Friday, December 30, 2011

Best of 2011... Wine and Buffalo Wings

This week, we are recapping some of our favorite things from the year...

My personal favorite experiment for the year was trying wine with homemade chicken wings.
While it’s not a normal wine pairing, it was fun to try something different.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Best of 2011... Favorite Wines

This week, we are recapping some of our favorite things from the year...

We had the opportunity to try a lot of excellent wine this year, but there are some that really stood out.

It’s tough to pick just one, but we really came to love Cabernet Francs this year.
They made for some superbly sippable reds, both from New York and Virginia.

While we had some really excellent 2010 Rieslings from the Finger Lakes, it was a Chardonnay from California that really stood out, and reminded us that Chardonnay can be wonderfully deep and complex.

For sparkling wine, the Champagne from Perrier-Jouet was by far the best, and really, it was the most outstanding wine we had all year. But the Moscato d’Asti was an exceptional value, if you have to pay for the bottle yourself.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Best of 2011... Did You Know About Blended WInes?

This week, we are recapping some of our favorite things from the year...
I think the best thing we learned this year was how to appreciate Blended Wines. Between seeing the benefit in the Virginian wines to tasting the pure craftsmanship of world class Champagne it’s easy to see why blending grapes to get the perfect flavor can be a good thing.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Best of 2011... Most Surprising Wines

This week, we are recapping some of our favorite things from the year...

We tried a lot of different wine this year, and there were some that really surprised us.

The most surprising glass of red wine had to be the Shinn Estates Claret at Henry Public. Little did we know that Long Island is so suited to French style wines.

Beyond our normal Rieslings, we found some interesting wines in the Finger Lakes, including some wonderful sparkling Riesling from Dr Frank, made in the Champagne style.

One of our earliest reviews was a striking rosé from Domaine Spiropoulos that taught us that not all rose is boxed Zinfandel.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Best of 2011... Dinner at Public

This week, we are recapping some of our favorite things from the year...

We are fortunate in that we can get out an enjoy so many of things NYC, and our country in general has to offer. It’s tough to decide what was our favorite evening out was, but Public has a special place in our hearts, for the special treatment we get there.

Friday, December 23, 2011

How-To: Use Bad Wine, Cooking with Wine

Over the summer, we bought a few bottles of wine on discount. We opened the first bottle, and decided we didn’t like it, and the remainder have sat in our wine rack since. They weren’t horrible, or corked, but with all of the good wines out there, we couldn’t be bothered to finish them off. But we couldn’t just throw them away. So they have sat there, gathering dust, waiting on a time where they might come in handy. And with the holidays, they we finally came up with a use: cooking wine.

They say you shouldn’t cook with any wine you wouldn’t drink. That means that if you can skip using Cooking Wine from the grocery store, you probably should. But who wants to waste a good bottle of wine in cooking? The Riesling we had on hand was drinkable, but was always at the bottom of the list, so it made sense to use it for some holiday cooking, for dishes that needed a bit of added liquid and that could stand a bit of acidity. I did a bit of research, and came up with a couple of recipes: Chicken and Mushrooms in White Wine Sauce, and for Thanksgiving, I made Wine Butt Turkey.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Quick Review: Wilhemus Estate Semi-Dry Rielsing

US, New York, Finger Lakes, Wilhelmus Estate, Semi-dry Riesling (late harvest), 2008
+ // Earthy // Cloves //Pepper, clove, grass // Medium

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Did you know... Wines of Mexico

Like so many parts of the world, Mexico has a burgeoning wine region. Before the Europeans came, natives used grapes and other fruit to make alcohol. Since the earliest settlement by the Spaniards, people have been making wine, especially in the Baja region. Since the 1980’s, there have been serious advancements, using modern farming techniques to create quality warm climate wines. The most common varietals used to include chenin blanc, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, merlot, shiraz, and tempranillo.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Quick Review: Hosmer Riesling

From our Anniversary Dinner:
NY, Finger Lakes, Hosmer Winery, Riesling 2008
+ // Sweet // Apple // Green Apple, Petrol // Light

Monday, December 19, 2011

Anniversary Wine

One of the great things about wine is that it lends itself to special events so easily. There is so much pomp and circumstance surrounding wine, that if you embrace it, a simple bottle can elevate an important evening to something even greater. And even better, its a special experience that you can share with others, some common element of enjoyment to an evening.

