Friday, March 30, 2012

Wine - Viennese Style

Traditional wine glasses found in the Heuriger ("wine taverns") common in the Vienna suburbs. People most often associate beer with Austria, but a thriving wine culture can also be found.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Quick Review: Dr Konstantin Frank Semi-dry Riesling

US, New York, Finger Lakes, Dr. Konstantin Frank, Semi-dry Riesling, 2010
+ // Sweet // Floral // Honey, caramel // Light

An interesting contrast to dry Riesling, at a subtle layer there were similar flavors to Dr Frank's dry Riesling (which you would expect from their being the same grape), but the major notes were so substantially different. This can be attributed to the terrior, or ground, the grapes where grown in, as well as the elements, vintage year, and production methods. A lot of various components come together to create the taste of a wine.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Did You Know?... About Riesling

Riesling is a white grape, commonly found in cooler climates, like Germany, Austria, and the Alsace region of France. It can also be found in the New World in New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, and the US (particularly the cooler regions like NY's Finger Lakes).

In style, it ranges from strikingly dry to syrupy sweet, and can even be used to make sparkling wine and late harvest dessert wine. In flavor profile, it tends towards acidity--tart apple, citrus, or stone--but can often include sweeter fruit and honey notes. It is the rare type of white wine that can stand to be aged; most bottles will improve over the course of a year or two, and the richest ones can age for decades. As Riesling ages, it can acquire a "petrol" smell that can be off-putting to some consumers. Others argue the petrol is an important part of the wine.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Quick Review: Leitz Riesling

Germany, Rheingau, Leitz "Eins Zwie Dry" Riesling
+ // Crisp // Green Apple, Stone // Lemon // Medium

Monday, March 26, 2012

Travel research: Wine & Sausage

France and Italy may be well known for the parallel evolution of their food and wine cultures, but they aren't the only Old World countries with this sort of history. The story goes that food produced in one region should go well together. It's the reason champagne and oysters are such a combination. In preparation for a trip to Germany, we decided to test the theory that a German wine would pair as well with German food. With some bratwurst with mustard and sauerkraut, we opened a bottle of dry German Riesling. The acidity of the wine matched the acidity of the sauerkraut, which both were vital to act as a counterpoint to the rich fattiness of the wurst. Hints of minerality abounded in the wine, wurst and sauerkraut, contrasting against the spiciness of the mustard. A simple, quality meal with a simple, quality wine. I think we are prepared for our trip!

Friday, March 23, 2012

How-To: Get Good Recommendations from your Bartender

When ordering wine to accompany a meal, it can be easy to get a good recommendation from your server. They should know what options on the wine menu pair best with the dishes on the menu. But when you are sitting at a wine bar and enjoying a casual glass it can be a bit more difficult. Most often, we look over the range of wines available, and choose something we know. But a wine bar is the perfect opportunity to try something new, under the guidance of someone knowledgeable. If you are feeling adventurous, ask your bartender for a recommendation, but be prepared to answer some basic questions.

Type of wine: If nothing else, you should know if you want Red, White, Rose or Sparkling.

Varietal: If you have a favorite grape, the bartender may be able to recommend the best of their selection.

Body: When enjoying wine by the glass, its vital to know what type of body you are looking for. Light bodied wines are easy to enjoy by the sip, but can go down almost too easy. Full bodied wines can be heavy after a while, but might encourage you to linger over the glass a little longer.

Descriptors: Here is where you can flex whatever wine knowledge you have. Throw out words you would use to describe what you are looking for: Fruity, Sweet, Dry, Earthy, Chocolate, Cherry, etc. Whatever you are looking for, they may well have something on the menu that will match what you are looking for.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Quick Review: Wines at Brook*Vin - 2nd Round

Italy, Sicily, Tami, Frapatto 2010
+ // Smooth // Leaves, earth, cloves, orange // Graphite, tart cherry // Medium

The grape here is Frapatto, and a new grape for us.

