Wine Notes

Last Thursday night I drank wine in my friend Mary’s living room. (Nothing unusual about that, right?) What was different on this particular evening, however, is this: A wine salesperson poured each wine, gave a little talk about the winery and – after we’d sipped our way through a batch – passed out order forms. If you’ve been to a Pampered Chef or Lia Sophia party you know exactly how this goes. Participants don’t pay a fee at the door. While they are encouraged to buy wine, I can tell you that this is more thrilling to me than, well,…

Last Thursday night I drank wine in my friend Mary’s living room. (Nothing unusual about that, right?) What was different on this particular evening, however, is this: A wine salesperson poured each wine, gave a little talk about the winery and – after we’d sipped our way through a batch – passed out order forms. If you’ve been to a Pampered Chef or Lia Sophia party you know exactly how this goes. Participants don’t pay a fee at the door. While they are encouraged to buy wine, I can tell you that this is more thrilling to me than, well, another garlic press or food-storage container, or yet another necklace. Plus, you just can’t match the comfort of someone’s living room. PRP Wine International (http://www.prpwine.com) is a company that’s been hosting in-home tastings for years, in just eight states (including Wisconsin). All of the wines, which are exclusive to PRP, cost under $40, with many between $20-$35. I walked out of Mary’s house with an order for a bottle of 2011 Duca d’Amalfi White Wine (Amalfi Coast, Italy, $20), an off-dry crisp and refreshing wine I can’t wait to uncork some night soon. (Bonus: it was delivered the next day.)

WINE DEAL OF THE WEEK
With the Academy Awards just around the corner, it’s only fitting that a winery owned by an Oscar-winning director (Francis Ford Coppola) be thrust into the spotlight. This week Ray’s Wine & Spirits in Wauwatosa is slashing the price on bottles of 2011 Francis Ford Coppola Winery Rosso (Lodi, Calif.), a juicy blend of Zinfandel, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah. Normally $12, it’s now $6.99. Call 414-258-9821 to lay your claim on a bottle. (www.franciscoppolawinery.com)

WINE EVENT OF THE WEEK
Even if you’re happily coupled up, Valentine’s Day can feel amateurish. The Iron Horse Hotel puts a new spin on the lovers’ holiday this year. Branded, the industrial-chic bar (there are drafting chairs!) off the lobby, will host a pared-down version of Smyth’s (more on that later) “Love Bites” menu with four sassily named small plates ($6 each or two for $9) designed for singles, or groups of girlfriends, maybe even couples that want to cut out the riff-raff. For an extra fee, two wines (2011 Hanna Sauvignon Blanc, Russian River, California; and 2009 Champalou Vouvray La Cuvee des Fondraux, Loire, France) are paired with kimchee with a fried-egg sandwich (or bacon-wrapped dates) for the “Single” plate. For the “Flying Solo” option you can expect a glass of 2011 Chateau de Lamarque Rosé, St. Gilles, France and 2011 Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards Chardonnay, Russian River Ranch, California, with either a lobster roll or hickory-smoked bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with goat cheese. Now, at Smyth, this is where it gets couples-oriented. Charging $120 per person, you get a seven-course menu with two options for each course, including a wine, beginning with “Foreplay” (oysters on the half shell or a lamb-lettuce salad). I’ve got my eye on the “Get a Room” final course: chocolate, curry and spicy nuts; or lavender custard baked brioche matched with Frangelico or Pedro Ximenez sherry (Spain).

WINE OF THE WEEK
A new year means a new wine. Folie a Deux just released its first Pinot Noir: 2011 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir (Sonoma County, California, $20) and it’s firmly in the “easy-drinking” camp. Expect lush raspberry notes; some dark, briary fruit towards the finish; and an overall softness interlaced with baking spices that lingers on the palate. I could see this being drank alongside a chocolate dessert, vegetable-rich entrée or mushrooms (to bring out Pinot Noir’s trademark earthiness, which is especially prominent in this wine). (www.folieadeux.com)

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A seasoned writer, and a former editor at Milwaukee Home & Fine Living, Kristine Hansen launched her wine-writing career in 2003, covering wine tourism, wine and food pairings, wine trends and quirky winemakers. Her wine-related articles have published in Wine Enthusiast, Sommelier Journal, Uncorked (an iPad-only magazine), FoodRepublic.com, CNN.com and Whole Living (a Martha Stewart publication). She's trekked through vineyards and chatted up winemakers in many regions, including Chile, Portugal, California (Napa, Sonoma and Central Coast), Canada, Oregon and France (Bordeaux and Burgundy). While picking out her favorite wine is kind of like asking which child you like best, she will admit to being a fan of Oregon Pinot Noir and even on a sub-zero winter day won't turn down a glass of zippy Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.