October 2011


Halloween has snuck up on alot of people, including myself.  This is a generalization, but sometimes Americans love to find any type of holiday, like a Friday, to drink wine (think #champagne day today, October 28th, 2011).

I went in seach of some spooky Halloween wines – not so much wine to pair with Halloween food, like candy corn or peanut butter cups, but just to darn drink and have some fun with.

The following are the top 10 Halloween wines (in my humble opinion):

  • The Velvet Devil Merlot


A Washington State Merlot brought to us by Charles Smith Wines. Another great winemaker note: “Milk Chocolate, wild blackberry, baking spice, rose oil…beautifully perfumed Washington in a glass.

  • Ed Hardy Sangria
    A Spanish Sangria bursting with the sun drenched flavors of hot Spanish summer.
  • Black Cat Riesling
    Great elegance and finesse which have a pronounced and racy fruitiness, with hints of apple and peach.
  • Spanish Demon Tempranillo
    Soft and delicious, offering a mouthful of crisp black fruit and tons if style.
  • Bogle Phantom

To die for!  Bogle releases this wine once a year in the fall.  For me, I stick a straw in it and drink, and I’m done!  Brighter flavors of blackberries and blueberries glance off the palate. From the shadows, toasty cinnamon and nutmeg emerge, subtly embracing the deeply luscious and succulent fruit to create a full-bodied, ruby rich wine.

  • Trick or Treat – a World Market Exclusive
    One is red, one is white.  $7.99, what can I say?
  • Seven Deadly Zins

A blend of Zinfandel, Petitie Sirah and Petit Verdot from Lodi, this wine is loaded with berry fruit, pepper, spice, and earth characteristics.

  • Poizen Zinfandel
    The nose is fruit driven with fresh plum, bing cherry, spicy peppercorn and zinberry. The mouthfeel is soft with a hint of milk chocolate, sweet oak, and a long vanilla finish.
  • Rabid Red
    A red blend – The lion share of the balance consists of Bordeaux varieties: a stylish, cassis-and-tobacco notes.
  • Vampire Merlot


Smooth and medium-bodied with black cherry aroma, and hints of herbal spices.

Well, these are some of my “spooky” picks – please share others that I might have missed!  Happy Halloween!

Extraordinary Women of Spain: Chefs and Winemakers

Two good friends of mine are experts on culinary experiences.  I am so excited to fill you in on an outstanding women’s travel series called the Extraordinary Women of Spain:  Chefs and Winemakers. This travel series is co-created  by Epicopia Culinary Journeys and Epicurean Ways (the two good friends of mine).  There will initially be 5 trips to Spain to savor the culinary aspects of many different regions.  The first tour will be in the Catalonia & Barcelona region which includes visiting a total of no less than 10+ Michelin Star women chefs- all in 8 days!  Talk about some expressive, mind-blowing meals (with fabulous wines to match of course).  Speaking of wine, the winemakers you will meet include world-renowned masters of the craft, as well as passionate owners of small wineries .  Departure is set for June 16 – 24, 2012.

Each itinerary is designed for women, about women. Your Experience Director, Gabriella Ranelli de Aguirre is a recognized leading specialist in the food,
wine, art and architecture of Spain. She is the go-to person for the international press on matters gastronomic.

The travel series will continue to include five eight-night itineraries in Spain before braching out to other countries  and will also feature the women chefs & winemakers in The Levant: Alicante & Valencia offered October 20 – 28, 2012. The 2013
itineraries will include women chefs & winemaker in La Rioja and Basque Country, the region of Galicia, and Madrid: Town and countryside.

According to Harold, a 40 year veteran of the travel industry, “Women Chefs & Winemakers in Catalonia brings you deep into an elite wine and food region with plenty of time to linger, savor, reflect, discover and learn from the extraordinary Catalan women creating food and crafting wine in their own unique way.”

