The Wine Key's 2014 Holiday Gift Guide

Happy Holidays! As we deck the halls and connect with friends and family over warm fires and glasses of wine, many of us, (myself included), can feel overwhelmed with selecting the right gift. This year, The Wine Key's recommends these 5 wine gifts for the wine lover on your list:

OC Glassware

For the sassy, perhaps single, wine drinker in your life, this Beyonce themed, hand painted, glassware is a must! They may not wake up with wine in their glass, but they will always look flawless with this glass in hand. Custom made by OC Glassware, orders should be placed by December 15th for delivery by Christmas. Retails for $22. Many other themes of hand painted glassware are also available. 






Champagne Cork Stool

And while one wine lover on your list is sipping like Bey, another can be sitting or setting their drink down on this one of  a kind champagne cork table. Made of Portuguese cork, this versatile piece of furniture can be used as a stool, seat or coffee table. Currently on sale for $198.99.



The Wine Foundations - An Online Wine Class

Has your gift recipient always talked about taking a wine class? The Wine Foundations is an online wine class starting in January. This four week class will explore the ins and outs which go into producing a bottle of wine. This class is designed for beginners and those with moderate wine knowledge. The class will include The Wine Key's ebook, recorded classes to keep and re-watch later, plus 4 hours of instruction and many laughs!  $125 for 4 wine classes.




Cork Collector

If your gift recipient enjoys a couple bottles of wine a month or has a collect of their favorite corks from their favorite wines, this is the gift for them. Made from solid mahogany wood, this frame is well suited to spelling a person's name or just their initials. This crafty cork frame allows for presentation of favorite wines plus is great decoration for any dining room or bar. Each letter is only $24.95 but corks aren't included. 






Wine of the Month Club

Well, let's not forget the wine now! Why not give the gift that keeps on giving all year round? The Wine of the Month club  is monthly shipments of wine - just like it sounds. The flagship 2 bottle club ships 2 bottles of either reds, whites, or one of each for either a 4, 6 or 12 month period of time. The shipments come in a sturdy red box, great for storing or taking wine with you. Starts at $149 a month and offers four tiers or series depending on your gift recipient's palate. Additionally, there are a number of wine gift sets also available for one time wine gifts.



Cheers to a very happy Holidays!

Charlotte Chipperfield

Pass The Pumpkin Pie: Wine Pairings for Thanksgiving Desserts

Originally posted on

                          Courtesy of Kitchy Kitchen

One of the best parts to the traditional Thanksgiving meal is dessert. Well, let’s face it, that’s the best part to many meals. Even with dessert coming last, that doesn’t mean it should go without a wine pairing.

Dessert wines are often associated with being syrupy or very sweet. The great news is that dessert wines come in a range of sweetness levels and don’t have to be sweeter than the main dessert.

There are a number of dessert wines perfect for pairing with the upcoming Thanksgiving meal:

Moscato d’asti: A semi-sweet sparkling wine from Italy. This sparkler makes a great dessert on its own, but is also a great compliment to the famous Pumpkin Pie. The effervescent bubbles cut through the creamy texture of pumpkin pie and the slight sweetness compliments the sugary filling and any whipped cream.

Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc: Many late harvest wines can be very sweet but when made from a grape like Sauvignon Blanc the wine will remain balanced with acidity. This style of wine makes a great pairing with most dessert and especially delicious with cheese plates.

Madeira: Often passed over for a nearby favorite port, madeira is another after dinner drink well suited for a Thanksgiving feast. Coming from the island of Madeira, this dessert wine by the same name is rich and full of flavors of toasted nuts, candied orange, caramel and is less weighty than port. Madeira is really the ideal pairing for pecan pie, pumpkin pie, carrot cake, you name it!

Be prepared to get your sugar rush on this Thanksgiving.


Charlotte Chipperfield

Crisper Whites for Crisper Weather

Originally posted on Club W

Just because the weather starts to cool down and winter hats start to re-emerge doesn't mean we need to pack away our white wine glasses. Colder weather shouldn’t require committing solely to rich malbecs, fireside, (although, that is nice too). White wine has its place in the fall. Here are three recommendations for keeping cozy this fall while sipping white wine:

Marsanne and Roussanne

These two grapes are often blended together and are native to the Rhône Valley of France. Marsanne and Roussanne are a rather good looking couple, bringing out the best in one another all the while complimenting each other. Roussanne tends to be a little more temperamental, while Marsanne brings a little more maturity and elegance to the blend.

When blended together a full-bodied white wine is established with flavors of honey, nuts, pear, honeysuckle, melon followed by a slight minerality. This blend is often rich and round, making this blend a great alternative a Chardonnay.

Sparkling Wine

As with many times of year, fall and winter bring many reasons to celebrate. Sparkling wines come in a range of styles from light and crisp to rich and succulent. Most often made from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes, many sparkling wines will have a rich body, bright acidity, and layers of flavors. The warming effervescent also creates an exceptional food pairing with just about any dish.

The Champagne Method or Méthode Champenoise, is the traditional method of making the highest quality Champagnes and sparkling wines. Look for this on the label for both domestic and foreign wines when purchasing.

Chenin Blanc

Also native to France, this crisp white wine is perfect for cooler temperatures as it shares similar flavors profiles to that of Pinot Gris or Sauvignon blanc but adds a wider range of flavors including citrus fruits and baked apple. South Africa is also producing a number of outstanding Chenin Blancs all of which are budget friendly. Regardless of its origin, Chenin Blanc, is a wine packed with acidity which creates great food pairings for vegetables such as winter squashes as well as meats such as chicken, veal or pork.

As the weather gets crisper, and we find ourselves indoors more, don’t feel like you have to compromise and only drink red wine, especially if you are a white wine fan. Grab a scarf, polish those white wine glasses and enjoy the crisper weather.

Charlotte Chipperfield

Got Leftover Wine? On the rare occasion, here is what to do:

Originally posted on Club W.

Once in a while, Tuesday night wine sipping may result in leftover wine. This delicious bottle of wine may or may not be consumed within a day or two of opening. Just because the life in the wine has started to fade doesn’t mean that it should be dumped straight down the drain. Here are a number of methods for preserving the wine for drinking a few days later. Additionally, in the event the wine of leftover wine, here are four ways to transform that forgotten about Tuesday night wine.

