Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Adventures - Readers' Favorites

2012 was a year of great adventures: From exploring new and exciting wine regions to discovering new favorite restaurants, there has been a lot to share with you readers. Your favorites for the year (based on pageviews) were:

5. Glorie Farm Winery
4. Summer in the Finger Lakes
3. Exploring Germany and Austria
2. An Afternoon at Brooklyn Winery
1. Happy Hour at Olea

Friday, December 28, 2012

How-To: Ship Wine

You may have just tried to ship a special bottle from your favorite winery to a friend or relative, only to discover that for some reason they would not allow you to.  Unfortunately for consumers, the US allows each state to control their own laws regarding wine, and there is no uniform interstate shipping regulations.

Each state has its own agreements regarding what other states are allowed to ship there.

Often, a winemaker will need to have a license to ship to another state, a cost they may not find worthwhile.

To add to the confusion, shipping companies have their own rules. Usually, a shipment of wine needs to be signed for, by an adult. And sometimes they even demand that the recipient be sober!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Quick Review: Brotherhood WInery Blanc de Blanc

US, NY, Hudson Valley, Brotherhood Winery, Blanc de Blanc 2011
+ // Sparkling // Lemon, Bread // Green Apple, Bread // Light-Medium
A quality sparkling wine in the Champagne style, with very fine bubbles.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Did You Know?... About Sparkling Wine

Sparkling wines are wines, usually white or rosé with bubbles of carbon dioxide. The most famous is Champagne from France, along with Spumante and Muscato d'Asti from Italy, though most every wine region produces their own version.

For a sparkling wine, the grapes are usually carefully selected for much different criteria than other wines. Fermentation is begun like most other wines. To achieve the bubbles, most sparkling wines undergo a process of secondary fermentation (though cheaper versions can just have the carbon dioxide bubbles injected). 

In the Champagne style, the wine is put into a heavy-duty bottle and allowed to ferment further, trapping the gas from the fermentation process. With this style, it's necessary for the winemaker to move the bottles frequently to allow the yeasts to settle (a process called riddling) then quickly open the bottle to remove the resulting sediment before final sale.

In the Charmat process, the wine is stored in a pressurized tank for the secondary fermentation, before being transferred to their final bottling. 

In French wines, sparkling wines are the only ones allowed to add sugar during the fermentation process (called chapitalization). This gives them greater control over the final sweetness of the wine, and lets them produce the full range from sweet dessert styles (Demi-Sec to Doux) to bone dry sparkling wine (Brut to Brut Nature).


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Quick Review: Lamberti Sparkling Rose

Italy, Lamberti, Sparkling Rosé, NV
+ // Sparkling // Berry, Apple, Yeast // Strawberry, Grapefruit, Yeast // Light

Monday, December 24, 2012

Festive Wines

With bubbles flowing like streams of sparkling gems, there is nothing quite like sparkling wines to put us in a festive mood.

What is it that makes sparkling wine so special?

Is it the way the bubbles catch the light? Each glass becomes its own light show.

Is it the knowledge that so much effort goes into each bottle, a careful balancing of forces within each bottle, and a careful balancing of skill and art on the part of the winemaker?

Is it the fact that sparkling wine is so flexible? How many wines stand up so well to different types of food, or even to sipping on their own, like a good Champagne?

Maybe it's just tradition. It's so ingrained in our culture that the idea of toasting with anything but bubbly now seems crazy. 

Whatever the reason, we hope you have the chance this holiday to uncork a bottle to share with the special people in your life.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Did You Know? ... About Finger Lakes Cabernet Franc

While the Finger Lakes region of New York may be best know for its Riesling, the wineries there produce many other quality wines. For example at the 2012 Indy International Wine Competition, four New York wineries were awarded silver medals for their Cabernet Franc.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Quick Review: Ravines Cabernet Franc

US, NY, Finger Lakes, Ravines Cabernet Franc 2008
+ // Fruity // Blueberry, Strawberry // Strawberry, Earth, Spice, Grassy finish // Light

Lush, very ripe fruit.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Pot Roast Dinner

It's the holiday season again. Time for those homey, comforting dishes best shared with a large group of friends and family. I love cooking a complicated dish, but sometimes it's best to just prepare something simple and put it in the oven, to give yourself less time in the kitchen and more time with those you love.

