Thursday, August 29, 2013

Quick Reviews: Brooklyn Winery Chardonnay 2011

US, NY, Brooklyn Winery Barrel Aged Chardonnay 2011
+ // Crisp // Apple, Mineral // Red grapefruit, Vanilla, Stone, Cinnamon // Medium
 Definitely not Californian, very crisp for oak

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Did You Know?... About Barrel Aged White Wine

Very few white wines spend any time in wood barrels. The lighter, more delicate flavors of white wines get lost when aged in oak. Chardonnay is the most common white wine that spends maturing time in wood barrels.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Quick Review: Sandhi Chardonnay

US, CA, Santa Barbera Valley, Sandhi Chardonnay 2011
++ // Fruity // Buttered toast, Apple // Green apple, Stone, Grapefruit, Butter // Med

Monday, August 26, 2013

Confusion at CraftBar

Even with everything we have learned about wine in the last few years, we still make mistakes. While it's almost impossible to pick a "bad" wine at a nicer restaurant, it is possible to make an uninformed choice, resulting in a wine poorly matched to your meal. Your evening won't be ruined, but it might reduce your overall enjoyment of what could have been a great meal.

Conveniently located off Union Square, just a few short subway stops from our New York City home, we've managed to stop in at CraftBar several times to enjoy their wine. With a seasonal menu full of fresh ingredients and an extensive and interesting wine menu, it was only a matter of time before we sat down for dinner, too.

Looking over the menus, I though I had it all figured out. The cod stood out to me, so despite the cooler day, I chose a white wine to go with it. I picked a Chardonnay, hoping for a balance of crispness and richness. Rule of thumb: white wine with fish, always. Right? With the fish, that held true. But, the cod was accompanied by an earthy cassoulet of sausage and beans that really proved to be the main flavor of the meal. I realized right away that the meal would have been better paired with a red wine.

This incident served to remind us of the importance of proper pairings. We always feel that good quality food and good quality wine make for a better meal, and that one shouldn't hold too much stock in getting the "right" wine. The truth is, though, that if the two don't work well together, you lose something in the result. It's disappointing when an expensive glass of wine becomes overpowered by that steak you ordered, or the sweet dessert wine obliterates the flavors of the delicate mousse you've picked for dessert.

So, if you're not sure what the menu means, say, by "cassoulet" (the situation in my case), ask your server to explain and to even give you a wine recommendation. It's okay to admit you don't know, and it's certainly better to ask if it means you will be assured of enjoying your meal that much more. You want the ultimate experience, especially if you're paying top price for it. We look forward to our next pairing opportunity at CraftBar, for sure.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Should You Buy a "Table Wine"?

"Table wine" is that vast category of wine made from natural fermentation (non-fortified) that doesn't meet the criteria for wines of specific regions. That may mean its made from grapes grown outside the most famous regions, or it could be made from a different selection of grapes from the traditional style of the region.

In Old World wines, this comes into play more often. The basic rule of thumb is that a "table wine" will be of lesser quality, and is intended for more casual drinking. But like it's origins with the casual wine intended for a family table, this can be just what you are looking for.

Usually, the benefit of a table wine is the value. Acknowledging its less than stellar origins, a table wine will be considerably cheaper than a more specific wine, even if it is from a well know producer. But in the hands of a skilled wine maker, it can still be a wonderful wine for everyday consumption, and can offer great value.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Quick Review: Pedroncelli White Wines

US, CA, Sonoma Valley, Pedroncelli Winery Chardonnay, Dry Creek Valley, F. Johnson Vineyard (“Single Block”) 2012
 ++ // Smooth // Vanilla, wood // Honey, citrus crisp // Medium

Reminiscent of a well-crafted mead. Starts out smooth (thanks to the tannins and honey flavor) but finishes crisp. Well-balanced.

 US, CA, Sonoma Valley, Pedroncelli Winery Sauvignon Blanc, Dry Creek Valley, East Side Vineyards 2012
++ // Fruity // Citrus // Lemon, apple, apricot // Light to Medium

Don’t let the light nose fool you: this wine is actually packed with flavor.

US, CA, Sonoma Valley, Pedroncelli Winery “Friends White” 2012
++ // Smooth // Tropical // Lychee, tannins // Light

A blend of Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, but the Chardonnay came through the most for us. This is a table wine meant for easy drinking. Versatile.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Did You Know?... The Difference Between White Zinfandel and Rosé of Zinfandel

You might recognize White Zinfandel as your mother’s drink of choice. It often comes in a box; it sells like crazy and has done for the past 30 years. It is often referred to as "blush" wine. Sugar is added during fermentation of Zinfandel grapes to produce this sweet drink. Because it is sweet, it is often associated with feminine preference, much like a Cosmo cocktail. (In fact, whenever Nathan orders a glass of rosé, the waiter often gives it to Tina.) We find White Zinfandel to be as sickly sweet, in fact. Not for us, but we recognize their popularity, for good reason. 

White Zinfandel is not to be confused with Rosé of Zinfandel. Rosé to us is a type of production method. It means that the skins of the red grapes are left in the barrel during fermentation just long enough to give the wine its bitter edge to complement its sweetness. While White Zinfandel is also produced this way, wines called rosé are most often produced bone-dry. In fact, their crispness makes for a perfect summer drink. Although you drink them chilled, they retain the meatiness of a red.

Why is this important? Because wine servers and wine shop owners mix up the verbiage. Tina recently made the mistake of accepting a White Zinfandel because it was referred to as a “rosé” wine, and not too long after almost turned down an interesting Cotes de Provence rosé when the server announced the wines as “we have a red and a white zinfandel.” It was neither Zinfandel, nor a “white Zinfandel.” It was a rosé and probably a blend of various red grapes from that region.

To make sure you know what you are ordering, ask the server if the wine is “dry” or “sweet” and then don’t be afraid to ask to see the bottle if your server seems unsure. And of course, try everything, you never know what you might like.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Quick Reviews: Pedroncelli Red Wines

US, CA, Sonoma Valley, Pedroncelli Winery Dry Rosé of Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, Signature Collection 2012 ++ // Funky // Light petrol, apple // Candy apple, grapefruit rind // Light

Very complex. A bit astringent, but not in a bad way at all. The bitterness is offset by the sweet fruit flavor. Great as a pre-dinner sipping wine. It reminded us of Campari, but was not as bitter. Got the saliva flowing. Our favorite wine from the Pedroncelli Winery mailing.

US, CA, Sonoma Valley, Pedroncelli Winery “Friends Red” 2011
++ // Fruity - Earthy // Dark berry // Dark berry, cooking spices (clove, cardamom), tannins graphite // Medium

A blend of Merlot, Zinfandel, Petit Sirah, and Syrah. Almost inky in color, this complex red starts out fruity, moves on to earthy, and then finishes tart. A very drinkable and versatile table wine.

US, CA, Sonoma Valley, Pedroncelli Winery Bench Vineyards Merlot 2011
++ // Fruity // Raspberry // Raspberry, cherry, white pepper // Medium

Very juicy and fruity. The white pepper “spice” on the finish balances the fruit well.

Monday, August 19, 2013

A Taste of Pedroncelli Wines

My first impression of Pedroncelli Winery was “what? A White Zinfandel that’s not sweet?” This was at a Zinfandel trade show, and while this seems naïve now, at the time I was just starting out in the wine world. To this day, though, I equate Pedroncelli with Rosé of Zinfandel (the more accurate term). Strange, I know, especially when there are hundreds of vintners around the world producing rosé wines from all sorts of varietals and combinations of red wine grapes, and even stranger considering Pedroncelli has a whole suite of wines to offer. They are certainly not limited to Rosé of Zinfandel.

So, after receiving a half case of six wines from the winery, we dug right in. We started with their 2012 Oaked Chardonnay from F. Johnson Vineyard. The honey notes reminded us of well-crafted mead. Their 2012 East Side Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc provided a very light floral note, and was much stronger on the palate than we originally expected from the light aromas on the nose. The raspberry notes in their 2011 Bench Vineyards Dry Creek Valley Merlot gave an unexpectedly-juicy quality to the wine, but the white pepper finish maintained the balance. 

We were also allowed to sample their white and red table wines. The 2012 Friends White and 2011 Friends Red would both make great additions to our everyday wine library. Drinkable and versatile with a wide range of foods.

Finally, what our mouths had been watering for since the box arrived: the newest release of their Rosé of Zinfandel. Their 2012 Rosé of Zinfandel, Signature Collection was dry enough that it would serve well as a pre-dinner aperitif, much like a Campari cocktail but without the bitterness one gets with Campari. Perfect before dinner or as a sipping wine, and met the high expectations we had for it when we uncorked the bottle.

Speaking of corking, every bottle sent to us by Pedroncelli had a twist cap. The twist cap is both environmentally better than actual cork, and easier to get into.