The key to keeping an open bottle of wine fresh is to prevent the amount of oxygen exposed to the wine. Oxygen is what leads the wine to spoil and eventually taste like vinegar. A great cost effect tool known as the vacuum pump, (also doubling as a great arm workout), comes with rubber stoppers which fit into all wine bottles and with just a few pumps some of the oxygen will be removed. The vacuum seal will not prevent any oxygen getting in but does help slow the oxidation process down.

Additionally, storing the bottle in the refrigerator after pumping can buy another day of fresh wine. Both reds and whites can be stored in the refrigerator, just be sure to pull the reds out of the fridge prior to serving so that it can return to room temperature.

Another effective way for store leftover wine is to pour the wine into smaller bottle or even a  or mason jar. Removing the amount of space oxygen has to come in contact with wine will also slow the oxidation process. Keeping clean empty half bottles of wine can be used for this purpose.

Lastly, using a neutral gas such as Argon and inserting it into the half consumed bottle of wine will chaise out any oxygen in the bottle as Argon is heavier gas than air. This is sold in many wine stores for home use. Again, this bottle can be placed in the refrigerator and will stay fresh for 2-3 days on average.

Now, if a number of days or a week has passed and the open bottle of wine remains on the counter don’t be too quick to pour it down the drain. There are still a number of uses for that leftover wine. Using wine for cooking, making sangria, mulled wine of even vinegar as are all great ways to re-purpose leftover wine.

Cooking with Leftover Wine: There is nothing like a garlic and white wine sauce. Similarly, red wine really adds flavor to tomato based sauces. Freeze leftover wine in ice cube trays to be used later in these sauces. 10-12 cubes equals about a cup of liquid for your next sauce. 

Quick and Easy Sangria:

  • 1 bottle of red wine (or what you have leftover)
  • 1 cup ruby red grapefruit juice
  • 1 cup sliced fruit of choice (grape, apples, oranges, grapefruit, etc.)
  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice
  • ¼ cup sugar

Mix the wine, grapefruit juice and sugar together. Stir in fruit and pour over ice.

Soothing Mulled Wine:

  • 1 bottle red wine or white wine (or whatever is leftover)
  • 4 cups apple cider
  • ¼ cup honey or sugar
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 orange zested and juiced; 4 oranges, peeled for garnish
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 3 star anise
  • Optional: ¼ cup brandy

Combined all ingredients minus the garnish, into large saucepan. Simmer on low heat for 10 minutes. Pour into mugs and garnish with orange peels.

Making Wine Vinegar T

There is nothing like a homemade vinegar which can later be used in cooking or salad dressing.

Take leftover wine and pour in large glass container. Add mother of vinegar which is a cellulose and acetic acid bacteria which feeds on alcohol and begins to ferment the liquid. This can be found in beer stores and many specialty markets. Pour in two cups of water and cover with cheesecloth and store in dry, cool and dark place. Continue to add any leftover wine during this time and within a few weeks you will have vinegar. If you want to bottle the vinegar, it is important to pasteurize in order to prevent the mother from forming in another container. Pour vinegar into a pot on the stove. Dilute with 25% water or to your taste and heat to 155 degrees for 30 mins.

The next time Tuesday’s nights wine becomes next Wednesday’s leftovers, don’t go running for the kitchen sink. Experiment with great beverage and vinegar recipes!


Charlotte Chipperfield

Wine Tasting Through Carmel - Part 2

Charlotte at Holman Ranch

About a 25 minute drive east of the town Carmel sits Carmel Valley. An area dedicated to farming within what is considered California's Central Coast. Atop a hillside sits a 400 acre ranch called Holman Ranch. With a rich history dating back to when California was still a part of Mexico, this ranch has seen a number of owners who have created an oasis for celebrities such as Charlie Chaplin, built a hacineda, created a "gentleman's retreat," and built a state of the art equestrian center. Today, the ranch is owned by the Lowder family who are dedicated to keeping traditions alive while restoring, refurbishing and enhancing much of the property.

The Lowder Family have also invested in winemaking having built beautiful wine caves. They are dedicated to producing estate wines that truly reflect the essence of what is the Carmel Valley AVA. With warm days and cool nights due to the coastal influence, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris all thrive on the properties 20 acres of vineyards. 

Upon arrival, we were instantly captivated with the breathtaking views. Not to mention the beautiful horses on property. I love horses and when you pair that with the surrounding vineyards AND a swimming pool, this is pretty much my dream estate. The property is also home to 10 guests houses which very much fit into the cowboy theme. Immediately after checking in we were lead on a tour around the property and into the wine caves where we did some barrel tasting of the 2014 vintage. The wines taste amazing! I was very impressed with the facilities and dedication the family has to producing exceptional wines. The pinot girs is light and crisp, the pinot noir is fruity and earthy, and the late harvest sauvignon blanc is not to be missed.

After a walk around the property and a tour of the hacineda we met for more wine (duh), and enjoyed an elegant dinner in the carriage house. The family joined us and it was such a beautiful evening learning more about the rich history of the property and learning more of their olive oil production and events. 

Guest House

The ranch plays host to hundreds of events a year including many corporate meetings. Weddings, though, are really what this property is made for. With spectacular views and every amenity a bridal party could think of including paint balling, horse drawn carriages, weddings, swimming, and even a game room complete with a bar, this is a beautiful property guaranteed to make a wedding extra special. 

Rising early the next morning as many do on a ranch, the peace and quiet was outstanding. The sunrise over the property on a crisp fall morning was enough to make we want to stay for much longer. However, I will be back, especially to visit their tasting room located at 19 E. Carmel Valley Rd. Suite C.

If you are planning a trip to Carmel, I hope these two blog posts help to guide your tour, particularly when it comes to the wine recommendations.  

Charlotte Chipperfield

Wine Tasting Through Carmel - Part 1

When a recent invitation to visit Carmel by-the-Sea and Homan Ranch in Carmel Valley came into my inbox, I could not refuse! The timing of this trip ended up being at a critical time when I need to take a step back from all of my work and enjoy a few of the finer things in life. 

