Thursday, January 31, 2013

Quick Reviews: Benmarl Zinfandel 2011

US, NY, Hudson Valley, Benmarl Winery, Zinfandel 2011
+ // Fruity/Spicy // Strawberry Preserves // Strawberry, Pepper, Chocolate, Jalapeno // Medium

Made from Californian grapes imported into New York, this was a surprisingly spicy Zinfandel.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Did You Know?... About Petite Sirah

Petite Sirah is a warm region grape similar in style to its cousins, Syrah and Shiraz. It is a small but prolific grape, with a strong tannic structure that makes it valued for blending, especially common with Californian Zinfandel.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Quick Review: Bogle Phantom 2009

US, CA, Bogle "Phantom," 2009
+ // Spicy // Strawberry, pepper, leather // Berry, pepper finish // Medium

A blend of zinfandel and petite sirah, with just a hint of mourvedre, the flavor was big, exploding in the mouth. Paired with sliders, the sweet and spiciness of the wine really complemented the meat.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Sliders & Wine

We did it again. We enjoy going out for fancy meals with a glass of fine wine, but for dinner at home we tend towards simpler fare. We still enjoy a nice wine, though. Time and again, we make burgers at home. It's an easy dish to make that pairs surprisingly well with wine.

We've talked about the how, or, what wines pair best with burgers. The why is something else entirely. Adding a nice bottle of wine to a simple meal is an easy way to turn a simple meal into a special evening. Whether you prepare a picnic, a plate of cheese and crackers, or just order in some takeout food, sitting down with a bottle encourages us to relax and enjoy the meal, and spend a bit of extra time with each other. And, isn't that the whole point of the wine experience?

Friday, January 25, 2013

What is Natural Wine?

The "natural" label can be applied to any wine that a winemaker desires. There is no industry definition or criteria that must be met. Ideally, it is used to define a wine made with little to no chemical or technical interventions.
  • No additives for color or flavor
  • No added sugar
  • No technological manipulation, like Micro-oxygenation

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Quick Review: Wine at Hill Cafe

US, WA, Washington Heights Merlot
+ // Spicy // Earth, Grass, Nutmeg, Berry // Pepper, Blackberry // Medium

Added a spice to the Beef Bourguignon

++ // Fruity // Cherry // Kiwi, Starfruit // Full

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Did You Know?... About Brandy

Brandy, in its most common form, is a spirit made from distilled wine. Wine is boiled in a still to reduce the water content, creating a greater concentration of alcohol. In quality brandies, this alcohol will usually be then aged in oak barrels. The most well know are probably Cognac and Armagnac, from France.

Additionally, there are fruit brandies like Schnapps from Germany or Austria, made by the same process but from the fermented juice of other fruits.

Technically, there is a third type called Pomace Brandy that is made by fermenting the leftover skins, stems, and pulp after grapes have been pressed for wine. The most common of this style is Grappa.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Quick Review: Cocktails at Hill Cafe

The Gates 
Made with Sapphire rum, ginger, sorrel, St Germaine, soda
++ // Spicy // Ginger, Sweet Booze

Kraken Millionaire 
Made with Kraken spiced rum, sloe gin, apricot brandy, lime juice
+ // Sweet // Sugar, Lime

Monday, January 21, 2013

Neighborhood Jewel, Hill Cafe

While Brooklyn is one of the largest cities in the US by population, geographically it's fairly small. A collection of a few dozen neighborhoods that vary in size, it's a surprise when visitors see how two adjacent neighborhoods can be so vastly different. We've been exploring new stretches of the city we call home, and it's been quite a learning experience.

On a cold evening, we wandered into the Bed-Stuy neighborhood to admire the beautiful residential architecture. Unfortunately, when dinner time wandered around we found ourselves stumped for options, as the only thing we had seen were fast food joints along the unappealing Fulton Street. We set out for Fort Greene, with its impressive density of great restaurants, but were daunted by the long walk in the cold. And then, as the garish storefronts of Fulton Street petered out, we found ourselves in the little strip known as Clinton Hill, straddling the border between the gentrified Fort Greene and the old Brooklyn of Bed-Stuy. The tiny menu out front of a small restaurant captured the moment, with a mixture of classical French dishes along with modern American food.

Hill Cafe was a great choice for the evening, offering a cozy refuge from the cold. We sipped a couple of cocktails to chase away the chill, while we considered the menu. The menu was packed with hearty winter dishes: we enjoyed a rich beef bourguignon and a shepherd's pie washed down with a couple of glasses of red wine. The dishes were simple and elegant, created with approachable ingredients, and well-executed. Our meal seemed perfect for a neighborhood balanced between the old and new.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Is Wine Vegan?

