Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Unexpected Finger Lakes

Some of the pleasantly surprising finds from our recent trip to the Finger Lakes:
  • 2010 Chardonnays coming out of the Finger Lakes rival anything from California. The cool climate, coupled with an unusually mild fall, helped ripen the fruit further to produce lush flavors in this year's Chardonnays.
  • The Muscat Ottonel grape, a hybrid out of Cornell, has come to maturity just this year and is available at many wineries. A welcome addition to the Vitis Vinifera grapes already available in the region. Fruity, acidic, sip-able. Not too sweet.
  • Many of the 2010 Rieslings taste like peach. It's pleasant, it's different. Again, not too sweet. An extreme contrast from the green apple flavors in the 2009 Rieslings.
Oak barrels at Keuka Springs

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

QUICK REVIEW: Swedish Hill Winery

Three Wines from Swedish Hill Winery 

US, New York, Finger Lakes, Swedish Hill Winery, Cabernet Franc / Lemberger, 2007
+ // Spicy // Spice, Leather // Black Pepper, Leather // Full

US, New York, Finger Lakes, Swedish Hill Winery, Riesling Cuvee, NV
+ // Sparkling, sweet with crisp notes // Apple // ripe Green Apple // Light

US, New York, Finger Lakes, Swedish Hill Winery, Vignoles, 2010

+ // Sweet // Lychee // Peach // Medium

Monday, August 29, 2011

Vacationing in the Finger Lakes: Side Trip to Ithaca

We love visiting the wine trails of the Finger Lakes, but there is so much more to do there than just taste wine. We often forget this when in wine tasting mode. The area has really embraced tourists; in addition to the wineries, Bed & Breakfasts, restaurants, small farms, quaint towns, and the bountiful hills offer ample distraction, as well. 

Breathtaking view of one of the Lakes
When we stay over, we often choose a quaint Bed & Breakfast in one of the towns dotting the hills, where old homes have been transformed into charming guest residences often run by extraordinary hosts and skilled cooks. On our most recent visit, we decided to do something different and stay in a hotel. We selected a resort we had discovered while planning our wedding: La Tourelle Resort & Spa, located just outside Ithaca. We hoped to pack a lot into the very short trip--just one night and one day.

Heavy storms chased us throughout the Finger Lakes on our drive from Rochester, but slowed up just in time for us to dash through the front doors at La Tourelle before the sky opened up, again. The hostess upgraded us to one of their fireplace suites, a real treat, and even though we'd missed the complimentary wine hour, she offered us a glass of wine as we checked in. We had dinner plans so instead opted to put our bags down and get ready. We ran the fireplace for a while, just to enjoy the special treatment, even though this was the middle of summer. The view from our room overlooking the hills above Ithaca was wonderful, even with the rain, and we braved the storm to enjoy the balcony, as well. The bed was comfortable, the shower was luxurious...and what more can we really ask for? La Tourelle offers all the amenities a traveler could ask for, including a spa, sports facilities, and hiking trails. We look forward to trying it again some time soon and enjoying these activities when we have a little more time on our trip.

View from our room at La Tourelle Resort & Spa
One of the benefits of staying at La Tourelle is the opportunity to dine at John Thomas Steakhouse, located on the Resort's grounds just steps from the hotel, and housed in a beautiful old residence, complete with a front porch and original detailing throughout. We couldn't ask for a more convenient, or beautiful, location. As this was a vacation for us, we didn't keep our usual detailed work notes on the wine and food pairings, and enjoyed our evening immensely. Unlike our normal mode of attack, instead of trying to pick through the wine menu, we asked our waiter for recommendations. We started with a mini-bottle of champagne each for aperitif, which did wonders to cleanse the palate and get our taste buds ready. After sharing a hearty spinach salad with delicious bacon vinaigrette, we moved into our main course. Since Tina had chosen the salmon, and I went with the prime rib, we decided to order our wine by the glass, white for her and red for me, again chosen from the recommendations of our waiter. While Tina’s salmon was a bit dry, my prime rib was nearly perfect, and tasted fresh enough to be local. Family-style sides of German fried potatoes (a John Thomas specialty) and fresh green beans almondine made for a wonderful accompaniment. The restaurant was quiet on a Sunday evening, so we had plenty of time to enjoy our meal, savoring the food and wine. To wrap up our evening, we went with their dessert special, a fresh berry pie, paired with a sherry. The pie was an exceptional treat, as the berries were obviously fresh off the local farms. The sherry overpowered the dessert somewhat, but that was the one wine choice we’d decided on ourselves. It was a fun evening, trying different food and wine, with some easy recommendations from our very knowledgeable waiter. 