CA, Central Coast, Bonny Doon "Le Pouser" Syrah 2008
+ // Spicy // Black Cherry, Old Leather // Leather, Black Pepper // Medium

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Did you know... the Wine Regions of California?

In the US, specific wine growing regions are defined by the FDA, classified by geographic regions as American Viticultural Areas, or AVAs. In California, there are around 100 different AVAs, with a handful of large AVAs being broken up into smaller sub-areas.

In France, these classifications, knows as AOCs, are of utmost importance. Their wines are labeled by these regional styles instead of by grape varietals, so its important to remember what is the traditional grape and style of each region. In New World wines, the AVA is just one of many indicators on the label, and will only give minor hints as to what style of wine it will be; a South Coast Cabernet Sauvignon will be more of a warm climate wine than one from Napa Valley for example. 

Everyone who knows even a little about American wine is familiar with some of the areas of the North Coast AVA. The large geographic region is broken up into dozens of further regions, including the familiar names of Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley, along with many more like Russian River Valley, Green Valley of the Russian River Valley, Anderson Valley, and Stags Leap District.

The Central Coast AVA includes a large region of the state with dozens of names without the high profile of the districts to the north, including Chalone, Edna Valley, Monterey, and Santa Lucia Highlands. Other large regions include the Sierra Foothills and South Coast AVAs, each with less than a dozen sub-AVAs.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Quick Review: Wines at Brook*Vin - 1st Round

France, Languedoc, Oupia, Les Heretique 2010
+ // Fruity // Cherry, earth, leather // Cherry, leather // full

This, a Red Rhone Blend, is likely composed of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre.
US, CA, Sonoma, Foppiano Vineyards "Lot 96" Petite Sirah 2009
+ // Fruity // Chocolate covered cherry // Raspberry, leather, blackberry // Medium

Monday, March 19, 2012

A Trip to Brook*Vin

One of our fun things to do, as a weekend comes to a close, is have a glass of wine and a snack at one of the local wine bars in Brooklyn. We’d been to Brook*Vin before. It’s an interesting mix of local and international wines, and a small plate menu that’s diverse and interesting. We’d only been once before but this past weekend, as we were wandering around the area, we came upon it, and Tina said, “let’s go!” It was brisk enough outside that coming into the warm bar was nice. The bar is clean and well-lit, and the wine menu divided by heavy, medium, and full. Although Happy Hour would have gotten us a 5 dollar glass of wine, we went off the menu, choosing Italian wines for our glass. After the glass was finished, it was Nate’s turn to say, “let’s do it!” -- and a second was ordered. The bartender offered a great selection to “graduate” from the one we had, for both Nate and myself. We ordered a side of Honey Pecans to go with the second glass, and enjoyed just talking and being together for the day. We hope to get back to Brook*Vin, the service was excellent and the wines delicious. And the mac n cheese is calling to us.

Friday, March 16, 2012

How-To: Age Wine

Most bottles of wine are meant to be drunk right away. The flavors are thought to be at their best as soon as the wine is bottled, and won't gain anything by extra time shelved. Some premium wines, however, are designed by the vintner to spend extra time in the bottle, to give the flavors the chance to mellow and blend. The wine will be nearly undrinkable (meaning it is likely off-balanced, with one note like acid or bitter being overly pronounced) when released. It is expected that the buyer will set it aside for years. In this case, the buyer would purchase several bottles and open them one at time over decades to find when the wine was "at its best." This would not be obvious to the palate of the average consumer, but wine critics like Robert Parker are in business to give recommendations on when a newly released wine will reach its best age. Wine like this is intended to be cellared, to protect it from the changes in temperature and lighting which alter the flavors. For the mega-serious wine buyer (investors and the like), wine-specific storage facilities exist to take care of those concerns. For most of us, this is not really within the scope of how we enjoy our wine. 