Hence, I love pot roasts. A great way to cook a nice chunk of meat for a group, and an easy way to include some good veggies in the dish. Add some simple spices, and just let it sit in the oven for a few hours, and you have a wonderful blend of flavors. As winter sets in, it's a good way to cook up some root vegetables, and other hardy green stuff, like radish, carrots, and even some brussel sprouts (if you add them late in the process--avoid cooking them to long). 

All told, this is an easy dish to find a good wine pairing for. Something hearty and red, with earthiness to match the vegetables and some spice to complement the meat. Nothing too fruity and sweet, but just a hint of berries can add another layer of complexity to the meal, and help us remember that summer will come again. This time around, we selected a Finger Lakes Cabernet Franc from Ravines Wine Cellars. It was the perfect selection for what we were looking for, as it matched the flavor profile of the dish. It's good to know just enough about the wine styles of a specific varietal and/or region so that you have a good idea what to expect when you want an easy, delicious meal.

Friday, December 14, 2012

How To Compare Italian Grapes

For us, Italian wines are difficult. We've learned about wine through the lens of New World wine, which shares very few varietals with Italy. But we are picking up bits and pieces, and are learning that while they might not compare directly, there are similarities to grapes we know better.

Barbera: This is a grape we've encountered from a few wineries in Napa, but its still fairly uncommon in the US. The Italian version tends towards deep, dark color with bright cherry flavor, similar to a Grenache.

Nebbiolo: Found in Barolo and Barberesca wines, Nebbiolo is Italy's most prominent grape. With big, bold flavors like mushrooms, oak, and roses, its a unique flavor. Some old-vine Zinfandels start to compare to the depth of flavor.

Sangiovese: This grape is used in Chianti and Tuscan wines, and has strong flavors of cherry and cedar. In New World grapes, it might compare most to light Pinot Noir.

Pinot Grigio: This is the rare Italian grape that can be found almost anywhere in the wine growing world. Most wine drinkers are familiar with Pinot Gris, with light fruit flavors, along with hints of honey.

Trebbiano: The most widely planted white Italian grape, and it's extensive planting has mostly relegated it's use to as a blending wine. The best versions tend towards citrus and mineral flavors, like Chenin Blanc.

Moscato: Used to make the sparkling Moscato d'Asti, Moscato is light and sweetly fruity with strong floral notes, like a Gewurtztraminer.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Did You Know?... About Italy's Umbria Region

Umbria is a region in Italy, small in both area and production of wine. It's a hilly region at the middle interior of Italy, similar in climate to neighboring Tuscany. It is most famous for wine from the Orvieto DOC, made from Trebbiano grapes, but also produces high quality reds from the Sangiovese grape, along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Pinot Noir.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Quick Review: Wine at Fornino

Italy, Umbria, Orvieto Classico, Tenuta di Salviano 2010
++ // Crisp, Funky // Flowers, Herbs, Ash // Green Apples, Flowers, Ash // Medium

Made from the Grechetto and Trebbiano grapes, this wine had a mixture of tart apple flavor with an undercurrent of bitter ash and smoke that added an interesting complexity to it.

Kept chilled in this wine bucket.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Dinner at Fornino

Brooklyn is full of pizza joints. From corner joints with checkered table cloths to artisinal restaurants with wood burning ovens, at times it seems like you can't walk a block without coming across a new and exciting option. After spending an afternoon wandering about Park Slope, we decided to embrace the local cuisine, and try some pizza at Fornino.

Fornino is neighborhood Italian restaurant, with a wide ranging menu of family favorites, but we decided to keep it simple and share a few dishes, to complement our pizza: an arugula salad, some risotto balls, and a Funghi Pizza with tellegio cheese and truffle oil. 

The wine menu was replete with Italian wines, options which still leave us slightly baffled. Normally, when eating more than one course, we might try a few different glasses to try to match the different flavors. But, we were in a bit over our heads with the wine options, and our waitress was new and couldn't offer many suggestions, so we decided to wing it, and just order a bottle. With our limited experience with Italian wine, we have had a few wines from the Umbria region with a bit of "funky" flavors which we thought might go well with the earthiness of the mushrooms and the cheese, so we ordered a bottle of Orvieto Classico.

In a case like this, all that mattered to us was that the wine wasn't corked. The first taste shocked us though, revealing a crisp white wine with a funky undertone. There were bitter flavors of flowers and ash that really complemented the bitter arugula of the salad, but were really too powerful for the risotto balls. There were the funky flavors that we had expected that matched the mushrooms in the pizza, but there was also a hint of sweet fruit that brought out a hint of sweetness from the cheese. In all, a wonderful pairing, and helped us linger over our meal.