Individual-sized champagne bottles at John Thomas Steakhouse
While La Tourelle offers a breakfast in their café, we ventured into the Commons in downtown Ithaca to find something to eat. We’ve passed through many times and are always entertained by the quaint old storefronts offering interesting books, art, and food. Ithaca is, like many college towns, known for its thriving counter culture, liberal leanings, and unique lifestyles. On this particular morning, we came across Maté Factor, and decided to stop in. Named after the Yerba Maté drink (which they -do- offer), this little café could not be any cuter. A rustic them, with wood barrels serving for light fixtures. We planned on an easy breakfast of bagels, and Tina did indeed have one, but when I saw their waffles (a house specialty), I couldn’t resist. Made with a heavier flour than is typical, the waffles were dense enough to hold up against the generous dollop of maple syrup, butter, and whipped cream, without suffering the usual soggy fate. I left extremely satisfied, and prepared to face our day of wine tasting.

The waffle at Maté Factor - perfect in every way.

Focusing on the wineries as we do when we are in the Finger Lakes, I sometimes think we are missing out on other important aspects. With just short weekend visits, there is so much to pack into each trip. Sometime, we really need to make a longer trip. Hiking, camping, spending time on the water, eating, relaxing, shopping; this is a destination that has something for everyone, of course, especially for those who love wine. 

A wine glass sweats in the humid afternoon

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Friday, August 26, 2011

HOW-TO: Plan a Wine Tour

A wine tour can be a wonderful time. There is nothing quite like gathering a group of friends, and winding your way from winery to winery, enjoying a range of wines, taking in the views, and turning your tasting into a real experience to cherish. And if you end up on a tour in a strange place, with new people, what better way to make friends than spending a few hours drinking together? That said, there is a lot to think of, when you are planning your trip.

1. Pick a region.
There are wineries in every state in the US. Many reside on larger “wine trails” to give you easy access to several wineries during a day trip. There are quite a few resources on the trails out there, like Dowd’s Guide to American Wine Trails to local tourist bureau websites. Why not try the trail nearest to you? Keep it local.

2. Determine your mode of travel.
Packaged wine tours can be the best option, especially if it's your first time to the area. We chose this option to tour Sonoma County in California; it just seemed easier than fussing with maps and trails and renting a car, etc. There is an obvious benefit to piling into a van and letting someone else do the driving for you. If selecting your own path is important to you, select a DD or use the spit buckets provided. You’d be surprised that the experience isn’t diminished, actually, if you spit out your wine. It will actually be enhanced because your palate will stay sharp throughout the day.

If you plan on choosing your own path, find a map of the region and select the number of wineries you’ll visit. Pick an easy route to follow, and let your tastes take you where they may.

3. Decide on the number of wineries to visit.

Don't get too ambitious - we've found that five wineries is a good number for us, between the driving and the time it takes to do the tasting, it's about 1 hour per winery. Longer with more people, shorter with fewer. Add in lunch, and that's a full day. Considering that there might be dozens or even hundreds of wineries in the region your visiting, you'll see that you'll not be able to conquer them all in one trip.

4. Plan your lunch at breakfast.
Plan your lunch before you begin: vast stretches of farmland between towns and wineries without their own bistros can work against you. Plan ahead for a lunch stop, or you may end up lost in a sea of grape vines, desperately looking for a place to eat. Bringing a picnic can be a good option, too: some wineries will allow you to buy a bottle of wine to enjoy on-site at picnic benches, on the decks, etc. We've been known to take sausage and cheese with us, just to make sure we have a snack when we want one. This can be a wonderful treat.

