom and I got married on the beaches here in September 2011.

Pecorino Romano Tuscan Cuisine – Small, intimate and quaint atmosphere with some great Italian cuisine. For me, the lobster ravioli paired with a bottle of Gavi is worth the trip! What a surprise?!

Scargo Cafe – Take in a show at the Cape Cod Playhouse and have a fabulous dinner in the heart of Dennis Village. The menu here changes often, but features some classic New England and innovate options in a warm, inviting, colonial setting. The clam chowder is delicious and the seafood strudel is a rich, decadent dish with bountiful crab, shrimp and scallops in a pastry crust.

Chapins Restaurant – Casual fare in a charming restaurant just steps from Mayflower Beach. You’ll feel right at home as you walk into the popular spot. This is New England comfort food at its best. From lobster pot pie, baked stuffed scrod and fish n chips, you can’t go wrong.  They have a small, but decent wine list. You can’t go wrong with a delicious glass of Rose from Provence or a glass of Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc to pair with an array of seafood dishes and the raw bar. Chapin’s features live music several nights a week.

Dennis Port

Ocean House – One of my all time favorite spots on the Cape with breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean. The wine list is superb and the lobster ravioli is a must-try!  The romantic setting is the perfect place to celebrate a special occasion or for a great date night. Looking for a little more casual atmosphere, visit the Ocean House Tiki Bar, opened during season.


Gerardi’s Cafe – This small, intimate restaurant is opened year-round. Gerardi’s has a Sicilian inspired menu and traditional Italian cuisine with some delicious variations on  local seafood. The creamy burrata bruschetta is a great start to the evening. For entrees, they have a little bit of everything from parmesan to marsala dishes. Some of my favorites include the Seafood Fra Diavolo and the Cioppino (Fisherman’s Stew).  Choose a bottle of Soave or  Gavi for a white wine selection or a Barbera or Chianti for a red option. These wines are very versatille and will pair nicely with many items on the menu here.

Can’t make it to the Cape? Get a taste of New England with delicious lobster roll kits shipped right to your door.  It doesn’t get any better than that. And don’t forget about the wine! Wine.com has two day shipping options and a great selection! Join the stewardship program and get unlimited free shipping.


2016 Virginia Wine Summit

 The beautiful Salamander Resort and Spa tucked away in the rolling hills of picturesque Middleburg served as the backdrop for the 2016 Virginia Wine Summit.

The day long conference on April 5 brought together some of the country’s leading wine experts, writers and critics with some of the best winemakers in the Commonwealth to celebrate the Virginia wine industry.

The morning kicked off with a Grand Tasting, featuring the Art of Whites. Five Virginia whites went head to head with its global counterparts in a blind tasting. The panel discussion was lead by Master of Wine Jay Youmans, who also serves at the helm of the Virginia Governor’s Cup.

We tasted through Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Vermentino, Petit Manseng and Viognier. Virginia did extremely well in all WineFlight2Summitthe blinds, but the big take away for me was the Barboursville Vermentino and the King Family Viognier. The Michael Shaps Petit Manseng never disappoints, nor does the Veritas Sauvignon Blanc, but the elegant, bright and mineral driven Vermentino from Barboursville was a real showstopper. It was tasted up against the La Spinetta Vermentino from Tuscany and was the crowd favorite for that match-up.

The Viognier fooled many in the room including myself and several of the panelists. Many of us thought the Virginia Viognier was from Condrieu, a world renowned area that produces Viognier in the Rhone Valley of France. Viognier was coined the signature grape of Virginia a few years back, but it’s been challenging for many winemakers to produce a consistent style and many have removed their vines and planted more reliable grapes.  Viognier can also pose a challenge due to its lack of acidity in comparison with many other whites, making it a bit more challenging to pair with food.

