Wine On the Rocks…with a twist.

Wine_icecubesSummer can often be a tricky time for serving wine outdoors. The intense summer heat can make it very difficult to keep wine at a decent serving temperature.  Many people choose to switch from wine to beer or cocktails to avoid this problem, but I’ve found inspiration from some very unexpected sources that have encouraged me that its okay to drink your wine on the rocks.

While many wine snobs and inspiring wine enthusiasts cringe at the site of people (mainly parents and grandparents) putting ice into their glass of Chardonnay, I’ve abandoned criticizing people for drinking their wine on the rocks and here are a few reasons why:

1) “Drink What You Like and Like What You Drink.” ~ Robert Mondavi.

Golfing with Michael MondaviI’ve had the pleasure in my career of meeting and working with Michael Mondavi,  son of famed wine maker and industry legend Robert Mondavi and founder of Michael Mondavi Family Wines and Folio Wine Partners.  On one trip to California I participated in a golf outing with Michael.  As the beverage cart pulled up to take our drink order Michael asked “Do you have any Sauvignon Blanc?” the waitress replied that they only had wine in the clubhouse bar, not in the cart. Michael asked if she would be kind enough to go back to the club house and bring a plastic cup filled with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc and ice.  He confirmed the order again making sure she heard him correctly.

Isabel_deep_rose“You really want a glass of Sauvignon Blanc on the rocks?” she asked.

“Yes.” he replied. “Sauvignon Blanc is my favorite wine to drink. My dad always instructed people to drink what they like.  He was a smart man and I like to follow his advice.”

Michael also mentioned that when he is grilling outside, he often will pour a glass of their Isabel Mondavi Deep Rosé over ice to drink while he cooks. He calls it “Isabel Rocks.”

Playing golf with Michael Mondavi and watching him drink a glass of Sauvignon Blanc on the rocks with a straw is one of my favorite wine memories.  Not to mention that I managed to make birdie, par, par during that 3 hole stretch..which turns out to be an occurrence even less common than famous winery owners putting ice in their wine.


2) Iron Chef Mario Batali: Aspen Food and Wine 

Another defining moment in the defense of drinking wine with ice came from meeting celebrity chef Mario Batali at a book signing at the Aspen Food and Wine Festival.  After waiting in line for an autographed copy of his Italian Grill cookbook we had a moment to speak with him while he signed our books.  As I looked at the table I noticed we was drinking a glass of an Italian white wine… out of a glass filled with ice!   When I watched him pour more wine into the glass, I asked “Mario, are you really drinking your wine over ice?” He replied very simply,  “Sure. How else am I going to keep it cold?”


I could have responded by suggesting an ice bucket, but his tone was so relaxed, casual and matter of fact that it was absolutely clear that he didn’t care.  He was drinking the wine over ice because it was a simple pleasure.

He wasn’t worried about the ice watering down the flavor of the wine, because at this moment flavor was not important. His simple reply made it clear that he found no need in troubling anyone to set up an ice bucket or make any special arrangements. He was absolutely content enjoying a glass of wine with ice because it was a simple solution for a simple pleasure.

3) The Tincho.

Finca-Los-Primos-white-wine-bottleThere are very few wines that have the ability to remain a consistent best selling item year after year.   However, at WineStyles our Los Primos White Wine has been a run away success from the moment we discovered it.  The Los Primos White is a blend of Malvasia and Sauvignon Blanc, from Argentina.   The wine which is light and refreshing is a little sweet on the nose, a little dry on the finish, with a little bubbly carbonation that make it a whole lot of fun to drink.  In Argentina the wine is served in restaurants and bars  all over Buenos Aires as a wine based cocktail called a Tincho.  The Tincho is Los Primos White Wine, served over ice with a twist of lime.  We started suggesting the drink to our customers over 7 years ago and they are still coming back for more.   Again, the success of this fun, unpretentious wine is proof that wine doesn’t have to be intimidating or snobby.

