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Choosing the Best Sparkling Wine for Cocktails

There’s nothing nicer than relaxing in the sunshine and sipping a glass of sparkling wine – apart from transforming it with the right ingredients into a sparkling wine cocktail.  And while you can make a cocktail with almost any sparkling wine, some do a better job than others based on the sweetness and flavours in them.  So how do you choose the best sparkling wine for cocktails?

Sweetness level

One of the most important things to understand when making sparkling wine cocktails is the sweetness levels of the wine.  This can have a dramatic and sometimes unpleasant effect on the drink.  Wines range from dry to sweet and usually cocktails will use a wine that is quite dry as the other ingredients added to the mix might be sweeter.

When you are looking at prices for sparkling wine offers, to understand why the wine is priced the way it is you must first look at what the different terms mean on the bottle of wine. They are graded from the very driest to the sweetest using the following terms:

  • Extra Brut
  • Brut
  • Extra Dry Sec
  • Demi-Sec
  • Doux

Quality of Wine

Is the more expensive wine always better. The short answer is yes but with some caveats. There are plenty of fancy looking bottles of sparkling wine that may look like they taste good. However, what good is buying an expensive bottle of wine without doing your research first. The most efficient way is to search the web for sparkling wine offers to keep costs down, especially when the plan is to make cocktails. As long as that research is done, the more expensive bottles are almost always better.

Types of sparkling wine

If you want to go for a bottle of the finest sparkling wine, champagne, for your cocktails then there’s no reason not to.  But if you are looking for a little more budget friendly option, then there are lots of great sparkling wines from around the world that are a little less expensive and make superb cocktails.

Prosecco is very on-trend at the moment in terms of drinking on its own and adding to cocktails.  It is the Italian version of Champagne but doesn’t take as long to make and this is why the price is a lot more affordable.  If you want a sweet sparkling wine, then Moscato d’Asti is a sweet, Italian wine made in the Asti region of north-west Italy.

Cava is the Spanish sparkling wine that is available in white and also rose versions and is used for special events such as weddings and baptisms.  It also works well in cocktails.

Cremant is the name for champagne that comes from anywhere in France other than the Champagne region and uses much the same process.  It also tends to be more budget friendly.

Both the US and Australia also produce several good quality sparkling wines that work well in cocktails with Californian wines being particularly notable.

Cocktail ideas

One of the very easiest champagne cocktails to try is the Kir Royale.  It uses sparkling wine and crème de cassis, a black currant liqueur that gives the drink a soft pink colour.  You only need around 1 tablespoon of spirit to a champagne flute for a perfect drink.  You can also substitute the crème de cassis for any number of other spirits including Chambord (called a Kir Imperial) or calvados (known as Cider Royale).

Best Cars for Luxury on a Budget

Looking for the full range of features and amenities without that intimidating luxury price-tag? You can still get a vehicle fitted out with premium materials and the best in high-tech and luxe features without completely breaking the bank. Here are the 5 best cars for luxury on a budget.

Nissan Maxima

The Nissan Maxima tends to defy the standard when compared to other models in its class. It doesn’t boast an official “luxury” badge, yet it performs and feels like a step above comparable models and presents a driving experience like a luxury sedan.

The Maxima is powerful and fun to drive, with strong acceleration and sporty handling, yet also sophisticated and stylish, with a refined and comfortably smooth ride. The interior feels much more luxurious than the price-tag would suggest, with soft-touch surfaces throughout and “Zero Gravity” seats that are both supportive and comfortable.

Standard features include keyless ignition and entry, leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, Bluetooth and Apple CarPlay capabilities, sound system with satellite radio and a navigation system. Optional luxurious upgrades include 360-degree parking camera, Nissan Connect, upgraded driver seat with two-way power lumbar, premium diamond-quilted leather upholstery, driver attention alert system and a premium Bose audio system.

Audi A3

The Audi A3 is a premium vehicle at a reasonable price that provides the perfect entry-level option for drivers wanting to break into the luxury market. Drivers love the sophisticated, refined style of the Audi A3 combined with the smooth maneuverability, powerful acceleration and sharp handling. This is a vehicle that speaks of luxury and sophistication while still providing a fun and sporty drive.

Basic features on the A3 include leather upholstery, an eight-way power driver seat with four-way power lumbar adjustment, front and rear parking sensors, Bluetooth connectivity, the MMI electronics system and a 10-speaker sound system. Optional upgrades include smartphone integration with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capabilities, a powered passenger seat, Bang and Olufsen sound system and adaptive cruise control. Max out on the luxury and high-tech features with the Technology package, that comes with mobile 4G LTE connectivity and Wi-Fi hot-spot, voice controls, mobile app integration and a navigation system that utilizes Google Earth imagery.