As my boyfriend and I approached the city of Carmel via the 17-mile drive, I felt the relaxation fall over me. The sound of the ocean and the beauty of the coastline is truly spectacular. Carmel-by-the-Sea is a town well suited to walking and has an old European village feel. The city is only 1 square mile and offers a great deal to vacationers. 

Carmel is only two and half drive south of San Francisco, but it feels like a world away. Much of the town reminds me of villages I have visited in England. There are no number addresses for the businesses located downtown. All of the buildings have names and everyday the business owners must go to the post office to receive their mail. We stayed at the Hofsas House on San Carlos Avenue. This charming hotel is one of the largest with 37 rooms. The Hofsas House also reminded me of staying with relatives in Europe and had an inviting, old-world charm. Our room was large including a king bed, fireplace and kitchen. Upon arrival a bottle of Chardonnay was already on ice waiting to be consumed. An adjacent bell jar full of cheese from the local cheese shop was also a much welcomed surprise. Even though the drive isn't that long, a glass of wine was well deserved and gladly enjoyed. 

After getting settled and enjoying some wine, we headed over to Anton and Michel for a decadent meal. Located a short walk from the hotel, the restaurant setting was beautiful. Our table was front and center overlooking a courtyard with a fountain that created a romantic setting. The food was fairly traditional and very fresh. All the entrees do contain meat, however, if you have a vegetarian with you like I did, they are more than happy to put together a dish to include all the veggies on the menu. I got the amazing salmon, but I will admit, I was slightly jealous of the bounty of deliciousness on my boyfriend's plate. But the Monterey Pinot Noir I had helped balance the scales and made for a great pairing with the salmon.

Once we finished the fantastic creme brulee, we took a long walk through town back to the hotel. After a good night's sleep we were fresh and ready for a slightly drizzly but exciting next day. I had the great opportunity to meet with Carrie, the owner of the Hofsas House who gave me a tour and more insight into both her operation and Carmel. Her family has owned the hotel for three generations. Carrie's knowledge of the area was very insightful. I appreciated getting her tips on the local golf scene, beaches, hiking and the town itself. 

After checking out we headed to Carmel Coffee House for the daily requirement of caffeine, then the 5th Avenue Deli for boxed lunches which we ate in the nearby Murphy park. I then escaped to the Wrath tasting room where I enjoyed getting to know more about their Chardonnay and Pinot Noirs. Seriously delicious and very budget friendly. There are 14 tasting rooms in Carmel, all within walking distance. There is a passport you can purchase in order to take full advantage of all the tasting rooms without breaking the bank.

As the afternoon approached, we jumped in the car to our next destination, the Holman Ranch in Carmel Valley. This is a destination not to be missed, and the wines....well they are fabulous too. Stay tuned for Part 2 of our Carmel adventure next week!

Charlotte Chipperfield


Reinventing the Wine Shop - Get to Know Bay Grape

Courtesy of Bay Grape

Courtesy of Bay Grape

Ever dreamed of a wine shop that has an outstanding collection of affordable wines? A place where you can open a bottle and snack on cheese? A place where the community gathers all while getting to know the hilarious and extremely knowledgeable owners? Well, your dreams (and mine), have been answered! Bay Grape, a wine bottle shop has opened on Grand Ave in Oakland.

Located a couple of blocks away from Lake Merrit, owners Stevie Stacionis and Josiah Baldivino are a husband and wife team who together have over 20 years of wine industry experience. Their mission is very much similar to The Wine Key in believing that pretension and wine snobs add nothing to an enjoyable wine experience, "We are mega-easy-going. Our goal is just to help you drink better and feel happy about it."

The concept is this. Bay Grape is a bottle shop where guests can open any bottle of wine for a $5 corkage to drink in store. They also offer a small selection of beer and unique sodas. Their wine selection features some of the top producers artisan from California and around the world. In addition to the bottle shop, weekly classes, CSA pick-ups are offered as well as winemakers hosted tastings.

Courtesy of Bay Grape

Courtesy of Bay Grape

Bay Grape is the perfect place to kick-back, relax, enjoy great wine and learn a thing or two about wine. 

Open seven days a week, there is really no excuse to not get your butt to Bay Grape. Monday-Saturday 11 am - 10 pm and Sunday 12 pm - 9 pm.

Hope to see you there!

Charlotte Chipperfield

Boozy in the City - Urban Wineries to Visit Around the Country

Originally posted on Broke Ass Stuart's Goddamn Website.

As city dwellers, we often have good intentions of visiting the beautiful wine country that surrounds our great cities but may get caught up in a cup of Stumptown, Four Barrel or the ever so addictive Pumpkin Spice latte. But thanks to urban wineries putting down roots in major cities around the country, accessing wineries may be closer than we think. San Francisco, Oakland, New York City and Portland, Oregon have seen a large expansive of wine being produced within city limits. This time of year is an especially intoxicating time to visit as harvest is underway and the smell of wine being made will draw you away from that expensive cup of joe.

Here are a number of wineries worth checking out in your backyard regardless of means or motivation levels:

San Francisco Urban Wineries to Visit

DogPatch WineWorks

Bluxome Street Winery. Prior to the 1906 Earthquake, there were a dozen wineries operating in SOMA but those who were able to rebuild were soon closed due to prohibition. Bluxome Street Winery has brought winemaking back to SOMA and is open 6 days a week for tastings and host many events throughout the year. Not to mention their wines are killer. If you are a big fan of Sonoma, specifically the Russian River, then this is your home away from home.

DogPatch WineWorks. Located off the T-train on 3rd street in the DogPatch neighborhood, WineWorks is a custom crush facility where anyone able to invest can make wine. WineWorks also produces their own label with their tasting room open Thursday through Sunday including evenings which is great for after work. Individual tastings start at $3 so you can spend as little or as much as you can drink.

Sutton Cellars. Also located in the DogPatch neighborhood, about a block from the WineWorks. Owner and winemaker, Carl Sutton is known for being the quirky wine guy around town. His creative genius comes through in his wines which are unfiltered and pushing the limits on traditional winemaking. Open Saturday and Sunday, $7 gets your four wines. If you get a chance to taste his vermouth too it will also change how you make your next cocktail.

Treasure Island. Yup, that random mass of land which supports our beloved Bay Bridge is also home to a number of wineries including Winery SF, Fat Grape Winery, Treasure Island Winery, Sol Rouge Winery, Bodega Wine Estates, Sottomarino Winery (a submarine like experience...seriously), and Vie Winery which has Bocce Ball courts. Game on.

