Monday, October 31, 2011

Wine and Wind in Long Branch, Virginia

Our friends at Nod 'n' Smile invited us to the Long Branch Balloon and Wine Fest in Virginia. A trip with friends on a beautiful fall weekend to enjoy a different wine region, it couldn't be passed up. We rushed down to Virginia on Friday night, and collapsed into bed late, to prepare ourselves for a fun filled Saturday. It was a beautiful fall day, with bright sun and just a hint of crispness in the air to complement colorful fall foliage, but we were subjected to a very strong wind that grounded the balloons all day.

While many visitors may have been deterred, we decided to focus on the wine, as we’ve never really had a chance to try Virginian wineries.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Happy Halloween

For your viewing pleasure, a wine goblet full of witches brew, and wine bottle with evil dribbling candle. Enjoy your holiday, and good luck with finding the perfect wine to go with your sugary treats.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

QUICK REVIEW: Baiting Hollow Farm Vineyard

Baiting Hollow Farm Vineyard, Long Island, NY

Photo courtesy of

Cabernet Franc Rosé 2008
/ // Earthy // Strawberry // Watermelon, Grass, Tannins // Medium

Merlot Rosé 2009
++ // Sweet (lush) // Petrol // Raspberry // Medium

Savannah Rosé 2010
+ // Sweet, Fruity // Berry // Strawberry, Jam // Heavy

Chardonnay 2009
+ // Crisp // Floral, Butter // Green Apple, Spice, Butter // Light

+ // Spicy // Spice, Oak // Pepper, Cherry, Berry // Full

Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
++ // Fruity // Oak, Grass // Blackberries, Pepper, Jam // Medium

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Did You Know? . . . About Long Island Wine Region

Long Island has a booming wine industry, rivaling its sister regions in Dutchess County, and, of course, the Finger Lakes. We didn't know much about the region, so consulted Long Island Wine Country for more information:

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

QUICK REVIEW: 4 from Palmer Vineyards

Palmer Vineyards, Long Island, NY
Photo courtesy of

Riesling 2010
/ // Crisp // Apple // Grape, Green Apple // Light

Gewurtztraminer 2010

+ // Spicy // Floral // Floral, Spice, Cloves // Medium

Rose Merlot 2010

+ // Fruity // Cherry, Pepper // Cherry, Pepper, Cloves, Grass // Medium

Cabernet Franc 2008

+ // Earthy // Petrol, Oak // Oak, Black Cherry, Inky // Medium

Monday, October 24, 2011

Long Island Wine Tour

We signed up for a Long Island Winery tour through a coupon. Waiting in line on a NYC sidewalk at 8:30 on a Saturday morning, sucking down the exhaust of a megabus (it wasn’t even our bus!), low on caffeine and worried that the sprawling mass of people under the awning of Tokyo Restaurant would prevent our getting a seat together. . . more than a few times we doubted our decision to sign up. As soon as our bus arrived, the horde surged toward its door, desperate to secure seats after having realized we could not all fit onto the one bus.Thankfully, another bus soon arrived. The driver took names and directed people to either board or move to the other bus. Eventually, we made it to our seats. Our tickets promised breakfast and entertainment: this was fulfilled through tasty (we were starved), but cold, egg sandwiches that were found “hiding” in bags at the back of the bus, and a DVD of Captain America. No coffee. After quite a long period of boarding, with a lurch, our convoy was off. It was almost an hour late.

Friday, October 21, 2011

HOW-TO: Read a German Riesling Wine Label

Riesling offers a range of flavors, from the crisp minerality of a dry wine to the fruit notes of sweet wines, to the unique dessert flavors of late harvest wines. In American Rieslings, this is generally clearly indicated, either in the name of the wine, or with a note on the Residual Sugar level. German wine presents the American consumer with a bit more of a mystery. Labels can be read like other European wines, but when looking at Rieslings, there is specific information regarding the quality of the wine that can be found on the label.