If you are purchasing a quality wine (more than $100 a bottle) for an upcoming special occasion, you might speak to the wine seller to ask whether this wine is meant to be aged further, or whether it is ready to open now. "Will this be good to drink now?" should answer any concerns. For most palates, this doesn't matter. And for most of us, a $20 bottle meant to be drunk now is perfectly good enough.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Quick Review: Silver Springs White Cabernet Sauvignon

US, NY Finger Lakes, Silver Springs Winery, White Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009
+ // Fruity // Berry, Vanilla // Berry, Cherry // Light

Aged in cognac and whisky barrels, hints of the smokey alcohol notes augment the mostly sweet flavors. Seeing a white Cabernet Sauvignon was something very unusual, and reminds us that all grape juice is white: it is the color of the skins added back to the juice that produces the color red in red wine.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Did you know...? About Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon is a red grape, grown throughout the wine world, second only in total production to Merlot. Along with Cabernet Franc and Merlot, it is one of the three components in the Bordeaux blend. It is also one of the main grapes that brought Californian wines to world prominence. The wines tend to be fruity in the New World and earthy in the Old World, with strong notes of currants, along with strong traces of tannins and the oak from barrel aging, along with deeper earthy and herbal note that come with bottle aging. Cabernet Sauvignon is often a prime candidate for bottle aging, as the strong flavors of the wine can stand up to decades of aging. In California, the grapes reach a high level of ripeness, creating extremely "hot" wines, meaning high in alcohol content.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Quick Review: Chateau Lafayette Reneau

NY, Finger Lakes, Chateau Lafayette Reneau, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005
++ // Fruity // Cherry, Leather // Cherry, Chocolate, Pepper // Medium

Most Cabernet Sauvignons are fruity wines, with dark red fruit flavors. They also have a tendency to pick up subtle wood and earthy notes from their time in oak barrels. They are also often "heavy" bodied, although this one was less so, probably due to its origins in the cooler climate of the Finger Lakes.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Steak Dinner at Home

Wine and steak is the most American dinner pairing that I can think of. While the French have wine for every meal, and Americans are happy to drink beer with almost anything, a perfectly cooked steak at a nice restaurant almost demands a high quality red wine. While we don't often get out to enjoy a steak dinner, we do try to enjoy one at home from time to time. And while we don't buy the most expensive of wines, like Opus One, we do try to find the red wine best-suited to the pairing that won't break the bank.

The simple rule with pairing wine with steak is: go with red. Unless you have some deep rooted aversion to red wine, it will be your best option, providing the spice, or earthiness, or even that hint of red fruit that will bring out the best flavors in red meat. We picked up a bottle of Chateau Lafayette Cabernet Sauvignon, and it worked out well. The wine had hints of fruit, along with a certain spiciness that added some complexity to the steak. There were also some deep earthy notes that played well with the wilted kale salad that accompanied the steak. In both cases, the wine wasn’t so strong as to overpower the flavors of the food, instead bringing some added layers to the meal.

Friday, March 9, 2012

How-To: Tell if your Wine has Gone Bad

When a server pours you the splash of wine from the bottle you've just ordered, this isn't to test to see whether you "like" the wine. In fact,you're actually being asked to test whether the particular bottle has "gone bad."

Cork can carry bacteria that spoils the wine while it is in the bottle. While the wine remains completely safe to drink, it will have noticeable odors and flavors that make it unpleasant to do so. A "corked" bottle of wine will smell like mold, wet newspaper, cardboard, wet dog, or just simply cork. During a recent tasting of a particularly precious bottle that had "corked", the instructor encouraged us, even with the corked taste, to not let the glass go to waste. (This is not always going to be the case.) Tina didn't recognize the corked flavor (her palate recognized "delicious"), although Nate picked up on it right away.