Because of all our love of the region, Tina and I were married in the Finger Lakes. The day after our wedding, we ran off into the hills for some time alone at the wineries. Then and there, we decided to start our own tradition: buying a bottle of wine on our anniversary, and saving it for the next year. It gives us another thing to remind us of that beautiful fall day in the hills, and gives us something extra special to look forward to on that important date.

Tina had just started a new job in time for our anniversary this year, so we didn’t manage to celebrate in the Finger Lakes. But we did still make an event of it, at home. We enjoyed a wonderful tasting dinner at Scarpetta, which we have been talking about visiting for years, and the wine pairings that accompanied it were balanced and thoughtful, and made the meal even more spectacular. Later in the week we also took a quiet night, with a home cooked meal, along with our special bottle. We had saved a bottle of 2009 Hosmer Riesling, selected as one of our favorites from our trip to the Finger Lakes last fall and saved for this special occasion. We drank it with a simple meal of Dill Crusted Trout and Veggie Slaw; earthy and sweet flavors that went well with the fruit and minerality of the wine. The best part was spending the evening enjoying each other’s company, lingering over our bottle of wine, thinking about the good times we have shared so far, and looking forward to our future together. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

How-to... Store Wine

People store wine for a variety of reasons. Maybe we found a wine we loved on a wine tour, and bought a case. Maybe friends brought too many bottles for a housewarming party. And maybe we invested in some age worthy wines, and they need to be "cellared." While the last one requires a bit more effort, especially for those of us in cramped NYC living spaces, there are a couple of simple rules anyone can follow, to help preserve their wine.
  • Store bottles on their side
  • Store wine in a cool, dark place
The most important thing to remember about storing your wine is its position. To preserve your wine, you need to store it on its side. This keeps the cork from drying out and allowing too much air to get into the bottle, oxidizing the wine.

Ideally, wine should be stored at cool temperatures, around 55 degrees Fahrenheit, out of direct light. Too much heat will “cook” a wine, and too much sunlight or direct artificial light will change the flavors. If you are unable to store it in a cool location, it should at least be protected from fluctuations in temperature. This means you should avoid storing it on top of your refrigerator, where the heat rising from the motor will swing the temperature of your wine frequently.

Most wine made today is meant to be consumed right away, within a year or two of when it was released. Of the finer quality wines, very few whites are meant to be aged, though some of the heavy bodied white wines can improve with age. Strong, tannic reds can age for several years, especially Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.

Since many people don’t have access to temperature controlled cellar spaces to store their wine collections, wine fridges make an excellent alternative. A small under-counter wine cooler can easily store 30 to 40 bottles at optimal temperatures and humidity.

For those that have the room and the space, a wine cellar can be a thing of beauty. Racks of wine bottles and cases in a finely crafted stone grotto, with its own tasting room is something we can all strive for, but for now I think I will have to just grab a bottle from the rack on the wall, and enjoy what I have.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Quick Review: Fleisher’s Meats

Vegetarians beware! A new shop has opened in our neighborhood, a butcher specializing in fresh meat from small family farms, local to their main shop in Kingston, NY. We’ve ordered some of their frozen meat from their online store in the past, and it was such a treat that the opening of their new storefront in Brooklyn drew me in.

Packed tight in a small space in Park Slope, a neighborhood of Brooklyn that embraces small local businesses, there was a small line of locals jockeying for position at the case, scoping out the options. The butchers behind the counter were working hard, asking questions of each customer on what they were looking for, and helping to tenderize steaks that were headed home to cook for dinner that night. 

While they weren’t butchering anything at the time, the cutting table was clearly visible in back, though it was hidden from view from the children’s nook. Shelves of jerky, and cases full of frozen meats compliment the fresh selections. While the price point is higher than the grocery store butcher shop, it’s good value to given the quality and taste of the meat.

Dinner was Hamburger, cooked simply, to test the flavors of the meat. The ground beef was marbled with enough fat to keep the meat moist as it cooked. I am looking forward to going back, and trying some steak. Now to find a good organic wine, to compliment the organic meat!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Did you know... Wine as Small Business

In honor of Small Business Saturday, and the general push to support local businesses, it's worth highlighting just how small scale the wine industry can be. It’s still a good way for small, family-owned farms to make a profit.

The wine industry defines a small producer as one that produces less than 50,000 cases annually, or approximately 120,000 gallons.

According to the Wine Institute, there were 3364 wineries in California in 2010, and nearly all of them were family owned. The Family Wine Makers of California association boasted 550 members, 90% of who produce less than 10,000 cases annually. In contrast, the large-scale Bogle Vineyards sold 1,200,000 cases in 2010.