5. Select the number of bottles to bring home.
It is always hard to resist the temptation to pick up a bottle of your favorite wine to bring home. After a day of tastings, you may well end up leaving behind your clothes if you have to pack those bottles into your bag for a flight home. Decide in advance how much room you have in your luggage (or in the trunk of your car!) We recommend using the winery discount for bulk purchase and shipping the wine. With the discount, the shipping will feel almost free. Keep in mind there are restrictions on cross-state wine shipping, and you may have to carry home if that affects you.

Wine trails are a great way to sample many different wines in a short period of time. You can compare the similarities of a grape from producer to producer, or try something completely new that you may not be able to find at home. When asked to select the wines for your tasting, always ask, “well, what’s popular here?” Take risks and have fun, and, more than anything, be open-minded! Ask questions during your tasting, as your server will be knowledgeable about the wines on hand. Enjoy, and safe travels!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Tina's article published on Palate Press

Please take a moment to read Tina's article, published on Palate Press this week and featuring the Traminette grape.

Best of the Finger Lakes (Day 2)

Day Two of our Finger Lakes tour proved to find more ++ ratings; we've included the best of the best as we visited wineries on Seneca and Cayuga Lakes. Notice: 3 Chardonnay wines made the list. This is a wine we rarely drank until recently, and while California dominates the US Chardonnay market, the ones coming out of the Finger Lakes this year rival California in their rich, smooth, buttery qualities.

US, New York, Finger Lakes, Silver Springs Winery, Don Giovanni Cabernet Franc, 2007
++ // Spicy // Jalapeno pepper, Floral // Black pepper, ripe Jalapeno pepper, Lavender // Full

US, New York, Finger Lakes, Red Newt Cellars, Tierce Riesling, 2005
++ // Crisp // Lemon, Grapefruit // Grapefruit, Mineral (Shale), Petrol // Full

A fun mascot, the red newt.
US, New York, Finger Lakes, Red Newt Cellars, Dry Riesling, 2010
++ // Crisp // Peach, Floral // Lemon, Peach, Mineral (Shale) // Medium

US, New York, Finger Lakes, Leidenfrost Vineyard, Reserve Chardonnay, 2010
++ // Funky // Oak, Toast // Oak, Vanilla // Medium
Very rich flavors.

US, New York, Finger Lakes, Thirsty Owl Wine Company, Chardonnay, 2010
++ // Smooth, with crisp notes // Floral, Vanilla // Oak, Vanilla, Butter, Mineral // Medium

Thirsty Owl features their mascot on every label.
US, New York, Finger Lakes, Swedish Hill Winery, Reserve Chardonnay, 2009
++ // Smooth, with crisp notes // Citrus, Vanilla // Butter, Lime // Medium

US, New York, Finger Lakes, Swedish Hill Winery, Valvin Muscat, 2009
++ // Sweet // Floral, Peach // Flowers, Honey, Peach // Light

US, New York, Finger Lakes, Swedish Hill Winery, Marechal Foch, 2008

++ // Spicy, Earthy // Pepper // Cherry, Cloves, bitter seeds // Medium to Full

Tina's being 1/2 Swedish loves this logo from Swedish Hill. As you can see above, she also loves their wines!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Did you know? . . . Grapes of the Finger Lakes

The Finger Lakes wine region is best known for two grape varietals--the Riesling and the Cabernet Franc. Given the long tradition of farming in the region, and the influence of the agricultural school at Cornell University, however, a very wide range of grapes is grown for wine in the region. They include classic Vitis Vinifera varietals, native varietals, and hybrid grapes.

 Vinifera Varietals:
These are grapes that were brought over from Europe, and are often referred to as "European Varieties". You'll be able to find these grapes in your local wine shop -- as they are grown for wine all over the world. You might even recognize some of these as "Noble Grapes."

  • Riesling
  • Pinot Grigio
  • Chardonnay
  • Viognier
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Gewurztraminer
  • Rkatsitelli
  • Muscat Ottonel
  • Cabernet Franc
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Pinot Noir
  • Merlot
  • Lemberger
  • Syrah
Native & Hybrid Varietals
Varieties native to the U.S. (called "Lambrusca") are often more suited to grape juice (they are just too grape-y). But, when fused with European (Vinifera) grapes, can create unique hybrids. These are often unique to the Finger Lakes, so less common in your local wine shop.

  • Cayuga White
  • Niagara
  • Diamond
  • Catwaba
  • Isabella
  • Chancellor
  • Baco Noir, and a range of hybrids around the Pinot Noir grape
  • Traminette
  • Vignoles
  • Chambourcin
  • Vidal Blanc
  • Seyval Blanc
  • Marechal Foch
This is not meant to be a comprehensive, all-inclusive list of grapes, but a chance to better understand labeling and what's unique to the Finger Lakes region. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Best of the Finger Lakes (Day 1)

Today, instead of our usual "quick review," we wanted to share the top five wines sampled on day 1 of our August 2011 trip to the Finger Lakes. Wines that received a ++ rating were included. 

US, New York, Finger Lakes, Wilhelmus Estate, Razzle NV 
++ // Fruity // Raspberry // Ripened raspberry, minerality // Medium

Reminiscent of Sauternes, will make an excellent sipping wine. The heavier notes balance the sweetness - it's not as sickly sweet as you'd expect for a dessert wine.

Wilhelmus Estate "Razzle"

US, New York, Finger Lakes, Dr. Konstantin Frank, Riesling, Chateau Frank Celebre NV
++ // Sweet // Citrus, leather // sweet green apple, pineapple // Full
A surprising find, a sparkling Riesling made in the champagne style.
Chateau Frank's "Celebre"

US, New York, Finger Lakes, Dr. Konstantin Frank, Muscat Ottonel, 2010
++ // Sweet // floral, honey, vanilla // honey(start), mineral(finish) // light
A complex wine, with nearly equal notes of crispness and spice.

Dr. Frank's 2010 Muscat Ottonel
US, New York, Finger Lakes, Dr. Konstantin Frank, Dry Riesling, 2010
++ // Crisp // Apple, vanilla, mineral // Lemon, Green Apple // Medium
As was expected, this is an amazing a vintage. The long growing season mellowed the usual citrus crispness of the Riesling grape, with hints of sweet fruit.

Dr. Frank's 2010 Dry Riesling
US, New York, Finger Lakes, Hunt Country Vineyards, Vidal Blanc, Ice Wine, 2007
++ // Fruity // Honey // Fresh apricot, Peach pie // Full
A speciality of the region, made in the true ice wine style. 26% residual sugar. Paired with a Cherry Apricot White Chocolate, it almost entirely overpowered the dessert.

Hunt Country Vidal Blanc Ice Wine
Check back Thursday to see the Best of the Finger Lakes, Day 2.

Monday, August 22, 2011

We *Heart* the Finger Lakes

Nearly two years ago, we got married among the falling leaves of Lake Seneca in the Finger Lakes region of New York. The area has become a hot spot for us: we've spent numerous trips there, enjoying time away from the hustle and bustle of NYC. It's a great place to get away, take the time to enjoy the slow drive between wineries and the views from the hills overlooking the lakes,

the historic towns,

and farms. 

We love the small wineries of the region, small producers close to the land. While the wineries don't have the age and history of the Californian producers, there are opportunities for these small wineries to really focus on their craftsmanship and highlight some very different styles of wine. And of course, since the region is lesser known, the costs of everything from the wines, to the accommodations, to the tastings themselves are a great value, especially compared to Napa and Sonoma Counties. We look forward to something new every trip we take up there.

This trip, we let the wind take us where it may to help us select the wineries. We had just a couple of days in the area, so we looked over the map of the Finger Lakes wine trail and tried to pick a range of places. We had to visit Belhurst, to relive our wedding day, and, given the expectations of the 2010 Rieslings, we knew we had to visit Dr. Konstantin Frank's, but otherwise we just picked a path, and selected places to visit as we travelled. In all we visited nine wineries:

This entire week we're writing about our recent trip to the Finger Lakes. Check back for more!

