Easy Oktoberfest Beers at Total Wine

While it would be delightful to go all the way to Germany to drink beer at Oktoberfest, Total Wine has a fun selection of Oktoberfest beers to choose so you can celebrate at home. Here are a few easy choices including one from a local Arizona local brewery, Huss Brewery.

1) Shiner Oktoberfest

2) Paulaner Oktoberfest

3) Hacker-Pschorr Oktoberfest

4) Huss Brewing Oktoberfest

For a bit of history, Oktoberfest is an annual festival in Munich, Germany. It is held over a two-week period and it ends on the first Sunday in October. The festival is related to love (we hope!) and marriage. It was the celebration of the marriage of Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen to the crown prince of Bavaria, who later became King Louis I. This was back on October 12, 1810 and the festival lasted for five days. Fun, right?

In 1818, the annual festival began serving food and drink. This excitement later developed into large beer halls with balconies and bandstands.

Today, Munich brewers recreate these festive structures complete with folk costumes, music, dancing, and overflowing beer steins. It is said that Oktoberfest draws more than six million people each year, many of them tourists. Perhaps you will be one of them in the years to come.

What’s awesomely interesting about Oktoberfest is that yes, there is beer, but it’s not just any beer. It’s Märzen.

Märzen (“March” in German) or Märzenbier (“March beer”) is a lager that originated in Bavaria. Brewed in March, it has a sweeter taste (compared to Bavarian pale lager). With a medium to full body, Märzen can range in color from pale to amber to dark brown. It is this deliciousness that has traditionally been served at the Munich Oktoberfest.

A Bit about the Total Wine Oktoberfest Beers:

Note: We conducted a beer tasting with these four beers with a group of Arizona seniors who’ve had their fair share of beers in their lifetime, and the Shiner came out on top for them!

Shiner – Shiner, TX is the home of Spoetzl Brewery who brews Shiner Beers. Kosmos Spoetzl, born and raised in Bavaria, Germany, bought the brewery in 1915 and with his Märzen beers, put Shiner, TX on the map. Coppery-gold in color, made with two-row barley, it has a light sweetness and hoppiness that comes across as a “low, leafy grassy note.”

Paulaner – An amber beer style developed over 200 years ago to celebrate the original Oktoberfest. A family-owned Munich-based brewery, Paulaner offers this style year-round in the US due to popular demand. Malt taste with a some bitterness; medium body with a dry finish.

Hacker-Pschorr –  Only six Munich breweries are allowed to serve beer at Oktoberfest – and Hacker-Pschorr is one of them. Hacker-Pschorr came to be when Maria Theresia Hacker, daughter of brew master Peter Paul Hacker, married brewery servant Joseph Pschorr. Has a fruity taste with a reddish gold color. Compared to the others, had a sweeter and fuller body.

Huss – Huss began in 2013 in Tempe, AZ. Run by husband and wife team, Jeff and Leah Huss, it has grown into the third largest brewery in Arizona. Has a copper-red hue and full body with a slight malty sweetness and lovely aroma.

Why Decanting Wine is a Good Idea

Are you one of those people who has several wine decanters at home but never uses them either because you’re not sure what to do with it, or you think, ‘Why bother?” when you can simply drink (okay, guzzle) the wine straight from the bottle?

We’re here to let you know that there are real reasons to why you should decant wine and when you should decant wine. The ‘why’ and the ‘when’ are both related to flavor and getting the most out of the wine. So, let’s talk about them!

Just in case, let’s define what a wine decanter is. It is a sultry, curvy, glass or crystal vessel. Some decanters are so gorgeous; they have a presence. Sort of like silver screen star Barbara Stanwyck standing at a fireplace in a fine vintage dress or Harry Belafonte walking into a room in a dapper, tailored suit.  Your eyes are just drawn to the beauty of it! What is more enticing than sitting at dinner table with a sparkling, crystal decanter full of red wine as its centerpiece? Yes, please!

