Wine of The Week

The Best Halloween Wines and The Wine Brush

Halloween is my kids' favorite holiday. I'm not sure if it's because their mother deprives them of too much candy or because of their affliction for all things scary, but they love it, so I have decided to join the club. Since my costumes are determined mainly by the kids, I have taken control of the only thing I still can: the wine and the wine glass. I don't know what it is about winemakers loving spooky wine labels and ghostly names, but there are plenty of wines out there that can add some personality and flavor to impress your guests this Halloween. Serve these wines in your most delicate stemware. We have invented The Wine Brush, so you can be assured that you will be done cleaning up long before the kids are back from trick or treating. Here are some great Halloween wines to consider:

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Wine of the Week

What is more frightening? Ghosts, Skeletons, Witches, or having to hand wash your fragile stemware? If you are anything like us, the fear of cleaning our nice wine glasses after serving delicious wine like this Ghost Pines Merlot far outweighs any spooky Halloween Monster. Until Now. With The Wine Brush, you will zip through hand washing your glassware so you can more thoroughly enjoy your Halloween Merlot.

From the Winemaker: A blend of fruit from Sonoma and Napa, the Ghost Pines Merlot is layered with flavors of dark berries, licorice, and espresso alongside lots of richness full-bodied structure, and desirable length. In addition to these flavors, hints of cigar paper, cocoa, caramel, and nutmeg wrapped around a remarkably smooth mid-palate full of velvety texture and depth. On the long finish, suggestions of toasty oak, mouth-filling black fruit, and cola framed by plush tannins.

This wine is the perfect wine to sip on this Halloween Night. It's a lovely warm red for the cool night but not so tannic that...

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Phantom Chardonnay and The Wine Brush

Halloween is seriously one of the best holidays if you want to serve wines based on the label. There are many "spooky" labels to choose from, and Phantom Chardonnay delivered on both the ambiance and flavor. We were sitting on the front porch and listening to live music when we decided to break out this spooky wine. We drank it out of our best white wine glasses and were indeed able to "unwined" because cleaning is too easy with The Wine Brush! (pun intended)

From the Winemaker: Swirling around the glass like a breeze, aromatics of honeycomb and spicy pear evoke the mystery of vines harvested in the waning light of dusk. Tropical mango balances ripe pears and apples, creating a soft and succulent texture that lingers like the Delta fog. Wisps of sweetness linger from aging in French oak, leaving behind the faintest touches of custard and caramel.

What makes this wine even more excellent? Check out the website, and they are giving away $5,000 for the best ghost story. See,...

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Wine of the Week

This past weekend was a special one for the inventors of The Wine Brush and the owners of this little startup we call Simply Unwined. It was our wedding anniversary. So 12 years ago, we walked into a South Georgia courthouse, said our vows, and 20 days later said goodbye for a year-long deployment. Ever since, we have been through a total of 8 deployments, moved 6 times, countless training events (some of which are as long as deployments), 2 kids, 1 new business, and a partridge in a pear tree.

To celebrate, we opened this smooth, rich Palermo Cab Sav and enjoyed every last drop. And, shocker, saved this excellent bottle to go along with our Halloween decorations!

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Wine of the Week

Have you ever tried a wine and loved it so much that you saved the cork so you can remember it and then promptly lost said cork? I would be willing to bet that we have all been there and experienced that moment when you are cleaning your wine glasses (hopefully with The Wine Brush), all the while silently scolding yourself for being so careless.

This could have assuredly happened for me with this wine. We opened it while cooking some steaks for dinner and were utterly distracted since this was so smooth, rich, and downright tasty! Lucky for me, this bottle has such a great label that it looks perfect on our table with our Halloween decorations. So even though I didn't remember it at the time, I could redeem myself because I had plopped it right back with our other "Halloween" wines.

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Napa Valley Quilt Chardonnay - 2018

We recently went to a dinner party a friend was hosting and brought some of this exquisite medium-bodied Chardonnay for everyone to drink. Even though our hosts have The Wine Brush and use it all the time on their wine glasses and whiskey glasses, they still served the wine in stemless glasses. Why you ask? Because through the years of torturous hand washing and the dishwasher breaking their stemware, they didn't even have a matching set with enough glasses to serve the group!

We did drink this delicious wine out of stemless wine glasses but, after learning the story of how this wine is made, a smattering of different types of wine glasses would have been excellent. Why you ask...again? The wine is called Quilt because it consists of grapes from 9 unique regions in Napa Valley. A patchwork of grapes for a patchwork of glassware would have been an amusing storyline!