According to New York, in 2008, 80% of New York State’s 240 wineries were Farm Wineries, with less than 150,000 gallons, produced from 100% NY grapes. Originally from New York, Constellation Wines sells 50,000 cases of wine a year, under labels like Woodbridge and Robert Mondavi Private Selection.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Supporting the Local, Palo Santo

After the frantic crowds of Black Friday had cleared out, we ventured out into our neighborhood to enjoy the holiday weekend. Our part of Brooklyn is perfect for SmallBusinessSaturday, as it is home to a wide range of small shops filling every need imaginable. We wandered about, doing a little bit of shopping, but as usual, our real effort to support the local business community was focused on the local restaurant scene. To that end, we decided to visit a restaurant that we have noted in our walks. Palo Santo focuses on locally grown ingredients, and a wine list of both South American and New York varietals.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Wine Pairing... Tocai Fruliano and Chicken Pot Pie

We are working our way through the recipe book, testing out wine knowledge with meals that would not normally pair with wine. This week, we went with Chicken Pot Pie; a dish rich in flavors.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Quick Review: Chicken Pot Pie Pairing

US, NY, Hudson Valley, Millbrook, Tocai Fruliano 2010
+ // Fruity // Green Apple, Oak // Lemon, Grass, Herbs // Medium

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Did you know?... About Table Wine

The definition of table wine is one area where the Old World and American wines differ greatly. For European wines, it means that the grapes are sourced from outside the major wine producing areas, and generally indicates a lower quality product. In the US, any wine below 14% alcohol by volume is considered a table wine, so long as it is neither sparkling or fortified. It has come to mean everyday, drinkable wine, and people often associated it with low quality, but for American wines, this is often not the case.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Monday, December 5, 2011

Return of The Bearded Lady

While we enjoy cocktails, we have a lot to learn about them. With wine, you get what the vintner wants you to have, and, barring any serious aging problems, typically bottle over bottle of the same wine tastes basically the same. Cocktails are much more varied and flexible. After being challenged on our original review of the Bearded Lady, we were eager to get back, and see if our opinion would change. This time, we had a better appreciation of what goes into a good cocktail, and give a thumbs up to Bearded Lady for satisfying our palates.

Friday, December 2, 2011

How-To: Read an American Wine Label

Courtesy of
Every year, the US approves over 100,000 wine labels for distribution. Every new wine release in the US must have its own approved label. As a result, American wine labels are often easier to understand compared to their Old World counterparts. There is always useful information to look for:

Thursday, December 1, 2011

QUICK REVIEW: American Airlines "red wine"

On a recent American Airlines flight, I thought it would be fun to sample the "red wine" offered. Airlines are paying more attention to their wine offerings, and I wondered what their house red would taste like.

Chile, Santa Rita "120" Syrah 2009
/ // Fruity // Plum, Berry // Oak, Grape Seeds, Plum // Light

The biggest problem? The wine was served cold. I wonder whether my rating would have been higher if the wine had been served a little warmer. This would have allowed it to "open up" more, so that I could get at the richness of the flavors. Instead, it was very "one note", and the coldness made it seem like I was drinking a grape juice that had gone bad. This speaks to the importance of serving wine at "wine temp" (or, 55-60 degrees).

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Did You Know? . . . About Resveratrol

There are a number of scientific studies that point to health benefits in moderate wine consumption. Resveratrol is at the forefront of much of the discussions. Resveratrol is a compound found in the skin of red grapes, and the reason why many believe red wine has the health benefits that white does not. Resveratrol in large doses has been linked to longevity and cancer prevention, and a recent study indicated that resveratrol can mimic the benefits of exercise and diet in obese men. Don't run out to your nearest wine store just yet: red wine ultimately contains very little Resveratrol, in the order of one milligram per glass, and you might as well take a Resveratrol supplement if you want those health benefits. The studies are in their infancy, and there is still debate as to the full effectiveness of Resveratrol. Whether there is a health benefit to drinking wine is also up for debate, and it is generally agreed that more than two glasses of wine a day will counteract any of those potential benefits, anyway. Everything in moderation, as they way.

In terms of wine, the highest concentration of Resveratrol
is found in Pinot Noir grapes, pictured here.
(c) greenmelinda

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

QUICK REVIEW: Dr. Konstantin Frank Wine Pairing Dinner

NY, Finger Lakes, Dr Konstantin Frank, Dry Riesling 2010
++ // Crisp // Apple // Slate, Lemon, Apple // Light
Paired with a Fish course, the wine was a little light for the smoked sable, but went well with salmon.

