Profile

Deb Harkness

I'm a wine blogger interested in everyday wine culture which boils down to finding great tasting, great value wine that pairs well with food. I am a history professor by day, and a wine blogger the rest of the time.

  • Website
  • Location: Los Angeles, CA
  • Favorite foods: I haven't met a food I didn't like. My foreign favorites are Indian, Italian, and Spanish. I also love a great roast chicken, tomatoes fresh from the Farmer's Market, and my friend Margaret's Buffalo-style chicken wings.
  • Last bite on earth: Fresh, handmade pizza and a bottle of simple, Italian red wine. It doesn't get any better than that, does it?

A Burger Find at The Market Grill in Monrovia, CA

THANK YOU. I live out over by Monrovia, and am not about to drive downtown at night for burgers. Now I don't have to. Guess where we're going ASAP? Great review, and yes, the buns look divine...

Serious Grape: A Mixed Case of Interesting Reds and Whites for Fall

Thanks for the additional suggestions--Picpoul and Torrontes are excellent alternatives (though the Picpoul can be hard to find). And Chew on That, most vendors will put together a mixed case for you on request--and give you a small discount, too.

Wine and Plastic Cups: Not a Perfect Pairing

Never in all my days would I expect THIS post to garner so much attention.

Thanks for all your feedback--positive and negative.

A word about subjectivity. The commentary I provide on this site and elsewhere is all subjective. I don't believe much in a "science" of taste. Instead, I believe all taste (pizza, wine, hamburgers) is subjective and depends on environmental (and other) factors, and that people should make their own decisions about what they put in their mouths based on likes and dislikes and not what anyone else says. So for those of you who are content with your stemware/plastic cups/jars/glasses, I say "Cheers." For those who have wondered if stemware matters, do your own taste test. Maybe it will matter to you, maybe it won't. It matters to me.

I hope that even my critics above--the ones who have lost faith in my wine advice and see this post as somehow antithetical to what I promote in terms of wine value--will appreciate that at least you know what I think on this subject. Now you can discard my opinions in full knowledge of what glass I used to come up with them!

Leilah, you may be interested in the work of Ann C. Noble, formerly a professor of viticulture at UC Davis. According to her research, we all need to be told what we're smelling or tasting before we can identify it. She contends that we lack the proper vocabulary to identify smells and tastes precisely, but that can be addressed through education. That's the basis for her work on the sensory evaluation and appreciation of wine, and it's why the hundreds of students who go through UC Davis and other wine programs throughout the world come out saying "gooseberries" when they smell Sauvignon Blanc.

jnicola, Riedel did not lead me by the nose. I wrote my tasting notes down before he started speaking. If it matters to you, you should know that I almost always can tell different wines apart, can identify varieties blind, and even tell you where the grapes came from in some cases (though I am bad on blind tasting Italian wines and identifying vintages). I would like to think this makes me a better wine writer, and it's not that unusual. You should see a Master Sommelier or winemaker at work. They're amazing. Nobody is perfect, however, and tasting blind is always a humbling experience that throws the limits of your palate and your wine education into sharp relief.

Wine and Plastic Cups: Not a Perfect Pairing

Dcarl1, I'm sorry this article rubbed you the wrong way. I do believe I characterized purchasing glasses such as these as an investment. That's what mine have turned out to be, and I continue to feel that I get a return on that investment every time I have a glass of wine. If you are happy with the glasses you have, then you're all set. Read no further. And I have those re-usable hard plastic glasses, too. I don't like them as much as my stemless glasses for picnics, but to each their own. A lot of people have asked me "does your wine glass make a difference?" What I discovered was yes, it did--to me--and I think it did to the 100 other people at the seminar, too. (no scientific evidence for that claim, but there was show of hands vote and I don't remember anyone raising their hand to say they thought the wine in the paper cup tasted better).

