Category Archives: Wines

Happy New Year Giveaway!

Happy New Year 2012

To celebrate the new year, and to inspire you to celebrate more at home this year, we are conducting a contest to give away a number of  home entertaining products.  Several of these useful and stylish items are sold through Entertaining Inspirations, all from the Biltmore Inspirations catalog, and others are from my personal collection of gifts that I keep on hand for hostess gift giving . 

Here’s how the contest works.  It’s a two-step process.  First, visit my Facebook Page, Entertaining Inspirations, and “LIKE” this page.  The link is:!/pages/Entertaining-Inspirations/207172932680855

In addition, subscribe to my blog:  Entertaining Inspirations (a weekly update with decorating hints, design ideas and recipes for entertaining in style.)  You can sign up by completing the e-mail subscription link on this website:

If you are already a Facebook fan, or a subscriber to the blog, you are still eligible to participate.

The prizes will be announced daily.  One winner will be selected daily, at random from ALL participates who complete the two-step process.  You will be notified through an e-mail message if you win, and the prize will be sent to you.  The contest starts today and ends on Sunday, January 1, 2012, New Year’s Day.

Today’s (Thursday, December 29) prize is a set of four Biltmore Inspirations Reserve Wine Label Coasters.  As the most-visited winery in the United States, Biltmore created these authentic “Biltmore” Wine labels on aged resin coasters.  Clean with a damp cloth.  4″ Square.  The set retails for $21.98, plus tax and shipping.

Biltmore Inspirations Reserve Wine Coasters

Spread the news and share this contest with your friends!  Thanks so much for participating, and good luck!

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Filed under Contests, Decorating, Holiday, Hostess Gifts, Wines

Cranberries: What to do with all of that leftover sauce!

Zinfandel Cranberry Sauce

Tomorrow is the day we add dollops of cranberry sauce to our plates of turkey.  Whether the turkey is roasted, deep fat fried, smoked or baked in a bag, this traditional condiment adds a flavorful acidic touch to the fat laden Thanksgiving meal.

The cranberry’s botanical name, vaccinium oxycoccos, literally means “cow.”  Food historian Alan Davidson, author of the Oxford Companion to Food 1999, says that cows (vacco) enjoy eating cranberries and that is how cranberries got their name!  Cranberries historical significance in America dates back to the 1864, when General Ulysses S. Grant ordered that it be served to the troops during the siege of Petersburg.  Although it was the Native Americans who first noticed the natural preservative powers of these berries, it was when they began socializing with the Pilgrims in 1672, that cranberry pies and tarts started showing up on the Thanksgiving table.

There are many recipes for cranberry sauce.  I created this recipe because it uses a delicious bottle of one of my favorite wines, Zinfandel.

Zinfandel Cranberry Sauce Recipe

1 (12 ounce) package cranberries, fresh

2+ cups of red Zinfandel wine (choose one with lots of spiciness)

½ c. balsamic vinegar

1 T. Vietnamese cinnamon

1 c. white sugar

1 T. black peppercorns

1 t. whole cloves

In a non-reactive saucepan, combine the cranberries, wine, balsamic vinegar and cinnamon.  If you’re unsure about how sweet the sauce will be, begin with one-half c. sugar, add more to taste.

Place the peppercorns and cloves in a small piece of cheesecloth and tie shut.  Add to the pot.  Bring the berries to a boil, then reduce to medium-low.

The cranberries will cook completely in 20-30 minutes, bursting and turning deep red.  In the last few minutes of cooking, taste for sweetness and stir sugar in more as desired.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Remove the spices.  Store in a clean jar.  Can be kept for several weeks in the refrigerator.

