Simply Charmed Magnetic Wine Charm Giveaway!

*** I received this wine as a sample. ***

Simply Charmed magnetic wine charm set review & giveaway - These magnetic wine charms are a fun way to help with glass identification when you’re entertaining or if you’re just feeling festive and want to fancy-up your wine glass. | AGlassAfterWork.com

Simply Charmed magnetic wine charm set review & giveaway – These magnetic wine charms are a fun way to help with glass identification when you’re entertaining or if you’re just feeling festive and want to fancy-up your wine glass. | AGlassAfterWork.com

"His & Hers" set of 12 Simply Charmed magnetic wine charms ($28)

“His & Hers” set of 12 Simply Charmed magnetic wine charms

A Pumpkin from "Tom Turkey" Simply Charmed set

A Pumpkin from “Tom Turkey” Simply Charmed set

I love entertaining. That’s probably not surprising considering how much I love wine and food, but there are few things I enjoy as much as having friends over, opening up wine, and serving all sorts of goodies to go with it. Admittedly, it was hard to do when Hubby and I were living in the condo because we just didn’t have the space. Usually my entertaining there was in the common area lounge with other people who lived in the building, and those were potluck…everyone brought a food dish, at least one bottle of wine, and a wine glass. Get-togethers in the new house have been slower to materialize because we’re still without a dining room table, but thankfully, some outdoor and living room furniture haven’t completely stopped us. And, let’s be honest, most of the time, everyone stands around the island in the kitchen anyway.

With more entertaining happening these days, I was very excited when Simply Charmed reached out to see if I would be interested in trying their magnetic wine charms. I love my friends and family, but wine glass mix-ups aren’t ideal. Plus, I liked the idea of an attractive and easy way to make each person’s glass identifiable. We often use stemless (flexible and BPA-free polymer) GoVino glasses on the back patio, which means the charms that go around the stem just don’t work.

A close-up of how the Simply Charmed magnetic wine charms sit on the glass

A close-up of how the Simply Charmed magnetic wine charms sit on the glass

Instead of adhering to the glass, Simply Charmed uses magnets—one is attached to the charm and the other is placed inside the glass. The magnets are strong and won’t come off until they’re pulled on. They have no impact on the wine, and vice versa.

I’ve been trying out the “Tom Turkey” set on my regular wine glasses, GoVino glasses, and beer mugs…and I’m a fan. You can expect to see these charms popping up in pictures from now on. In fact, I actually took advantage of this weekend’s 20% off cyber deal to order the “Holiday Cheer” set for myself, as well as “High Heels – Stepping Out in Style” and the “Wedding” set for wine drinking friends.

"Tom Turkey" set of 6 Simply Charmed magnetic wine charms ($16)

“Tom Turkey” set of 6 Simply Charmed magnetic wine charms

As an added bonus, if you’re looking to support small businesses, Simply Charmed is a small, family run business. Leann and her husband, Kevin, run the company, while their two teenaged daughters help with graphic design and making the charms themselves.

Simply Charmed sent me two sets—one to try and another to give away. I’m keeping the “Tom Turkey” set, but I’m giving away the “His & Hers” set, which has 12 charms and is a $28 value.

There are several different ways to enter the contest, which is open until 11pm on December 4th. Within 48 hours of the contest ending, I will choose a winner at random, post their name in the comment section, and send an email to make sure I have all the necessary contact information to get the Simply Charmed set in the mail.

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Received as a sample.

WBC16 Pre-Conference (Part 4): Wente Vineyards & The Winemakers Studio

The Winemakers Studio at Wente Vineyards – An interactive space at Wente Vineyards in California that allows visitors to take different classes focused on grape-growing, winemaking, and wine tasting activities. The offerings are seasonally inspired and change throughout the year. Cheers! | AGlassAfterWork.com

The Winemakers Studio at Wente Vineyards – An interactive space at Wente Vineyards in California that allows visitors to take different classes focused on grape-growing, winemaking, and wine tasting activities. The offerings are seasonally inspired and change throughout the year. Cheers! | AGlassAfterWork.com

Wente Vineyards

Wente Vineyards

After leaving Murrieta’s Well, our group headed to Wente Vineyards proper. The Wente family started their vineyard on this property in 1883 with 47 acres. Since then, they went on to create the first California varietal wine label—a Sauvignon Blanc–and are recognized as the oldest continuously operating, family-owned winery in California.