However, when the perfect growing season culminates with the perfect terroir and a kiss of TLC in the cellar, Viognier can be an exquisite wine, as King Family and a handful of other Virginia producers like Jefferson, Chrysalis, Michael Shaps, Horton and Barboursville have demonstrated time and time again.  Fox Meadow also deserves a mention for producing a Chardonnay that many mistook for a Sonoma Chardonnay. While Virginia is finally succeeding in establishing its own identity for the special place that it is, it’s certainly a great compliment to have your wine compared to some of the best wine regions in the world.

Breaux Vineyards NebbioloWhile the focus for many American winemakers has been on French varietals over the years, it’s really exciting to see what Virginia is doing with Italian grapes. While Luca Paschina, winemaker at Barboursville, has led this charge, a few other properties are taking notice and producing some exceptional wine with Italian flare. One of the most memorable wines of the day for me was the 2010 Nebbiolo from Breaux Vineyards. Nebbiolo hails from Piedmont, Italy and produces the powerhouse wines of Barolo and Barbaresco. Breaux has been working with this grape for more than 15 years.

The nose had the immediate telltale signs of Nebbiolo with it’s soft dried rose petals and rugged hints of tar.  These aromas danced in my glass and mingled with notes of dried cherry, rhubarb, sweet spice, oolong tea, a touch of anise and orange zest. The velvety tannins and piercing, yet balanced acidity, had me longing for a big bowl of pasta carbonara or hearty bolognese, a hunk of bread and a bottle of this beautiful red. Can you say delicious!  The 2010 vintage will be released to the public later this year.

Crystal with Keynote Speaker and Author Jon Bonne at the 2016 Va Wine Summit
Crystal with Keynote Speaker and Author Jon Bonne at the 2016 Va Wine Summit

Author of The New California Wine, Jon Bonné,served as the keynote speaker and talked about the incredible progress that Virginia has made over the past decade. He said Virginia is nearing an inflection point and that an important decision needs to be made on what Virginia wants its wine identity to be.  He encouraged everyone in the room to stop comparing Virginia to Napa or Oregon or France and to celebrate Virginia for all it has to offer.

Diversity was a common thread throughout many of the panel discussions. It really is the diversity of not only varietals, but the diversity in microclimates and terroir that really make Virginia a special place to grow wine.

Matthier Finot of King Family Vineyards talking terroir with Benoit Pineau of Pollak Vineyards and Luca Paschina of Barboursville Vineyards
From impressive Petit Manseng (both dry and dessert styles) to exciting Italian and Bordelais varietals, he applauded the experimental fringe and diversity of varietals being produced across the Commonwealth.  Bonné closed with the following remark, “I hope 10 years from now, I see Virginia wine on wine lists across NYC and L.A. and if I don’t see it there, it would be an omission not to have it on those lists. When you reach that point Virginia, you have won.”

From learning about the different terroir and soil types of Northern and Central from  six winemakers to a panel discussion on Uncommon varietals grown in the Commonwealth, the 4th Annual Wine Summit was a day packed with interesting dialogue and discussion about the depth of its wine portfolio. From light, crisp Albarino and Vermentino to Petit Manseng for the whites and the Bordelais varietals for the reds, Virginia is coming in to its own as a world class wine destination. Not to mention the beautiful landscapes surrounding our vines from the Chesapeake Bay to the Blue Ridge Mountains, it’s easy to see why Virginia is for Wine Lovers.








Governor Terry McAuliffe joined Secretary of Agriculture Todd Haymore for the closing reception. Governor McAuliffe applauded the success of the Virginia wine industry and had the audience laughing when he said, “think about it, Virginia really is for lovers, we have great oysters, we have great wine… I’ll let you put the rest together.”

There’s no doubt Thomas Jefferson would be incredibly proud of the success of the industry he so passionately pioneered more than 200 years ago.



Valentine Pairings

If you have a love affair with wine and chocolate, and let’s face it, who doesn’t? I have a line-up of of perfect pairings for you to explore with your Valentine.

I am partnering with one of my favorite chocolatiers, The Royal Chocolate, in Virginia Beach for a wicked sweet tasting experience tonight.  While, the general rule of thumb is to pair sweeter wines with desserts, I love to drink outside the box and experiment with different flavor profiles. Here’s my line-up of fun and delicious pairings so you can host a sweet pairing at your home.