Oakland Urban Wineries to Visit

Rock Wall Wines. Ok ok, this is technically located in Alameda in the former Naval Air Base but it hands down has one of the best views of the Bay and the city of San Francisco. Not to mention this winery has a wine for everyone. Pair that with outdoor couches, cornhole and great food, there may not be any reason to leave.

Dashe Cellars. Well you gotta visit this winery because, well, the label has a monkey riding a whale on it. Really. Open Thursday through Sunday from 12-5pm located off 4th street in Oakland. This is a Zinfandel lover’s mecca.

Broc cellars. Making some of the best fermented juice you can get your hands on especially for the price, this is a great place to learn the meaning of “Terroir.” Their tasting room is open Saturday and Sunday from 1-5 pm.

New York City and Brooklyn Urban Wineries to Visit

City Winery. If live music is your scene this winery is in the heart of NYC pairs music with winemaking. Head to a class or tasting, grab a bite and stay for the live music after. A night on the town has never been so fun.

Brooklyn Winery. This winery makes wine from grapes grown in both New York and California states, this is a unique opportunity to taste the wines side by side, take a wine class or just hangout in the 1200 square foot wine bar. If you need a taste of California while in Brooklyn, look no further.

Portland, Oregon Urban Wineries to Visit

Much like San Francisco, Portland is a hop skip and jump away from wine country. These urban wineries get my vote for most organized due to their informative website and maps showcases all the urban wineries, must be all those months locked in doors from the rain. Wineries of note include Seven Bridges Winery, S.E. Winery Collective and ENSO winery.

So take break from the coffee scene and stylish mustaches to cleanse your palate with wine accessible by public transport or by bike.


Charlotte Chipperfield

Should Wine Bottles Include Nutrition and Ingredient Labeling?

As originally posted on

Over the course of the past decade, a hot topic within the industry has been whether or not nutrition and ingredient labels should be required on wine bottles. Before any of us were old enough to even drink wine, we learned about the food pyramid — the dos and don'ts of what to eat. For Americans, this knowledge has historically been fed to us by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a branch of the United States government who provides health recommendations and regulates nutrition and ingredient labeling. Yet alcohol isn’t regulated by the FDA. It is instead regulated by the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Bureau (ATF) and Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB).

The TTB, part of the U.S. Department of Treasury, requires the following be included on wine labels: vintage date, estate bottled, appellation of origin, viticultural area, alcohol content, declaration of sulfites, brand name, varietal designation, country of origin, name and address of winery/business, and net contents. But when it comes to ingredients and nutrition facts, neither are required. Which raises the question, should they be?

Does wine contain enough of the traditionally-listed nutritional facts to merit bottle space?

Wine bottles are already limited with the amount of information which can be presented due to the size and shape of the bottle. From a nutrition label point of view — considering what is actually in a glass of wine — there is no fat, no protein, no cholesterol, little to no sodium, and little to no grams of sugar (depending on the dryness of the final wine).

However, one benefit to the nutrition labeling would be the recommended serving size — for example, a five-ounce pour of wine equals one glass. A popular sentiment among wine consumers is the need to better understand what a serving of wine is. (Alternately, there are those who would prefer to stay in the dark when it comes to knowing the amount of calories in their wine...) In the end, most of us already know that alcohol calories hold empty nutritional significance. Requiring a label doesn't really influence the experience or decision to purchase.

If nutritional facts don’t add value, then what about ingredients?

Wine (admittedly at its most basic foundation and understanding) is fermented grape juice. However, depending on the winery and desired final product, additives may be used along the way. As far as ingredients go, the TTB already regulates additives to ensure that the final product is, indeed, derived from fruit. When it comes to specific amounts of minerals and vitamins, according to the USDA website, a 5 oz. glass of red wine contains 187 mg of potassium, 12 mg of calcium, and .084 mg of vitamin B-6 to name a few. Similarly for white wine, potassium registers at 104 mg for a 5 oz. pour, 13 mg of calcium and .074 of vitamin B-6. With that being said, wine is a complex beverage and holds trace amounts of macronutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants like resveratrol.

Resveratrol is naturally produced by many plants as a defense of sorts, and has been linked to anti-aging and skin health benefits in humans. Yet the levels of resveratrol in wine are so low — about one milligram in a glass of red wine — that it is only a fraction of the amount needed to produce real results. Additives include everything from yeast, enzymes, or settling agents to substances like mega purple or acetaldehyde, both used to enhance a wine’s color. None of these would appear on labels. Dimethyl dicarbonate (DMDC) is yet another additive sometimes used to stabilize or de-alcoholize wines. DMDC is also found in orange juice and some sports drinks. But guess what? It doesn’t appear on those product labels, either.

And when it comes to known allergens, wine is not produced from any of the eight most common food allergens; therefore, wine is not legally required to list them. According to the FDA Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004: “milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans account for 90 percent of food allergies.” Note that sulfites are not on this list, yet the TTB requires wine labels to denote that the wine does, indeed, “contain sulfites" (though no volume or measurement is required). This has proven to be rather misleading as many consumers have come to believe they are allergic to sulfites when, in fact, they are most likely allergic to the histamines found on the grapes instead. Most dried fruits and salad bars contain more sulfites than a bottle of wine, so unless you sneeze when eating dried fruit, the sulfites aren’t to blame. There has been a move in more recent years with organic and biodynamic wines which uses all natural techniques in the vineyards and wineries. Biodynamic farming is based of off Rudolf Steiner’s spiritual and ecological beliefs which excludes and use of sulfur. However if a wine is considered as organic but the label says “Wine Made from Grapes Grown Organically,” this means that sulfur was most likely used in the cellar but not the vineyard. This goes to show that something as simple as “contains sulfites” doesn’t tell a consumer much information and seems alarming as it is the only ingredient highlighted on labels. It's no wonder the public believes them to be a health concern.

If nutrition and ingredient labeling were to become legally required, the impact on wineries would be great.