It's wonderful when we can be so pleasantly surprised. An unassuming storefront revealed a wonderful little restaurant. And a long and complicated wine list revealed a rich and complex bottle. But we really need to work on learning more about Italian wines!

Friday, December 7, 2012

How Much Wine Do You Need for a Holiday Party?

When figuring out how much wine you need to buy for a holiday party, its important to keep in mind one basic fact. A typical bottle of wine holds five standard glasses. If you are pouring for a meal or for casual sipping that may change a bit, but this is a safe assumption and a good place to start.

So from there, it's simply a matter of multiplying your number of guests by the number of courses (or how many times you expect to pass the bottle during a family style meal) and dividing by 5, to figure out how many bottles you need.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Quick Review: Ravenswood Old Vine Zinfandel 2009

US, California, Ravenswood Winery, Old Vine Zinfandel, 2009
+ // Earthy // Leather, spice, black cherry // Black cherry, strawberry, black pepper // Full-bodied

Served with crispy pork (wild boar), spicy knudel, apple sauce: fruit notes come out with the apple sauce.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

What Is Sediment in Wine?

What are those small dark chunks floating in the bottom of your glass of wine? Dirt? Bits of grape skins and seeds? Pieces of the cork? Unless something went horribly wrong with your wine, this is "sediment." Usually found in bottle-aged red wines, "sediment" is the pigments that gave the wine its deep, dark color when it was young. As the wine ages, those microscopic color particles clump together and settle to the bottom of the wine. They won't do anything to change the color, but they will add a grainy texture, so this is part of the reason we decant older red wines, to leave that sediment in the bottle--and out of our glass.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Quick Review: MonteVina Zinfandel

US, CA, MonteVina Terra d'Oro, Zinfandel 2003
+ // Earthy // Chocolate, Earth, Petrol // Earth, Bitter Chocolate, Unripe Jalapeno // Heavy

Not surprising with an older wine, this one needed time to breathe. We were expecting a fruitier wine, but there was a hint of sweetness buried in the deep, earthy flavors that paired well with our dinner of Mac & Cheese. We seldom look at this when we buy our wine, but as is fairly common with Californian wines, it was "hot" -- meaning a high alcohol content of 15% ABV in this case.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Homemade Mac & Cheese

With the cold weather settling in, it's time to make hearty, warming dinners, and of course to find great wines to pair with these heavier meals. It should come as no surprise that when we want something warm and gooey, we make a big dish of Mac & Cheese.

Mac& Cheese is great, because it's easy to make at home, and, if you put a little bit of effort into selecting the cheese, you can end up something very special. We find some great cheeses at our local farmer's market. This time around, we selected an aged cheddar for the main cheese, and a blue cheese for added flavor and richness. Then the trick was to find some wine to go along with it.

Both cheeses had strong flavors: sweet, salt, and a bit of funk from the blue cheese, and more sweet from the cheddar, with some nuttiness. To this end, we decided to look for a strong red wine, with some fruit notes to match the sweet cheese. Walking the aisles of our local wine shop, we spotted something interesting; a 2003 Zinfandel, and decided to give it a try. While the wine wasn't as fruity as we expected, we still made a good selection: the wine was old and rich, with deep earthy notes that held up to the rich cheese, and balanced with the sweetness of the dinner.

It's simple pairings like this that can bring us great joys. We like to experiment with trying new wines, and finding the best dish to match, but its good to know we can make simple selections, and that they will result in a perfectly wonderful dinner.

Mac & Cheese:
1 box Elbow Macaroni
4 tbsp Butter
4 tbsp Flour
2 Cups Milk
4 oz shredded Hard Cheese (Cheddar, Swiss, etc)
4 oz Soft Cheese (Blue, Goat, etc)
1 Cup Breadcrumbs
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Bring a pot of water to boil. Add the macaroni and cook until al dente, approximetly 8 to 10 minutes, then drain.
  3. In a medium sauce pan, melt the butter, then add the flour and stir until smooth. Add the milk and stir until the mixture thickens. Add the cheese and stir until melted.
  4. Pour the macaroni into a greased 9x13 pan, then pour the cheese over the macaroni and stir in. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs evenly over the top of the mixture, then bake in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown.