Thursday, February 28, 2013

Quick Review: Brotherhood Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

US, NY, Hudson Valley, Brotherhood Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
+ // Spicy, Smooth // Cherry Preserves, Chocolate // Pepper, Ripe Cheery, Smoke // Medium

Made from grapes from the North Fork of Long Island.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Did You Know?... About St. Helena AVA

St. Helena is an American Viticultural Area in the Napa Valley Region of California. It doesn't get as much access to the cooling fogs of the lower valley, so it tends towards warmer growing temperatures, but rugged soil conditions stress the vines, helping create powerfully flavorful wines.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Quick Reveiw: V. Sattui Cabernet Sauvignon 2008

US, CA, Napa Valley, St. Helena, V. Sattui Cabernet Sauvignon 2008
++ // Earthy // Forrest Floor, Blackberry, Cedar // Stone, Graphite, Plum, Cedar // Medium

This wine was different than we expected, more earthy than your typical Napa Valley fruit-forward Cabernet, this being due to the vineyard's location in the St. Helena mountains.

Monday, February 25, 2013

A Failure to Pair

There are lots of recommendations, but there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to pairing wine with food. With French and Italian dishes, there is a long history of what wine to pair with specific dishes, but American cuisine is a bit different.

Macaroni and Cheese is a traditional American dish that can be tough to pair, matching the wine to the cheese that makes up the dish.  This time around, we picked a trio of strong flavored cheese: Fontina, NY Extra Sharp Cheddar, and Gorgonzola, giving us some sweet funk, and a healthy dose of saltiness and earthiness. Thinking of cheese plates, we wanted a fruitier wine to add some sweet and fruity flavors to complement the cheese, with just a hint of dry backbone to cut through the richness. Grabbing a bottle of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, we sat down to our meal.

Unfortunately, this was a case where we failed to read the entire label. Napa Valley is a large AVA, with a wide range of terrior. While the main valley is internationally famous for those "fruit bomb" Cabernets, redolent with bright, ripe fruit, the region stretches into the foothills of the mountains, creating a very different climate. We had chosen a wine from the St. Helena Mountains which tends towards more the cooler-climate, "Old World" style wines: this Cabernet was much earthier than we had expected. There was some wonderfully complex flavors, hints of fruit and wood balancing off the strong flavor of stone and graphite, but ultimately it wasn't the pairing that we had been hoping for.

It's always a good thing when the wine elevates the meal by complementing the food. Sometimes it doesn't work out that way, but unless something really goes wrong, you at least get to enjoy a glass of good wine with the meal. And we did, indeed.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Quick Review: Fox Run Hedonia Port

US,  NY, Fingers Lakes, Fox Run Vineyards, 'Hedonia' Port
++ // Sweet // Floral, Nut // Orange, Bitter Orange, Floral // Medium

Serve over ice to unlock the full potential of this rich dessert wine.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

What Grapes are in Port?

Port is a style of dessert wine originally from Portugal but now made throughout the winemaking world. The wine is defined by the style in which it is made, not the grapes used. The grapes vary, depending on where the wine is made.

Controlled by the Instituto do Vinho do Porto, the grapes used for port in Portugal are closely controlled and are usually:
-Tinta Barroca 
-Tinta Cão
-Touriga Francesa
-Touriga Nacional

New World:
Much more flexible in their definition of Port, New World wine makers have a range of grapes they can use, depending on climate and what local grapes will best work to match the style.
-Portugese varietals
-Cabernet Sauvignon
-Petite Sirah
-Sauvignon Blanc
-Marechal Foch

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Quick Review: V. Sattui Vintage Port 1998

US, CA, Santa Barbera, V. Sattui Winery, Vintage Port 1998
++ // Sweet // Caramel, Toasted Almond, Walnut, Fig, Whiskey // Fig, Raisin, Nutmeg, Jalapeno, Cherry // Full

Easy drinking, perfect for a casual evening.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Any Port in a Storm

We don't entertain at home every often. Few of our friends live in Brooklyn, and traveling between boroughs feels like visiting a different city, so most of the time we tend to meet at some central point in Manhattan. But every once in a while someone will brave the train ride and venture out to our neighborhood. Thankfully, there are some interesting reasons to come and visit. Some friends wanted to try Franny's, so we agreed to meet up with them. We enjoyed some great pizza, some good Italian wine, and some good conversation, and we didn't want the evening to end, so we headed back to our apartment to visit for a while longer.

We were all stuffed from a great dinner, so the idea of breaking open a bottle of wine to share seemed a bit much. But thankfully, we had the perfect option for an after dinner drink: port. Sweet, but not to sickly, with rich flavors that encouraged casual sipping, and just enough alcohol to encourage those entertaining evening conversations.

We don't keep a stockpile of bottles around for those "just in case" situations but if we had to,make a recommendation for those situations, we'd say keep a bottle of port around.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Quick Review: Benmarl Catawba 2011

US, New York, Hudson Valley, Benmarl Winery Catawba 2011
/ // Sweet // Apricot Preserves (with some oxidation) // Sweet Grapes // Medium

This highlights the simplicity of some Labrusca grape varietals, and how it can be difficult to coax anything other than sweet grape flavors out of them.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Quick Review: Heart and Hands Polarity 2011

US, New York, Finger Lakes, Heart & Hands, Polarity, 2011
++ // Crisp - Funky // Lemon, butter // Earthy, grapefruit / Medium bodied

This is unique is that it's a White Pinot Noir. Meaning, pinot noir is the grape, but they did not use any skins, which make the fermenting juice turn red for red wine. So, is it a red wine that is white? or a white wine that is red? You decide.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Theater of the Stomach: A Review of Broadway's FOODACTS