The additional lab testing to quantify nutritional contents and ingredients, along with the labor, would be high and costly for many small family-run wineries — not to mention the additional label design, printing fees, and final TBB approval. External lab testing can cost anywhere from $22 to $300 per element. Additionally, on average, winery lab equipment costs around $3,000, a large investment for a winery just getting off the ground. It seems that requiring nutrition and ingredients on wine labels ultimately lends to more questions than answers.

When asked what would become legally required to list on labels, the TTB said the answer will be up to the public to decide. Wine is not only a complex beverage, but requires many steps to produce. There are literally thousands of decisions that going into making a bottle of wine from vineyard to bottle. Would additives used in the winemaking process be required even if they aren’t found in the final product? Do customers even understand enough about the winemaking process to understand the reason behind using these additives?

Winemakers and consumers alike don’t seem to see any urgency in requiring nutrition and ingredient labeling on wine. Albeit, there may be some wineries who do need to be held accountable, but so do the makers of fruit juices and sports drinks. We have a right to know what we are putting into our bodies, but misleading labels isn't the solution. In order to be truly effective, the TTB needs to come together with winemakers and consumers alike to create new and ultimately more informative labels that are appropriate for wine.

Charlotte Chipperfield


New York Riesling - It's Not All About the Sweet Stuff

Riesling is quickly becoming the fastest growing white wine in the United States. However, when most of us think of Riesling, we think of sweet dessert wines and opt to drink another white wine instead. One of the greatest things about Riesling is that it can be produced as a very sweet dessert wine, the ones we shy away from, but it can also be very crisp and dry and everything in between.

The Finger Lakes AVA (American Viticultural Area), of New York State is leading the way in producing exceptional Riesling for every occasion. The Riesling grown in this region vary among sweetness levels but with a little help from the International Riesling Foundation and I can bet we will all be drinking more Riesling, especially with the holiday season fast approaching.

Riesling Sweetness Level Guide

The International Riesling Foundation has created a guide which appears on many labels coming from the New York Finger Lakes but is not required. The image to the left shows the sweetness ranking system which is priceless when it comes to making your next Riesling purchase. Here is a breakdown of what each category really means:

  • In order for a Riesling to be considered "Dry," the wine must have an acid and sugar ratio with a difference not exceeding 1. Both sugar and acid are measured in grams per liter. What that means is that if a wine has 3 grams of sugar and 6 grams of acidity, then the ratio is .5 and falls within the requirements of being dry.
  • These ratios continue as a Riesling containing a sugar/acid ratio of 1.0-2.0 is considered Medium Dry.
  • Medium Sweet ratio will fall between 2.1 and 4.0
  • Sweet Rieslings will be anything with a ratio over 4.1

Having this breakdown is very helpful when purchasing Riesling. Dry versions are fantastic for pool-side sipping, picnics, and most light dishes. Sweeter styles are great with anything spicy such as Thai food, Thanksgiving dinner and sushi. The sweetest styles are great with desserts of course but also with cheese. 

Boundary Breaks Rielsing

The Finger Lakes region has a cool climate much like Germany where Riesling also excels in quality and with 220,000 cases produced a year, they are worth paying attention to. Here in California it can be hard to track down Riesling from New York as our shelves are so often full of our own juice. If you have a local wine shop you know and trust, ask them to order some to try. If they demand is there, we will start to see more of it coming our way. You can also purchase directly from these producers below.

Here is a list of outstanding producers. Check them out if you get a chance and be sure to follow them on social media too:

I have recently tried Rielsings from all these producers and it really goes to show that there is a great Riesling for any occasion. Have you tried a great Riesling lately? I would love to hear about it below in the comments. 


Charlotte Chipperfield

September 19th is #GrenacheDay

This Friday is #GrenacheDay. A whole day dedicated to the wonderful grape Grenache. If you are a Pinot Noir lover, Grenache is in the same wheel house and tends to be more friendly on the wallet. Here is what you need to know about this lovely grape before Friday:



#GrenacheDay is 9/19!


Grenache is a grape that does well in warm weather and can withstand windy conditions. Also known as "Granacha" in Spain, this grape is the principle variety in the the Navarra region. Grenache is also widely planted in Southern France and was one of the first varieties introduced in Australia. Since Grenache tends to produce a lighter, fruitier wine, it is often blended with Tempranillo, Cinsaut or Carignan. Grenache Blanc is the white variety of this grape and is lesser known but comes from a color mutation of Grenache.   

  • Grenache accounts for 70% of acreage planted in the Chateauneuf-du-Pape region in France
  • The skin on the Grenache grape is lightly pigmented resulting in a light colored red wine
  • Grenache thrives in schist and granite soils 


Grenache tends to be a fruity wine with bright acidity and lots of red fruit flavors such as raspberries, red currants, cheery and strawberries. Sprinkle that with a little white pepper for added spice but don't be surprised there are little to no tannins with this red wine. 


Turkey, cranberry sauce, duck or mac and cheese. 


Between $15- $25

So grab a bottle and join the conversation on your favorite social media site by using the hashtag #GrenacheDay. 


Charlotte Chipperfield 

4 Pinot Noirs to Cheer on Football Season

It is that time of year where sidelines get repainted, pigskins start to fly and the Oregon Ducks keep winning! That's right, I'm a Duck fan and it's officially football season! 

4 Pinot Noirs for Football Season

Throughout the years, beer has been a game day favorite, but there is no reason why wine can't be enjoyed while cheering on your favorite team. 

In honor of the 2014 season and my Oregon roots, here are four Oregon Pinot Noirs to pair with the next game:

1) Seven of Hearts: This small winery's 2012 Armstrong Vineyard Pinot Noir is sure to bring home the touchdowns! At least with your party guests and fellow teammates. This pinot is the fall season captured in a glass. A touch of cherry, strawberries and an earthiness that resembles the smell of fresh, crisp fall mornings. $35 a bottle. 

2) Ayres: 2011 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir is light, bright and full of flavors. Displaying tastes of cherry, raspberry and tart pomegranate, this wine is great for just sipping and watching the game, no food required. $26 a bottle.

3) Colene Clemens: 2011 Adriane Pinot Noir named for her grand-daughter Adriane, this pinot comes from the Chehalem appellation in the Willamette Valley and is full of red cherry, baking spices, and earthiness. At $45 a bottle you are getting a bang for every buck. The richness in this wine makes it a great pairing for heavier game day snacks and dips - think wings or bean dip. 

4) St. Innocent Winery: 2012 Freedom Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir. This pinot is a great balance of the Colene Clemens and Ayres pinot noir. Not to light and not to rich, this pinot is one that will pair with many dishes with its ripe dark fruit notes, sweet spices, dried herbs and earthiness. $42 a bottle. 

All right team, polish those wine glasses, dust off the pom poms and let's cheers to football season! #GoDucks

Charlotte Chipperfield

Thursday, August 28th is #CabernetDay

It is that time of year again to come together and celebrate the noble grape Cabernet Sauvignon! This is the 5th year running where cabernet lovers from around the world open a bottle to enjoy while taking to the internet to not only share what cabernet's they love, but to also learn and share in their wine experiences. This event is open to all. Just login to various social networks and use the hashtag #cabernetday to participate. 

And a more somber note, this past weekend Napa Valley was hit hard by a 6.0 earthquake. Cabernet has really established itself as the "king" of the valley. I suggest helping those hard hit by purchasing a bottle of their wine in support. 

I look forward to connecting with you all over a glass a wine at social networks everywhere! Happy #CabernetDay! 


Charlotte Chipperfield

The People's White - Spain's Favorite White Wine

Can you believe we are nearing the end of August?! Summer is my favorite time of year so the fact that Labor Day is fast approaching makes me defiant of the evitable change. Albeit, Fall is my second favorite season, especially as harvest is underway and another year of wine is being produced but this post isn't about examining my deep feelings towards the seasons. 

As there are still a few remaining weeks to soak up the sunshine and a long weekend yet to be indulged, I wanted to recommend two white wines to pair perfectly with the rest of summer.

Coming from Rueda, Spain a Denomination of Origin founded in 1980 with winemaking roots dating back to the 11th century, the white wines produced here have become "the people's white." Made from the Verdejo grape, the wines are crisp, light, refreshing and full of tropical and citrus fruit flavors. They pair exceptionally well with seafood, salad, light pasta dishes and appetizers. 

There are currently only 40 producers of Rueda wines who export to the US. One of the two verdejos I recently tried from Rueda was Bodegas Copaboca's Gorgorito Verdejo 2013. Retailing for around $7, you can't bet this price and quality. Made from 100% verdejo, the bright acidity frames the citrus fruits - lemon and lime along with the signature herbs characteristics perfectly. There is also a slight minerality to this wine which I love, much like Albranio. Copaboca is known for being certified in Natural Reserve for their sustainable and environmentally friendly agro-environment practices, so this is a feel-good wine all around. 

The second wine I recently tried from the same area is also made of 100% verdejo from Bodega Hijos de Albero Guitierrez originally built my Dominican monks in 1657, this light, straw colored Verdejo smells and tastes much like lemonade, it was rather outstanding! What was unique about his wine was the slight residual sugar. This can be rather refreshing on a hot day pool side or accompanying Thai spice shrimp, as the wine will calm the hot spiciness. 

Overall, if you are a fan of Albarnio or Pinot Gris, you should take a sip of Verdejo and see if its to your liking as well. The clean, refreshing tastes along with its bright acidity, slight herbs and balanced minerality is sure to remind you of summer all year long. 


Charlotte Chipperfield

My Two Cents on the Recent Two Buck Chuck Controversy

I wanted to take a few moments to weigh in on a recent article that re-surfaced on Huffington Post this week from Chris Knox. Please note, the article has since been removed. In this article, Knox challenges the notorious Charles Shaw or Two Buck Chuck brand, as having “animal blood” and other additives in the wine. Here is an excerpt of his post:

"These large tractors with huge claws go down the rows of vineyards grabbing the grapes and depositing them in its huge receptacle. And it not only grabs ripe grapes, but unripe and down right rotten ones as well and throws them all together. Add to that leaves, stems and any rodents, birds, or insects that may have made those vines their home—they all get thrown into the bin as well. And guess what? You think there's going to be any sorting when that truck arrives at the winery (or should I say processing facility)? Nope. Everything, and I do mean everything (including all those unripe grapes, rotten grapes, leaves, stems, birds, rodents, and insects) gets tossed into the crusher and transferred to large tanks to ferment.”

Courtesy of cellartracker.comFor a little background, the Charles Shaw label is owned by Bronco Wine Company based out of Ceres, California, in the Central Valley. Bronco is the 4th largest wine producer in CA started by Fred Franzia who is well-known for the boxed wine by the same name and is interestingly enough is the nephew of Ernest Gallo. The Bronco Wine Company makes an estimated 20 millions gallons of wine a year and originally introduced Charles Shaw at Trader Joes exclusively.

Now as someone who has worked a harvest, I know that there are bugs that come in on the grapes and the feeling of earwigs crawling up my arms from the sorting table still haunts me. But just like you might find a slug in your organic lettuce from the farmers market, it's natural. But that’s not to say they end up in your final wine. Ever notice how rodents and birds flee the minute you come close? In the event that they did get by rounds of humans, they would block machines, pumps and costs thousands in repairs and replacement parts. Not to mention, grape juice is often given time to settle prior to fermentation which allows anything heavy to float to the bottom of the tank. Then there's the racking process of moving wine from one vessel to another. Again, even yeast cells fall to the bottom of the tank and will not be pumped to the next vessel. So bottom line? You’re not drinking red wine with a splash of animal blood.  

But this does bring up the quality factor. When you buy shoes at Target instead of from a designer, you often know what you’re getting, something functional that won’t last forever. We buy Hershey's bars from behind Willy Wonka colored glasses and trust we know what goes into that product. But when it comes to making wine to even get started, you have to have grapes and not just any grapes but the noble Vitis Vinifera grapes which require specific conditions to even grow. 

As for the other additives mentioned in the quote above, sugar is the biggest culprit which some brands both big and small add despite it being illegal. Just because its labelled “wine” doesn’t means it was created equal. That’s why paying attention to each winery’s story and listening to their harvest and production techniques is important to decide what you identify with best. That’s why a lot of the world’s finest wines are expensive. Because expert vintners and winemakers have been alongside each grapes from inception through to bottle nurturing them till the consumer purchases and enjoys. I personally have blinded tasting Charles Shaw Cabernet and guess what? I didn’t pick it last! The stories behind wines and the occasion you plan to enjoy a bottle is important to factor in when selecting the right wine.

