These are a few of my favorite things…

Dogs, books, wine and travel-and I’ve been able to enjoy all of them lately.

We welcomed a Westie puppy into our home this summer.  He is super cute and fun and we definitely have our hands full.  If nothing else, puppies are great teachers of mindfulness!


Meet Gibson Luis Vazquez-Stuber!


I was also really happy to provide the wine for a friend’s book club – she featured it in her blog post for Love Nothing More.  Because what’s better than books?  Books with wine and friends!  This is a new friend to me but I’ve been following her style blog for years.  It was fun to meet her in person, find out what we have in common and collaborate on this project.

Speaking of books, I’ve been reading a ton this summer.  I’ve become particularly interested in British cozy mysteries as I’m preparing for a trip to Oxford and the Cotswolds.  Three series I’m really liking are the Aunt Dimity Mystery series, Her Royal Spyness and the Agatha Raisin Mystery series. Reading them is a little like binging watching Law & Order, except with more charming environments and strong willed leading ladies.

I hope you’ve able to participate in your favorite things this summer as well!




What I’m drinking

What I’m drinking

My latest Wine Club arrived this week and I wanted to give you a peek of what the selection is this month.  There are three reds and three whites:

2015 Middle Jane Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley, Oregon – concentrated layered notes of wild strawberry and black cherry with a hint of coffee bean.
2016 Rufus Blanco from Penalvo do Castillo, Portugal – layered aromatics of yellow fruit, spice, vanilla and distinct salinity leap from the glass and continue on a juicy palate before finish marked by bright acidity.
2017 Dove Hunt Dog Chardonnay from Mendocino County, California – yellow apple, pear and a hint of fresh vanilla balanced by mouth-watering acidity on a textured but light-bodied frame. Pair with roast chicken, light pasta and your patio.
2016 Horse & Plow Draft Horse White Blend from Napa Valley, California – mouth-coating but juicy and fresh with aromas of apricot and white flowers and flavors of lemon and white peach.
2016 Middle Jane Zinfandel from Napa Valley, California – deeply colored with boysenberry, cherry and a hint of clove on the nose followed by ripe, smoothly-textured flavors of blackberry jam, plum and sweet spice. Pairs with barbecue, pizza and Gouda cheese.
2015 Chateau Juvenal Jolie from Ventoux, France – Lush, heady and exuberant with red and black fruits, spices, and floral components. This is fresh and balanced yet deep and rich.

I love the wine club option so I can try different clean-crafted wines from all over the world.  And it gets delivered to me so it’s super convenient!

How do I pair wine with food?

For me, an intimidating element about the wine world is trying to match wines and food.  Fortunately there are some basic guidelines that I find helpful to follow.

Regional Pairing:

My favorite guideline is to match the wine to food that is grown or produced in the same area.  The Graciano from Rioja, Spain goes great with Manchego cheese also produced in Spain.

Match acid with acid:

A dish with lemon will do well with a crisp, acidic wine.  The Picpoul (which means “lip stinger” in French) with it’s bright finish goes great with a recipe for chicken and lemon.

Match creamy with creamy:

Going for complementary flavors is an easy way to pair wine with your food. With this pairing, you’re matching the structure of the wine with the structure of the food. The La Tierra Chardonnay with aromas of apples and brioche pairs well with lobster or Brie.

Match spicy with sweet:

Pairing your food and wine with contrasting flavors means you’re trying to counterbalance a taste in either the dish or the wine. The Punkt Sparkling Rose from Austria ends with a juicy, creamy finish that will counter your spicy Thai takeout.

Red wines pair best with bold flavored meats:

The 2012 Qupé Granache from the Edna Valley in California matches well with and cassoulet or chili – the bitterness of the wine balances the fat of the meal.

Versatile wines:

Some wines are super versatile, like the Girasole Hybrid Red featured above.  Suggested to pair with pork and hard cheese, I found it went great with both the pepperoni pizza as well as the ricotta one.

Bottom line:

Choose a wine you’d want to drink by itself. That way, even if the pairing isn’t perfect, you’ll still enjoy what you’re drinking.






How is is Organic Wine Different?


I’ve gotten into the habit of looking for organic produce at the Farmers Market or grocery store.  Just like I only eat tomatoes when they are in season, which in Pittsburgh means for a few short weeks in July and August., I only want to eat fruit and vegetables that have a lot of flavor  So, why shouldn’t it be the same with my wine?  Essentially, organic wines are produced with organically grown grapes.  Organically grown grapes are grown naturally with no synthetic pesticides.  Pretty simple, right?