What to do with the leftover sauce

This sauce is great on Thanksgiving Day, but usually there is an abundance of leftovers.  Here are 15 ideas on ways to use up the sauce:

  • Add 1/2 cup to pancake batter to make cranberry pancakes.
  • Mix with cream cheese and smear on a fresh bagel for breakfast.
  • Place a block of cream cheese on a plate, top with Zinfandel Cranberry Sauce, and serve with crackers for a quick and tasty appetizer.  Or, alternatively, warm a block of Brie cheese in the oven, and top with the sauce.
  • Mix with a tablespoon of cream cheese, and use as a spread for your favorite chicken or turkey sandwich.
  • Using freshly ground turkey, chicken, or pork, make Cranberry Meatballs substituting cranberry sauce for tomato sauce.
  • Mix with a tablespoon or two of orange juice and use as a glaze for a pork roast, or grilled pork chops.
  • Add to a homemade muffin mix, along with a 1/2 cup of walnuts.
  • Add to your favorite BBQ sauce to baste over baked or grilled chicken.
  • Cube baked sweet potatoes and mix with toasted walnuts and minced parsley.  Add cranberry sauce to a few tablespoons of olive oil and drizzle in mixture to make a healthy salad.
  • Mix a few tablespoons with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and red wine vinegar to create a tangy salad dressing.
  • Puree with cream cheese to make a cranberry dip.
  • Using your favorite type of milk (whole, 2%, rice, soy or almond), add 1/4 cup with a sliced banana, 1 T. honey or agave juice, and ice to turn into a cranberry smoothie.
  • Make a quesadilla using cooked shredded turkey or chicken, chopped kale, your favorite cheese, cumin, and chili powder placed in corn tortillas.  Sauté on both sides until warm.  
  • Warm sauce in microwave and drizzle over vanilla ice cream for a delicious dessert.
  • Add to homemade apple pie, or pear crisp, recipes for a festive twist on dessert.

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Filed under Appetizers, Holiday, Party, Recipes, Salads, Sauces, Wines

Red Wine Sangria: A Perfect Beverage for Entertaining

Sangria "Sevilla" Pitcher from Spain, Inc.
Sangria “Sevilla” Pitcher 

Red Wine Sangria is a beverage you can serve anytime of year, but is especially appropriate for the fall and winter seasons.  Any type of fruits, with a combination of citrus, can be used depending upon what is readily available at the market.  This festive drink stretches your budget too, since you’ll use much less wine than when serving wine by the glass.

Here’s an easy recipe that can be prepared about an hour before the party begins. Place the sangria in a large punch bowl or pretty pitcher (such as the one here From Spain, Inc.) for serving.


Simple Syrup:

1/2 c. sugar

1/2 c. water

Combine the sugar and water in a pan, and cook over low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Hint: Make a larger batch and store in the refrigerator for several weeks.

Red Wine Sangria:

1 c. Simple Syrup (recipe above)

2 cups orange juice (pulp-free)

1/4 c. freshly squeezed lime juice

1/4 c. freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/4 c. Triple Sec

1/4 c. Brandy

1 1/2 bottles of dry red wine (I prefer to use a Spanish red wine)

1 Granny Smith apple, cored and quartered

1 pear, cored and cut into wedges

1 large navel orange, cut in half and sliced into thin disks

2 plums, quartered

1 lemon, halved and sliced into thin disks

1 lime, halved and sliced into thin disks

2 cups club soda, chilled.


1.  Cut the fruit and place in a punch bowl.

2.  Pour the Triple Sec and wine in the bowl.

3.  Add the juices and simple syrup.

4.  Stir well, and chill in the refrigerator for an hour.

5.  Add ice before serving.

6.  Add soda and stir well.

7.  Pour, or ladle, sangria into wine glasses.

8.  Enjoy the party!

From Spain, Inc. is located in Stamford, CT, and offers a variety of Sangria pitchers and other beautiful Spanish tableware.  This pitcher can be purchased online (approximately $76/each.)

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Filed under Beverages, Cocktails, Food, Holiday, Recipes, Wines

Host a Fall Wine Tasting Party

Now that school has started and summer vacations have come to an end, September is a great time to gather your girlfriends together for an evening of fun.  Consider hosting a wine tasting where you can casually catch up and learn something new about wine too. If you don’t know much about wine, don’t be intimated by your lack of knowledge. I’ll provide some tips below to make your event a success. And, once your friends are all together, you’ll find the most important thing is to enjoy the experience and have fun!