2014 True Myth Chardonnay, Edna Valley, California
Vibrant aromas of pear, apple, pineapple & lemon curd are followed by sweet vanilla and hints of toasty oak. The palate is fruit forward with a creamy finish.

Pairings: Snowball Apple & White Chocolate Toffee Bar

2014 Dr. Loosen “Dr. L” Riesling, Mosel, Germany
Aromas of white flowers, citrus & stone fruit dance in your glass. This off-dry wine boasts vibrant acidity, honey, peach, lemon & a hint of lingering spice on the palate.

Pairings: White Chocolate Blueberry Scone Bar & Dark Chocolate Covered Ginger

2013 Carol Shelton “Wild Thing” Zinfandel, Medocino County, California
Bursting with aromas of ripe red berries, Chambord, plum, sweet spice of clove & cinnamon and a touch of cracked pepper.

Pairings: Baconluxious Maple Bacon Bar & Dark Chocolate Rosemary Bar

2015 Banfi Rosa Regale Brachetto d’Acqui, Piedmont, Italy
The ruby red beauty has a bouquet filled with red berries & soft rose petals while the palate provides a burst of intense ripe raspberry & a touch of baking spice.

Pairings: White Chocolate Oreo Cookie & Dark Chocolate Covered Strawberries

2013 Alvear Pedro Ximenez, Montilla-Moriles, Spain
Notes of orange marmalade, candied ginger, maple syrup, dulce de leche, honeysuckle and oolong tea lead to a long, lingering finish on your palate.

Pairings: Milk Chocolate Covered Graham Cracker & Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Bar


All of the wines on my list, can be purchased by clicking on the banner above.  These sumptuous chocolates can be purchased at The Royal Chocolate. Don’t live in the area, no worries, they offer shipping!

Join my exclusive membership program for personal wine recommendations, video tutorials and perfect pairing ideas.  Annual dues are only $49.95.

Purchase Wine Gift Bags and Boxes – Give your wine in style.

2001 Giulio Ferrari Riserva

I have the great pleasure of participating in Protocol Wine Studio’s  #winestudio twitter program this month featuring the iconic sparkling wines of Ferrari. This week, it’s all about exploring the 2001 Giulio Ferrari Riserva.

When I looked at the intriguing tasting notes on the Ferrari website for the 2001 vintage, I couldn’t wait to pop the cork and indulge in a great glass of bubbly. The notes of balsam and white chocolate was all the inspiration I needed to dust off my mixer and make my decadently delicious rosemary, pistachio, white chocolate chip cookies with orange zest in an attempt to create an innovate and fun pairing.

Many people wouldn’t dare to pair a serious sparkling with a mere mortal cookie, but I took the plunge. This, my friends, is pure nirvana for your palate!

Here was my initial impression after my first bite of the sweet and savory cookie.

The first sip was filled with beautiful orange blossom, zesty citrus and oolong tea notes quickly followed by a crescendo of white chocolate and marzipan with toasted almonds mid-palate and a burst of rosemary with a honeyed creamy finish.

This was harmonious and a must try pairing!

Tasting Notes: 2001 Giulio Ferrari Riserva 

This wine has great structure and serious charm. Aromas of honeysuckle, orange blossom, citrus zest, candied ginger, cardamom, marzipan & a touch of herbs and toasted hazelnuts dance in your glass.

The palate is creamy and refined with notes of dried golden delicious apples, tropical fruit, poundcake and citrus zest followed by oolong spice and a long lingering finish.

Recipe: Rosemary, Pistachio, White Chocolate
Chip Cookies


2 1/4 cups organic all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda, 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. sea salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar & 3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. orange blossom honey
2 large eggs
1 tbsp. orange zest
2 tsp. fresh rosemary (muddled in a mortar & pestle)
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup dry roasted pistachios


PREHEAT oven to 375° F. COMBINE flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add orange zest. Add orange blossom honey in a continuous stream while mixing on low. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts. Add the Rosemary from the mortar & pestle. Mix well. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto parchment paper & baking sheets. BAKE for 7 to 9 minutes or until golden brown. This is a modified recipe from Epicurious.com.