Friday, August 19, 2011

HOW-TO: Select a Wine Club

Wine clubs come in two major flavors; clubs through wineries and clubs through restaurants. Through wineries, you will most likely get a selection of wine delivered to your doorstep every month. Through restaurants, they will generally set aside a bottle of wine for you, and require you to consume in-house.

When selecting a wine club, there are several important things to consider:

  • Cost: Through either method, you are looking at an investment. You are either promising to buy a number of bottles every month from a winery, or making a reservation at a restaurant every month, to drink your bottle of wine there. We do have the option of drinking our wine at the bar, but that's no fun! We have always reserved for dinner to enjoy our wine.
  • Frequency & Amount of Wine: There are many combinations available through various wine clubs. You'll have to research what makes sense to you. Some people are happy getting enough wine in one shipment to last the month. Others (like us) prefer flexibility in where we find our wine. Will you be able to make a trip to the restaurant? Will you want to store some of the wine? Do you prefer to drink a bottle over several sittings? Do you prefer having guidance during your tasting?
  • Commitment: Can you afford to be locked in for a year, for 6 months?  
  • Types of Wine: A restaurant club might offer you something new and intersting, that you may not find in area stores. A winery club may offer good value from your favorite producer. A general mail-order club will offer a wide variety and you can often select only red, only white, or mixed. This type of club is probably the most generic, a mixed bag with each shipment.
  • Customer Service: Who will be your direct contact? Is it a live person, or a generic email address? Are they quick to respond to your questions about the Club, do they inspire confidence?  Do you get the sense you'll be "sold" on lots of other services once you join? Or that your name will be sold to advertisers? We like working with Kimberly at Public; it's nice to have her contact info if we have questions and to know she's working behind the scenes to reserve our table and insure we have an amazing experience.
  • Perks: This will vary wildly. Extra service and free food at a restaurant. Access to special events. Private tasting rooms at a winery. Discount on further wines from winery.
There are pros and cons to each, but if you choose carefully, a wine club will offer you even more enjoyment for your bottle of wine.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


Keeping with our Public Restaurant theme, here are some other tasty drinks sampled in the restaurant.

Spain, Jerez, Pedro Ximenez, Gonzalez Byass, “Nectar”
+ // Fruity // Plum // Plum, hints of oak // Full-bodied
More of a digestif than an aperitif, this sherry is less sickly sweet than the nose might suggest.

Homemade Limoncello
++ // Spicy // Lemon, Cinnamon // Lemon, Cinnamon // Medium
A specialty of the bartender, a house-made limoncello infused with Cinnamon.

Guatemala, Ron Zacapa, 23 Year Solera
An exceptionally smooth spiced rum, with a heat that lingers long on the tongue.

New Zealand, Marlborough, Gewurztraminer, Lawson’s Dry Hills, 2009
++ // Crisp // Floral // Mineral // Light

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Nate has a story published on Snooth!

We interrupt your regular-scheduled programming to share with you this article written by Nate that has been published on - the world's foremost wine website.

It's part of a contest and winners are based on readers' "liking" or "tweeting" or "sharing" the articles - whoever gets commented or shared the most wins!

Enjoy! And let us know what you think. 

Wine Lockers vs. Mail Order Clubs

We accidentally stumbled into this world of "wine mailbox" programs during a visit to Public. We have always wanted to become part of a wine club, but the traditional mail-order clubs seem uninteresting to us because we can find almost any wine here in New York City. It also seems silly to join a  mail-order program when there are many and varying wine stores just around the corner. Not to knock those programs, they just aren't for us.