NY, Finger Lakes, Dr Konstantin Frank, Rkatsiteli 2009

+ // Funky, Crisp // Berry // Apple, Floral, Spice // Medium
An Asparagus Gratin with Greyre, Grana and Asiago cheese would normally be a difficult pairing, but the sweet fruit notes, along with the hint of strange, earthy flavors elevated the wine, and made for an excellent pairing, and probably the best course of the evening.

NY, Finger Lakes, Dr Konstantin Frank, Pinot Noir Old Vine 2008

++ // Spicy // Leather, Dark Fruit // Chocolate, Dark Cherry // Medium
The powerful, dark notes of this wine balanced well with the hearty filet mignion, and there was a hint of funkiness to the wine that held up well the the accompanying truffled whipped potatoes.

NY, Finger Lakes, Dr Konstantin Frank, Semi-Dry Riesling 2010+

+ // Sweet // Peach, Slate // Ripe Peach, Peach Skins // Medium
Some savory, earthy notes in the dessert course, a Pear Cobbler, with Savory Cranberries and Spiced Pumpkin Custard were counterbalanced by the sweet fruit notes with hints of minerality of this wine, without becoming cloyingly sweet.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Dinner with Dr. Frank

We particularly enjoy the social experience of wine. Some of our best memories involve sharing an evening over a glass of wine with friends, whether it is through the wine club at Public or a wine festival in Virginia. So, as we made plans to host my family on a recent weekend and learned of a wine pairing dinner in recognition of the work of Fred Frank of Dr Konstantin Frank Wine Cellars, we couldn't have been more excited. Those who follow this blog know we have a sweet spot for Finger Lakes wine, and those of Dr. Frank in particular. This seemed the perfect opportunity to enjoy our favorite wines while introducing my family to one of our favorite aspects of NYC.

Friday, November 25, 2011

How to... Enjoy Thanksgiving Dinner!

I am thankful for cold fall evenings at home with my wife.

I am thankful for the hard work farmers and vintners put in, to allow us to enjoy good food and wine.

 I am thankful that I have the time and opportunity to cook a meal, with the help of my wife.

I am thankful for the bounty of good food and wine. 
And I am thankful that I don't need to finish all of this food.

And I thank you, for being willing to let me share.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Wine on Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving, Nate and I will be sharing a bottle of white wine with our turkey and fixins. We'll decide between the Cayuga White from Wilhelmus Estate Winery or the 2010 Dry Riesling from Dr. Konstantin Frank when dinner is ready.

How did we come up with these two, you ask?  Well, both the Cayuga grape and the Dry Riesling are acidic. Acidic wines (also described as "tart" and "crisp") work well with fatty foods. And, fixins are traditionally fatty. The acid serves to rinse away that fattiness. Ironically, the one thing the white wine probably won't go well with is the white meat from the turkey (Tina's preference), but it should go very well with the dark meat (Nate's). No matter, it all ends up in the same place, anyway.

So, today, think acidic if you are planning on a white wine. Think very light if you are going with a red.

And, Happy Thanksgiving, all!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

QUICK REVIEW: Wines from Mexico

Until our dinner at Casa Oaxaca, in D.C., Nate and I had no idea that Mexico had a wine region.

Part of adventure is trying new things. Surprisingly, these wines were very light. However, they had lost most of their fruit flavor notes (the heat will do that!). But still worth talking about, as we expand our wine knowledge.

Both wines come from L.A. Cetto winery.

Tina's choice:
Mexico, L.A. Cetto, Chenin Blanc 2009
/ Smooth // Old Peaches // Peach (almost no flavor) // Very Light
(This wine had probably been fruity at one point, but had lost most of that flavor. Hence, the "smooth" descriptor).

Nate's choice:Mexico, L.A. Cetto, Cabernet Sauvignon 2008
+ // Earthy // Cherry, Leather // light
Went excellent with Nate's steak.
Perhaps in an upcoming Wednesday "Did you know . . . ?" post, we'll talk more about Mexican wine.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

QUICK REVIEW: Two Virginia Wines

At Blue Duck Tavern, we enjoyed a glass of wine each with brunch.

Nate's Choice:
VA, Middleburg, Boxwood Winery, Cabernet Franc 2010 
+ // Fruity // Green Apple // Apple // Light

 Tina's Choice: 
VA, Huntly, Rappahannock Cellars, Seyval Blanc 2009
/ // Crisp // Green Apple // Apple // Light


Monday, November 21, 2011

Washington D.C. Restaurants and Museums (cont.)