Ultimately these experiences have made me a firm believer that wine is a beverage that is best enjoyed in the spirit of the occasion.  It can be enjoyed on the golf course or outside at a summer festival, just as easily as it can at a formal dinner. So the next time you find yourself outside on a warm day, if you feel like drinking wine, don’t be scared to grab a few ice cubes and follow Robert Mondavi’s advice.

Exploring #Napa Valley: A Day in St. Helena and Spring Mountain

Few places in the world offer a better travel experience for wine lovers than a visit through California’s Napa Valley.   The Napa Valley has become a global destination to experience some of the worlds finest wines, beautiful winery properties and gourmet fine dining restaurants.  The Napa Valley (from South to North) comprises not only the town of Napa, but includes Yountsville, Oakville, Rutherford, St. Helena and Calistoga. Each town could represent an entire weeks exploration to experience the numerous wineries and restaurants of the area.  However, since most travelers will only have a few days to explore the valley we’ve assembled a collection of recommended stops in the sub-appellations in greater detail.

First on our travel plans is a visit through beautiful St. Helena and Spring Mountain.

Duckhorn Winery
1000 Lodi Lane – St. Helena, California 94574
Phone:  (888) 354-888

Duckhorn Tasting Mat

One of Napa’s most iconic estates, Duckhorn Vineyards have been among the finest and most influential producers in Napa history. The Duckhorn name has become associated with quality wines crafted from Bordeaux varietals such as Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  The estate is tucked away on the valley floor, in a tranquil and almost isolated setting.  The line up of incredible wines, surrounding vineyards and amazing tasting experience make Duckhorn a must visit.  The premium tour and tasting includes a collection of their single vineyard wines along with artisan cheese pairings for each of the wines.

St. Clement Vineyards

St. Clement Winery
2867 St. Helena Highway North
St. Helena, CA 94574
Phone: (866) 877-5939

The charming Victorian setting of St. Clement Vineyards make it a great stop on your tour around St. Helena. The winery produces a Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and their signature Orropas Blend. The wines of award-winning female winemaker Danielle Cyrot, demonstrate restrained power with the depth and strength that have made Napa Valley wines so popular, but with soft polished edges that also make the wines elegant and not over powering.  Enjoy a tasting from the stone terrace or buy a glass of wine as you relax on the front porch of the winery.

Salvestrin Winery
397 Main Street – St. Helena, CA 94574
Phone: (707) 963-5105

In order to properly experience St. Helena and Spring Mountain, it is important to make time to stop at a few smaller family owned wineries that produce outstanding wines. One of our favorites is Salvestrin Vineyard & Winery. A small farm-house style winery with a tasting bar and casually comfortable outdoor patio at the base of their vineyards provide a cozy setting to enjoy a collection of delicious wines.  We recommend their single vineyard estate Sauvignon Blanc and Retaggio – blend of Sangiovese, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.  This is the perfect stop if you’re looking for a place sit back, kick your feet up and enjoy a few glasses of great wine without pretense.

Schweiger Vineyards
4015 Spring Mtn. Rd.
St. Helena, CA 94574
Phone: (877) 963-4882

Schweiger Family Vineyards – Spring Mountain

Perched high a top Spring Mountain, Schweiger Family Vineyards provides a picturesque setting with sweeping views of St. Helena.  To get to the winery you will have to navigate miles of winding roads as you climb your way up Spring Mountain Rd. Along the journey you will pass several famous Spring Mountain neighbors such as Pride, Terra Valentine and Barnett Vineyards.   As you arrive at the winery a line up of handcrafted Chardonnay,  Merlot,  Cabernet Sauvignon and their Dedication (proprietary blend) reward you for your visit.  Incredible wines served with an unforgettable view and family hospitality make Schweiger Vineyards one of our recommended stops in the area.

Please share your experience and recommendations with us.  We want to hear your stories and your suggestions in discovering new favorite wineries to visit for future adventures in the valley. Cheers!

