Monthly Archives: July 2012

Stop Your Whining, There’s a Wine App for That

After a long day, sometimes I just want someone else to pick out the wine, but usually I end up doing it myself because I want to drink something I’m actually going to enjoy.  So what to do when your only option is the nearest liquor store for the quick-buy post-work/ pre-dinner?  Well my friends, there’s an app for that!  Actually, there are a few.  Read below on a couple I’ve been sampling lately and please send me any you’ve found useful or let me know what your experience with these has been.

1. Wine Spectator (WS) VintageChart+

This is a very simple application for iPhone and iPad that can be helpful when you find yourself staring at an endless wall of wine from a region with which you’re not too familiar. When you don’t know what the difference is between two wines of the same variety that are from different years (known as vintages, in wine-speak) and you just need to make an educated guess.  This app takes care of guessing part by collecting countless wine reviews from pro-tasters and aggregating the scores into a handy little vintage chart.  Take a look and try it out (it’s FREE) next time you’re seeking guidance and the clerk is clueless.

By Country

Hmm… was German wine better from ’07 or ’08? Just tap “Germany” to find out!

As you can see, Germany’s ’07 vintages were rated slightly higher than its ’08 vintages. All else being equal, this is a helpful tie-breaker!

2. – The App for users and recommended for those curious enough about wine to know they don’t know much

For serious collectors, is a dream come true.  The app (available for numerous devices) pulls your personal account information from, an excellent site developed to track your personal wine collection.  It also optimizes all the other great features on the site such as sharing tasting notes and interacting with your fellow trackers.  Minimal investment of $2.99 but if you are a regular user, this app is priceless.

Not just for tracking, is also great for exploring the extensive database of over 34 million bottles reviewed by both collectors and professionals.

The best thing about this app is how its “shareability” factor. You can add whatever you’ve just purchased after a wine tasting and then share your latest discovery with friends on multiple platforms. Bravo!


Let me know what you think about these or send me your recommendations for other wine apps you enjoy.  


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Cool Off with Jazz Surrounded by Art

Now that it’s safe to venture out of the safe confines of the air-conditioned indoors, I’m really looking forward to relaxation outside.  One of my all-time favorite things to do in DC only happens during the steamiest months of the year: Jazz in the National Sculpture Garden.  The Jazz in the Garden concert series, at the National Gallery of Art takes place every Friday evening from May 25 – August 31.  Shamefully, I must admit I’ve not yet been this year…. Excuses aside, I plan to go this Friday after work and sit amidst the beautiful, the strange, the eclectic and unique art that provides a most alluring backdrop to pre-sunset tunes.

Last year we snagged a great spot near the bandstand on the edge of the reflecting pool where we could keep our feet cool

And of course, you can’t very well loose track of time on an empty stomach, so to tide me and my fellow jazz-goers over I’ve planned  a picnic I’ll pair with the Pavilion Cafe’s red wine sangria.

Picnic Menu for Friday, July 13 at the National Sculpture Garden

  • Any Stinky Cheese = sun-warmed goodness (I like Camembert)
  • The Dubliner Sharp Cheddar with Trader Joe’s Multi-Grain Pita Bite Crackers (a recent obsession)
  • Salted, Skin-On Marcona Almonds, also available Trader Joe’s
  • Farmer’s Market White Peaches, quartered
  • Dark Chocolate, salted: a very nice contrast with fruity Sangria.  I HIGHLY recommend Salazon which you can find at WHOLE FOODS
  • Sparkling water (always a good idea, especially when it’s warm).  Try one with citrus (lemon/lime/orange)

Packing List

  • Picnic blanket or beach towel
  • bug spay (non-aerosol, too many people sitting too close together, please)
  • Though this is an EXCELLENT “me-time” activity, this is a great place to bring old friends and new alike
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Retreat to Nature Without Ever Leaving the City

Winding through the city is a shaded lane most commuters know only as a shortcut.  Leaving the road behind, a 2.7 square mile (over 2,000 acre) park awaits gentle exploration of meadows and forests packed with deer, wildflowers and babbling brooks.  Image

Rock Creek Park is filled with walking trails and picnic areas.  Without ever leaving the city, you can find peace and quite in this shady oasis.  On the weekends, a number of the roads are closed to vehicular traffic in order to allow cyclists and pedestrians use the paved roads as recreation trails.

Check out this video from National Geographic to get a glimpse of what I mean then read below for my favorite addition to any activity (wine).

Lakes and Rivers: Rock Creek Park

Here’s another peaceful, if slightly less-interesting video just in case you can’t make it in-person

My Recommendation

Since we’ve been experiencing some extremely high temperatures lately (heat indices of over 100F) I recommend taking an easy stroll to any semi-private shady area near the creek bank (where it will be naturally cooler) and setting up your picnic blanket.  Pack plenty of water, of course I prefer sparking, and the following ingredients for your picnic basket:

  • 2008 Bandit Pinot Grigio, California – This won the Huffington Post’s runner-up award and is quite nice and perfectly-packaged in juice-box-sized packages!  It’s described as having a flowery aroma, well-balanced acidity and a refreshing, lemon finish.
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  • Home-made Crostini: Cut your favorite baguette into thin slices on the diagonal (I like sourdough or ciabatta).  Spread onto a cookie sheet and generously drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle generously with salt (I like the large, Kosher crystals) and any Italian spices you have on your rack (basil, parsley, thyme, oregano, rosemary, etc.).  Bake at 350F until golden brown – watch carefully! They burn easily so start with 10 minutes and increase time as needed.
  • Burrata Cheese: This may well be my FAVORITE cheese in the entire world.  Burrata is an Italian Cheese made from cow’s milk.
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  • Fresh Ricotta Cheese: Cool and refreshing, this fresh Italian cheese is recommended as a good pairing for Pinot Grigio (also known as Pinot Gris) by the Wine Monger. You will want to bring a little salt to sprinkle over this (try Truffle-infused salt – delicious).  Fun Fact: Ricotta is a very healthy cheese – offers good calcium and protein with little fat and is actually recommended as part of the South Beach Diet. 
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  • SALT and OLIVE OIL (good ones will make a difference) to sprinkle and drizzle over your cheese-loaded crostini as shown above.

Saluti! Cheers to enjoying a few moments of decadent relaxation and forgetting, at least for the duration of this picnic, the time.  My personal mantra: There’s no time like No Time O’Clock!  

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