And now, the stunning conclusion for our 3-part series on our trip to Washington, D.C.!
Sunday ended up being another early morning. We woke well before our planned brunch with the foodie cousin who’d recommended Casa Oaxaca, and ventured into Georgetown to enjoy the morning sun. The fall colors on the tree-lined streets made for a gorgeous walk, highlighting the historic buildings and artfully restored canal. 


The sun glistened on the river, as we made our way to Blue Duck Tavern for our brunch.

We joined our friends for brunch, and waited for a few minutes for our table to open up. The dining room was quiet, and our waiters were quick and attentive. We chatted for a while, and on their recommendation, ordered some Virginian wines, on the assurance that it was some of the best in the region. The food was seemingly simple fare, but created with unique twists that showed real skill. The wine proved to be perfect for the early meal, and the company made the time fly by, even though we lingered over our meal. And for a special treat, we ordered some dessert--a dutch apple pie large enough to serve four (yes an entire pie), crafted in the front window of the restaurant so that we watched it being prepared as we waited for our table. We had it served with ice cream, of course.

Soon, it was time for everyone to part. Tina left for New York; I’d be staying an extra night for work obligations the next day. Since I had the evening to myself, I wandered the neighborhood around Dupont Circle. I passed by Kramer’s Books and Cafe, but decided to press on, despite the allure of sipping wine will perusing a book store. I love the idea, but I knew that I would end up with a few books to take home, and I didn’t really have space in my bags for that sort of souvenir. Instead, I wandered down further afield and ended up at Veritas Wine Bar. I pulled up a seat at the half empty bar, and order up a glass of Shiraz and a meat plate. Sitting at the bar, watching football on the TV and listening to classic rock on the loudspeakers, I was content. But I wasn’t full, so I ordered a glass of Zinfandel, and a cheese plate. Of course, it was a bachelor’s night out, so I chose the stinkiest cheeses I could get off the menu. There was no way even the strongest of wines could hold up to those cheeses. Yet, the ambiance of the bar, and a casual evening, more than made up for my imperfect pairing.

In all, it was a wonderful weekend. We got to enjoy a bit of our nation’s history, set in the beautiful fall atmosphere of an architecturally beautiful city. We enjoyed good food and drink, good friends, and had a chance to relax before the holidays 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Washington D.C. Restaurants and Museums (cont.)

We recently took a trip to Washington, D.C., and left readers after having a delicious lunch at the National Museum of American History.

After rushing down to the Mall, and shuffling through the museum for hours, we wanted to get off our feet for a bit, so we headed back to the hotel, to take advantage of the free happy hour, a perk of the Kimpton hotel chain that we have enjoyed elsewhere. It was a delicious house wine, and a great way to relax for a few minutes, before our dinner reservation. 

Tina enjoys the house wine at Topaz Bar.
At the recommendation of a cousin local to the area, we had plans to enjoydinner at Casa Oaxaca. Casa Oaxaca is a small restaurant on the outskirts of a busy neighborhood. We arrived for a fairly early dinner, and the place was already full, a mixture of young families, couples, and groups of friends populating the tables. We’ve enjoyed Oaxacan cuisine elsewhere, so we were looking forward to the range of molés and other traditional dishes. 

I started with a cocktail on special for the evening, another concoction of tequila and jalapeno, the balance of heat and flavor of which put the drink at the Topaz to shame. We ordered Ravioli de Huitlacoche. Huitlacoche is a Mexican delicacy, a fungus that grows on ears of corn and which is often compared to truffle. It has a mild, earthy flavor and was a great start to the meal. Tina enjoyed their famous cheese enchiladas, drenched in molé sauce, while I had the filet mignon. To continue with the theme for the evening, we decided to pair it with Mexican wines. It was no surprise that both wines, being from such a warm climate, were light and tart. My Cabernet Sauvignon was a good compliment to my meal; the hints of leather and spice balanced well with the hearty meat. Even though we were exceedingly full, we were convinced through some joking with our waiter to order churros for dessert. It was one of his favorite dishes, and, after we managed to stuff ourselves, he came over to notify us that it normally comes with six pieces, but he couldn’t resist, and helped himself to one of them, knowing I was so full. All told, this was one of the best Mexican meals we’ve had to date, for a great price, and in such a wonderfully casual atmosphere.

To be continued . . . !