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Rosé Wine and Fish Tacos

Picture this...You have a newly opened bottle of Inspiration Rosé, freshly made Grouper Tacos, a handful of your best friends dishing on all the latest news, and a couple of trash tv shows on deck in the unlikely event you run out of things to talk about. Talk about a perfect Girls Night In!

Nowadays, Girls Nights In doesn't happen very often since my girlfriends and I have pesky husbands and children. If it does happen, it usually consists of a race to get the kids to bed as soon as possible so we can pound wine and then severely regret it the following day when the kids come pouncing in at 6:30 am. This was not the exception in terms of the early wake-up call, but it was still a great evening with great friends and, dare I say even better wine??

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Craggy Range Sauvignon Blanc

I'm not going to lie. I have mixed emotions as summer is drawing to an end. Part of me is thrilled because of this little thing we call school, but part of me is a little bummed, especially looking back on pictures at the beach. On the day this particular picture was taken, a couple of us decided we would take the kids down to the beach to play while we indulged in this wonderfully crisp bottle of Sauvignon Blanc. Well, I would be lying if I said we enjoyed this on the beach. Almost immediately after taking a few pictures and the kids getting out every single beach toy, a huge bolt of lightning flashed down, and the sky opened up. Needless to say, we had to haul you know what back to the house. Good news, this wine was just as good sitting on the covered patio watching the storm as it would have been on the beach.

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Zac Brown Red Wine Blend

Football is a religion. Seriously. I moved from California to the South, specifically Georgia, when I was in seventh grade. Two things stood out to me. 1. The lady in the McDonald's drive-thru asked us how we were doing (and seemed to actually care about the answer), and 2. People are crazy about football, especially college football. Although these things were foreign to me, I was willing to embrace them with an open mind, and once I attended The University of Georgia, I was thoroughly indoctrinated. Fast forward a couple, ok, several, years and every Saturday before Labor Day when college football kicks off, I feel like a kid in a candy store. If a kid in a candy store were to sit for 12 hours straight glued to the TV.

This year, UGA had a pretty big game to kick off the season, and I thought what better to drink while watching the Georgia game than a wine from a good old Georgia boy. This wine gets a 91 rating from Wine Enthusiast, and once you taste it, you'll see why. It was a full-bodied yet smooth and easy drinking red blend. Heck, it might even be good...

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Sancerre Poolside

What a wine for an afternoon at the pool! A friend of mine and I split this while on vacation, relaxing by a beautiful outdoor pool. Seeing that she is a Sauvignon Blanc lover and I prefer Chardonnay (if I am drinking white wine), this was a great compromise. It had a smoother finish than a typical Sauvignon Blanc, and even though the tasting notes say it would go great with goat cheese topped salad (YUM), we embarrassingly paired it with Pringles. Speaking of Pringles, they aren't lying when they say, "Once you pop, you can't stop." Come to think of it, I would treat this wine the same way. Don't plan on having extra for subsequent days.

From the winemaker: A delicate perfume of white flowers with hints of citrus and flint give way to a silken texture and grapefruit-laced finish. Balanced and crisp, this is a wine destined for the finest tables, but happiest among a humble goat cheese topped salad.

I know it's taboo to have glass by the pool, but this was during our kid's nap time and mom chill time, not some crazy frat party, so we drank this carefully out of a wine...

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Faithful Hound

Talk about the best sympathy gift you can give the wine lover who’s lost a dog. Toby and I used to have two Rottweilers, and they were pretty much the sweetest dogs ever (seriously, they were!) We had a boy and a girl (brother and sister).

Well, when they turned 10, Hera, the female, started limping very badly. It turned out she had excruciating bone cancer, so she didn’t last long at all after diagnosis. One of our dearest friends who loved our dogs like her own sent us this bottle of wine so we could raise a glass in remembrance of Hera.

Fast forward a short six months, and we had to put our Thor, the male, down because of what was scientifically suspected as cancer but more than likely a broken heart. About a year after Thor passed, we visited the friend who sent the wine when Hera died. I casually said something about “when Thor died,” and she began sobbing. At first, I didn’t understand why, but when she finally regained her voice, she told me she didn’t know Thor had died. OOPS! She proceeded to scold me because I should have known I didn’t tell her since I...

