Going Straight To My Head

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Cool Wine Sites | Leave a comment


Psst…Did you see it?


GrapeSmart (and, specifically, yours truly), was just featured in The Tasting Panel magazine’s November 2011 edition!


But enough about me. Let’s talk about me!


Well. Why don’t I just let you read for yourself

Cheers to GrapeSmart!
Psst…Did you see it?

GrapeSmart (and, specifically, yours truly), was just featured in The Tasting Panel magazine’s November 2011 edition!

But enough about me. Let’s talk about me!

Well. Why don’t I just let you read for yourself…

Win $2010 in OXO Products!

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Cool Wine Sites | Leave a comment

Join TastingTable.com

Here at GrapeSmart we’re BIG fans of the email newsletter Tasting Table. Always up to date and interesting, we get the latest food & wine news both for Los Angeles and at a national level. They have lots of other cities/metro areas, too.

We frequently ask you to sign up because we KNOW you’ll love it, too. Now they’re incentivizing you further! Sign up for their FREE newsletter and you’ll be entered to win $2010 worth of OXO products! (By the way, we’re also huge fans of OXO products.)

Don’t know what OXO is? They’re ergnomically designed kitchen tools like spatulas, garlic presses, measuring cups, etc. You name it, they make it, and they almost always make it better than everyone else.

Now, how much more incentive could you possibly need? GO! SIGN UP NOW!

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Learn About Wine – Les Chateaux des Bordeaux

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Arianna's Wine Tasting Notes, Cool Wine Sites | 4 Comments

Wine bars are all the rage right now. In fact, here in Los Angeles it almost seems like we’ve got about as many new enotecas as marijuana dispensaries. Trust me, that’s a lot of vino.

While I’ve been loving this trend, I have also really noticed that there is a distinct lack of wine education offered by these establishments. It’s rare to find a place that hosts classes or opportunities to learn about what they have on the menu and why. Often the waiters are kind and helpful and exuberant, but they can’t really offer a breakdown of what went into the bottle – and how one can get the most out of it.

To fill that void, Los Angeles is lucky to have Ian Blackburn leading us from the levels of oeno-ignorance to aficionado. Through his company, Learn About Wine, he offers everything from Intro to Wine classes; to Wine, Cheese and Chocolate Pairings; to credential programs for consumers and professionals.

Ian also organizes grand tasting events which gather the best of the bunch across a wide array of categories. Often, the actual vintners are present to discuss their product and, without condescension, answer all questions. Everyone – novice and expert alike – leave having learned something.

On Wednesday, January 27th, Ian is partnering with Wally’s Wines and Spirits to offer a tasting of hundreds of Bordeaux’s best wines. Most of the actual Chateau owners are turning out for this Union des Grand Crus de Bordeaux event, and will be pouring and discussing their own.

When was the last time you got that at a wine bar?

At $49 per ticket, this tasting is actually a fraction of the price of a single bottle of Grand Cru! Tickets are still available, and I encourage you to come out and enjoy this experience.

Our Bordeaux knowledge went from 0-60 at the BevMo! tasting that featured 100 Bordeaux wines and it helped us better understand French wine, winemaking, and red blends from around the world. We highly recommend these types of events in general, but this one will be special.

If you’re ready to learn about wine, Ian Blackburn’s Learn About Wine events are the way to go. And if you’re going to go, the Union des Grand Crus tasting is a great place to start.

Register today to get your spot!

Find a Wine Like Mine

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Cool Wine Sites | 1 Comment

Here’s an interesting exercise I was asked to do by one of our twitter followers (@LibArtsAndMinds): “@grapesmart Oh, do I need your help!Had Willow Heights Chard,’99 the other night. Divine doesn’t begin to describe.Can u think of 1 similar?”

Here’s my experience and thought process in trying to help her find another wine like the one she tried and loved.

My first thought was, “Wow, you had a Chardonnay from 1999? I wonder what that was like!” Next came, “How can I possibly answer this question? I’ve never had this wine.” Then the part of me that comes to life in the face of a good challenge lit up like a firecracker and I started searching.

The first order of business was to accurately identify the wine we’re trying to match. This was an easy, but curious challenge. With the information I had, the 99 seemed like a vintage, but I couldn’t find a Chardonnay from 1999 that also bore the name Willow Heights. I located a candidate called No.99 Wayne Gretzky Estates Chardonnay which CellarTracker thinks is somehow related to the Willow Heights Estate Winery.

Regardless, both wineries are located in the Niagara-Escarpment appellation of Ontario, Canada… an area I’m personally quite familiar with! My husband hails from the area and we visit a couple of times a year. Haven’t actually made it out to Niagara yet, but I’ve sampled many Ontario wines and had the pleasure of buying wine at the LCBO.

Note: It’s pretty likely that @LibArtsAndMinds hails from Ontario and she has to buy her wine through the LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario). They’re constantly changing their stock, subbing in some new wine for an older one, and they heavily prioritize Ontario wines. Odds are good a staff member at the LCBO headquarters could help her locate something similar. If she had it at a restaurant, it would be worth talking to the person who buys the wine for the restaurant and seeing what could be done. Lastly, contacting the winery directly to see if they have any more stashed away somewhere would be the easiest way to get more.

It turns out what she was really looking for is “Reserve 1999 Willow Heights Stefanik Vineyard” Chardonnay. As I alluded to earlier, searching for a 10-year old white wine is a bit of a challenge so the possibility of finding a hidden bottle of the exact wine is slim-to-none. My next choices would be two related groups of wines… 1) Other 1999 Chardonnays from the Niagara Escarpment 2) Newer Chardonnays from Willow Heights Stefanik Vineyard.

Here are some of those wines that I was able to locate online:

  1. LCBO: 2006 Willow Heights Chardonnay Reserve
  2. Catalpana (restaurant in Toront0) has several older Willow Heights Chardonnays on their wine list
  3. Winery to Home had some useful information (confirmed the winery is now owned by Wayne Gretzky)

There are a couple more ways to go in searching for a wine to recreate the experience, but it seems like they would be the least reliable and most tedious methods… 1) Trying to get my hands on the original tasting notes for this wine and then trying to find other Chardonnays (especially from the Niagara Escarpment) that have the same or very similar tasting notes. 2) Looking for other wines produced from the grapes at Stefanik Vineyard. Since Willow Heights is an Estate Winery, I’m not sure I’d have any luck finding other wines sourced from Stefanik Vineyard grapes.

At the end of the day, we’ve ALL had this experience… we fell in love with some obscure bottle of wine and we won’t be able to find another. Here are my platitudes to help you cope:

1) Enjoy every sip while you can
2) Remember and appreciate the once-in-a-lifetime experience
3) Keep drinking! More gems are waiting for you!

Local Wine Events – Just like it sounds

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Cool Wine Sites | Comments Off on Local Wine Events – Just like it sounds

Thanks to Facebook's targeted advertising, I discovered a great new site today: Local Wine Events.com

They caught me with their newsletter called “Juice.” Their newsletter is basically a notification service of events in your area (or up 10 additional areas you're interested in). I signed up for Los Angeles, San Diego, Central Coast, Sonoma, Napa, and a few others. I'm excited to start receiving them because I never remember to look for wine events, and now they'll come right to me!

They also have wine, food, spirits, and beer events around the world. You can post your events, too. Ah, to host my own wine event some day.