We thought we'd stumbled onto something unique at Public, but through research learned that Public isn’t the only one with a program like this. Look for one in your neighborhood, they’re everywhere! For example, a quick search brought up:

The biggest plus to joining an in-house wine mailbox program for us is that you get to a special evening out of your membership. The experience is heightened as you hob nob with others who are part of the club. Everybody likes to feel special on occasion, these memberships offer that. And often at a great price.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Spain, Rioja, Tempranillo, Vina Bosconia Reserva 2002, R. Lopez de Heredia
++ // Smooth // Plum // Plum, Spice // Medium

Very well balanced wine, with a lingering note of spiciness playing off the fruit notes. Still light enough that it is drinkable in summer. From Public’s Chef tasting notes, this was the June 2011 wine selection in their wine mailbox program:
“The Vina Bosconia is generally barrel-aged for five years, before being decanted to bottle and then aged for a further three to four years before release.” 
“ nice years the flavors are already subtly complex and retain a spiced red fruit quality that is to quote Steve Tanzer, 'more akin to aged red Burgundy than to young Bordeaux.' 
“The nose shows smoky red currant-sherry and floral aromas with a little spice and licorice. Once tasted the wine has a lot to share, sweet red berry and a touch of sour cherry with baking spices and a touch of prune. A delicious wine with so many layers to enjoy.”
We're so enthusiastic about our recent membership to Public's Wine Mailbox Program, that we're talking about it all week. Read yesterday's Adventure on our first mailbox experience. We've never been treated so well at a restaurant.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Public, A Special Place and a Special Wine Club

We eat out fairly often. It’s almost always a good time, but the experience often feel more like a business transaction than a special, romantic evening out. Until we discovered Public. On a recent visit this past May, we learned about their wine mailbox program. It’s a whole new wine club experience.

Here’s how it works: you sign up for a minimum of six-month commitment. Each month, Chef Brad Farmerie selects a different bottle of artisanal wine and stores it in your own private mailbox, located on site. He also includes notes with each bottle. You receive a mailbox number to use on each visit when you want to enjoy your wine selection. You can either sit in the restaurant or in their Monday Room next door. We've done both, and both were equally enjoyable. In addition, wine mailbox program customers also given preferential reservations and seating, and particularly special treatment during the visit.

For our first month’s wine, we arrived a few minutes before the restaurant opened for dinner -- blame the subway. We were offered the option of sitting at the bar, which we accepted. Rather than open our bottle immediately, we selected a sherry on the recommendation of the server, who was kind to share some information about sherry and how to order it.

Once our table became ready and we were seated, our server immediately offered us a treat of complimentary fried oysters (a speciality of the house), accompanied by a healthy splash of Gewurztraminer off their wine menu-- the crisp minerality of the wine was a nice accompaniment to the fresh, light oysters.

We then asked for the month’s wine, a wonderful selection: a 2002 Vina Bosconia Reserva from R. Lopez de Heredia in Rioja, Spain. This Rioja is well-balanced, the fruit notes mingle with a slight hint of spice and worked very well with Tina’s cod and my pork (especially when considering that the textbooks would likely recommend white wine for both these dishes). The fresh, hearty flavors of the Australian-inspired food were not overpowered by this light Rioja. A very drinkable red, it served well as a summer wine.

After the meal and bottle were finished (we should mention we had help from a friend who we shared the evening with), we decided to continue with dessert and a digestif. While sifting through the delicious-sounding options, we were again treated to a complimentary taste, this time of their mouthwatering limoncello, a nice treat to cleanse the palate.

After a shared dessert and a glass of rum, we wrapped up our evening. The dinner was long and decadent. Our food and drink was wonderful, but the best part was the special treatment. We’ve been before, and it’s a great restaurant, but a few extra morsels of food, a few extra pours, and a little extra attention made the membership even more worthwhile. In case your wondering, this excellent experience comes at the reasonable price of $50 per month. Highly recommended to any New York City readers. 
It’s going to be tough to wait for the next bottle to show up. 

Are you a member of a wine club?  Share your experience here!

Friday, August 12, 2011

HOW-TO: Order Wine in a Restaurant

Which comes first, the wine or the food?