  • Kabinett: These wines are made from the grapes that in the past would have been saved for the local lord, of higher quality than the general table wines. In the US, this will generally be the minimum quality available, but as it means the grapes are harvested at the normal time, the full range of flavors for Riesling are available, and the wine can be anything from a heavy, sweet wine to a crisp, dry version. To note the degree of sweetness, look for Trocken (‘dry”) or Halbtrocken (“semi-dry”) on the label.
  • Spatlese: It translates literally to “late harvest”, and means that the grapes are left on the vine longer than normal, resulting in riper grapes, richer in flavor. While it increases the intensity of the flavor of the wine, these still run the full gamut of Riesling flavors and sweetness level.
  • Auslese: These grapes are left on the vine even longer, and are hand picked for quality. This increases the quality of the wines, and tends towards sweeter, richer flavors.
  • Eiswein: This translates as “ice wine”, and means the grapes were left on the vine until the heart of winter, harvested and pressed while frozen. This creates a rich, sweet juice that transforms into heavy dessert wines, deep in fruit flavor.

Courtesy of

Hopefully this gives you an outline of some important things to look for when selecting a Riesling!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

QUICK REVIEW: Perrier-Jouet Champagne

2004 Belle Epoque Brut

We had a fantastic time at the Herve Deschamps lecture on Perrier-Jouet champagnes. We were able to sample five:

Beautiful logo artwork, takes you back
to a time gone by


Grand Brut NV
++ // Crisp // Grass, Herbs, Floral // Lime, Apple, Grass // Medium

Blanc de Blancs 2000

++ // Sweet // Butter, Lavender // Floral, Apple, Butter // Light

Epoque Brut 2004

+ // Crisp // Floral, Grapefruit, Butter // Lemon, Butter // Light

Blason Rosé NV

++ // Sweet // Strawberry Jam, Grass // Grapefruit, Berry // Medium
Full, complex flavors make for an excellent food wine

Epoque Rosé 2004

++ // Fruity // Vanilla, Rose, Grass // Meyer Lemon, Peach, Butter // Medium

Most sparkling wine is non-vintage (NV) meaning made from grapes of many harvests. However, 2000 and 2004 were particularly good years in the Champagne region, so Perrier-Jouet was able to use only that year's grapes and still retain the quality and consistency in its champagne.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Did you know? . . . About New York City Wine & Food Festival

  • 2011 year marks the 4th year for the festival. 
  • This year the Festival was held from September 29-October 2.
  • The Festival is "presented" by Food & Wine magazine.
  • 100% of net proceeds benefit charity. The Festival is hosted by and benefits the Food Bank for New York City and Share our Strength®, a national nonprofit working to end childhood hunger in America. In 2010, the Festival raised more than 1.2 million for these charities.
  • Nowhere else in NYC can you get direct access to legendary culinary icons from around the world and popular TV celebrities from the Food Network.
  • Not in New York City?  Food & Wine magazine presents Festivals around the globe:  Find one near you, today!

Eat. Drink. End hunger:
All Proceeds Benefit Food Bank & Share Our Strength®

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

QUICK REVIEW: American Wine and Cheese Pairings

The delicious pairings we tried as part of the
2011 NYC Wine & Food Festival:

CA, Arroyo Seco, 'Grita Vineyard', Bernardus "Griva" Sauvignon Blanc 2009
+ // Crisp // Green Apple, Grass // Citrus, Green Apple, Herbs // Medium
Vermont Butter & Cheese Cremery "Bonne Bouche", VT

++ // Earthy // Stinky, Grassy, Salt // Medium-Full

CA, Napa Valley, Mumm Napa Brut DVX 2001

+ // Smooth // Toast, Grass // Apple, Oak // Light
Nettle Meadow "Kunik", NY

+ // Creamy // Grassy, Milk Cream // Light
Wine imparts a minerality, while the bubbles cut through the richness.