Wine and Plastic Cups: Not a Perfect Pairing

Amadeus, please go back and reread the article. I can't find where I ever suggested it was wrong, gauche, or low-brow to drink wine from plastic cups. I did suggest that it wouldn't do much for the taste of the wine. That was my conclusion after the seminar, and I stand by it. And you're right--the environment is a Pandora's box of bad news for wine drinkers.

As for repurposed glass jars, that's what I serve Sangria out of, so like you just because I like my wineglasses that doesn't mean it's all I have or use.

I haven't bought stemware in three years. I bought four Riedel Zinfandel glasses then, and then a set of two stemless Pinot Noir glasses and a set of two stemless Sauvignon Blanc glasses. I think the stemless wonders cost about $20 for a set of 2. That means I spent $100 on wine glasses over the past three years. I haven't broken any of them, and hope not to, so I've got fingers crossed that in seven more years we will have spent the same amount on drinking glasses. I'll let you know!

Wine and Plastic Cups: Not a Perfect Pairing

Dcarl1, I used to think so. Now I see it as an investment. And by the way, I didn't just read Riedel's ideas and then accept them. I actually sat down and tasted the same wine in 5 different glasses. The same wine tasted different in each glass. For me, unscientific though it might be, it was convincing. I've had my Riedel glasses for several years. The first ones I bought I bought because they were on sale and I liked their simplicity. I do have cheaper wine glasses, which I bought and are now taking up cabinet space. I never use them. I think I probably have $100 worth of cheaper glasses--blue ones, pink ones, ones with flowers etched in the side. So which was the better financial decision? And Amadeus482000 I am thrilled that you like wine in plastic cups. Any idea on how much you spend on plastic cups in a given year? Over the space of several years? Do you reuse them, or do they go in the landfills as kitchenbea says above?

Wine and Plastic Cups: Not a Perfect Pairing

Thanks for all the comments. Amadeus482000 is correct--taste is not scientific, it is deeply personal. I am reporting on what I experienced with the wine, just as I do whenever I review a wine for this column. I don't like rough alcoholic wine. If you do, then plastic cups are for you!

Serious Grape: Drink Pink

Thanks for all the suggestions on more rose wines to try. I do love the Bonny Doon, too, fpatrick, though I haven't had a bottle recently. And lemons, if you love rose check out Jamie Ivey's books and blog recounting his adventures with French rose (http://www.extremelypalerose.blogspot.com/)

In Videos: Anteater Drinking Wine

Good Lord. Let's hope the ASPCA doesn't see this. Do anteaters have their own 12-step program??

Serious Grape: Embracing Corkage Fees

Kilbeggan, I don't think we need to get personal about this, do you? I don't really think I deserve being called ignorant and cheap. Also, I would like to point out that I covered 2 of your 3 pointers in my post--and disagree with the 3rd at least in part.

What I object to--and am now refusing to pay for--is the astronomical markup on bad wine. There is something wrong with us as a culture when we assume that it's ok to mark up wine from $7.50 wholesale a bottle/$10-$15 retail to $30-$45 on a wine list. That's not the markup on my steak, or my potatoes, or anything else I put in my mouth.

I don't object to helping restaurant owners pay their rent, and eat out several times every week. But why not charge more for the food? Why not charge a cover? Why is it that you park this cost in wine? Why do Americans feel they are entitled to cheap food??

I'll tell you why--because restaurant owners park their hidden costs in the wine lists and most Americans don't know enough and are too intimidated to say enough is enough, this wine is not worth $45.

So, I don't usually drink wine in restaurants. I drink water. And when I want to drink wine I stay at home, which keeps money out of restaurant accounts. I reached a compromise. I am eating out more and bringing my own wine. Is it less work for me? Yes. Is it more expensive than eating in? Yes. But in this economy, I'd like restaurants stay open so I'm trying to do my part.

I just don't like getting ripped off while doing it. And every restaurant owner charging $35 for a bottle of wine they paid $7.50 for wholesale is doing just that. As a wine drinker, I'm tired of subsidizing the guy's dinner sitting next to me. And I don't think I'm alone.