The Winemakers Studio at Wente Vineyards

The Winemakers Studio at Wente Vineyards

In addition to the tasting room and winery tours that most vineyards offer, Wente Vineyards also has The Winemakers Studio, which is an interactive space that allows visitors to take different classes focused on grape-growing, winemaking, and wine tasting activities. The offerings are seasonally inspired, so they do change throughout the year.

Our blogging group didn’t have enough time to do the full version of the current class offerings. Instead, we did mini versions of 4 of the sessions—the Black Glass Blind Tasting, the Wine Aroma Discovery, Size & Shape Matters, and the Wine & Food Pairing.

The Winemakers Studio Double Blind Tasting

The Winemakers Studio Double Blind Tasting

Black Glass Blind Tasting
Duration: 60 minutes
Price: $35
This session is a double blind tasting, which means that not only do you not know what the wine is before you taste it, but also you can’t even see what you’re drinking. Instead, you have to use smell and taste to determine what wine is in the glass. While it may seem easy to differentiate between a red and a white wine, what happens if a rosé is thrown into the mix? Or a sweet wine?

The first wine in our double blind tasting had lots of tropical fruit characteristics, particularly guava and mango, mixed with some pineapple and grapefruit. I also thought that I detected a hint of flowers on the nose. It had medium acidity and alcohol with a light-to-medium body. I really liked the wine and was pleasantly surprised because the slightly floral aspects made me think it was a Viognier, and I don’t tend to like Viognier. It turns out, though, that I was completely wrong. The wine was Sauvignon Blanc–2015 1846 Wines Ghielmetti Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc (SRP $24). Maybe that explains why I liked it so much?

The second wine had dark fruits, chocolate, and olive characteristics. I also thought there was a hint of flowers, maybe violets. The wine had medium acidity, medium-to-full body, and medium-to-strong tannins. The floral notes let me astray again. I guessed that the wine was a Cabernet Franc (as did everyone else in the room except for one person). The wine ended up being a Cabernet Sauvignon–2013 Nottingham Cellars Livermore Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (SRP $60).

The whole experience was a lot of fun. While there were certain characteristics that we all picked up, there were others that made us each think differently about the wines. That said, we all really liked the wines we tasted, so I think the important take away is that while we each had different tasting notes, we all liked drinking the wine!

The Winemakers Studio Aromas

The Winemakers Studio Wine Aromas Discovery

Wine Aroma Discovery
Duration: 90-120 minutes
Price: $55
This session was fun and very challenging. At the end of the table, there were three vials from a wine tasting aroma kit that we were supposed to identify. To help with that identification, all around the table there were glasses filled with objects that are often used to describe wine characteristics—chalk, coffee, stones, grapefruit, nutmeg, etc.—and we were supposed to sniff the objects to help us isolate those specific aromas.

I was able to identify two of the three vials, but more than anything, what I enjoyed about this session was the ability to really spend time focusing on the characteristics of each object. It reminded me of when I was studying for my wine exams and how I would constantly be sniffing things in our spice rack or buying strange food to really get used to identifying the unique characteristic of each smell and taste. Sticking your nose in a glass full of chalk really gives a sense of what a wine with chalk characteristics would smell like.

My biggest takeaway from the session was that while I did ok with my identifications, it’s time for me to go back to my basics for a refresher.

The Winemakers Studio Size and Shape Matters

The Winemakers Studio Size and Shape Matters

Size & Shape Matters
Duration: 60 minutes
Price $35

I will say upfront that this session made the biggest impression on me. The purpose was to determine if the size, shape, and overall construction of a wine glass really impacts how a wine smells and tastes. There were four glasses on the table in front of us—a generic restaurant-type glass, a Chardonnay glass, a Pinot Noir glass, and a Bordeaux glass.