You might think this is a straight-forward question. You might be thinking, "What animal products could be used in fermented grape juice?" Unfortunately, it's just not that simple. If you need your wine to be vegan, it might require a little work.

The most common reason wine might not count as vegan is that sometimes egg whites and other animal proteins are poured through a wine during the "fining" process, a process that collects minute particles of grape must, yeast, and other particulates suspended in the liquid. It's not as common with modern production runs, but this still happens.

The safest way to ensure that your wine is vegan is to contact the winemaker to confirm. You can also look for wine that is unfiltered, or look to some websites that list vegan wine options, to help you in your research.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Quick Review: Italian Pinot Grigio, Austrialian Sangiovese

Italy, Venato, Ogio, Pinot Grigio
+ // Crisp // Apple // Mineral, Grass // Light

Australia, New South Wales, Mudgee, Robert Oatley, Rose of Sangiovese
++ // Crisp // Mineral, Berry // Citrus rind, Strawberry // Medium

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Did You Know?... About Chardonnay

Some wine drinkers follow the ABCs: Anything But Chardonnay. Chardonnay is a white grape, grown throughout the wine growing world. Its popularity means that much of was is produced is sub-par, leading many to avoid it. But is also a classic grape, and in skilled hands can turn into something wonderful.

Chardonnay is the grape used to make White Burgundy.

Chardonnay is one of the few white wines often aged in oak, giving it a different flavor profile from other white wines. The flavor profile can vary wildly, from berry to tree fruit to citrus, all the way to some earthy flavors, in addition to oak or vanilla, when aged in barrels.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Check it out: Local Vinacular now has a "store"!

We've been making recommendations on wine and the wine experience for nearly 2 years now, and we thought our readers might also be interested in our recommendations on wine products. From books, to corkscrews, to glasses...we plan to add to the list as we discover things. We hope you'll find them as enjoyable as we do.

You can find "Our Favorite Things" here:

Thank you for continued reading, and thank you for your business!
--Tina & Nate

Quick Review: Wines at Le Colonial

France, Bourgogne, Louis Latour, Pinot Noir 2009

++ // Fruity // Cherry, Leather // Cherry, Leather // Medium

France, Bourgogne, Manoir du Capucin, Chardonnay 2009
++ // Crisp, Smooth // Apple // Apple, Butter // Medium

Monday, January 14, 2013

Staycation Restaurants: Le Colonial & Rouge Tomate

If you are looking to make a special weekend in NYC, there are a lot of restaurants to help you. And if you are in the city after the holiday season, Restaurant Week (which is really more of a month) is a great way to enjoy some of the best restaurants without breaking the bank.

When we made our plans to embrace a weekend in Manhattan, our highest priority was figuring out where we wanted to eat. With so many choices, it can be a bit overwhelming. Of course, picking restaurants depending on how interesting the wine menu sounds helps narrow it down a bit.

Our first pick for our staycation was Le Colonial. With our goal of a decadent vacation in our home city, the idea of embracing the opulence of Vietnamese food mixed with French colonialism seemed to fit the bill. The space was big and inviting. The service was stellar, almost as if we were colonial masters ourselves. The food was an intriguing mixture of Vietnamese and French, lending a very unique feel to the meal. And the wine menu was superb, populated with amazing French wines, at prices better than the American wines on the menu.

Rouge Tomate was a different beast entirely. There, the menu was focused on modern American food, with an emphasis on local and seasonal ingredients. The space matches the focus on modern, with the main dining room overlooking a semi-private party space below. The wine menu was huge and international, but the staff was more than willing to help with some knowledgeable recommendations.

Both restaurants were a great fit for our staycation. Not only did we have delicious food, we gained a lot of great memories at these special restaurants to help us reminisce on our "trip" when we are stuck at home.

Friday, January 11, 2013

What Wine to Pair With Burgers

Since we all have different tastes, there are no hard and fast rules for pairing wine with food. In some cases, in cultures where food and wine have a long history together, there are recommendations and rules of fashion, but in many cases there are no real rules at all. 