Serious Grape: Embracing Corkage Fees

treducks, we've also left the rest of the bottle when we don't finish it (frequent occurrence) for the server. And I know of others who have offered tastes of the wine--particularly when it's an old and/or rare bottle. This is a great practice. My wine is usually fairly ordinary!

Serious Grape: Embracing Corkage Fees

Uh, tb1010, how am I supposed to know what the restaurant would sell my $15 wine for on their list? I must say I talked to a number of people about tipping and no one suggested tipping based on the wine price--they did suggest tipping based on the entire check and not excluding the corkage fees.

I don't think this is about being cheap. I think this is about feeling ripped off at restaurant markups. Besides, wouldn't you rather have me dining out than face a restaurant full of empty tables??

Dinner Tonight: Jacket Potatoes with Mushroom Ragu

As a graduate student in Oxford, I existed on jacket potatoes with coleslaw and cheese. Sounds unappealing but don't knock it until you try it. Thanks for the memories!

Serious Grape: Celebrate 'Open That Bottle Night' Tomorrow

Beer is good. Specially purchased bottles you only bought today are good. And we want full reports of the 96 Duval and the 03 Silver Oak, please!

Serious Grape: Preserving Your Wine History

Serious Grape: Preserving Your Wine History

I'll get Aunt Fran to reveal her secret--but I suspect that glue technology has changed since 1973. The hairdryer idea of Tally's is intriguing. Gotta try that! But a digital photo, printed off on the computer, is also an option. Of course, my aunt had people sign the labels at big dinners--an added bonus once they're peeled off and saved.

Serious Grape: Pinotage, the Wine for Coffee Lovers

Variaas, when you're up for a splurge try the Fort Ross. Linda and Lester Schwartz are picky, picky about their grapes and the Sonoma Coast climate seems to be capable of producing very good Pinotage. Will it ever catch on hugely over here? Maybe not, but I like this bottling very much.

Serious Grape: Sweet Wines for Your Sweetie

Inniskillin is a great wine--I've got a bottle waiting for me and your comments only want me to open it faster! I find the Quady Essensia too sweet for my tastes, but that's why wine is great: there's something for everyone.

What goes with Fennel Salad for lunch party?

Pork tenderloins, rolled in Dijon mustard and then in chopped herbs, roasted in the oven and then served alongside. Oh, and the wine? Sauvignon Blanc--one from New Zealand or California. It will pick up the herbal and citrus notes in the salad, and the herbs in the pork. Sounds great!

whats on your menu for the weekend?

I'm making hearty fennel soup with sliced sausage and Gouda toasts tonight, a slow-cooked pork ragu with red peppers and tomatoes served over rigatoni tomorrow, and a goat cheese-and-red pepper frittata for Sunda night when I will collapse into a heap and dread the re-entry into WORK.

Sweet or Savory?

Go right down the middle: Good Stilton, with honey drizzled on top and some chopped glazed pecans sprinkled on there, too. Served with some little crackers or some bread its an AC/DC dessert that pleases everybody--except those benighted souls who don't like stinky cheese.

Photo of the Day: Wiener Dog

That's one silly picture. Both of my doxies were appalled, but they did ask if they could eat the bun when the itty bitty doggie was finished with it.

Cute T-Shirt Alert: 'This Is How I Roll'

Thank you! Gift needs solved...

Thanksgiving Wine, a Guide for Hosts and Guests

Simon, I'm coming to your house! Great pick with that Scholium--I just had their Gemella last week and it was wonderful Lucky you. French Tart, Simon answered the question before I got to it, but you are right: we serve white wines too cold and reds too warm. This blunts flavors (too cold), or emphasizes alcohol (too cold)--neither of which makes the most of whatever bottle you decide to serve.

Apple Cider Caramels

Oh. My. God. I want one, two, three or more of those. ASAP!

Deb Harkness hasn't written a post yet.