Well, it’s definitely a harder way of doing things, but the taste is better.  In general, organic farming typically excludes the use of artificial chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides.  In order to keep weeds and bugs away from the grapes, organic farmers work with nature, rather than against it.  One way they do this is by introducing cover crops to provide a habitat for beneficial insects that are the natural enemy of problem species, or have small sheep graze between the vine rows, eating the grass and weeds.  The vineyard becomes a self-regulating, natural ecosystem.  Hmmm, can get one these sheep for my backyard?

Another challenge is, what happens if one farmer farms organically, but their neighbor doesn’t?  The only way to know for sure if there were no chemicals from the neighboring farm blown onto the organic farm is to chemically test the wine produced by the vineyard.  Vineyards can also be certified organically but this process is complex.  Different nations have different certification criteria and some wineries that are technically organic choose not to be certified for various reasons.

Just like at the Farmers Market, when you can talk directly to the growers of your produce, you dneed to talk to the vineyard directly or to the distributor to really know how the wine is produced.  I’m thankful that Sarah Shadonix, Level III Sommelier, founder of Scout & Cellar (and my cousin) is the one who has these conversations and does the chemical testing.  All I need to do is enjoy the wine! And what good wine it is.

Wait-wine isn’t vegan?

It wasn’t until I started selling wine with Scout & Cellar that I learned that all wine is vegan.  I always assumed it was – it’s made with grapes, right?

It turns out that not all wines are vegan due to a clarifying process called “fining”. All young wines are hazy and contain tiny molecules such as proteins, tartrates, tannins and phenolics.  These are completely natural and not harmful, however many wine-drinkers prefer wine to be clear and bright.

Most wines, if bottle-aged long enough, will self-stabilize and self-fine. However, producers use a variety of aids called “fining agents” to remove these haze-inducing molecules. Essentially, the fining agent acts like a magnet – attracting the molecules around it. These molecules coagulate around the fining agent, creating fewer but larger particles, which can then be more easily removed during filtration. Commonly-used fining agents include casein (a milk protein), chitin (fiber from crustacean shells), egg albumin (egg whites), fish oil, gelatin (animal protein), isinglass (fish bladder protein) and bentonite (clay).

These fining agents are not additives to the wine: they are filtered out along with the haze molecules. Wines fined with casein and albumin are consistent with vegetarian diets while wines fined with any of the others may be off limits for strict vegans.

There is no easy way to know if the wine is vegan or not, if it’s important to you, the best way to find out is to ask the producer or the distributor.


Rosé all day – in a can!



Canned Rosé has been a dream of our Founder, Sarah Shadonix, for the better part of three years and she’s tickled pink to the have the 14K Rosé available for sale today!  The arrival of this wine is timed perfectly with Spring Forward, Spring Break and everything that comes with the change in seasons.

This crisp, refreshing quality wine has tastes of strawberry, orange peel and a bright mineralogy with zippy acidity and a clean finish.  And with zero grams of added or residual sugar this wine will be a great companion to all your activities.

As an added bonus, the 14K Rose packaging is made using PakTech handles which are made from recycled #2 HDPE materials and are now 100% recyclable.  And the covered tops and self-nesting design keeps cans clean and allows us to build pallets without trays.  The lighter weight of the cans also reduces our carbon footprint.  This allows us to bring a casual, delicious wine to you and love the environment at the same time!


What I’m drinking – March 2018

My favorite wine this month is the Hybrid Red from Girasole Vineyards in Mendocino, California.  Charlie Barra, the owner, believes that farming organically is the only way to go.  “Yes, it’s more work (annual adults, paperwork, labor requirements), more risk (crop devastation from pests) and not necessarily a bigger payout, but it’s essential to the well-being of this planet.  We need to leave this earth the way we found it, and that doesn’t include chemicals.” The winery is family-run:  mom Martha and dad Charlie Barra, alongside Martha’s kids Shawn Harmon and Shelley Mary handle all aspects of the business including grape-growing, winemaking, sales, marketing and distribution management.  The grapes included in this wine are 60% Merlot, 16% Sangiovese, 14% Petite Syrah, 10% Cabernet which all together makes a wine that went great with my Valentine’s Day heart-shaped pizzas and my beloved.  I continue to find this wine very drinkable with tastes of ripe cherry, blackberry, mocha and sweet dried herbs.  I’m loving everything Girasole has produced that we’ve sold and especially this one this month.