Traditionally, decanting is a process meant to separate red wine from the natural sediment that collects in the bottom of the bottle. Sediment can be a little bitter and a bit distracting to the wine enjoyment experience. With decanting, the idea is that you pour your wine slowly from the bottle and into the decanter. The sediment stays in the bottle and the delicious wine swirls into the decanter.

The second reason for decanting wine is related to flavor. Some wines need a little air to make them taste better. Think of it like opening the windows in your home on a nice spring day; you open your home to let in the fresh and (hopefully) delightful aromas of budding flowers, trees and nature to freshen your environment. When opening a new bottle of wine, you may discover it smells of sulfur or something odd. It’s okay; this just means the wine needs a little oxygen to get it going. Or, you may taste the wine and it seems a little dull; oxygen will liven it up and make it dance as it was meant to do! Decanting will make all your troubles go away.

While the concept to why we decant wine is fairly straightforward, the reasons behind the why can get pretty complex. You can learn more about the complexities here.

For our purposes, let’s keep things simple so that you start using your decanter.

Why decant:

  • For flavor and freshness.

What to decant:

  • Decant red wine (rosés and whites ‘generally’ do not need to be decanted).
  • Older wine for 15-30 min. Younger wine for 30 min – 1 hour. Here’s a fun way to think about it: the older you are, the more you know, right? You don’t need much to make you fabulous because you already are! Older wine is kinda already fabulous. So, just a little touch of oxygen makes older wines open up quickly. When we’re younger, we think we know everything; we are full of life and potential and ready to goooo. But, sometimes we need to pull back the reigns for a bit and settle to allow our greatness to fully manifest. So, younger wines need a little time to calm down before they are ready for prime time.

When to decant:

  • Based on the above criteria, decant just as you’re getting ready serve a meal, or before guests are to arrive. If you’re having a night in, decant when you throw your popcorn in the microwave or a few minutes before you settle down to binge your favorite show like Only Murders in the Building, Dark Winds, Reservation Dogs or back-to-back Barbara noir films like Double Indemnity (1944) or Sorry, Wrong Number (1948).

How to decant:

  • Tip the decanter (if it’s not already at an angle) and pour your wine slowly into it. By the way, if you have guests, keep the empty bottle nearby so they can see what they are drinking.
  • Note: While decanters can be beautiful in form and function, you can still decant without a decanter. You can use your wine glass to simulate the process. If you’re goal is to remove sediment, you can simply pour your wine very slowly to avoid sediment getting in the glass (and/or use a fine strainer or cheese cloth if you have one). If your goal is to get rid of an unpleasant aroma because your wine needs a little oxygen to make it right, simply swirl the wine in the glass for awhile and let it sit. Mother nature will do the rest.
Decanters, too!

One thing to remember, too much air can be bad for wine, and we spoke about that here. So be cautious with decanting, but don’t worry about it too much. Just drink faster. (We’re kidding. Don’t do that.)

Happy decanting!

Oh, by the way:

Looking for some wines to decant?

Local to Arizona:

Easy Guide to Wine Glasses

When it comes to wine glasses, if you are someone who shouts, “Just pour, baby! I don’t care what glass it’s in as long as it’s in there!” We’re here to offer a few thoughts on why ya might want to give yourself an opportunity to think a l’il differently.

Here’s a place to start. Ask yourself this:

  • Would you put hot coffee in a water glass?
  • Would you cook soup in a frying pan?
  • What happens when you use a razor instead of electric clippers?
  • When it’s time to move and pack up boxes, what happens when you use dollar store packing tape instead of 3M heavy duty tape?
  • For those that wear eyeliner, what happens when you use Wet n Wild black eyeliner versus Lancôme?

Hopefully, these examples are getting your brain to think differently about what type of glass you pour your delicious (and oftentimes, necessary) wine into.

As The Wine Company states in My Little Wine Book, “…It is essential to have a glass which has a shape fine-tuned to the purpose. The shape is responsible for the quality and intensity of the bouquet and the flow of the wine onto your tongue.”