Biltmore Inspirations offers several ways for you to easily host a wine tasting party. As an Independent Consultant to Biltmore Inspirations, I am  available to lead your event in Greater Phoenix, or one of the cities I frequently travel.  If you live somewhere else, one of my teammates from Biltmore can support you; just contact me and I’ll help you make the connection.  Hosting a party through Biltmore is very easy for the hostess. We provide delicious free food samples, recipes for the appetizers you’ll make, and wine and food pairing guidelines for selecting the wines.  We even provide your grocery list (items are less than $20 for a party), making party planning effortless.

Biltmore has a full line of products from their Wine Cellar Collection that can add to the party.  From Reserve Wine Label Coasters to glassware, decanter, to wine stoppers, there’s many products available that can enhance the wine tasting experience.  Guests will have the chance to add these items to their personal collections during the party.

Alternatively, if you want to try the tasting on your own, consider purchasing this Just Add Wine Tasting Kit where you’ll learn to enjoy wine in three easy steps: Swirl, Sniff, Sip.  This kit includes all of the essential wine tools in a leather box, plus a user-friendly instructional DVD, tasting notes and wine scoring sheets to help you identify the characteristics of fine wines.  All you need to add is wine and friends.  The box measures 5.75″W x 6.5″D and retails for $49.98.  This kit makes a great holiday gift as well and you can purchase it online here.


This will depend upon the number of guests, but generally I recommend 4-6 different wines.  If you offer more than that, it can get confusing.  You can serve a choice of wine varietals that pair well with the food you are serving, for example:  Chardonnay with Blanched Asparagus Spears and Biltmore’s Smokey Mountain Mustard Dip, or Zinfandel with Biltmore’s Hot Chipotle Raspberry Sauce drizzled over Brie Cheese. Or, theme the party and just serve one varietal (such as a Pinot Noir) made in different regions of the world.

The ideal amount per pour per person is 2 ounces to taste.  Each 7.5 ml bottle contains 25 one-ounce pours, or enough for a little over 12 tastes.  Remember to provide a wine tasting bucket for guests who may not wish to drink their entire samples.


When tasting wine, you don’t want heavier wines to overwhelm your senses and distort the tastes of lighter wines. So at your wine tasting party, have your guests taste the lighter wines first and the heavier, drier wines last.

Serve in this order:  Sparkling wines first, white to red, light to dark, dessert wines last.

Once the tasting begins, remember the most important thing is that tasting wine is different from drinking wine.  You drink wine for pleasure, and at a wine tasting, the purpose is to become more knowledgeable about the wine by comparing one wine to another.

Start by Swirling – Swish the wine around in the glass five to six times to aerate the wine.  To ensure you don’t spill it, place your second and third finger in a “V” around the stem of the glass.  Hold your thumb on the top of the foot of the glass. Then, rotate your hand in a clockwise fashion several times.

The Nose Knows – Take a big whiff of the wine and allow your nose to truly smell the scents of the wine.  Can you describe what you smell?

Take Teeny Sips – Do not fill your mouth full with wine, but take a tiny sip and hold it on the tip of your tongue in the front of your month. Make note of what you are tasting?  Describe what you taste.

The Slow Slide – Allow the wine to slide back slowly over your tongue – this area is called the mid-palate; and you’ll experience a very different set of flavors here.

Flavor Savor – Finally, swallow, or spit, and then pause for a moment to savor the last swirl of the wine.  This is the aftertaste or finish.

Jot down your preferences on a tasting note card allowing a score from 1-5 (5 being the highest) for color, intensity, aroma, taste, body/ tannins, and finish.  Then, mark a total score of how much you like it.  Be sure to keep the notecards on the wines you liked the best for future reference.

A wine tasting is a great way to explore the differences of wines and to create a memory-base of the types of wines you most enjoy.

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Filed under Party, Wines