Thanksgiving Wines: Top 12 Under $30

Selecting the perfect Thanksgiving wine doesn’t have to be a source of stress and it doesn’t have to break the bank.  Consider starting your festivities with a sparkling brut rosé as an aperitif and then opt for a white and a red option for your main course and let your guests decide what pairing they enjoy the most. Read more…

Baby Back Ribs & Zinfandel

Sticky, smoky and sweet baby back ribs are a summer staple and a classic partner for those game-day tailgate parties. Sure, most people think of grabbing a cold beer with barbecue, but I promise the right wine pairing can literally blow your mind. There are so many styles of BBQ, so for this post, I am focusing on the Kansas City style that boasts that thick jammy, sweet, smoky and spicy sauce. My go-to wine pairings are a  fruit forward, spicy Zinfandel or a rich, smoky Syrah.  The intense smokiness of ribs can be challenging to pair with wine, often overpowering the vino. Remember, the perfect pairing should complement one another and highlight the flavor profiles in both the food and wine.  Since, we are talking about casual food here, I have chosen a few budget-friendly wines under $20 to pair with Kansas City BBQ Pork Ribs.

Recommended Producers


Napa & Sonoma Travel Guide

Discover some of Crystal’s favorite things to do in Napa & Sonoma.



Madrona Manor – A beautiful Victorian B&B in the heart of Sonoma County with a fabulous Michelin rated restaurant on premise. This is one of the best meals we’ve had out there. Fantastic sommelier and chef team! Fine dining at its best.

1001 Westside Rd, Healdsburg, CA
(800) 258-400

Scopa, Downtown Healdsburg, Sonoma – Head here for a taste of Italy in CA. You definitely need reservations. We enjoy sitting at the bar in the back. It’s very authentic. You have to try the chef’s “Nonna Chicken” with polenta served in a cast iron crock. I never order chicken out, but this was fantastic! This is casual and delicious! Crazy good deals on Italian wines.

109 A Plaza Street
Healdsburg, CA
(707) 433-5282

Auberge de Soleil, Rutherford – This is a fantastic dining experience! They offer multiple courses with wine pairings. Make sure to get a table on the balcony overlooking all of Napa Valley when you make your reservation. This was the highlight of our honeymoon. They also have a sister property Angele in downtown Napa, that is amazing.

180 Rutherford Hill Road
Rutherford, CA
(800) 348-5406

Bounty Hunter, Downtown Napa – Looking for something a little more casual that appeals to both sexes, this is the place! Wine bar &BBQ under one roof. Rustic, casual, great wine list (40 wines by the glass) and great food!

975 First Street, Napa, CA
(707) 226-3976

Bottega, Yountville, California – Chef Michael Chiarello’s signature restaurant does not disappoint. This is a must stop on all of my trips to the region. Authentic, rustic Italian cuisine at its best. We also were in for a special treat, on our last visit. Chiarello personally stopped by our table for a quick chat. While you’re there, make sure to visit Napa Style, Chiarello’s home goods store,  which is located next door to the restaurant.  You can sample an array of delicious olive oils, sip on a glass of wine and savor a delicious panini while you shop at Napa Style. (Picture from left to right: Chef Michael Chiarello, Crystal Cameron & her husband Tom Schaad)

6525 Washington Street, Yountville, CA
(707) 945-1050


Oakville Grocery, – A perfect place to pick up a picnic lunch (gourmet items & sandwiches) for your wine tasting journey. They have a location in Napa & Sonoma.

7856 St. Helena Highway, Oakville, CA

124 Matheson Street, Healdsburg, CA

Oxbow Market, Downtown Napa – Another awesome place to pick up a picnic lunch for a day of wine tasting. From gourmet cheeses and charcuterie to fresh baked breads and chocolates, all your culinary need are covered here.

