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).