WA, Pacific Rim Chenin Blanc 2008

+ // Sweet (with a crisp finish) // Lemon, Petrol // Meyer Lemon, Vanilla // Medium
Bellweather Farms “San Andreas”, CA

+ // Nutty // Nutty // Medium
A very good pairing, the wine brought out some very herbaceous flavors with the cheese.

CA, Amador County, Terra D’Oro Barbera 2007

+ // Spicy // Blackberry Jam, Pine // Oak, Clove, Blackberries // Medium
Beehive Cheese Company “Barely Buzzed”, CA

++ // Nutty // Nutty, with Coffee, Mushrooms, and Lavender from the rind
This was an excellent cheese, and the coffee-rubbed rind added some amazing flavors, with brought out the fruitiness of the wine.

CA, Sonoma, Rutz Cellars, Pinot Noir “Dutton Ranch” 2005

+ // Smooth // Jam, Cherry // Black Cherry, Chocolate // Medium
Tumalo Farms “Classico”, OR

+ // Sweet // Caramel // Medium
Spicy notes of the wine pop with the cheese.
Sweet notes are enhanced with the Chenin Blanc.

CA, Amador County, Montevina Terra D’Oro Zinfandel Port, NV

++ // Sweet // Caramel, Pine, Currant // Grape, Pine, Caramel // Heavy
Sartori Cheese Company “Bella Vitano Gold”, WI

++ // Sweet // Limestone, Grass // Heavy
This was a very sweet combination, good choice for dessert!

CA, Woodbridge Moscato, NV

++ // Smooth // Floral, Apricot // Apricot // Medium
Beecher’s Handmade Cheese “Grayson”

++ // Rich // Stinky // Heavy
The sweet flavors of the wine juxtaposed agaisnt the strong flavors of the cheese created an almost herbal combination, tempering both the wine and the cheese.

CA, Chateau St. Michelle, Late Harvest Riesling “Ethos” 2008

+ // Funky, Smooth // Honey, Stone // Honey, Grape, Mold // Medium
Pt. Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company “Unnamed Blue”, CA

+ // Funky // Mold, Mineral // Heavy
The sweet flavors of the wine come through.
A spicy note comes through when paired with the Zinfandel Port.

Monday, October 17, 2011

2011 NYC Wine & Food Festival

Sometimes the best way to learn is to study at the feet of the masters. So when Food & Wine threw their annual festival in NYC, we made sure to sign up. We chose just two events: “American Cheese” and “Perrier-Jouët 200th Anniversary Seminar”. We prefer local, so were intrigued by the concept of pairing American wine with different types of U.S. cheeses. And, having had less exposure to sparkling wine, we thought the opportunity to sample real Champagne under the knowledgeable direction of the “Chef de Cave” of one of the world’s most prestigious Champagne houses was an opportunity that could not be missed..