One of the biggest dilemmas we face when we go out to eat is how to select the right wine to go with our dinner. It’s not really a life or death question, but in this small part of our world it’s important. If we spend a few hours over a nice dinner, with two or three courses, glass of wine with each starts to get expensive. If we buy a bottle to share, its usually a bit more cost effective, but more difficult for the two of us to individually select meals that will pair well with the wine. For us, it really does boil down to these strategies: 

  1. We typically choose the wine first, probably because the waiter always asks for the drink order first. A bottle has five glasses in it: if you think you'll drink that much wine during the meal, it makes sense to buy a bottle. A white wine or lighter red gives you a bit more range, pairing well with fish and poultry, and not overpowering a starter or dessert course. Order your courses to match the wine. 
  2. Consider ordering a rosé wine. In the summer, maybe ask for a heartier rosé, which is versatile for many types of meat and vegetable choices.  
  3. It's ok to start with your food choice, and then pair the wine based on that. If something on the menu jumps out at you, go for it! Ask your server for a recommendation on the best wine to pair with it. 
  4. If you're ordering a completely opposite dinner menu from your dining partner (you're having a T-bone and your partner the cobb salad), consider ordering by glass. This can be fun because you get to try different wines throughout the night, including your partner's.
  5. Feel free to take recommendations from your waiter but do not expect them to disagree with a choice you've already made: if you ask whether the Chardonnay will go with the Steak, they will likely say "sure" because it's a sale to them.
It's really important to not stress this decision. There is no "right" or "wrong" here. If you enjoy your meal, then you made the right choice. The most surprising and delightful wine experiences come from the risks we take in selecting the wine.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Italy, Campania, Benevento, Falanghina, Ocone, Taburno, 2009

+ // Funky // Floral, Peach, Mineral // Peach, Floral, Ash // Light

Knowing I was planning on preparing fish tacos with sourdough tortillas, and after a tasting of this wine at our local wine shop, I knew it would be a good pairing. That said, this was a hard wine to rate, as the flavors ranged from funky to sweet to crisp. The funky mineral ash notes from the volcanic soil paired well off homemade sourdough tortillas. The sweet fruit notes paired well with the sweet flavors of fresh corn and tomato salsa. A nearly hidden crispness was brought out by the fresh tuna. Complex, and Delicious. Note this is the Falanghina grape. 

Falanghina & Fish Tacos

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Did you know . . . Noble Grapes

All hail the chosen grapes! These six grapes provide the foundation for wine production around the world and are often called the "noble grapes" due to their importance. 
They are:
  • Chardonnay
  • Riesling
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Merlot
  • Pinot Noir
The first three are whites, the last three are reds. Wine regions often advertise being leaders in production from a particular grape on this list, but, at the end of the day, these six grapes are all that you need to know and recognize in order to select wine with confidence. Pretty basic, right?

While some experts have lengthened this list by adding more varietals, we take comfort in knowing that we can always find these 6 grapes on a wine menu or in a wine store. You can ignore the rest if you want to: with just these six grapes, you still have a lifetime of experimenting with region, vintage (year), and blends. We promise you won't get bored.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


US, California, Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, MacRostie Winery and Vineyards, 2008 
++ // Sweet // Flower, Petrol // Vanilla, Citrus // Medium

One of our favorite wines this summer, the wineseller's notes read:
Very pale straw in color, with bright, creamy, lemon custard aromas and a bit of floral vanilla to boot. In the mouth it is rich and round, with tropical pineapple and hints of key lime pie; like said pie, the finish is both crisp and creamy.

Photo from:

Monday, August 8, 2011

On a Quest for the Perfect Wine Bar

There aren't really any great wine bars in our area. There are restaurants that serve wine, and some of those even have excellent wine menus. The problem is that they are just not casual enough for a quick glass of wine. Then there are the bars that serve wine; but you know how we feel about that. There is, however, a small chocolate and wine shop within walking distance. It's a little further than we'd normally venture out to, but we find ourselves visiting once every few months or so. Not often, and here's why. This wine bar has so much potential, and yet, we always leave disappointed.

On our most recent trip, we discussed why. Apparently, this shop does most of its business in chocolate, pastries, and coffee, and the wine business is supplemental. This is quickly obvious. Although the wine list is pretty impressive, they are often "out of" our selection. On our last visit, we were disappointed that the dessert wine offering was much more limited than the menu's offering, although Nathan had an amazing port. The sherry I ordered had to be located behind many bottles, and I could tell it had been sitting out, opened, for some time. In addition, they have a large white board above the register that lists the red and white special of the day - in generic terms. We guessed that most customers purchasing wine select from this board. Another red flag for us is that the staff is not knowledgable about wines--in any way.