You’ll also note that I used my Aervana with this wine. I don’t know that it is necessary but it’s so easy to pour through the spout and the wines tastes extra fresh and smooth – why not? Have you tried any of the Girasole wines? What do you think of them?

Independent Wine Consultant

Why did become an Independent Wine Consultant with Scout & Cellar?  I have a full time job that I love, a partner and his kids (part-time) and community involvement.  Four reasons:

  1. To earn extra money that would provide me some flexibility to take better care of myself – regular private yoga sessions, regular facials and massages, and some help with housekeeping.
  2. I’m a constant learning, always exploring new ideas through books and traveling.  Because the product is curated each quarter I get the opportunity to taste and learn about wine and wine producers.
  3. In addition to earning extra money, I get to share the benefits of clean-crafted wine with friends and family.  And what is more fun than wine?  Especially wine that you know is well-made and tastes great.
  4. I’ve been building a team of consultants that consists of women across the country.  Connecting with old friends over our wine businesses is fun and inspiring!

If you’ve ever thought about being an entrepreneur, let me know!  I’d love to talk with you about Scout & Cellar and the opportunities I’ve experienced with the company so far.




Clean-Crafted Wine

What does it mean to be the only curated clean-crafted wine club?  For Sarah Shadonix, founder of Scout & Cellar, it means no wine headaches.  Sarah was studying to become a sommelier and started developing headaches.  She went to a variety of doctors and they could find no reason for them.  One night she shared a bottle of wine with friends and didn’t have a headache.  As she did more research, she realized that the way wine is made may contribute to headaches.

For a wine to be considered clean-crafted, it must satisfy the following guidelines:

Chemicals, pesticides and added sugars have allowed wine producers to get around the natural unpredictability and promote wine that tastes the same, bottle after bottle, year after year. This also made it possible to hide flaws that may exist in those bottles, like bacteria and other unpleasant elements. Unfortunately, wineries rely on pesticides, additives and added sweeteners, which means chemically altered, completely unnatural wine is now the norm. Scout & Cellar is here to offer a cleaner, healthier, altogether better wine experience to everyone.

Check out the range of clean-crafted wine available from Scout & Cellar here.



Wine Club Membership

I’m lazy.

There I said it.

Sometimes I can be lazy and the subscription box trend is something I really enjoy.  Whether it’s beauty product samples from Birchbox, personalized book selections from Just the Right Book and the awesome independent bookstore RJ Julia or a monthly sock club, I like the convenience of having items that I want delivered to me on a monthly basis.  And I like the surprise of being introduced to new items.

I’ve been part of a wine club for as long as I can remember and this has been my favorite subscription/membership.  Getting a specified number of bottles of wine delivered on a regular basis ensures that I always have wine on hand to share with friends.  I’m also introduced to new wines and wine producers that I most likely can’t find at my State Store in PA.

The wine in the Scout & Cellar wine club is curated by the founder, Sarah Shadonix and is done on a quarterly basis.  Sarah, a Level 3 Sommelier first identifier the most wildly delicious wines that reflect a sense of place. Then, she talks with the grower and/or producer to understand their process in the vineyard and in the cellar. Then, they independently lab test the wines to confirm that there are no synthetic pesticides present in addition to any other necessary analyses if not previously confirmed or provided.  These wines are tended to by actual people and not produced by industrial agricultural methods.  The producers are typically using sustainable, organic and/or biodynamic methods. This reminds me of my favorite stand at the Farmer’s Market in Pittsburgh.  There is a guy who sells the best asparagus I’ve ever tasted.  He also sells flowers.  That’s it – asparagus and flowers.  He knows what he does well and he sticks to it.  And every spring when the Farmer’s Market opens, I run to his stand to get my asparagus.  And every spring he welcomes me back.  This is what life is about.  Making connections with the people that are producing what you consume, trusting in their process to make the best and healthiest products for you.  And this is the experience I get every time I receive my box of wine from Scout & Cellars.  Connections to wine producers who are doing what’s right for their consumers and the land and producing great-tasting wine.

Go here to sign up for one of our wine clubs.