American Cheese was hosted by Laura Werlin
, James Beard award winning author of The All American Cheese and Wine Book, and Anthony Giglio, author of Food & Wine magazine’s Wine Guide 2009 and 2010. These two have been giving wine and cheese presentations together for awhile, and it showed. They had a natural chemistry, and both focused on the accessible approach to pairing wine and cheese. Anthony raised the important point that each of us has a different palate and won’t always think the same thing of a wine, a cheese, or a pairing. Because we also follow this school of thought, we were on familiar turf. We learned quite a bit, but mostly enjoyed the range of wines and cheeses they presented. Key takeaways:
  • Cheese will impact the flavor of wine more than vice versa, so taste the wine first, to get an idea of its true flavor, then taste the cheese, then sip more wine.
  • The fat content of cheese plays an important role in the pairing.
  • Cheese should be served at room temperature, to bring out the most of the flavors.
  • Cheese rind is edible but usually does not pair well with wine simply because the flavors of the cheese have become so concentrated in the rind.
On a humorous side note, up until the day of the tasting, Tina was expecting American cheese--aka the American cheese slices from her childhood--and was impressed to find everything but the nasty orange cheese she had been expecting.
If “American Cheese” was a “low brow” event, the Perrier-Jouët 200th Anniversary Seminar was
the opposite. The event was hosted by Hervé DesChamps, the Chef de Cave of the Champagne house since 1993. This is an extremely prestigious position: DesChamps is the 7th Chef de Cave in the house’s 200 year history. He has an intense, deep knowledge about his Champagne, having been apprenticed and then promoted to this current role. It takes years of training in a Champagne house to be able to detect the nuances that differentiate a quality champagne from one that is slightly “off.” The role requires constant tasting and adjustment to insure the quality and consistency in the champagne year over year. He imparted a lot of knowledge to us in the short tasting, mostly about champagne production. It was also a great opportunity for us to try some very expensive wines that would normally be out of our reach. For example, of the 6 wines, at least 3 of the bottles retail at $350 each. Key takeaways:
  • Brut Champagnes were actually invented by Perrier-Jouët, as a dry wine to serve with dinner. This is a style that had been favored by the British.
  • Most Champagnes are Non-Vintage (NV), meaning a blend of different years to achieve the characteristic flavor of the Champagne house. Vintage champagnes are only made in the very best year, where the Chef de Cave can make the ideal wine. In the case of Perrier-Jouët, the years 2000 and 2004 are the most recent vintage years but DesChamps explained he expects 2008 to be a vintage year, as well. However, he won’t know as Champagne production is a 6-year process. So, 2008 will be released in 2014 if all goes well.
  • Champagnes are made in a style specific to the house, with little to no variation from year to year. The secrets of production are passed down from Chef de Cave to Chef de Cave.
  • Sparkling wine producers from regions outside Champagne are not required to follow the same rules and restrictions set in Champagne. This allows for greater flexibility for the winemaker but has resulted in the lack of an established style. There is more variance in other regions.
Tasting a range of wine and cheese in a fun and casual environment was fun. Antonio and Laura kept us all entertained, and managed to impart some wisdom, all while presenting us with some wonderful pairings. A chance to taste Champagne should never be missed, if its not going to break the bank, and there is no one better to learn a few tidbits from than a master winemaker who has been working with the same product for more than 20 years. The two events we attended could not have been more different, even though the subject matter was the same. The weekend reminded us of the fact that the world of wine is as variable and complex as it is similar. There is something for everyone; wine is there to be enjoyed, whether you prefer to take the high--or the low--road. Sometimes, you like to meander between the two.

Friday, October 14, 2011

How to: Pair Wine with Buffalo Wings

Most of the time, when people talk of pairing wine, they’re speaking of high cuisine. Sometimes we just want comfort food. How do you pair wine with something greasy? In the past, we've experimented with picnic food, but I decided I wanted to try wine with homemade Buffalo Wings. Most of us will think "buffalo wings go with beer!" But, could I prove tradition wrong?


Using an old recipe, based on the original from The Anchor Bar in Buffalo (home of modern day Buffalo Wings), I made myself some hot wings, with steamed garlic veggies and Gorgonzola cheese dipping sauce. To give some breadth to the experiment, I went with two wines: the 2010 Dry Riesling from Ravine Vineyard and the 2010 Lemberger from Dr. Frank. Both wines brought something to the table (pun intended). Both were very forward, with strong flavors that weren't lost in the rich tomato and spice of the buffalo sauce, nor the strong minerality and funk of the dipping sauce. The Riesling, though dry, seemed sweet and fruity against the heat of the tomato sauce. On the other hand, the spice present in the Lemberger served to increase the heat in the wings. The mineral notes in both matched the funk of the Gorgonzola cheese and steamed broccoli quite well.

I was pleased that both wines worked well, but I’ve finally learned that you need to pair strong-flavored wines with strong-flavored foods. A light, crisp white or mellow red would get lost amid the powerful, rich flavors and thickness of the sauces that make buffalo wings. I can now order wine with confidence at the bar to go along with this favorite snack food of mine.