Let me start by saying that I went into this experiment thinking that while there might be a touch of a difference, it would be minimal. I was under the impression that unless the wine drinker was very sophisticated that the difference in glasses would be negligible. I was very wrong…

There is a caveat, though. I think the differences between the Chardonnay, the Pinot Noir, and the Bordeaux glasses were negligible. Not that there wasn’t a difference. There was. And, I can see how using the glass that is made for the specific wine can be the difference between enjoyment and making the wine sing, but I think that a well made set of Bordeaux glasses can do the job (and I intend to invest in my own set).

The big difference really occurred between the generic restaurant-type glass and the fancy glasses. Holy cow! The generic glass swallowed all of the aromas. It left me with the impression that the wine were tasted had very little to offer and that, honestly, it wasn’t very good. It was a wine that I would give 2.5 or 3 corks. That same wine in the Chardonnay glass was complex and wonderful. It was a wine that I would give 4.5 corks. For a glass to make that much of difference in the same wine floored me. It’s an experiment I think every wine lover should do.

The Winemakers Studio Food and Wine Pairing

The Winemakers Studio Food and Wine Pairing

Wine & Food Pairing
I don’t see this particular session on the website, although there is a 60-90 minute wine & cheese session for $55 and a wine and chocolate pairing session for $15. The food in our session was delicious, and it paired nicely with both the 2014 and 2015 Cuda Ridge Wines Semillon. In fact, as sometimes happens with good pairings, the food significantly improved both of the wines. All that said, I felt like this session was the least interesting of the four. I’d rather do a wine pairing dinner at a nice restaurant and spend the money to do one of the other more unique sessions at the Winemakers Studio.

Question of the Day: What are your thoughts on the impact of wine glasses on how a wine tastes? Do you have fancy wine glasses for different types of wine? If you do, do you use them?

WBC16 Pre-Conference (Part 2): Concannon Vineyards & Wente Vineyards

Pictures and details of my visit to Concannon Vineyards in the Livermore Valley Country in California.

Pictures and details of my visit to Concannon Vineyards in the Livermore Valley Country in California.

Wine bloggers mingling and sipping on the Concannon Vineyard Assemblage Blanc

Wine bloggers mingling and sipping on the Concannon Vineyard Assemblage Blanc

The first evening of the Wine Bloggers’ Conference excursion to the Livermore Valley Wine Country was spent at Concannon Vineyards, where we started off the evening with a glass of wine and appetizers while mingling near the vineyards. After about 15 minutes of settling into the evening, we were privileged enough to spend some quality time with John Concannon and Karl Wente–the current winemakers for their respective wineries. Before dinner, both Mr. Concannon and Mr. Wente each talked to the group about their vineyards, giving us an overview of the history of both families and the influence they had on California winemaking, in general, and the Livermore Valley wine region, in particular.

Both Concannon Vineyards and Wente Vineyards were founded over 130 years ago and have been continuously family-operated wineries since then.   Both wineries are now sustainably farmed, ultimately mixing both traditional and innovative farming and winemaking practices. In particular, California’s drought and how both wineries are looking at different techniques to deal with issue remained a constant undercurrent as the winemakers talked about their vineyards.

John Concannon in front of the "Mother Vine"

John Concannon in front of the “Mother Vine”

John Concannon is the fourth generation vintner of Concannon Vineyard. He was raised on the winery estate in the house his great-grandfather built. I actually had the opportunity to sit next to Mr. Concannon during dinner, where we talked a lot about how to create and attract the next generation of wine lover. The opening of the Underdog Wine Bar, which overlooks the vineyards, is one of the latest changes Concannon Vineyard has made to try and do just that. Mr. Concannon also talked about his daughter, who is currently in college, and how he’s excited and proud that Concannon Vineyards will eventually be spearheaded by a woman vintner.

John Concannon and Karl Wente talking to the group

John Concannon and Karl Wente talking to the group

Karl Wente is the fifth generation winegrower and winemaker at Wente Vineyards. While Karl grew up working at the winery, he actually chose to gain experiences at a couple of other wineries—one in Sonoma and one in Australia—before permanently joining Wente Vineyards in 2002. Mr. Wente and I only had a chance to chat briefly over dessert, but I learned two important things: first, that while the main winery is a larger-scale production, his personal interest is really for the more artisanal small lot wines made at the winery; and second, that his passion for music is a close second to his passion for wine, so he performs regularly in a band.