Now playing at The Lion Theater in Times Square, FOODACTS reminds us that food is everywhere—even in the most acclaimed literary achievements. We were invited as press to sit down for this literary “meal” of established novels, poetry, historic essays, letters and other literary works. Some might be familiar with the featured texts, but FOODACTS asks you to return to them from new perspective: these are the passages your teachers skipped over. There is something for everyone, including serious, heavyweight works from Homer, John Milton, Dante, and the like, but the show is at its most delicious when conveying the comedic side of food.  Our favorite vignettes included:

·         Dorothy Parker’s “But the One on the Right,” performed by the excellent Judith Bancroft, in a very real scene in which a dinner guest finds herself trapped at the dinner table next to a dolt of a guest, when she would really prefer to speak to the man to her right;

·         W. Somerset Maugham’s “The Three Fat Women of Antibes,” in which three constantly-dieting women must endure a visit from a perpetually-thin friend;

·         Langston Hughes’s “Simple Uncle Sam,” in which the main character tries to order dinner at a take-out place in Harlem. Based on the audience’s reaction, it’s safe to say that, when it comes to New York City food culture, some things have not changed. Antonio Edwards Suarez brings life to the server behind the counter, making it even the more real;

·         Peter Hessler’s “Rat in my Soup,” points to the challenges we as diners face when trying to immerse ourselves in local culture.  Food quickly becomes the biggest barrier to full immersion, even more than language; and,

·         “Anthony Bourdain’s “Secret Ingredients” made us laugh as the voice of Tony translates the nonsensical orders of kitchen staff in New York City’s “culinary underbelly.”

It follows that we might be most attracted to the comedic vignettes, because that’s the same attitude we have towards wine. We’ve always said that wine should be about the experience—enjoyment first, seriousness last. Like wine, food exists on a spectrum from “very casual” to “haute cuisine,” but we insist that the focus should be on fun. This play was certainly fun, and left us hungry for more (literally).

FOODACTS is playing at The Lion Theater at 410 W. 42nd Street through February 24. Tickets ($18) can be found here.

Friday, February 8, 2013

What is Biodynamic Wine?

Biodynamic is a grape growing philosophy invented in the 1920s by Rudolf Steiner. It revolves around the idea that a winemaker can take certain steps in the vineyard to encourage the vineyard to grow in a self-sustaining way--without chemical interference. Steiner conceived the Earth as a living organism with rhythms that the vineyard can be tied to. Through a complicated system of rituals, he believed a grower could augment the natural properties of the vine to increase production and defend itself. Biodynamic growers do seem to generate results, but the theories are not backed by science and critics argue that any benefit is due to the increased attention and effort of growers.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Quick Reviews: Heart and Hands Barrel Reserve Pinot Noir 2008

US, New York, Finger Lakes, Heart & Hands, Reserve Pinot Noir, 2008
++ // Earthy // Earth // Tart cherry, tannins, smoke, cloves, earth, slate // Medium bodied
100% whole cluster, came with the promise that this could age up to 10 years. This winery in particular creates Pinot Noir in the Burgundy style.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Did You Know?... About Cote de Nuits-Villages

Cote de Nuits-Villages is a sub-region of the "Burgundy" AOC in France. It's at the northern edge of the Cote d'Or in the north of Burgogne, near the city of Dijon. The region produces mostly red wines from the Pinot Noir grape. Most of the estates are very small, producing only a few thousand cases a year.  

"Burgundy" is the English spelling of "Burgogne."

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Quick Review: Slyvain Loichet Cote de Nuits-Villages 2006

FR, Burgogne, Cote de Nuits-Villages, Slyvain Loichet 2006
++ // Earthy // Cherry, Hay // Maraschino Cherry, Earth, Stone, Cola // Full bodied

Monday, February 4, 2013

Mushroom Chili and Burgundy for a Cold Night

It's cold outside. That means it's time to cook those hearty, savory dinners to help us keep warm. When we cook at home, we like to try to use ingredients from our local farmer's market when we can get our hands on them, but winter limits us to a lot of root vegetables and mushrooms. So the perfect choice is a Mushroom Chili.

One of the other benefits of a hearty stew or chili is that it lends itself to pairing easily with wine, in that a rich, full bodied red wine will add layers of flavor to the dish when also used in the sauce. So knowing the plan for dinner, we stopped off at a local wine shop to grab a bottle. Like most of the small shops in our neighborhood, the shelves are stocked with a preponderance of French and Italian wines, with just a sprinkling of West Coast options. We like to focus on New York wines when we have the chance, but some days there is little point in fighting the system. So instead, we used it as an opportunity to treat ourselves, and buy a bottle of Burgundy. We talk about the wines fairly often, especially in respect to the newer style of Pinot Noirs from New York, so its good to take a chance to try the original so we truly know what we are talking about.

It all worked out to make a fine evening. The soup was earthy and filling. The wine had a strong earthy backbone (and was recommended by the wineseller as such), but with a bit a fresh fruit flavors that brought a bit of liveliness to the meal--very welcome on a cold winter night. We aren't about to give up our local roots to be come Francophiles, but its easy to see what the fuss is all about.

Friday, February 1, 2013

What is Organic Wine?

In the US, any domestic or imported winemaker that wants to use the word "organic" on their label must meet the guidelines of the USDA. The grapes must be grown without chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides, and must not have been impacted by nearby non-organic vineyards. The wine must be produced without added sulfides, minimal manipulation, no artificial flavors, and is often made with wild yeasts. Growers must rely on more labor intensive techniques to properly manage the vine and grape growth to protect from pests and molds.

To receive the "Organic" certification is such an intensive process that many growers and winemakers (especially those who own smaller-scale operations) choose not to apply, even though they follow organic best practices. The best way to find out if your favorite wine would be considered organic is to ask the winery directly.