Monthly Archives: March 2014

William Hill Chardonnay: The cream of Napa Valley’s crop


The best of the best chardonnay grapes hail from the cool Carneros and warmer St. Helena. Ralf Holdenried, winemaker at William Hill Estate in northern California, knows how to select grapes from the best sources and turn it into gold. Gold chardonnay, that is.

When I selected a bottle of William Hill’s flagship 2012 Napa Valley Chardonnay to taste, I decided to incorporate it into a recipe I was making, and to use the rest as my beverage for the evening. My point being, you don’t have to use white wine gone bad, or white wine you don’t care for in recipes. Use what you love so that you can fully taste what you deserve: the best. Creamy with rich character in a silky fruit mix with baked apple, caramel and toasted spices, this chardonnay is a winner. You’ll want to savor each sip once you open a bottle, priced at $25.

Here is a recipe, courtesy of William Hill Winery, that incorporates the best chardonnay:

Chardonnay Gravy
3 cups basic gravy
1 cup William Hill Estate Napa Valley Chardonnay
2 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons chopped sage
Salt and pepper to taste

Bring the basic gravy to a simmer, then whisk in Napa Valley Chardonnay, notice that it will thin considerably. Add bay leaves, garlic, and chopped sage. Season to taste Simmer on low heat until desired consistency. Serve with the rich flavors found in our Brioche Dressing and a glass of William Hill Estate Napa Valley Chardonnay.

For more recipes, including the Basic Gravy recipe, visit

How to make your bubbly last

Ballatore Gran Spumante, priced at $9.99

At the onset of a family gathering, I popped open a bottle of Ballatore Moscato Rose Spumante. Within minutes, the volume of certain family members’ voices seemed lowered, and the comments more easily digested. All in all, it was a nice experience that may not have been possible without a bit of bubbly to relax one and all who accepted a pour. This spumante would have gone a long way if I’d made this cocktail, courtesy of Ballatore:

Sparkling Mocha Truffle

  • 4 tablespoons chocolate shavings
  • 3/4 oz. white creme de cacao
  • 3/4 oz. vanilla liqueur
  • Splash of walnut liqueur
  • 1 oz. Ballatore Rose ($9.99 a bottle)

Wet the rim of a a martini glass in white creme de cacao and dip into plate of chocolate shavings. Set aside. In a cocktail shaker, combine the 3/4-oz. white creme de cacao, vanilla liqueur and walnut liqueur with ice. Shake vigorously. Add Ballatore Rose and stir. Strain into glasses.


My bottle of Ballatore Gran Spumante was recently opened while visiting friends in the Berkshires. Four glasses were poured, toasts made and sips savored. My first taste sensation was of cream soda. The old fashioned kind. Everyone agreed, but also commented on how much they enjoyed the creaminess and slight bubbles.

For 30 years, Ballatore has been producing sparkling wines in the Italian Asti-style. I have to admit I’d never before heard of Ballatore, so it was a nice introduction to some tasty sparkling wines that don’t break the budget.

Three Alamos wines priced under $23

Argentina’s Alamos wines

We’ll begin with the cream of the crop: Alamos 2011 Seleccion Malbec ($20 a bottle). This is a bottle of wine to savor, and that’s exactly what I did. Over several days, I enjoyed a glass of malbec with a traditional chicken dinner, but this rich, velvety wine is best served with something similarly exotic to Argentina: salad of roasted beets with carne a la masa (marinated beef baked in dough).

The wines of Alamos are a trusted favorite of mine, and I really enjoyed the 2012 Torrontes, perhaps because the aroma of jasmine always makes me happy, or because it’s a great wine to serve with appetizers that include some goat cheese and something spicy. This wine is fruity and different, and is priced at $13, making it an affordable table wine to enjoy or bring to a dinner party as a hostess gift.

Finally, my third Alamos wine tasted: Alamos 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon ($13) of which you can taste the dark berries and spice. This is a bottle to open after you’ve just took a leg of lamb out of the firepit. It’s a medium bodied wine with a low tannin structure, so drink it now. I enjoyed this bottle with dinner of arugula salad and pulled pork with homemade BBQ sauce.