610 & 644 1st St Napa CA

Wineries/Vineyards/Tasting Rooms

John Anthony Tasting Room, Downtown Napa – A really great place for a glass of wine before dinner or a nightcap. They also have a vineyard that you can tour, but this was by far one of the better “tasting rooms.” We purchased a bottle that we are holding onto for our 5th anniversary.

1440 First Street, Napa, CA
(707) 265-7711

Cakebread Cellars, Napa – Beautiful grounds, great tour. They have fantastic wine club.

8300 St Helena Hwy
Napa, CA

Grgich Hills, Napa – Winemaker and owner Mike Grgich is a legend. He is the winemaker responsible for the award-winning 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay that won the prestigious 1976 Judgement of Paris. This little event is what put American wine on the international wine map.

1829 St Helena Hwy
Rutherford, CA
(707) 963-2784

Jordan Winery, Healdsburg, Sonoma – One of my absolute favorites! The family modeled this estate after Chateau Margaux in Bordeaux France. It’s majestic especially during the fall. Take the tour and you will be treated to a vertical flight of library wines in their hidden library. Appointments required!

1474 Alexander Valley Rd
Healdsburg, CA 95448
(707) 431-5250

A. Raffanelli Winery, Healdsburg, Sonoma – 4th generation winemakers from Italy. Reminiscint of a Tuscan estate. Very rustic. Best Zinfandels in California (in my humble opinion). Appointments required. They don’t have a formal tasting room, but if you can get in they will take you on personal tour through the caves and you’ll taste wines in their processing room. It was a great experience.

4685 W Dry Creek Rd, Healdsburg, CA 95448
(707) 433-1385

Carol Shelton Wines, Sonoma – If you love Zinfandel, this is a must stop! Carol Shelton is widely cited as the most awarded winemaker in the United States. She has won countless medals for her wines and has been honored as Winemaker of the Year numerous times.

3354-B Coffee Lane, Santa Rosa, CA 95403

Schramsberg, Calistoga – This is “America’s Sparkling Wine House.” Schramsberg is located in Northern Napa, but it’s not too far from Healdsburg. They have been in existence since the late 1800’s. They are still producing sparkling wine in the traditional method. When you take the cave tour, you may get to see the riddler in action! Appointment required.


1400 Schramsberg Rd, Calistoga, CA 94515
(707) 942-4558

Chinese Food & Wine Pairings

Chinese food is perhaps one of the trickiest types of cuisine to pair with wine, but there are a few tried-and-true options that won’t disappoint. Chinese food covers the entire spectrum of flavors, from sweet and sour chicken to the slightly spicy General Tso’s chicken all the way to spicy Hunan beef with lots of dried chilis.

Since Chinese food is meant for sharing, there’s a very good chance you may have all of those flavors on your plate at the same time, which can greatly impact the wine in your glass. My top choice for versatility is an off-dry Riesling. The mouthwatering acidity is perfect with all the oil used in Chinese cooking and the lower alcohol in Riesling won’t exacerbate the spice in those hot dishes. In fact, it will provide a nice cooling agent for your palate.  A Gewurtztraminer can also work quite well with mild spices. Now, I know what you’re probably thinking – Riesling and beef? Yes, it can work quite well together, because we are taking all of the other flavors into considerations with this pairing.

A dry to off-dry rosé comes in next on my list for Chinese food pairings. The vibrant fruit flavors and refreshing acidity are a great bridge wine that works quite well with a myriad of flavors and foods. It has kind of a laid-back personality and won’t compete for top billing against your meal. Try the Von Buhl Spatburgunder (Pinot Noir) Rosé (SRP: $18) out of Germany. Von Buhl also makes an excellent Sekt (sparkling Riesling), which brings me to my next choice – sparkling wine.

A great sparkling wine with a touch of residual sugar like a German Sekt or Vouvray Demi-Sec from the Loire Valley of France are simply perfect. The saltiness in the cuisine brings out the fruit notes in the wine and the bubbles act as an intermezzo of sorts, gently cleansing your palate in between bites.