After getting a background of both vineyards and families, we walked to the historic Concannon Margaux Heritage Vineyard. The vineyard is the site of the “Mother Vine,” the unaltered Cabernet Sauvignon vine that James Concannon brought from the renowned Château Margaux in Bordeaux over 130 years ago and serves as the base for more than estimated 80% of California’s Cabernet Sauvignon clones.

…and then it was dinner time.

Our dinner and the Concannon Vineyard Assemblage Blanc

Our dinner and the 2014 Concannon Vineyard Assemblage Blanc

Unfortunately, I don’t have bottle pictures of most of the wines that we tasted, but they were the:

2014 Concannon Vineyard Assemblage Blanc (SRP $24)
2015 Wente Vineyards Morning Fog Chardonnay (SRP $15)
2013 Concannon Vineyard Mother Vine Cabernet Sauvignon (I think this is only available to wine club members, and I’m not sure about the price)
2014 Wente Vineyards Nth Degree Chardonnay (SRP $68)
2013 Concannon Vineyard Late Harvest Semillion-Sauvignon Blanc (SRP $25)

We finished the evening with a barrel tasting of a limited wine that Mr. Concannon is making in honor of his father, Jim Concannon.

Special Concannon Vineyard barrel tasting

Concannon Vineyard barrel tasting

I didn’t end up taking tasting notes during dinner because I was too caught up in the conversation with Mr. Concannon. Both Concannon Vineyards Mother Vine Cabernet and the Wente Vineyards Nth Degree Chardonnay made a particularly strong impression on me. I went back for seconds of both wines at the time.

All in all, I really enjoyed spending time with both winemakers, and I thought that Concannon Vineyard was gorgeous. I was a fan of the wine we tasted and will make sure to revisit the vineyard when I get a chance to go back to Livermore Valley (sipping wine and snacking at the Underdog would be the perfect way to spend an afternoon!). And, if I’m being honest, I’m surprised at myself for never having had a Concannon wine before. I would like to pick-up my own bottles of everything that was poured during dinner, so I can revisit and really taste them.

Sunset over Concannon Vineyards

Sunset over Concannon Vineyard

Many thanks to the folks at Livermore Valley Wine Country, Concannon Vineyard, and Wente Vineyards for a spectacular evening. I learned a lot, soaked in the beautiful view, and loved all of the wines. I couldn’t have asked for a better, more intimate evening with my fellow bloggers and the winemakers.

Question of the Day: Have you ever had a Concannon Vineyards or Wente Vineyards wine?  What did you think?  Do you have a favorite?

 

10 Takeaways from the 2016 Wine Bloggers Conference in Livermore Valley & Lodi

Tools of the wine blogging trade

Tools of the wine blogging trade

The Wine Bloggers’ Conferences are always a whirlwind, and this year’s conference was no exception.  It was a packed 5 days in the Livermore Valley and Lodi wine country with other wine nerds who love sharing what they’re eating and drinking just as much as (if not more than) I do. Every year, I come home from the WBC re-energized and chock-full of ideas, which is why this year was my 5th conference. So, to get things started, here are my top 10 takeaways from WBC16:

10.  I’m no longer 23 years old, so 5 hours or less of sleep for 5 days in a row means heading home feeling run down and with a cold; I’m admittedly a little disappointed in myself.

Livermore Valley Windmills

Livermore Valley Windmills

9.  Livermore Valley is not only home to some beautiful vineyards, but some impressive windmill farms; my pictures from the bus don’t do it justice, but I’ve never seen anything like it.

8.  There are over 100,000 acres of wine grapes planted in Lodi, and 7 Deadly Zins are what people know best; because that was my impression of the area, I rarely drink Lodi wine at home, and I assume that is why I have a devil of a time finding it in DC wine stores and restaurants…all of that needs to change.

7.  Michael David Winery survived prohibition by continuing to grow grapes, but instead of making wine from those grapes, they were shipped with instructions on how NOT to ferment them.