Cheese Sauce:
4 T butter
1 c. Greek yogurt
1/4 lb Gorgonzola Cheese
2 T fresh chives, chopped

In a small sauce pan, melt the butter over low heat. Added the remaining ingredients and cover, stirring occasionally, cooking until the cheese has melted.

Buffalo Wings:1 dozen Chicken Wings
1 can (23 oz) Crushed Tomatoes
8 T Butter
¼ c. Lemon Juice
Hot Sauce to taste
Vegetable Oil

In a heavy sauce pan, melt the butter, then add the Tomatoes, Lemon Juice, and Hot Sauce, simmering over low heat until thick, approximately 1 to 2 hours.

In a deep pot or fryer, pour several inches of oil. Heat to boiling point (the oil will not actually boil), then add chicken wings a couple at a time, until golden brown. Drain on plate covered with paper towel. Once the wings are all cooked, place them in a large bowl, and cover them with the sauce, until evenly coated.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


NY, Finger Lakes, Ravine Vineyard, Dry Riesling 2009
+ // Crisp // Green Apple, Stone // Green Apple, Stone // Medium

Very powerful crisp notes pair well with food, but make for a too-aggressive wine for sipping.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Did you know? . . . About Saison Ales

Saison Ales  (also called Farmhouse Ales) are a nearly forgotten style of ale that has seen a recent resurgence in popularity. A Belgian style ale, traditionally lower in alcohol content, these ales tend towards fruity flavors, but a dry and spicy flavors, instead of sweet. As part of the craft brew movement, you might not be able to find a Saison in your local grocery store. But work seeking out!  An article in Beer Advocate compares several available on the market.

As we leave summer, we transition to heavier ales, fuller red wines, and heartier food. Saison Ales are a drink that remind of us summer and hotter days. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Massachusetts, Stillwater Artisanal Ales, Stateside Saison
+ // Crisp // Fruit, Hops // Fruit // Medium

Purchased at Brooklyn Larder the week of my Beer and Bachelor Chow.

A really neat label, courtesy

Monday, October 10, 2011

Beer and Bachelor Chow

First stop: Brooklyn Larder for some beer. Their selection of beer is always diverse and interesting, especially considering their small space.

Looked gross but tasted great - like most bachelor food. Right guys?

Next stop: The grocery store for ingredients to make the most unhealthy dinner possible.

Baked Meat and Cheese
1/2 lb Ground Sirloin
1 tsp Paprika
1 tsp Chili Pepper
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 cloves of garlic, diced
1 small onion diced
1lb cream cheese
1 can Black Beans
1/4 lb crumbled Blue Cheese

In a sauté pan, heat the oil, then add the garlic and onion, and sauté until translucent. Add the ground beef and spices, then brown the meat. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Once cooked, layer the meat in the bottom of a 9x9 baking pan. Slice the cream cheese 1/4" thick slices, then layer over the beef. Layer the black beans over the cream cheese, then sprinkle the blue cheese evenly on top. Bake in the over for half an hour, until the cheese is melted. Serve with tortilla chips.

Eat this with a heavy beer: this is a pretty rich meal with some hearty flavors. The Farmhouse Ale from Stillwater Artisanal Ales that I selected went well, as it provided some fruity flavors to the savory and saltiness of the food.

This was a good warm-up for my other indulgence that week--wine with buffalo wings. Check back on Friday for details!

While the wife is away, the husband will play. Or at least eat and drink the junk he wouldn't when the wife is at home. Tina took a week away to visit her family, so I took the chance to whip up some bachelor food. Meaning, if it was healthy, I wasn't having it. 

Friday, October 7, 2011

How-To: Recognize Aged Wine

Taste is a big clue to determining how well a wine has aged. This is complex and will be left to the master sommeliers. For the rest of us, there are two other important ways to recognize how a wine has aged:

1. By smell: Wines dull as they age and are not as "bright" in smell. 
The “aroma” will smell new & fresh in young wines. In contrast, older wines often smell "off" or even dull. We call these aromas “bouquets."