You don’t want to miss out on the intensity of the bouquet, do you??

To help you out, here is a quick and dirty tutorial:

Round Glass = Red

  • Why: The round shape of the glass is largely about oxidation and allowing the wine to breathe. (See our article here on decanting). The placement of the air in the glass allows for the aromas to hit your nose and tongue in a delightful way.

Oval Glass = White

  • Why: Alternatively, white wines (except for Chardonnay, perhaps) want a little less oxygen on them. They like to stay crisp, close and cosy in the glass. The thinner oval shape supports this.

Tall & Thin Glass = Champagne, Sparkling wine

  • Why: Bubbles! The flute keeps the bubbles bubbly and allows that effervescence to float to your nose. As you sip, the shape also sends the yumminess straight to your tongue for lots of tingles.

These tips are only the tip of the ice berg when it comes to knowing which glass is the proper glass for wine. There are so many glasses! It can be a fun journey toward expanding your wine knowledge to learn all the types of wine glasses (i.e, there’s a glass specifically for Pinot Noir, another for Bordeaux; there’s special glasses for ports and dessert wines, and so many more).

Before we go, let’s talk about quality for a moment. There is also much to learn about the quality of glass to use with your wine. Take the Wet n Wild vs Lancôme example above. Wet n Wild eyeliner, about $5.00 at Walgreens, can go on smooth, but by the end of the day, it might be sliding or cracking off your face or gone completely. It doesn’t have much staying power. Whereas Lancôme, about $19 at Nordstrom Rack, is going to glide on your eye and adhere to it in a way that makes you feel confident about using the product. Both are 100% functional and serve a purpose. The price and promise of the product is what makes the difference. With wine glasses, you absolutely can stock up on several glasses from the Dollar General. The glass will be thicker, which will affect the temperature of your wine as well as how you sip it. Whereas with a Riedel or even a nice glass from Crate n Barrel or William Sonoma, you’re going to get a light-weight, properly (and beautifully) stemmed glass which will make your wine stand out in the ways it should.

The point is, using the right wine glass for the right type of wine enhances the experience and it really does make a difference. Will the world end if you use a white wine glass for a red? Of course not. Will your hands shrivel off or burst into flames if you use a dollar-store wine glass instead of a Riedel? Probably not. The importance (and fun) is to know the difference, understand the why and appreciate the quality of a nice glass. And then keep it movin’ and get back to enjoying your vino!

Chandler Center for the Arts

Things to do in Chandler: Arts

Chandler Center for the Arts
Featured photo: Sean Mason (CCA website)

The Chandler Center for the Arts is located in the heart of downtown Chandler, Arizona. Located on Arizona Avenue and Chandler Blvd, it is hard to miss. As a performer who moved here from Los Angeles, I get incredibly excited by performance venues. During several family visits here prior to moving, I was always struck by the center’s majestic marquee and had dreams of performing there myself. Upon moving here, I marched myself to the space to see what it was all about. I’m happy I did. Full disclosure, I now sit on the Chandler Cultural Foundation Board which supports CCA. Board member or not, I can’t recommend this space enough when looking for something to do in Chandler.

For those who are non-performers and love to enjoy music and the arts, the Chandler Center for the Arts is really worth visiting and supporting. Over the years, the programming has consistently become more and more diverse to reflect the diversity that is Chandler. For example, the 2023-24 season includes Leelah James, Howie Mandel, Las Cafeteras, Boney James, Pink Martini and musicals Beauty and the Beast and North. These are just a few acts featured in the power-house line up this year.

The space is jointly owned by the City of Chandler and the Chandler Unified School District. The Chandler Center for the Arts functions dually as the home theater for Chandler High School and the arts center for the City of Chandler. This is exciting to me because students at Chandler High have the benefit of performing in a state-of-the-art facility and local residents benefit from reasonably-priced to free events for the community. Additionally, there are two art galleries associated with the center, The Gallery at CCA (on site) and the Vision Gallery located at 10 E. Chicago Street. Excitingly, both galleries present the work of engaging, enlightening and relevant artists.