Recommended Producers (Everyday Rieslings)

High-Def Riesling, Mosel, Germany (SRP: $12)
Dr. Loosen “Dr. L” Riesling, Mosel, Germany (SRP: $13)
Kung Fu Girl Riesling, Columbia Valley, Washington, USA (SRP: $14)

Grilled Pork Chops w/Mushrooms & Pinot Noir

Pinot and Pork are a match made in heaven, especially when you incorporate herbs and rustic mushrooms in the dish.

Pinot Noir is known for its red fruit, low to moderate tannins, mouthwatering acidity and earthy characteristics. Try a side of sautéed mushrooms with fresh rosemary and thyme to take this pairing to a whole new level. The fresh herbs brings out the fragrant herbal and sweet spice notes in the wine and the mushrooms work in perfect harmony with the earthy notes in the wine. Pinot Noir is one of the most difficult grapes to grow, but when the conditions are right, it makes for one of the most elegant, collectible wines in the world. If you are looking for a value Pinot Noir under $20, look to Chile, New Zealand or try a Pinot Nero from Italy.

Serve pork chops with your favorite side dish or over a bed of creamy, earthy mushroom risotto.

Spaghetti w/Meatballs & Barbaresco

The next time you entertain with your grandmother’s famous spaghetti and meatball recipe, take your dinner party to the next level by pairing this signature dish with a rich, full bodied Barbaresco.

Barbaresco is made from the Nebbiolo grape in the Piedmont region of Northwest Italy.  Nebbiolo is also the grape behind the famous Barolo wines and the lesser known Gattinara. The wines are named by the region they come from. All three styles have the classic notes of tar, roses, anise and mushroom. However, Italian law mandates that the Barolo style requires longer time in barrel. The old saying goes, Barolo is made for kings and Barbaresco is made from queens. Barolo’s are more masculine and robust, while Barbaresco’s are considered to be a little more elegant and graceful.

Barolo’s are nothing short of amazing, in fact they are one of my all time favorite wines, but Barbaresco’s offer a lot of the charm of a Barolo with a slightly lower price point. Since, a lot of people aren’t that familiar with Barbaresco, you can often find a great value on these wines at restaurants. The flavor profile coupled with its high acidity and tannins make this a great dinner wine for a wide array of Italian dishes from Spaghetti w/Meatballs, to Osso Bucco to Carbonara. If you’re looking for a budget-friendly pairing, grab a bottle of Barbera, Dolcetto or Chianti.



Recommended Producers 

Note: SRP refers to the average price for the newest vintage, since these wines can age for decades, they can easily fetch well over $100 for an older vintage

Chatham Vineyards

A second generation winemaker is turning historic land into world class wine along Virginia’s beautiful Eastern Shore. Sommelier Crystal Cameron, owner of Crystal Palate introduces you to the Wehner family and invites you to take a detour off Highway 13 and experience this hidden gem for yourself.  Watch video below and read Crystal’s recent article on Chatham Vineyards on hrscene.com.

Video Courtesy: Norvell Rose


Herb Crusted Goat Cheese & Rosé

Herb crusted goat cheese with short bread cookies paired with an off-dry rosé is the perfect pairing for a relaxing summer afternoon and it all comes together in less than 5 minutes!

When it comes to goat cheese, Sauvignon Blanc is always a perfect match, but I assure you a rosé can be just as tantalizing!

It’s hard to explain, but something magical happens on your palate when you combine the tangy goat cheese with the lovely floral notes of lavender in the Herbs de Provence, a touch of sweetness from the short bread cookies and the sweet succulent strawberry flavors and crisp acidity of the rosé. Yes, you could certainly use regular old crackers, but the short bread really takes this pairing to a whole new level.

For this pairing, I chose the Caves De L’Angevine Rosé d’Anjou. It’s a luscious off-dry rose made from the Cabernet Franc in the Anjou area of the Loire Valley. Aromas of sweet summer strawberries and ripe watermelon leave you salivating for that first sip. The palate boasts juicy red berries and melon flavors with a touch of minerality, refreshing acidity and a kiss of sweetness. Rosé’s from this area tend to be a touch sweeter than its counterparts from Provence.

