Summer Grillin’ and Sippin’

It’s grill season! Summertime wine pairings are some of my absolute favorites, but it’s not all about the protein. The spices and sauces are the stars of my wine pairing show. I have chosen five popular grilling spices to highlight for your summertime grilling needs.

Jamaican Jerk: the heat of Jamaican Jerk spices beg for a touch of sweetness in a wine, such as an off dry Riesling, Chenin Blanc, or even a Moscatel.

Bacon Molasses: Bacon Molasses spice rubs and sauces are a tasteful twist on traditional barbecue flavors. The smoky yet salty qualities of the bacon combined with the subtle sweetness of molasses makes this a fabulous pairing for a variety of wines, such as Pinotage and Spanish red blends.

Mesquite: Mesquite gives your meat a lovely smoky flavor, and a tried and true pairing is “smoke with oak”. A fruity, jammy Zinfandel has the perfect balance of oak and jammy red fruit that is sure to please the palate when paired with grilled Mesquite flavors.

Kansas City BBQ: Many California red blends  are crafted with BBQ in mind, and Kansas City BBQ sauce provides the ideal combination of tang, sweetness, smoke, and acidity to express exactly what these blends were meant for.

Chipotle: Both a softly oaked Chardonnay and a crisp, refreshing unoaked Chardonnay will compliment the zesty spice of chipotle. Prefer a red? Opt for a juicy red wine with softer tannins, such as Merlot.  

Wine and grilling spices

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Halloween Candy and Wine Pairings Unwrapped

When it comes to Halloween candy and wine pairings, the traditional rules of pairing don’t always apply. To be absolutely sure I was suggesting favorable pairings, I took it upon myself to gather a handful of friends, a metric ton of Halloween candy, and about a dozen different wines—and we went to town. There were some delightful surprises!

Research… it’s so hard.

Pairing Chardonnay, for example, yielded unexpected results. Typically, very sweet foods do not pair well with a dry white wine like Chardonnay. While I did find this tenet to be true for super-sweet candy like candy corn (which left a bitter taste), it was not true for two beloved Halloween staples, Almond Joy and Mounds. The coconut completely dominated the sugar and the chocolate, and matched beautifully with Chardonnay! I enjoyed the dark chocolate of the Mounds slightly better than the milk chocolate of Almond Joy, but I found both to be very pleasing pairings! As a runner-up, Butterfinger was delightful with Chardonnay—and what is Halloween without Butterfinger?

Off-dry whites are somewhat easier to pair with candy because they have detectable residual sugar and won’t clash with the sweetness of the candy. Off-dry Riesling was a big hit with fruit-flavored candy, including Starburst and Twizzlers.

Red wines are notoriously delicious with dark chocolate—and often milk chocolate. But, I wanted to dig deep and find those matches that would absolutely wow your palate. (It’s a tough job, but someone had to do it!)

Where are our Reese’s lovers? Pinotage was absolutely amazing with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups! This is one of those pairings that will make you stop and savor every delicious second. As honorable mentions, we found that Pinotage was also very pleasing with Coffee Nut M&M’s, Good & Plenty and black licorice.

Smooth and refreshing Junior Mints and York Peppermint Patties were equally wonderful with Cabernet, so I recommend a Cabernet-dominant red blend. Cabernet often displays notes of eucalyptus and even sometimes mint, which makes it perfect for peppermint and dark chocolate.

Spanish Spice! Good & Plenty and black licorice will be home run with Tempranillo/ Garnacha —a beautiful way to extract the notes of anise in these complex yet approachable Spanish blends.

Italian red paired nicely with quite a few selections of the chocolate persuasion! I recommend Montepulciano with Twix, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Coffee Nut M&M’s, and Hershey’s milk chocolate.

Let’s talk M&M’s. These days they offer every flavor you can imagine! I was curious to find which wine would pair fabulously with the original plain chocolate M&M’s and dark chocolate M&M’s. The winner was a smooth fruit-forward red. Try a Côtes du Rhône, which will pair well with the simplicity of the plain or dark chocolate M&M’s.

Last, but not least, I wanted to find some perfect matches for our serious sweet tooths out there! A fun and fizzy Lambrusco was a delight to match the sugary kick of Skittles, Twizzlers, Hershey’s milk chocolate, and plain and dark chocolate M&M’s!

Whether you’re strategically planning a Halloween candy and wine tasting party, or raiding the kids’ Halloween candy, there are plenty of wines that will make your moment of indulgence that much sweeter.