Other smells and flavors can ruin the taste of wine for some, but aren't always considered a flaw. Aged Rieslings can acquire a strong smell of petrol, rubber, or even "cat pee" that can be off-putting, but is sought after by some connoisseurs of the varietal. A green pepper flavor is considered to be a technical flaw in the production, but can add an interesting flavor note. One time we purchased a bottle from our local wine store and upon opening it discovered a most foul ethanol smell that made it difficult to drink, and sometimes with homemade, artisanal wines, a sulphuric smell lingers. 

If you feel something is "off" with your bottle, ask the server to check it. They will be more versed in whether it's "normal" for this particular wine, or whether a bottle has "gone bad."

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Quick Review: Wine at Dean Street

+ // Smooth // Earth // Fruit, Leather, Earth // Medium
For the first time ever, I understood what wine critics meant by "round mouth-feel”. This wine seemed to expand to fill every nook and cranny of my mouth with flavor.

Grenache/Syrah Blend
/ // Funky // Petrol // Petrol, Tanin // Medium
May have been corked, or just an exceptionally funky wine.

Ruby Port
+ // Sweet, Funky // Caramel // Caramel // Heavy

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Did you know...? About Malbec

Malbec is a dark grape, purple in color, used in the production of red wine. It is a popular grape in the wine growing regions of South America; the Malbecs of Argentina are putting it on the map. It is also grown in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, California, and France. In France, it is one of six grapes from the Bordeaux region and is used in small quantities to augment those wines. Malbec produces a dark red wine, with smooth and full flavors.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Quick Review: Cocktails at Dean Street

Moscow Mule
/ // Sweet, Spicy // Ginger, Lime
This drink was a little to sickly sweet for my taste. The ginger added a hint of spice, and the lime a trace of sourness, but there weren't as many layers of flavor as other cocktails. 

Champagne Touch
+ // Dry, Fruity // Orange

"Martini Splash" by geishaboy500 on Flickr

Monday, March 5, 2012

Adventure to Dean Street

We had walked by Dean Street any number of times. It’s sort of sits as
the checkpoint between Prospect Heights in Brooklyn, where we live and Clinton Hill
to the North. It always looked so warm and inviting, we could hear the
murmur of laughter and conversation from the street. And, we always
said, “we should go here some time.” On a cold February evening, we
decided to stay in our neighborhood to try a new restaurant. When we
arrived and were told that the wait was one hour, we said, “forget
it!” and left. Back in the cold, we wondered where we should go. After
aimlessly drifting up Washington Avenue, we remembered Dean Street.
“We’ll go there!” we said. Dean Street is perfect for a casual weekend
evening. The drink list is ample, and the menu wide ranging. Nate
ordered a hamburger, having read that the burger here rated 11th of
all New York City burgers by the Village Voice. Trying to be health
conscious, I chose a turkey burger and salad instead of fries. We were
both astounded. Nate’s burger definitely deserved the award, andI
had never had such a delicious turkey burger. You expect turkey
burgers to be dry, Dean Street’s melts in your mouth. The cocktails
were delicious and the wine good enough for a burger meal. As we ate,
the restaurant filled up with families and couples, and friends
alike. A true meeting spot, a neighborhood gem.

Friday, March 2, 2012

What to Pair with... Pinot Noir?

Pinot Noir is a versatile wine: strong fruit notes, with hints of earthiness and spice, all wrapped up in a light body--this wine can match a wide range of food without overpowering the dishes.

Vegetables: With the sweet red fruit flavors of the wine, try matching with sweet vegetables like red pepper and ripe tomato.

Pasta: Light pink sauces and pestos balance the light body.

Fish: One of the few red wines that works well with fish, though it is best to pair it with heartier fish like tuna and salmon.

Poultry: This wine pairs well with the full range of light flesh of poultry. Chicken or turkey, prepared almost any way and even duck, goose, or pheasant.

Meat: With lean cuts of beef like filet mignon, or game meat, the fruitiness will balance well.

Cheese: Sweet, soft cheeses will work best, like blue and brie.

Thursday, March 1, 2012