Think Pink: Drink Rosé

Drink Rose

Over the past few years the category of dry Rosé sales in the US has experienced tremendous growth.  Dry rose is one of the fastest growing category in wine sales as consumers have moved past their fear and memories of White Zinfandel.  If you haven’t jumped on the Rosé wine wagon yet…hop on as we explore the world of Rosé a bit more.

What is dry Rosé?:  In simple terms, Rosé is a red wine that was made with only a small amount of skin contact (1-3 days) with grape skins.  By making the wine in this fashion, the limited skin contact only allows for a small amount of color to bleed into the wine.  The longer the skin contact the deeper the color of the Rosé.

How do you serve dry Rosé?:  Consider serving Rosé as a white wine with red flavors.   Similar to many CRISP or SILKY white wines, Rosé is light in body, fermented in stainless steel without the use of oak, bright in acidity, and best served chilled (but not freezing, should be 45 to 50 °F).

What should I pair with Rosé?:   This is an easy question, because the beauty of Rosé is its versatility and ability to pair with a wide variety of foods.  My favorite pairings for Rosé include dishes that feature soft cheeses (i.e. brie, chévre, blue cheese), ham or prosciutto, and savory vegetables such as portobello mushrooms.  You can incorporate these flavors into a number of dishes including gourmet ham & cheese sandwiches,  baked macaroni & cheese with prosciutto and mushrooms, or a homemade 4-cheese pizza fired on the grill.

ClosLaChance_RoseZucchini-RollsOur suggested Rosé and recipe pairing:

Clos LaChance
Estate Grown Dry Rosé
Central Coast – 2012

Paired with Zucchini Rolls with Herbed Goat Cheese and Pine Nuts.

Travel Spotlight: A day in Sonoma

Sonoma is a great destination to enjoy a relaxing weekend in wine country. The good soils,  temperate climate, and abundant food and water made Sonoma an ideal place for Spanish missionaries to settle in 1823.  Nearly 200 years later, the land is filled with vineyards and people who remain true to the old town agrarian roots of the community.  Where Napa offers luxury and at times indulgence, Sonoma delivers a home-style comfort and casual elegance that is relaxed and laid back.

While there are dozens of great wineries and restaurants that you can visit, we’ve put together a suggested itinerary for a wonderful day in Sonoma visiting some of our favorite wineries and restaurants.

Seeing as the wineries don’t open until 10 a.m. this should give you plenty of time to enjoy a big breakfast to start the day.  We’ve planned a busy day for you, so we suggest having a good breakfast before heading out.

Cline Cellars Tasting Room.

             10:00am – 11:30 pm:

Tasting and Tour at Cline Cellars 
24737 Arnold Drive
Sonoma, CA 95476

Cline Cellars is a unique property with a casual farm house style tasting room. The estate specializes in Zinfandel and Rhone varietals such as Mourvedre, Carignane and Syrah. The property is also home to a California Missions Museum which houses a collection of models of all the historic Spanish Missions that helped settle the California coast from San Diego up through Sonoma.  This stop is a wonderful, relaxing visit to start off your morning.  Fred and Charlie Cline are great people and their love of the land and their warm and hospitable nature translates across their entire staff.

Gloria Ferrer Vineyards

12:00 pm  – 1:45 pm
Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards
23555 Carneros Hwy (121)
Sonoma, CA 95476

Just down the road, Gloria Ferrer offers an outstanding selection of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Sparkling Wines from the Carneros.  The picturesque terrace offers the perfect setting to enjoy the beauty of Sonoma.  The Food & Wine pairing tour offers an educational tour through the property including information on wine making and sparkling wine production.  Guests love the experience of touring the sparkling wine caves before heading to the terrace for a guided tasting of 4 food and wine pairings.   There is a minimum of 6 guests required for the tour so smaller groups will want to call ahead to RSVP to check for availability.