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2017 Markam Merlot

One of our favorite, easiest (and healthiest) meals is grilled vegetables and boneless/skinless chicken thighs cooked over an open flame. The only seasonings we use are specialty salts, butter, and olive oil. This particular meal was first made for us by a dear friend who has traveled worldwide, meeting people of all cultures and learning how they cook over open flames. He has sourced salts from many of these countries, and lucky for us, he shares them with his friends! We baste the chicken thighs with garlic butter and use ghost pepper salt to add heat to the meal. We had been eyeing this bottle of Merlot for a while and thought we'd give it a go with this meal. Great decision! It paired so well with the charred veggies and the spice without overpowering it.

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Tizanni Opera Number 3 - Red Wine Blend

A couple of weeks ago, we had some old friends come into town for a visit. We hadn't seen them in quite a while so needless to say there was a lot of celebrating to be done. On this particular night, we were mixing a little work with pleasure. Our guests were making us steaks that had been marinated for 48 hours with something called Shio Koji. This is a fermented Japanese marinade that enhances the umami (or richness) of meat. (Side note, it is delicious!) We planned to have these steaks right after we shot a video for some marketing content for Simply Unwined. Since we were asking several friends to participate, I opened this bottle of wine for a little happy hour. My original thought was to have some of the wine for the shoot, and the rest would be the perfect compliment for our steaks. I couldn't have been more wrong! This was gone in NO time and every guest that tried it commented on how delicious it was. (It was really that good!)

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The Pessimist Wine

"A pessimist is never disappointed." The quote from Jack Cleary is at the heart of this delicious wine made by Daou. They set out to make a wine so good that even the pessimist would love it. They did it! This wine was very gratifying, and it was the perfect complement to our Wagyu Burgers.

The sentiment of the wine was also perfect for this dinner. Since my husband has been home from this last deployment, he has had some big asks for dinners when we've had friends over...some haven't turned out as well as we would hope (I'm out of practice). So this past Saturday, when I said that I was making Wagyu Burgers, he was not optimistic about the outcome. I chose this wine because of his bad attitude surrounding my cooking. Both the wine and the burger were terrific. OR was it that the lowered expectations led to us not being able to be disappointed? Guess we'll never know....

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Domaine de Chateaumar Rose

"Rosé the day away" is the perfect quote for a day at the beach, and it is a necessary way of life when you go to the beach with nine children under the age of seven. It is even more vital when one of the said children is an avid animal lover. During our brief stay at the beach, we were blessed with a pet crab, a pet turtle (living in the kids' room for some time), and pet baby clams. Do you know what happens to pet baby clams when you douse them in fresh water and leave them in the sun to bake? PSA, do not let your kids collect baby clams, so you never find out.

We opened this wine one afternoon and shared it while laughing hysterically about the "clam bake." It was light and fresh and not as forward tasting with acid as other rosés. Fun fact - the grapes for this wine are grown on a family vineyard that has never used herbicides or pesticides.

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Prisoner vs 8 Years in the Desert Blind Wine Tasting

To make up for last week's absence, this week we had a competition on two different wines from the same original winemaker. Last week, eight of us (yes, that is a coincidence having nothing to do with the name of the wine) sat down to a blind wine tasting to see which one we liked better. It was a great distraction to the overcooked filet mignons made by yours truly. (In my defense, trying to cook 8 filets in cast iron skillets, on a small grill, during a hurricane, is a lot harder than it sounds.)

We chose these two wines because Dave Phinney created both of them. He started with The Prisoner in 2000 and in 2008 he sold it and signed an 8-year non-compete saying he would not create another Zinfandel until it was up. Well, the time has since come that he was able to create another blend to compete with his unbelievably popular Prisoner.

Our verdict. A TIE. And I'm not even trying to be politically correct (even though a majority of the taste testers were from the D.C. area). Truthfully, everyone loved both of them and many people flip-flopped (including myself) during...

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Oberon Chardonnay with Lemon Garlic Shrimp

Garlic Butter Shrimp with some Oberon Chardonnay anyone? My mother and 4-year-old son made this shrimp on Saturday and it paired perfectly with the Oberon Chardonnay which was not too buttery or oaky but not too light either. Perfect pairing! It would have been even better if, after every bite of shrimp, my overly enthusiastic child didn't ask me if I tasted the lemon. He was in charge of squeezing the lemon juice and he couldn't stop discussing his accomplishment.

Imagine this:

You take a bite of shrimp ..."Do you taste the lemon???"..."Yes, it's delicious"

You take a bite of shrimp ..."Do you like the lemon?"..."Yes, it's delicious",

You take a bite of shrimp ... "How's the lemon on that one, Mommy?"... "It's delicious". (I quickly switched to a liquid dinner.)