At first my reaction was that Chris’ strong words reeked only of ignorance but I applaud Chris for challenging the model however, as he has recently commented this week, he would have taken time to fact check and to use different wording had he known the HuffPo was going to post his blog. The Bronco Wine Company also knows their brands and the markets they serve. They have done a tremendous job of creating a household wine label as well known as Kleenex that costs less than a gallon of gas. So yes, price point does matter to a degree but you don’t have to spent $100 to get a handcrafted wine. Franzia has even been quoted as saying: "I don't make wine to put in a closet. We sell wine to drink.” At the end of the day, if you have wine in your glass, a smile on your face and are able to cheers to the day’s successes with the ones you love, none of this really matters.

How do you feel about the comments made towards Charles Shaw? Please share in the comments below.


Charlotte Chipperfield

Winery Spotlight - Patz and Hall

Being able to focus and execute one thing really well takes skill, dedication and commitment. Often wine portfolios can grow so large that I often wonder how much quality becomes sacrificed between multiple labels. This is exactly why I have a lot of respect for wineries who know their land, know what grows well there, and executes it beautifully. Enter Patz & Hall winery out of Sonoma. They make Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The End. While they do make more than 2 labels highlighting vineyard designation, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are the only two varieties produced. 

Patz & Hall was founded by four seasoned wine professionals, some of which may have attended the University of Oregon!! Go Ducks ;). Having recently opened their new, beautiful tasting hall off Eighth Street in Sonoma featuring artists from around the world the setting is perfect for showcasing their beautiful wines. James Hall and Donald Patz (hence Patz & Hall), used to work together at Flora Springs Winery and Vineyards where their friendship and love for wine blossomed. My recent visit had me belly up to their awesome tasting bar complete with comfortable bar stools which made me feel like I was hanging out in their home kitchen. A flight of four wines, 2 Pinot and 2 Chardonnay were poured and wow did each one truly shine. 

The 2012 Cherry Ridge Vineyard Chardonnay from the Russian River really stood out for me as being the perfect summer Chardonnay. Easy to drink and doesn't require food, yet if you were to have a salad or seafood it would also make a great pairing. The acid was bright but complimented by flavors of camel, apricots and tropical fruits. Retails for $50.

I was also treated to a special tasting of their Winters Hill Ranch 2006 Chardonnay which is no longer available for purchase but displays the ageability of their chardonnay, if you have the patience to wait. 

As I am obsessed with Pinot, the standout for me was the 2012 Moses-Hall Carneros Pinot Noir. I'm not sure what it is about Carernos fruit but I've always had a love affair with it...shhh....don't tell my boyfriend! ;) The Moses-Hall Pinot is very well balanced with flavors of cherry, raspberry, cranberry, and plum. It drinks very smoothly but is layered with complexity and finishes with a touch of chocolate and medium tannins. I was also impressed with the shelf life of this Pinot. Three days after I opened the bottle, it was still opening up and drinking beautifully! Retails for $70.

Lastly, if you are looking for a great dessert wine they have an amazing late harvest white wine that tastes like apple pie. Get a taste or a bottle if you can! 

For your next wine tasting trip, I highly recommend you swing by their tasting room. For the best experiences, appointments are highly recommended. 


Charlotte Chipperfield

Wine and Social Media Pairs Exceptionally Well

Originally published on

Capturing a snapshot is easier than ever thanks to smartphones. Aside from the rising universal selfie trend, sharing, learning and connecting with others who share an interested in similar topics by posting these images across social media platforms is also easier than ever before.

Artist, baristas, writers, bartenders, celebrities, athletic teams, small businesses, large businesses, you name it, everyone has the same level playing field and forum to communicate, provide feedback and even sell their products or services through interactions online. But when it comes to wine, does social media have an impact?

Turns out, wine and social media might just be the perfect pairing. According to a recent estimate, 1.5 million conversations happen a day on social media. That is powerful. Not only does wine bring us together over the dinner table but with vehicles like the Crushed Wine App sharing these experiences throughout various social media platforms has become more prevalent. The amount of users posting wine labels and connecting with others over a common passion regardless of knowledge level, has inspired a large and active online community.

Additionally, taking photos and posting to various profiles gives the ability to keep track and log favorite wines, essentially creating a digital wine journal. This then serves not only as a reference for the individual user but also to the friends, family and followers. Having this hand-held resource becomes powerful when shopping for wine or trying to navigate wine stores, restaurants or even planning a wine country trip. The experience of enjoying a bottle of wine in real life can now be amplified and shared with millions.

It has been said many times before, that behind each bottle of wine, there is a story to be told. From vineyard, to winery, to bottle, and to the consumer, social media allows for these stories to be encapsulated all in one place. So much so, that more and more wineries are also joining the conversation. Wine consumers are not only talking about what their drinking but providing direct feedback to wineries in regards to their experiences. Just like with any relationship, the key to success for many, is being consistent, engaging and to offer great content or conversations. Friends don’t appreciate an inconsistent, boring and distant friend. They want a real connection that enriches their lives. From industry thought leaders to winemakers to a consumer picking up their first bottle of wine, this community helps to support one another.  

Wine has always brought people together, social media makes that easier by providing an accessible arena for non-intimidating conversations surrounding wine. Social media is another way to gather friends no matter how close or far they may physically be, an exceptional pairing indeed. So grab that wine bottle and take a selfie together and start telling a story.


Charlotte Chipperfield

Exclusive Interview with Winemaker Beau Carufel

Courtesy of Beau Carufel 

A few years ago I joined this thing called Twitter, you may have heard of it. I wasn't really sure what to talk about so I started talking about what I These conversation have lead to numerous friendships both on and offline. One great friendship formed with Winemaker Beau Carufel. We took a few minutes to catch up on the phone last week and I asked Beau a few questions about his transition from wine buyer and blogger to winemaker. The Wine Key is thrilled to be the first to interview Beau since the inception of Random Wine Co.

Charlotte:Tell me about a memorable wine moment.

Beau: I don't know if there was just one moment but my father worked in the wine industry in San Diego and sold Ravenswood. I remember taking a trip to Sonoma with my Dad to visit Joel Peterson. We had dinner at his house in Sonoma and I remember drinking great wines and listening to them talk about wine which is where I started to absorb a wealth of information. There were also winemakers visiting us at our home in San Diego. Wine was just a part of our dinner conversations. 