2:00pm – 3:00pm:
Jacuzzi Family Vineyards
24724 Arnold Drive  – Sonoma, CA 95476

An Italian inspired atmosphere awaits you at the gorgeous Jacuzzi Family tasting room. The manicured vineyards and Italian villa architecture of the estate will captivate your senses with an experience that will make you feel like you’ve been transported to Italy. The winery specializes in California expressions of Italian grape varietals such as Arneis, Barbera, Nebbiolo, Pinot Grigio, Sangiovese as well as typical Carneros varietals of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.   The best part is guests receive complimentary tastings of 5 wines. If you’re getting hungry gourmet cheese platters are also available for small groups with advanced reservations.


Arrowood Vineyards
14347 Sonoma Hwy
Glen Ellen, CA 95442

Your last winery visit for the day will be a trip to Arrowood Vineyards to taste their famous lineup of Cabernet Sauvignon’s, Merlot, Malbec, Chardonnay and Viognier.  These wines often come vary highly rated by a variety of wine critics and will be the perfect way to end an afternoon in Sonoma. From the veranda you can enjoy a glass of wine while looking out on the valley below and Sonoma Mountain in the landscape.

Recommended Dining: 

We realize that your going to need to eat, so here are a few recommendations of our favorite spots in Sonoma Square for you to indulge your taste buds and find a variety of great cuisine to pair perfectly with your favorite wines that you purchased during your winery visits.

The Girl and the Fig
110 W Spain St, Sonoma, CA – Phone: (707) 938-3634
California inspired country french cuisine. A menu full of fresh local ingredients, carefully executed dishes and of course… figs.  The dinner menu includes a 3 course tasting menu with wine pairings for only $40 per person.

LaSalette  Restaurant 
452 First Street East, Suite H –  Sonoma, CA 95476    Phone: (707) 938-1927
For the adventurous dinners, LaSalette delivers Portugese influenced tapas and regional Iberian cuisine. A perfect spot if your looking for a unique dining experience.

Cafe LaHaye
140 E Napa St  Sonoma, CA 95476  – Phone: (707) 935-5994
To describe this restaurant in one word it would be “precise.”  Everything from the simple, yet carefully crafted menu to the cozy, elegant and minimalist decor of the restaurant is well crafted.  Make sure to get your reservations in advance as the restaurant is small and fills up quickly with locals…which is always a great sign. You won’t be disappointed.

Wine Trends with Sean Parisi (C.S.W.)

About the Author:


Sean Parisi, born and raised around Chicago, IL has spent the last decade sharing his passion for wine, food and the pursuit of good taste.

Sean’s love of wine started in Florence, Italy where he spent a semester as a 20 year old college student studying abroad. Taking a break from his business courses at the University of Illinois, he fell in love in with wine and decided that if he was presented with an opportunity to follow his passions in life, he’d jump at the chance to pursue a career in a field that he loved.

Combining his education in finance and business with his passion for wine, Sean joined the WineStyles franchise network in 2005 as a multi-unit franchise operator with locations in Arlington Heights and Glenview, IL.   Sharing his love of the business with others, Sean took over as the Area Development Manager for the WineStyles franchise in Illinois and has been a leading contributor to the growth and development of the WineStyles organization.  During his tenure with WineStyles, Sean has earned a Certified Specialist of Wine (C.S.W.) certification from the Society of Wine Educators and is now responsible for the management of the national wine program and franchise operations for the WineStyles Tasting Station.

Sean Parisi - Cline VineyardsSince 2009, Sean has worked closely with many of the world’s leading wineries and import organizations to source outstanding wines that represent tremendous quality and value to share with over 10,000 WineStyles Wine Club members every month.  If you’ve been a member of the WineStyles Wine Club you’ve tasted his work.

Through this blog Sean will share insights into the mind of a wine buyer, aspiring home chef, small business owner, husband, father, friend and below average golfer.