For many types of red meat dishes, it's a straight forward finding a hearty red, that maybe complements the sauce. A burger is something else entirely, as usually the meat flavors are balanced with the other ingredients. When picking a wine, think about some of the strongest flavors in the meal:
  • Meat: Fatty, minerality
  • American Cheese: Sweet, salty
  • Tomato: Fruity, acidic
  • Onion: Spicy, sweet
  • Mustard: Spicy
  • Fries (because what is a good burger without fries?): Salty, earthy

That's a lot of flavors to contend with, and it gives you a lot of options. Why not try the following?

Champagne: Thinking how well a milkshake or soda goes with a burger, something with a hint of sweetness, like a semi-dry sparkling wine might pair well, too.

Chardonnay: With bigger flavors than most white wines, a crisp version can cut through the fat and complement the acidic tomato flavors, or a buttery version can complement the fattiness. Look for "oaked" chardonnay which will be more buttery than a non-oaked version. Other oaked whites might pair well, too.

Gewurtztraminer: The spiciness of this wine can add another layer of flavor to the meat, but the light body of the wine can get lost in the sheer volume of flavors in the burger.

Pinot Noir: It goes with everything, but in this case a fruitier New World one may complement the tomato, while a more austere Old World version may complement the minerality of the meat and fries.

Malbec: A big, spicy red will complement any red meat dish.

Barolo: For bigger versions, topped with bacon, mushrooms, blue cheese or even more, something big and earthy, like a quality Barolo might be just the ticket.

Try it, and let us know what you think!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Did You Know?... About the Waldorf Astoria Hotel

The Waldorf-Astoria Hotel originally stood on Fifth Avenue in NYC, built as two separate hotels by the feuding branches of the Astor family, but was eventually combined as a single hotel under the influence of the hotelier George Boldt. In 1931, a new version of the hotel was built on Park Avenue, incorporating more modern design and technology. The Waldorf-Astoria was one of the earliest hotels catering to wealthy travels instead of transients, and led the way for luxury hotels throughout the world.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Quick Review: Cocktails at Sir Harry's Bar

Pear Sidecar
+ // Fruity // Pear with hints of heat and sour

Waldorf Sunset
+ // Sweet & Sour // cocoa comes through sweet alcohol flavors

Monday, January 7, 2013

Staycation at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel

I'm not sure if this is something unique to NYC, or if it happens in other tourist cities as well. Living here, it's difficult to justify enjoying it the same way as someone who is just visiting for a special trip. Why spend the big bucks for tickets to a Broadway show when you can find an interesting Off-Broadway show? Why make reservations at a high end restaurant when you've got a great pizza joint on the corner? Why spend a night at one of the amazing hotels throughout the city when you've got a comfy bed at home? But sometimes, we just want to break out the camera and "I Love NY" sweater and enjoy the city in the most extravagant fashion possible.

One of the benefits of a "stay-cation" is that you can be flexible for when you do it. Many of the best hotels offer deals "off-season" after the winter holidays. We picked a nice central location: the Waldorf Astoria in Midtown Manhattan. For us, it was the perfect choice. It may lack some of the modern touches, but the atmosphere of historical decadence added to the special treat of the weekend. 

Over the course of the weekend, we found the time to stop off at both bars in the hotel and have a few drinks, amidst all the other fun activities we'd planned. Sir Harry's Bar was our favorite: dark, quiet, and cozy, it was easy to enjoy a cocktail by ourselves, even though it was very busy. The Waldorf Bar might not have been any busier, but sitting so close to the main floor of the hotel, with brighter lighting and a more open floor plan, it certainly felt busier. The handful of NY wines tempted us, but we stuck to cocktails there as well, and watched the crowd go by, before dinner and a show. 

It was the perfect weekend, almost "quiet" after the holiday rush of tourists had cleared out of the city. A light snowstorm gave the city a special winter glory, almost as if Mother Nature were helping us celebrate the city we call home.

Friday, January 4, 2013

2012 "How-To" Articles: Readers' Favorites

We love sharing what we learn with our readers, and it seems like you readers enjoy some of our "how-to" information that we share. These articles are by far the most popular, and the article on how to hold a wine glass outranks the rest, by far. By pageview, here are the most popular for the year:

5. How To Read an American Wine Label
4. How To Read a South African Wine Label
3. How To Make Mulled Wine
2. How To Order Wine at a Bar/Restaurant
1. How To Hold a Wine Glass Properly 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Best of 2012: Did You Know?

In 2012, you wanted to learn all about different wine regions and grapes. Here are your most viewed (by pageview) Wednesday "Did you know...?" posts:

5. Long Island Wine Region
4. About Cotes du Ventoux
3. About Zinfandel
2. The Wine Regions of California
1. Wine with Artichokes