Tasting Notes from the Winemaker: Our Los Carneros Chardonnay is expressive and approachable, showcasing balanced fruit, lingering acidity and rich flavors and aromas of caramelized white pear, fresh fuji and golden delicious apple, apple blossoms and torched crème brulee....

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Austin Hope Cabernet Sauvignon

"YES PLEASE." Those are the only words that should come out of your mouth if someone ever offers you a glass of this exquisite wine. Don't like red? Don't care. Try it.

"YES PLEASE." Those are the only words that should come out of your mouth if someone promises they will always shower you with fresh flowers. If I had heeded that advice maybe I wouldn't have to cut my own from my sad excuse for a garden. (There is a reason the wine is covering up the flowers).

Back to the Austin Hope Cabernet Sauvignon, this was ranked #7 on Wine Enthusiast's list of 100 wines in 2020. We all know we tried plenty of wine in 2020 so anything that's making the top 10 is pretty impressive because there was a lot of competition. (Or you just drank anything to stay sane but that is not the case for this wine.)

Tasting Notes from the Winemaker: Deep ruby in color, the 2018 Austin Hope Cabernet Sauvignon expresses aromas of fresh black currants and cherries accompanied by subtle smoky notes and dried spices. On the palate, this lavish powerful wine is layered with juicy...

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Caymus Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon

So apparently tomorrow is Splurge Day. You have to love a social media holiday that encourages you to indulge in the finer things in life. My business partner and I are currently bootstrapping this startup so unfortunately, I can't splurge just for the sake of splurging. Therefore, let's talk about my Covid birthday party thrown for me by said business partner and husband. Now before you get all huffy, it was just us two. He went all out and got the Tomahawk Ribeye from Snake River Farms and the BIG bottle of the always delicious Caymus Cab. Even though there was a torrential downpour while cooking the steak on an open fire, it still turned out fantastic and as always with a big cut of red meat, the Caymus was heavenly!

From the winemaker: Caymus Vineyards produces two Cabernets Sauvignons – a “Napa Valley” and the venerable “Special Selection”. Both Cabernet bottlings have aromas and flavors which can only be achieved through “hang time” – a technique which chances the loss of crop if early winter sets in. Leaving the fruit to “hang” on the vine unusually long develops...

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Castellroig Cava - Sparkling Wine

Recently, I attended a virtual wine tasting and discovered my new favorite sparkling wine! Now I certainly have friends who are known to sip on Champagne all day but it has never been for me. Well, let's retract, the AFFORDABLE Champagne has never been for me...now if you were to open a bottle of Veuve that would be a different story. Anyway, I digress. This sparkling wine from Spain is a must for your next brunch (or just for your first cocktail of the day when your on your summer "vacation" with your children this year). It is also a great wine to pair with most foods!

Winemaker Notes: With fine and constant bubbles, the aroma of jasmine, white flower, green apple, and citric fruits, it is fresh on the palate with a moreish, very dry, and long-lasting taste. Freshness and a minimum aging period of 18 months characterize this quality sparkling wine.

This wine is best served in a flute and while The WINE Brush doesn't fit in most standard flutes there is a rumor that...

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Larkspur Pinot Gris - Oregon Grown

This past Memorial Day I had the honor of splitting a bottle of the Larkspur Pinot Gris with a friend of mine who also happens to be a Gold Star wife. Spending Memorial Day in the company of someone whose husband made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom is humbling, to say the least. We sat on the patio sipping this very refreshing wine talking about her late husband. Much like Toby and I, they got married right before his first deployment to Iraq in 2007. Unlike Toby, however, my friend's husband never made it home. This happened almost 15 years ago and the scars still remain with those he left behind. It is a reminder that every time we have the liberty to do something we love, we acknowledge and honor the heroes that died for these freedoms and their loved ones who live with the scars of those sacrifices.

As for the wine, the winemaker typically specializes in Pinot Noir and I believe it is the first year this Pinot Gris Vintage has been released. There are no winemaker tasting notes but based on my experience and a consensus of others there are notes of apple, citrus...

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Mer Soleil Vintage Chardonnay

At the beginning of this month, I was hand-delivering a few products for Mother's Day to some neighbors and stumbled across a wine distributor who works for the Wagner Family of Wine. Maybe, just maybe, you've heard of Caymus? Well, it turns out this neighbor with ALL of the good wine connections used to live across the street from us but moved out right as we were moving in. RUDE. He did make it up to me by offering up this delicious bottle of Chardonnay. This wine is so good! We served it with some grilled Grouper on a nice sunny afternoon...much like the name tells you to do. See the tasting notes below...