The Wine Lab – North Andover, MA

Scrolling through Facebook one day, I saw that a new wine bar had opened up in North Andover, which is about an hour north of me and a town I drive through all the time when I commute to work at the Traveling Vineyard corporate office. It looked like a pretty cool concept… an urban style winery that sources grapes from various places, then vinifies and bottles under their own name, The Wine Lab. I was really excited to check it out, so one beautiful fall afternoon this past weekend I took a ride up to North Andover, met up with a great friend, and got to see what The Wine Lab is all about.

The Wine Lab is located in a beautiful historic mill building that appears to be a thriving spot for local businesses. It’s a gorgeous rustic-meets-modern space with high ceilings and a large bar in the center, surrounded by many high top tables, and a cozy living room-like space with leather chairs and coffee tables. Immediately upon entering, I knew this was a place I could see myself spending many an evening with great friends.

But What About The Wine?


I decided to order one of the wine flights on the menu called the Devil Flight. This flight consisted of three reds, then your choice of whichever wine you wanted for the fourth. I chose the Chardonnay as my fourth wine, and the three reds that came in the flight were a Pinot Noir, a Cabernet Sauvignon, and a Malbec. They arrived in little test tubes, a quirky and fun way to present a flight in a place that calls itself a lab, accompanied by a large empty glass for tasting. Love the creative presentation!


They served them in what I thought was a strange order to serve wine in: Cab Sauv, Pinot Noir, Malbec, then Chardonnay. Naturally, I tasted them in what I believe to be a more proper order and began with the Chardonnay.

Summer Day Chardonnay was a nice basic Chardonnay. No signs of significant oak, a medium weight with good acidity. The grapes are sourced from California, and the winemaking didn’t seem to be anything special. A decent, crisp white wine that would pair lovely with a variety of foods and satisfy most white wine drinkers.

I then poured the Red Dragon Pinot Noir into my glass. These grapes are sourced from Lodi, CA and displayed a bright ruby red in the glass. The texture was super smooth with very light tannins, and this wine showed a bit of tart fruit, including cranberry, pomegranate, dried strawberry, and red raspberry. It was a bit more floral than I would expect from a Pinot Noir, and more fruity than earthy or rustic. It was a nice easy drinker that would pair with a variety of lighter foods.

Next, I tried the She Drank It All Cabernet Sauvignon, also sourced from Lodi, CA. The color was almost identical to the Pinot Noir, which I found peculiar, but the flavor and texture was even more odd. Dare I say, this Cab was even lighter in flavor and body than the Pinot Noir. I’m not sure how that can even happen, especially grown in an AVA such as Lodi where you would expect much more deep fruit and heavier tannins. This wine was incredibly floral, something else I wouldn’t expect from a Cab. This showed extremely light fruit, very light tannin, little to no oak, and notes of red plum. Missing was any herbal or eucalyptus notes I’d expect from a Cab, and certainly no deep, dark fruits. It was interesting, to say the least.

Finally, I tried the Smooth Criminal Malbec, also sourced from Lodi, CA. This was my favorite of the flight. The most tannic and structured of the reds, it was still quite smooth and soft. This had deeper fruit, although still more red fruit notes than black fruit, and almost had a bubble gum character to it you’d find in a wine that has undergone carbonic or semi-carbonic maceration.

Light Bites

We decided to split a couple of light bites, so we ordered the Antipasto Skewers and the Deconstructed Beets and Buratta. These plates were fantastic! I ordered a glass of Smooth Criminal Malbec to sip on while we snacked, and it was a perfect compliment to both appetizers.

The Wine Lab is a fabulous place to visit, and I hope it thrives for years to come. The atmosphere is welcoming and spacious, the service is top notch, and the food is incredible. I personally found the wine to be average, but certainly enjoyable. I will most definitely return in the future to enjoy more Malbec and experience more options on their menu.

Tour de France – French Wine Review

Within this past year, I became a Certified French Wine Scholar with the Wine Scholar Guild. I have always had an enormous appreciation for French viticulture and viniculture, so being able to immerse myself in studying these topics intensely was a dream come true. As much love as I had prior to my certification course, my passion for French wine has increased exponentially, and it was a thrilling ride to be able to curate and review the French wine selections for Boston Wine School‘s September 2018 Flash Sale. This tour of France is a wonderful and exciting way to understand and taste terroir in your glass, seeing the differences and nuances of various popular French wine regions, and even the differences between sub-regions!

Each of these wines are what I consider to be “food wines”. The French have mastered the art of food and wine pairing for daily enjoyment. I urge you to decant your bottle of choice and let it breathe while you prepare a delicious meal, or perhaps even a charcuterie board of meat, cheeses, nuts, olives, and dark chocolate. By the end of your food preparation, your wine should be ready to be thoroughly enjoyed as a condiment to your food of choice. Cheers!