Mercedes-Benz CLA class

The Mercedes-Benz CLA class keeps all of the classic Mercedes style and sophistication with some fun features and a reasonable price-tag. Drivers adore this vehicle because of its fun and sporty driving experience, full suite of safety features and equipment, incredible fuel economy and impressive cargo carrying capacity. You can have it all in a luxury package with a sleek, distinctive style in the CLA class.

Standard features for the CLA class are impressive, particularly the forward collision warning system with automatic braking and the drowsy driver attention system, two advanced safety features that are almost always optional or not available on other luxury car models. Also standard are eight-way power front seats with four-way driver lumbar adjustment and memory functions, Bluetooth connectivity, the Mercedes COMAND technology system and the Mbrace2 emergency communication system. Optional upgrades include advanced safety features, a Harman Kardon sound system, panoramic sunroof, leather upholstery, adjustable suspension, automatic parking system, smartphone integration and a navigation system with voice controls.

Cadillac ATS

It’s hard to drive a Cadillac without people noticing your style. The ATS matches that sophisticated attitude with impressive performance thanks to agile handling, a full suite of high-tech features and an entertaining driving experience,

The ATS is a compact luxury sport sedan with rear or all wheel drive that comes standard with some impressive features including keyless ignition, rear-view camera, six-way power front seats with power lumbar and the CUE infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, OnStar, voice controls, Bluetooth connectivity and a Bose sound system.  Optional luxurious upgrades include leather surface seats with 10-way power seats, sunroof, a suite of advanced driver assist and safety features including collision alert, and parking sensors.

Volvo S60

Volvo has a great reputation for safety, but the Volvo S60 turns heads with style and power befitting of a luxury car known for speed and sporty driving. This car still feels sophisticated thanks to an all wheel drive system and interior cabin features that keep it both comfortable and quiet even while it’s roaring with its supercharger and turbocharger engines.

Standard features on the S60 include Volvo’s On Call safety system that provides emergency and stolen vehicle assistance and automatic crash notification, Volvo’s Sensus smartphone app integration, Bluetooth connectivity, Wi-Fi capability, a fully-equipped sound system, leather seats, eight-way power driver seat with adjustable lumbar and memory settings, and low speed forward collision warning.

Optional luxury upgrades include a navigation system, premium Harman Kardon sound system, parking assistance, rear-seat entertainment with dual displays, keyless ignition and entry, a power front passenger seat and wood interior trim.

Surprisingly Awesome Road Trip Cars

When it comes to road-tripping, especially in wine country, your car may be the most important part of your trip. Here are some surprisingly awesome road trip cars that you should keep on your list and consider before you plan your next big adventure. There’s something special about each of them that makes them perfect for long drives into the unknown.

GMC Canyon Diesel

This powerful pickup truck is perhaps the most surprising on this list of surprisingly awesome road trip cars. You may not think of a pickup as being a good vehicle for a long drive due to space restrictions and bad gas mileage, but this 4-door diesel gets about 30 mpg on the highway and up to 600 miles on one tank. The turbocharged engine pulls the truck along with the ease of a sedan but allows you to tow up to 7,000 pounds of road trip toys. Convert the truck’s bed into a pool for portable road trip swimming!

Ford Flex

Ford Flex 03.jpg
By resedabearFlickr, CC BY 2.0, Link

On a road trip, traveling around in a box may be a good thing when it comes to space. This SUV has three rows, which means you have so much room for all of your passengers and cargo as well. If you aren’t using all the seats, put them down and you’ll have plenty of space for pretty much anything you would want to bring on a road trip, from mountain bikes to paddleboards. The square shape means lots of extra headroom which makes the Flex feel so spacious and makes even the longest road trips extra enjoyable.

Toyota RAV4

Toyota Rav4 2016.jpg
By RL GNZLZ from Chile – Toyota Rav4 2016, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link

The RAV4 might seem just just another SUV, but this compact adventure-mobile is actually pretty special. For starters, it can tow up to 1,500 pounds and has Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, which will really transform your long road trip. This cruise control lets you set a speed and then uses radar to adjust if there are cars in front of you. An interior with reduced noise and vibration helps keep everyone more comfortable on your drive. Four-wheel drive lets you explore anywhere you want, while an average 30 mpg on the highway makes it the perfect cruiser as well.

Kia Sedona

The Sedona is an affordable but luxurious minivan that’s makes you forget you’re driving a van. Tri-zone climate control helps keep everyone on your road trip so comfortable, while the captain’s chairs in the center row offer reclining footrests so your passengers can really relax on the drive. A super sleek and stylish exterior looks more like a hatchback than a van. You’ll get about 25 mpg on the highway with this room-for-8 van that can also tow about 3,500 of road trip toys.