Charlotte: How did you get into wine? When did you know the wine industry would lead to a career path?

Beau: Through my Dad who was a distributor. He sold Californian and Italian wines. He was also the first to sell Gruner Veltliner. Growing up, I would have sips with dinner, wine has just always been a part of life. After attending flight school, September 11th happened and I decided it wasn't for me. I got a job at wine store then everything really blossomed. I moved to Oregon in October 2011 with no job lined up.

Charlotte: What wine certifications do you hold?

Beau: I am a Certified Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers but I don't plan to take it any further as I don't work in the hospitality side as much any more. 

Charlotte: How did you get into winemaking?

Beau: The Kramers [of Kramer Vineyards] hired me as a harvest intern. I had always been intrigued by winemaker but it all seemed too technical and chemistry was never my thing. I always enjoyed drinking and talking about wine more. Once I got my hands dirty and made wine, I saw production in a whole new light.

Charlotte: When did the idea for Random Wine Co come about?

Beau: The Kramers asked me a decided question: "Why don’t you make some wine?” The name comes from both making different varieties of wine and my lack of originality. I'm not an artistic person. Random seemed fitting. 

Charlotte: What varieties do you produce? 

2012 TempranilloBeau: In 2012 the inaugural vintage, all fruit came from Horse Heaven Hills AVA in Washington. In 2013, I got some fruit from eastern Oregon and now the Willamette Valley too. I produce a Tempranillo, Petit Verdot and Gamay Noir Rosé. What's unique is that I make my wine in the heart of the Willamette Valley but I don't produce a Pinot Noir or a Pinot Gris which are popular here. However, I have learned to make wine from Pinot Noir producers so I have a gentle touch when it comes to winemaking.

Charlotte: How many cases do you produce?

Beau: In 2012 I made about 125 cases. In 2013 it became 250 cases and 2014 looks like it will be between 300 and 400 cases.

Charlotte: Where do you source your grapes from?

Beau: Mostly at random as long as the quality of fruit is there. Like I said, the 2012 vintage all came from Horse Heaven Hills AVA in Washington with additional fruit coming from eastern Oregon and the Willamette Valley.

Charlotte: Where do you make your wines?

Beau: At Kramer Vineyard. I have about 10 barrels at their winery.

Charlotte: Do you have a winemaking philosophy?

Beau: I have a rather romantic notion when it comes to winemaking. A wine should taste like the site, grape, people or Terrior as the French say. I try to express the grapes the best that I can. I believe in getting out of the way and help the best fruit it turn into great wine.  

2012 Pt. VerdotCharlotte: Do you have a favorite wine of the wines you produce?

Beau: I'm really liking the Rosé, but Pt. Verdot and cab franc currently in production are amazing. I did some whole cluster and the wines have lower alcohol and great savory flavors.

Charlotte: Do you use and new barrels or oak on your wines?

Beau: No new oak. I have to make wines I am comfortable with. I don’t like oak with grapes I produce. Wine should taste like fruit. 

Charlotte: In 10 years from now, where do you see yourself?

Beau: Being a full time winemaker. I would love to make enough wine to support my family and pay all the bills. If it doesn’t happen though its ok but I hope it does.

As someone who recently tasting Beau's Tempranillo and Pt Verdot, I am super impressed! I truly love these wines and you can tell Beau really lets the fruit speak for itself. The wines are complex but balanced and great with food or just by themselves.

To contact Beau and to purchase his fantastic wines visit Random Wine Co's website or connect with Beau on Twitter and Facebook.  


Charlotte Chipperfield

Being Re-Introduced to Robert Mondavi Wines

Ok, I'm calling myself out - I've been a wine snob. I know I know, it goes against all of The Wine Key's principles and don't get me wrong, I've always respected Robert Mondavi for his pioneering principles which helped to put Napa Valley and fellow winemakers on an international stage. But throughout the most recent decade, you will have not seen me drinking a bottle bearing his name. (Unless of course it had a vintage from the 1970's on the label).

That was until last week when I was invited to an intimate tasting with winemaker Nova Cadamatre at The Workshop in San Francisco. This small and intimate event was fantastic and you know what, so were the wines. It was a true pleasure to taste through the 2010 vintage and pre-view the 2013. 

Upon arrival, there was a tasting of three Fumé Blancs, one of which was the 2012 Reserve Fumé Blanc ($50) which was very balanced in it's subtle flavors and rich textures. I highly recommend this wine for the remaining weeks of Summer and pairs great with any seafood or appetizers. 

Once seated for our red tasting, Nova Cadamatre, one of the three winemakers at Robert Mondavi, walked us through tasting the: 

  • 2010 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($28)
  • 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve from the To Kalon vineyard ($135)
  • 2010 Oakville District Cabernet Sauvignon as from the To Kalon vineyard ($45)

I was impressed with all of the wines in that they didn't hit my over the head with their power but yet were rather complex in all of their flavor profiles and structure. There was some discussion of the alcohol content as the Cabs are close to 15% which is on the higher side, however, I think that is part of what makes a Napa Valley Cabernet distinctive. I believe that as long as the wine can remain in balance with it's fruit flavors, non-fruit flavors and structure without the alcohol smacking you in the face, then not only has a great wine been produced but proves that a "higher" alcohol wine can executed well with the rest of them. 

With Winemaker Nova CadamatreLastly, Nova poured a few samples of their 2013 vintage which are coming along nicely. It was definitely much younger and still tight in structure but the overall quality again shined through. It is clear with Nova's background and company culture left behind from the great Robert Mondavi, that high quality winemaking remains a top objective and just because they make more cases than the average winery, have tour buses rolling up on the daily with visitors from around the world, doesn't mean that quality has been compromised. 

I am grateful for this opportunity to have been re-introduced to Robert Mondavi wines which served as a lesson not only to myself, but served as a reminder that snobbery serves no purpose when it comes to wine and that the founding principles of both Robert Mondavi and The Wine Key remain true. 

Have you tried Robert Mondavi wines lately? If so, I would love to hear your opinions. Please share below in the comments or on Facebook, Twitter of Google +


Charlotte Chipperfield