What I like about it:

  • I’m a theater geek; the mainstage at the Chandler Center for the Arts is insane! It’s huge, has amazing light and sound capabilities and seats 1500. There are also two other smaller stages and presentation areas that are salivation-worthy for those that might need space for a speaking engagement, awards ceremony or a one-person show, for example. These are the Hal Bogle Theater (350 seats) and The Recital Hall (250 seats). (Note: The CCA books quickly. Plan ahead.)
  • Plenty of free parking
  • Comfortable seating, not a bad seat in the house.
  • Wider variety of music and arts presented each season.

More information:



Great Wines for a Wedding

Whether you have a large wedding, small gathering, or our elope like we did, choosing great wine for your wedding can be an exciting part of your planning.

When we got married, we were living in Los Angeles and eloped to Santa Barbara. We hired a car service to take us from our apartment to the Santa Barbara court house lawn. This very beautiful treat allowed both of us to enjoy our wedding wine and champagne all the way from the beginning of the day to the end of the night. Matt used to work in the wine business and he lovingly chose our nuptial nuances.

Wines for our Wedding

We enjoyed wines from Lo-Fi, (of which we are wine club members), champagne from Billecart-Salmon and our toasting champagne was a Vieille Franc Brut, a gift from our beautiful friend and photographer, Sophia.

  • Lo-Fi Cab Franc
  • Lo-Fi Chenin Blanc
  • Bille-Cart Salmon Champagne
  • Vieille Franc Brut

Getting the party started

Lo-Fi Chenin Blanc

To get the party started, we chose the 2019 Petillant Naturel Lo-Fi Chenin Blanc from the Tres Hermanas. Something new for us, it was gorgeous to enjoy while we relaxed in the limo and delighted in the mountain and ocean views as our driver, Eddie, of Crown Limousine LA took excellent care of us.

Wine for the wedding toast

Lo-Fi Cab Franc

Our ceremony with our wine officiant, Dani, included a moment where we sipped wine to commemorate the past, present and future. For this special section, we chose a 2019 Lo-Fi Cabernet France from the Coquelicot Vineyard. This wine makes us very happy and was incredibly satisfying to sip as it is bright, lively and fruity … just like our love.

Champagne toast

Vieille Franc Brut

One of our witnesses was a lovely friend who lived locally near Santa Barbara. A newly married woman herself (two years in at the time), Ms Sophia surprised us with a champagne toast with something she and her husband enjoyed during their nuptials. (And glasses!) The Champagne Vieille Franc Brut by Charles de Cazanove was extraordinarily satisfying to taste while the Santa Barbara sun wrapped its warming arms around all of us and the two other wedding parties that were also tying the knot that day.

Wine for the couple

Billecart-Salmon Champagne

This was the piece-de-resistance. We drank this Brut Rose celebratory champagne on the way back home as the setting sun congratulated us on a job well done! As Matt says, “It’s perfect for an early afternoon, post-wedding toast and enjoyment.” This wine is distributed by Chambers & Chambers which we found to be quite fitting.

Figuring out how to grow

From the Big City to Big Suburbs

So. We moved. I haven’t been able to write about it because honestly, my identity has been so wrapped up in LA, LA, LA or Prague, Prague, Prague or New York, New York … and now, I’m … Chandler, Arizona.

That was the opening to my blog on Pen and Peppur. You can continue reading that entry here, if you like.

What I’d like to do in this space is write shorter posts and center my thoughts around what happens our You Tube episodes, or thoughts on living in Chandler, maybe tips around homeownership, and so on.

Truthfully, I’m still figuring it out. Stay tuned! And if you have thoughts on what you’d like to read here that you’re not finding elsewhere, I’d love to hear your ideas!

All my best,