The preparation is super simple. Take a log of plain goat cheese, roll the cheese in ¼ cup of Herbs de Provence (dried). Make sure all sides are well coated and serve on a platter with short bread cookies. Add some fresh fruit on the side and you have a beautiful snack to share with friends.

The wine was purchased from Whole Foods and retails for $10 a bottle! At this value, it’s a great wine to buy by the case for your summer picnics and barbecues. Cheers!



Top 5 Easter Wine Pairings

Pairing wine with your Easter feast doesn’t have to be a source of stress. While, a wide variety of  main courses and side dishes can pose a challenge when it comes to Easter wine pairings, I am here to provide some fool proof sommelier secrets that are sure to please every palate around your holiday table. Here are 5 great suggestions that will help you plan an exquisite gathering for your loved ones.

Schramsberg Blancs de Noir, California, USA – SRP: $30

America’s oldest sparkling wine house never disappoints. The Blancs de Noir is a perfect choice for any celebration. This sparkling wine is made in the traditional method with a blend of 85% Pinot Noir and 15% Chardonnay.  Aromas of  meyer lemon, peach, raspberry, toasted hazelnut and fresh baked croissants dance in your glass. The palate boasts layers of delicious candied pineapple, crystallized ginger, and sweet citrus notes with a fine bead and refreshing acidity. This is a great pairing with turkey, ham and all of your side dishes.

HighDef Riesling, Mosel, Germany – SRP: $16

Riesling is one of the most versatile wines on the planet and a no-brainer when you have many layers of complex flavors on your dinner table.  The high acidity and low alcohol content offers a nice counterpoint to many dishes.  This off-dry wine has layers of jasmine, bright citrus and juicy stone fruit on the nose followed by a hint of spice. The palate echoes the flavor profile and adds a burst of vibrant acidity and a touch of residual sugar. Other Rieslings to consider in this price point are the Domaine Weinbach from Alsace, Dr. L Riesling from Mosel and the Kung Fu Girl Riesling out of Washington State.

Von Buhl Spatburgunder Rosé, Mosel, Germany – SRP: $20

Spatburgunder is the German name for Pinot Noir, This is a cool climate Pinot at its best. The Von Buhl Rosé boasts  floral aromas of violet, bright red berry flavors of strawberry, raspberry and cranberry and a touch of mandarin zest lead to a palate bursting with red fruit, lively minerality and piercing acidity.  This rosé is the perfect compromise for the red & white lovers in your life.  This is a versatile selection that will pair beautifully with everything on your Easter table. When in doubt, opt for a rose.

Barboursville Cabernet Franc Reserve, Orange County, Virginia, USA – SRP: $24

Did you know that Cabernet Franc is considered the Pinot Noir of Bordeaux? It’s also a parent grape to the more robust Cabernet Sauvignon. Cab Franc is a lighter and more herbaceous often giving off hints of raspberry, plum, violet & sage.   Aromatic layers of plum, raspberry, cherry, cedar, cigar box, dusty violet, sweet spice and a touch of sage are inviting to your senses. Virginia is home to many other outstanding Cabernet Franc’s including Chatham Vineyards,  Gabriele Rausse and Veritas. Many wine shops also carry  great Cabernet Franc selections out of the Loire Valley of France. Look for the name Chinon on the label.

Saxon Brown “Flora Ranch” Chalk Hill Syrah, Sonoma, California, USA – SRP: $30

While an array of bold powerhouse reds work quite with lamb, I really gravitate toward a meaty Syrah. Saxon Brown is a solid Sonoma County producer that makes delicious Syrah. This wine boasts aromas of dried fruit, mocha, sweet spice, forest floor and applewood smoked bacon. It is rich and voluptuous with chewy tannins. This is phenomenal with bacon wrapped lamb chops. Looking