This last trip left us wondering why, in a City where it's nearly impossible to secure a liquor license, this shop didn't put more thought and effort behind its wine business. Perhaps their market just isn't interested in wine: it feels like it could easily be an "after school" stop for teens.

Because Nathan and I always speak to the experience and enjoyment of wine, this last visit struck a chord with us. We don't mention the name of this chocolate & wine shop for obvious reasons. We've gone so many times, but will probably not return anytime soon. Every adventure leads us to new insight; as we practice and grow, we feel more and more confident in our opinions--and in our expectations. We hope you do to. If it's not truly enjoyable, move on.

Nathan and I continue to find the perfect wine bar within walking distance: we have a few contenders, and we'll keep you posted.

Friday, August 5, 2011

How-To: Make Sangria

Sangria is a good way to enjoy wine during the hot summer months, especially reds which are often too full-bodied to enjoy in the heat. It's also a great way to doctor up a bottle of wine you didn't completely love. There are lots of recipes out there, but it boils down to taking a (cheap) wine and stirring in some fresh fruit--often citrus and berries--and a little sugar to taste. Add some rum, brandy, or vodka for extra kick, and let it sit overnight in the refrigerator (if you can stand the wait). Serve in your favorite glass over ice. Some people like to include a splash of seltzer water to turn the drink into a punch. The best part about sangria is that you get to play with your ingredients. No matter how you enjoy your sangria, make sure to eat the slices of fruit that have soaked up all of that delicious goodness.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


Keeping with our sangria theme, here is a red wine that makes a great sangria and is easy to find in your local wine store.

France, Beaujolais Villages, Georges DuBoeuf, 2009

+ // Fruity // Berry // Raspberry, Banana, Strawberry // light 

This wine comes from the Beaujolais region, which is in the southern part of Burgundy, in France, and is made with the Gamay grape. By now you can expect to find the 2010 vintage in your wine store.

There is some acidic and some bitter aftertaste, which combined offers a pleasurable experience. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Did you know? . . . about Sangria

  • Sangria is a punch that is very typical of Spain and Portugal.
  • Wine is the main (or dominant) ingredient in sangria. Red wine is most commonly used.
  • The word sangria actually means bleeding, and gets its name from the drink's bright red color. This color comes from the skins of the grapes used to make the red wine. 
  • When white wine is used, it is called sangria blanca, meaning white sangria, and is obviously a white color.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


US, Oregon, Willamette Valley, Riesling, "Dauenhauer Vineyard," Pacific Rim, 2007

Keeping with our sangria theme, we wanted to recommend a bottle that we plan to convert to sangria soon. The bottles of this wine that we received did not age too well. There is a lingering "off" taste, what we find to be a "petrol" smell and lingering taste, which lingers with the sweet fruit. 

We prefer not to give negative reviews on this site, when there are so many delicious wines to choose from, so we decided to follow the age-old wisdom of turning lemons into lemonade. (Ironic when you consider that the winemaker's tasting notes for this wine suggest hints of lemon.)  This wine will make an excellent white sangria. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

Sangria at Cafe Luluc

With the sweltering heat this summer, we have been trying to find excuses to get out of our apartment and into somewhere with central air. Even after a recent trip to the movies, we couldn’t bring ourselves to head home, so we wandered around the neighborhood looking for a likely-looking bar where we could hole up for a while. Eventually, we stumbled across Cafe Luluc, mainly because Tina was drawn to the smell of French Fries wafting out the door.

The french fries proved to be as good as the smell promised, but we were a bit saddened by the drink menu. We had the option of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, etc.--and you know what we think of that sort of wine menu. If you don't, just read our recent article. The beer selection wasn’t much better, with only a handful of big name domestic options. But, arrayed along a shelf were a number of carafes, filled with red wine and bits of fruit. Sangria! Such a simple drink, turning some cheap ingredients into the perfect drink for a warm summer evening.