From the Winemaker: Taking its name from the sea and sun – the two forces of nature that shape its exotic character – this wine is as dramatic as the place where it is sourced. With morning fog, bright sunshine and gusting winds, the Santa Lucia Highlands has an extended growing season, leading to the development of tropical aromas, lush fruit flavors and a vibrant acidity.

This light Chardonnay is served best with a stemmed wine glass which can then be cleaned...

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Westwood Legend Blend

What happens when you host a small dinner party with a pregnant lady, a keto enthusiast, three toddlers, and a former Green Beret who eats like he's pregnant? You end up with pork wings, pork chops, lobster mac and cheese with truffle oil, a variety of kale chips, and an exquisite bottle of Westwood Legend Proprietary Red Blend to bring it all together. This will run you about $40-$65 when buying retail so save it for a special occasion, like our mismatched dinner party. This cab heavy blend was delicious and it is important to note that not a drop was wasted when taking this picture...that was from our "cooking wine". Also important to note...it takes an eternity to get red wine out of white quartz so drink carefully.

From the winemaker: Combining the very best of our collaboration with winemakers Philippe Melka and Maayan Koschitzky and our own Rhône varietals from the Annadel Gap Vineyard, the 2017 Legend is a Cabernet Sauvignon driven blend along with estate Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvèdre. The wine is dark ruby in color with unctuous aromas of shaved chocolate, cassis,...

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Whispering Angel Rose

Whispering Angel is not a phrase I would reserve for my two small children and I am sure it isn't a phrase they would reserve for me, therefore it seemed just perfect to serve at our Mother's Day brunch this year. There is something about this beautiful rose whether it being the attractive color or the fresh citrus notes that just scream you can drink me before noon. So we did. And it didn't disappoint. This retails anywhere from $18-$25 and is worth every penny.

From the winemaker: Whispering Angel is today’s worldwide reference for Provence rosé. Made from Grenache, Cinsault and Rolle (Vermentino), its pale color is pleasing to the eye and draws one in. The rewarding taste profile is full and lush while being bone dry with a smooth finish. Highly approachable and enjoyable with a broad range of cuisine, Whispering Angel is a premium rosé that you can drink from mid-day to midnight.

Created by Sacha Lichine following his acquisition of Château d’Esclans in 2006, his vision was to create the greatest rosés in the world igniting the “Rosé Renaissance”. Sacha...

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1000 Stories Chardonnay

Anyone who knows me knows that I love a good Chard and this was no exception. I had the pleasure of drinking this with a friend of mine on day 3 of attempting Keto. I had a raging Keto-flu headache and assumed drinking half a bottle of wine would be enough carbs to cure it. It was creamy, full-bodied, and aged in bourbon barrels (which always makes wine sound just a little more exotic). It was very good but it is important to note that this wine did not cure my Keto headache. The sleeve of Ritz Crackers that I demolished did.

Tasting notes from the winemaker: Fresh notes of pear, pineapple, and peach dominate the palate, framed by a baked-apple richness and a creamy mouthfeel. Bourbon barrel aging weaves a warm thread of dried herbs and cedar in the glass, culminating in a vanilla-caramel finish.

As always, please drink this wine (and every wine) out of a proper wine glass and clean that wine glass with The WINE Brush.

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Emblem Cabernet Sauvignon

Not long ago we were invited to a great local restaurant called Cotton Calf. We were "celebrating" another deployment for my husband so we decided to get an amazing seafood tower and a delicious steak. The server suggested the Emblem Cabernet and we were so happy he did. It was bold and smooth and delicious. All the things you would ask for in a wine you are pairing with a steak. It runs anywhere from $30-$40 when buying it retail. Highly recommended! On a side note, the steak we had with it was an A-5 Waygu Ribeye. I had never been privy to a steak that sounds like a preschool assignment in the ABCs and 123s until then. If you ever have that opportunity...DO IT....just don't ask your server about how much it costs.

Winemaker tasting notes - The 2016 Emblem Cabernet Sauvignon is a ripe and plummy wine with chocolate and hazelnut undertones. Medium to full body, round tannins and a flavorful finish. Well balanced, with a soft and layered mouth feel make this wine a simply delicious expression of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

One final note, please do not...

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