Chevy Impala

This full-sized sedan is truly comfort on wheels when it comes to road-tripping. The trunk is surprisingly roomy, and the seats for the driver and all passengers are designed for comfort. The Impala’s suspension gives the sedan’s ride a floating feeling that minimizes all feelings of being on the road. If you’re looking for a great basic sedan with a well-above average ride and cargo space, the Impala is a surprisingly awesome road trip car.

Mercedes-Benz S550 Coupe

The S550 Coupe lets you look good while you travel, and gives you a good way to view the road with its huge sunroof and pillarless glass windows. You’ll get to see all of your surroundings from the comfort of this luxury ride. Nice little features like a multimedia system help keep your passengers entertained on long drives, while the Intelligent Drive safety and convenient features like radar systems, brake assistance and active blind spot assist will make the drive less stressful for the driver and more safe for everyone.

Toyota FJ Cruiser

Even though they stopped making this awesome SUV in 2014, a used one is still a great choice for a road trip vehicle, especially if you want to do any off-roading road trips. The boxy, rugged-looking exterior has little touches like 3 windshield wipers and rear-opening back passenger doors. The inside is covered with a washable rubber material to let you clean up fast after a fun day of adventuring in the sand, mud or water. They’re so fun to adventure in!

How Your Family Can Benefit From Smart Speakers (like Amazon Echo)

Amazon Echo and Google Home are smart speakers that can understand your commands and perform tasks for you. It short, they are voice-powered personal assistants on hand at all times. They are used by individuals of all kinds, but what many don’t know is that they offer a wide variety of benefits for families with children too. Here are a few ways that Amazon Echo and similar devices can benefit your family.

Pure Search Engine Power

This is no doubt the most useful tool that Alexa and Google Home has to offer. At any point in time, you or your child can activate the device with one word such as “Alexa” and then ask any question. This is extremely useful for studying, cooking, or anything else. Imagine your child is doing homework, and they come to a point where they have a question to ask. Normally, they come to you and you are forced to search your brain for the twenty-sixth president of the United States. Now, all you have to do is say, “Alexa, who was the twenty-sixth president of the United States?” and she will spout out an answer like, “The twenty-sixth president of the United States was Theodore Roosevelt.” She may even add some extra quick facts, such as birth, death, and famous quotes. Cooking and need a conversion, just ask her, “How many tablespoons are in a cup?” or “What’s a good substitute for sugar?”

Conversation Pieces

When everyone gets home from school, work, and practice, it’s nice to sit around the table and talk about your day. But sometimes, it’s hard to find a topic after the overviews are finished. With these devices, you can say things like, “I’m feeling lucky,” or “give me a random fact.” This is a great way to get to know each other even better. Alexa loves to get the conversation going with fun info. You can even tell the device to give you trivia questions for a fun game or solve a debate with a dice roll. Want to learn a language together? Alexa is a great teacher. Ask her to say anything in nearly any language you can imagine.

Music on Hand

Whether you like listening to music while cleaning, having a family game night, or even dancing, these systems are there for you. They can use Pandora, Spotify, or downloaded music. You can customize lullaby lists to put your baby to sleep, instrumentals for our child’s singing lessons, or a compiled list of the family’s favorite songs. The best part is that they can be played with just a short command. Not only that, but you can turn it up, down, on, or off with your voice as well. Can’t agree on a song, take turns by naming which song each person wants to play next.

Shopping Made Easy

How many times a week do you hear, “Mom, we need toothpaste!” or “We’re out of cereal again.” With these personal assistants, they can skip telling you and add it to the list with their voice no matter how small they are. It won’t be purchased this way, but Google and Alexa will add them to your phone’s shopping list. You can sync the list to your phone or send it to the kids or your spouse. If you don’t know if a said retailer or grocery store has an item in stock, you can check that too. “Does Wal-Mart have Cap’n Crunch?” There may be more than one way to find out, but none of them are as easy as asking your personal assistant who can have an answer in five seconds or less. If she doesn’t know, she can set your reservations for your favorite restaurant or order a pizza instead.

Total Control

Need to set an alarm for school or work? No problem with Alexa. What about setting a bedtime? Just tell the device that your child needs to go to bed at a set time. What’s even crazier is that you can program her to shut the garage door, turn off the kitchen lights, or even turn the coffee pot on.v

Conclusion

Devices like Amazon Echo and Google home are a complete asset for anyone, but especially families. Not only is the ease of access nice. With less time spent on grocery lists, asking questions, setting alarms, and even turning off the lights, there is more time to spend together. That is always a good thing!