Serious Grape: A Mixed Case for Holiday Emergencies

"If nothing else, get three bottles of sparkling wine into your house or apartment now." [Flickr: bignoseduglyguy] It's that time of year again, when your life is about to get really hectic. Before you hit the panic button, do yourself a favor and go out this weekend and buy a mixed case of wine. With a mixed case of wine in your closet, you'll be prepared for the drop-by visitors, last-minute takeout decisions, and leftovers that can make the most organized person scramble. Most of us remember to buy wine for the family dinners and big celebrations of the months to come—it's the smaller stuff that makes you want to tear your hair out. I'd recommend buying three bottles of... More

Serious Grape: Austrian White Wines for Fall

On Fridays, Deb Harkness of Good Wine Under $20 drops by with Serious Grape. [Photograph: Deb Harkness] As temperatures dip, leaves turn, and the nights grow longer, many of us are turning to robust red wines. But if you're a white wine fan—and love seasonal offerings like turkey, squash, apples, and pumpkin—then you might want to look to Austria this autumn. Riesling, Grüner Veltliner, and delicious white blends made with several grape varieties are all good options. Austrian white wines deliver elegance, earthiness, and versatile, food-friendly flavors. Plus, they're affordable. Whether you're looking for a special bottle to put aside for Thanksgiving or one to enjoy with your mid-week pot of pumpkin and leek soup, there's a bottle just right... More

Serious Grape: Hot Dog Wines

"Gewürztraminer is grown in Germany and Alsace, two regions known for fine sausages, so it's no surprise the grape goes well with hot dogs." [Photograph: Robyn Lee] Many hot dogs will be slapped into buns this weekend in honor of Labor Day. Some will anoint them with mustard, others will go for "Chicago style," loading everything but the kitchen sink on top. Even without toppings, hot dogs are tricky because they combine sweet and salty flavors. So what's a wine drinker to do? Of course, you can do what you like--there are no absolute rules when it comes to wine and food pairing. But if hot dogs have stumped you in the past, I've got recommendations for sparkling, Gewürztraminer, rosé,... More

Serious Grape: A Mixed Case of Interesting Reds and Whites for Fall

If you're longing to learn something new this fall, how about grapes? Most of us gravitate to the same few grapes when we buy wine and prefer to bank on familiar favorites rather than take a risk with something we're not sure we'll like. But these grapes will please most palates and provide you with an opportunity to expand your wine knowledge--and your wine comfort zone. More

Serious Grape: Cool Summer Wines

On Fridays, Deb Harkness of Good Wine Under $20 drops by with Serious Grape. Photograph from SLR Jester on Flickr The dog days of summer are upon us, and the heat is on. Many of us reach for beer or mixed drinks when the temperature climbs and we are in search of something icy cold and refreshing. But you don't have to give up on wine. Instead, you need to make summer-savvy choices. Before the cool weather hits, check out some of these recommendations for cool reds, rosés, and whites that will quench your thirst and match beautifully with the simple, fresh foods of August and September.... More

Serious Grape: Sweet Wines for Your Sweetie

You're already trying to figure out what you're going to give your sweetie for Valentine's Day. Most of us reach for Champagne or some other sparkling wine, and that's a wonderful, traditional choice. But if it's romance you're looking for, why not consider a bottle of dessert wine instead? More

Serious Grape: Winter Red Wine Blends

On Fridays, Deb Harkness of Good Wine Under $20 drops by with Serious Grape. This week, red wines for the chilly weather. Photograph from TheBusyBrain on Flickr With much of the country in a deep freeze, it seemed like the perfect time to talk about red blends. Here in the United States, we are used to seeing wines with a single, particular grape listed proudly on the label, such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot. Some think these single-grape bottlings indicate higher quality, and feel that if you have to blend your juice, then there's something wrong with it. Not true. Red blends have been made for centuries all over the world, most notably in Bordeaux, France, where the famous red... More