So…I ask:

When was the last time you were inspired? Had the chance to hang out with smart like-minded women and explore a region unfettered by your everyday duties and responsibilities? When was the last time you took the time to indulge your interests in food and wine? Have you ever said to yourself?  Someday I‟m going to get away on my own?  Well it‟s time to make it happen.

My friends mentioned not to delay – the 10 Michelin Star Journey is limited to 15 women.  Contact Harold Partain for Epicopia Culinary Journeys at 972.771.3510 or Toll Free 877.661.3844 or Email: hpartain@epicopia.com.

If you can’t wait to see or hear more before getting in touch with him, here is the link to the fabulous itinerary:  http://tinyurl.com/62bdmcd.  I am salivating as I write!

Peru is on the lips of every top chef in the world right now. With reason, its vibrancy, freshness, and diverse flavors leave us all mesmerized–and wanting more. Peruvian cuisine fused together to become its modern, regional-driven expression during five centuries of Spanish, West African, Japanese and Chinese immigration, along with the native Quechua culture. Due to a lack of ingredients from their home countries, immigrants to Peru modified their traditional cuisines by incorporating local foodstuffs, many of which are not found outside the country. Consider the country’s 84 microclimates, from the Pacific Ocean to Amazon, Desert, and Andes Mountains, and Altiplano, and you can imagine you’re going to have some amazing concoctions.

So what are the anchor ingredients of Peru? The country’s cuisine really relies on a gamut of humble ingredients easily procured in country. Just about everything grows somewhere in Peru: rice, coffee, cocoa beans, (for some seriously sinful dark chocolate!) quinoa, thousands of tubers, tropical fruit, organic vegetables, chilies, grapes for the brandy Pisco, and more. The cuisine’s key ingredients are the floral, piquant Chile called Ají Amarillo (yellow chili), perhaps the soul of Peruvian dishes, along with the tongue-tingling rocoto pepper slivered on ceviche . Think your tongue is made of steel? I dare you to try roasted rocoto stuffed with meat or cheese, typical of the Arequipa region. Traditional staples are corn, either as large kernels, or ground into a paste to make humitas, tamales. Locals eat a kazillion potatoes; with reason, there are over 3,000 varieties in Peru, where the tuber may have originated. There are also heirloom beans, and the Spanish introduced rice, wheat, and meat, all an integral part of the modern diet. Love seafood? You’re in the right neighborhood, the Humboldt Current brings frigid water from the Antarctic with plankton to nurture sea life and meshes with tropical currents coming down from Ecuador. The result? Dozens up dozens of fish, bi-valves ,and crustaceans. Seafood utopia.

However, what truly separates Peruvian food from its other Latin cousins, particularly in the capital of Lima, is the hefty Asian immigration that left a stamp on the country in the late 1800s. The immigrants brought their vision of cooking with stir-frying, dumplings, skewers, raw seafood dishes, sushi rolls with toppings, and fused them with the local ingredients on hand. Peruvian food is a seafood lover’s dream, often prepared raw or “cured” with high acid from key lime juice. For those unfamiliar with Peruvian food, this bridge in the form of the Japanese influence, makes it easy to start exploring. For example, many of the best-loved national dishes like tiraditos (slices of raw fish, dressed in sweet-and-sour sauces, sound like dressed up sashimi?) are reminiscent of Japanese dishes–with a twist. Remember, Nobu got all his ideas for his restaurant in Peru!

Overall though, Peru is a nation of foodies from humble huariques (joints) to ceviche stalls, top restaurants, and even celebrating with the deceased on Day of the Dead in cemeteries country-wide. They love food. They see it as a fundamental part of their national identity, regional pride, and a common denominator that all share. I want to share with you five dishes that you MUST try when you venture out into one of the local Peruvian restaurants opening across US cities from San Francisco to New York, Houston, Boston, Miami, and beyond. Be sure to order up a frothy, zippy Pisco Sour. I can tell you from experience, be careful, the effects don’t hit you until the end of the second one!

Liz Caskey – guest blogger