2. By sight: 
Wines change color as they age.
Before you sip, tip your glass forward, almost sideways, and look at the color of your wine.

Whites darken over time. They start off with a greenish tint, transform through yellow and then gold, and finally become brown.

Green à Yellow à Gold à Brown                                       

Conversely, reds lighten over time. They start off purple, become red, then brick/orange-ish, and, like white wine, finally become brown.

Purple à Red à Brick/Orange-ish à Brown

In addition, you'll begin to notice sediment in bottles that are aged. This occurs mainly in red, where the pigmentation from the grape skins settles to the bottom of the bottle.

So, when we talk about a wine "aging well," a big factor is how long it retains its youthful colors. If you purchase a 2009 red wine that is already brick/orange, you know it hasn't aged well. Likewise, a 2006 white wine that retains its yellow coloring has held up very well to the aging process.

Go ahead, try it for yourself, and let us know what you see in your next glass.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


US, New York, Finger Lakes, Wilhelmus Estate, Traminette F-R, 2007
+ // Fruity // Grape, floral // Grape, some spice // Light

For more information, read Tina's article on the Traminette grape, published in Palate Press!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Did you know... About Sancerre

Sancerre is another way of saying "Sauvignon Blanc." French wines are most often named after their region. Sancerre is no different: it's a wine region in the Loire Valley. All white wines produced in Sancerre are made from the Sauvignon Blanc grape. (A red Sancerre will be Pinot Noir.) Nifty, huh?

A map of the Loire Valley . . .
Sancerre is at the eastern edge of the green shape.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


US, New York, Finger Lakes, Wilhelmus Estate, Noiret, 2009
+ // Spicy // Pepper // Black pepper, green pepper, oak, dark berry // Full

The Noiret grape is one of three new grapes released by Cornell in 2006. This grape produces a spicy/peppery red wine.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Recipe: Fried Zucchini Flowers

The summer months bring some interesting ingredients to the local farmers market. I like to try picking up something a bit different, to avoid making the same every week. On a recent trip, I saw zucchini flowers. I’ve tried cooking with them before, with minimal success, but though I would give them another try. Most recipes I have found treat them as a side dish, but I wanted to use them in something more substantial. Here's the recipe I've created:
Fried Stuffed Zucchini Flowers
1tbsp Vegetable Oil
1 Medium Onion, diced
2 Cloves of Garlic, diced
1lb Ground Beef
Salt and Black Pepper
8oz Cream Cheese

12 large Zucchini Flowers

Vegetable Oil for frying
2 large egg yolks
1 cup ice water
1 cup all-purpose flour

In a large sauté pan, heat oil. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until the onions are clear. Add the ground beef, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook the ground beef until golden brown, then drain and set aside for five minutes. Rinse the zucchini flowers under cold water, then open the petals. Mix the cream cheese into the beef mixture, then spoon approximately ¼ cup of the mixture into each flower, then close the petals to seal the mixture in.

Meanwhile, pour 3 inches of oil into a deep fryer or heavy pot and heat to 375 degrees F.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks lightly, then stir in the ice water and flour until the batter is the consistency of heavy cream. Dip 2 flowers at a time in the mixture, coating completely, then drop them in the hot oil. Fry the flowers for 2 to 3 minutes, until golden brown, then drain them on a plate with paper towels. Repeat with the remaining flowers.

Served with fresh vegetables (beets, yams, and potatoes), this was a fun and delicious meal. The flowers imparted a nice hint of flavor, and the fried batter added a crisp texture, complementing the rich creaminess of the meat and cream cheese filling. A glass of 2009 Viognier from Hawley rounded out the meal, the crisp minerality of the wine contrasting the the vegetables and deep fried flavors.

This recipe was also picked up at,  check it out!