Lodi Native Project Zinfandel lineup

Lodi Native Project Zinfandel lineup

6.  The Lodi Native Project Zinfandels were some of my favorite wines during the conference, and the work these winegrowers and winemakers are doing is very impressive; the project is a collaborative project by 6 Lodi winegrowers (although there will be more for the 2015 vintage) that not only highlights the region’s heritage Zinfandel vines, but also requires the wines to be produced through sensible farming and minimalist winemaking practice protocols.

2014 Concannon Vineyard Assemblage Blanc at the vineyard

2014 Concannon Vineyard Assemblage Blanc at the vineyard

5.  People should start looking to Livermore Valley Wine Country for fun, elegant wines; whether it was the large producers like Concannon Vineyards and Wente Vineyards or smaller producers like Vasco Urbano Wine Company and Page Mill Winery, there is a lot of quality wine in all price ranges to be found in the area…so, drink up (or don’t because it means there will be more for me).

4.  The Livermore Valley Wine Country is closer to the San Francisco airport than Napa/Sonoma, and Lodi is only a little further away from San Fran than Napa/Sonoma, so there is no reason why both places can’t become just as popular with wine lovers; both are definitely wine destinations I need to revisit.

3.  There is a reason why Lodi is the self-proclaimed Zinfandel capital of the world (besides producing 32% of California’s premium Zin, what they are producing is delicious), but…

2.  Look to Lodi for some delicious Spanish varietals, like the Tempranillo made by both Amant Winery and McCay Cellars; longtime readers know how I love my Spanish wines.

Pictured top: Becca from The Gourmez, Me, Maria, & Catherine from Pursuing Pinot Picture Bottom: Me and Sarita from Vine me Up; Chris from Forgotten Grapes, Kris from Nebraska Wine Tours, WBC JoJo, Justin from Wizard of Whiskey, and me.

Pictured top: Becca from The Gourmez, Me, Maria, & Catherine from Pursuing Pinot. Pictures on the Bottom: Left: Me and Sarita from Vine me Up; Right: Chris from Forgotten Grapes, Kris from Nebraska Wine Tours, I’m not sure who this is (whoops!), WBC JoJo, Justin from Wizard of Whiskey, and me.

1. The conference is like a big family reunion, except instead of blood relatives, I get a chance to see my wine blogging family, many of whom I haven’t seen in a year or two, and meet new additions…and it’s my favorite part!

Question of the Day: Have you had wines from Livermore Valley or Lodi? What did you think? Do you have a favorite?

Bonus Question if you attended WBC15: What was your #1 takeaway from the conference?

Me with the Lodi Wine sign at the

Me with the Lodi Wine sign at the Hutchins Street Square Center in Lodi

August 2014 Instagram Round-Up

August 2014 Instagram Part 1

1) A Green Hat Rickey at Boss Shepherd’s to start off August
2) CitiOpen 2104:

Hubby and Me in our seats at Stadium Court
Enjoying a Goose Island 312 at the J. Erlich/A. Ram vs. J. Rojer / H. Tecau match during the men’s doubles semi-finals
Vasek Pospisil vs. Richard Gasquet in the men’s semi-finals

3) My new Nike Pegasus 30s
4) A gorgeous day at the Capitol
5) My Snooth virtual wine tasting line-up — Champalou Sparkling Brut Vouvray & 2012 Domaine Vigneau-Chevreau Vouvray

August 2014 Instagram Part 21) Fantastic date night at CulinAerie’s “Pucker Up” couples cooking class making salmon cakes with lemongrass aioli, seared scallops with citrus butter, risotto with lemon and mint, and a lemon poppyseed cake with limoncello glaze (not pictured)
2) Sunday afternoon blogging with a 2011 Austin Hope Syrah in my glass
3) My standby cookies — Oatmeal Raisin — #CookiesForCoworkers
4) My first pair of Fluevogs — the Bellevue MaryJanes
5) Our table at Hubby’s cousin’s wedding

August 2014 Instagram Part 31) Sunset at the Bay Bridge
2) My August 2014 Birch Box
3) My first beer for DC Beer Week — the Flying Dog Dead Rise
4) Brownie Cookies (recipe from Jen’s Favorite Cookies) — #CookiesForCoworkers
5) Sunday night post-run recovery … hot pink compression socks & 2012 Afton Mountain Cabernet Franc