In all, we were pleased with every single bottle we received. This is not often the case. While we enjoy most wines we try, we often say, “well, that was good but nothing to write about.” So, a thumbs up to Pedroncelli Winery for maintaining high quality across the broad spectrum of varietals they offer.

Friday, August 16, 2013

What Does "Earthy" Mean For Wine?

You may wonder what we mean when we discuss "earthy" wines in our Quick Reviews. When we talk about "earthy" aromas, what comes to mind?
  • Dirt
  • Stone
  • Mushrooms
In some wines, these can be strong aromas and tastes. They may not seem like something you would want to drink, but some of the world's most famous winemakers rely on these flavors to provide a strong base to their wines which are then balanced against ripe fruit flavors and the spice of wood to create the desired balance of flavors as the wine ages.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Did You Know?... About Canadian Wine?

Although Canada produces only a tiny portion of the world's wine, it is good to acknowledge the growing wine regions. Wine is grown throughout the country, but the largest amount of production is in the southern regions of Ontario, in the Niagara Peninsula, and the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia. While wineries can produce a wide range of wines suited to the colder climate of Canada, many focus on producing Ice Wines, which can be produced with greater reliability than in most other wine growing regions.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Monday, August 12, 2013

Curried Potatoes with Cabernet Franc

With all of our stories, it seems like we go out to eat often. But really, most nights we eat at home. And since having a bottle of wine at home with dinner is a less expensive endeavor, we are often willing to experiment a little more, both in the recipes with choose, and the wines we pair with them.

Of course, sometimes the recipes get a little complicated. Looking for a hearty meal one night, the ingredients started piling up. Potatoes as the base, but that seemed a bit too bland, so added some curry spices to liven up the sauce. Mushrooms, to give the meal a bit more body. And the sauce seemed a bit thin, so some Roquefort cheese to give it a bit of richness. That was an odd combination of flavor, with lots of earthy flavors, so we looked for a red wine to match. A bottle of Cabernet Franc seemed like a good idea; some earthiness to complement the mushrooms, some fruitiness to bring out the sweetness of the Roquefort, and maybe that hint of green vegetable to play with the curry.

Surprisingly, the dish ended up light in flavor. Maybe it needed a bit more time to stew, to allow the potatoes a chance to really absorb the flavors, but improvised recipes are always a learning experience. The flavors worked, but it turned out that the wine was a bit too powerful, and kind of overwhelmed the food. It seems like that can be a problem with Cabernet Franc. Very dependent on the vintage, it can be a light bodied wine with some delicate flavors, or a deep, powerful wine. It pays to know the details of the bottle you plan to open. Or you can just sit back and enjoy it, no matter what the outcome.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Summer Events

Summer is wrapping up, and that means wineries are throwing parties, before the winemakers are overwhelmed by harvest season. Keep an eye out for fun events near you.  Here are a few near us:

Hudson Valley August Sangria Festival
Finger Lakes Riesling Festival
Harvest East End

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Quick Review: Paumanok Dry Rose 2011

US, NY, Long Island, Paumanok Vineyards, Dry Rose Wine, 2011
++ // Fruity // Strawberry // Strawberry, cherry cola // Light

Great summer sipping wine, the mineral quality is particularly refreshing alongside the fruit.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Did You Know? ... About Wine Corks

There are lots of different options for wine "corks." Winemakers choose based on a variety of reasons, but they all serve the same basic function: to keep the wine sealed in the bottle, and protected from air, until it gets to your table.

A special cork: glass with the wineries logo on top.
  • Natural Cork
  • Artificial Cork
  • Screw Tops
  • Miscellaneous, including glass

There has been much discussion by wine consumers about screw top bottles in recent years. Many feel these wines are less desirable, that the screw top indicates a cheaper wine. Not so. For the vast majority of wines produced around the world, only a very few are meant to be stored long term. Those meant for storage need a cork for optimal aging. The rest of the wines, meant for immediate consumption, do just fine with a screw top. Not to mention that screw tops are much more eco friendly.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Quick Review: Langtry Estates Petite Syrah

US, CA, Langtry Estates Petite Syrah

++ //  Fruity // Truffle, Cloves, Nutmeg, Plum, Strawberry, Chocolate // Purple plum, Chocolate, Earth, Truffle // Medium - Full

Layered. Refreshing for such a full bodied wine. Tart fruit counterbalances the heavy earth notes.

Monday, August 5, 2013

A Quick Stop at Lillie's

We have a handful of favorite places to visit when we go into Manhattan, but there is always a benefit to trying something new. While the old tried-and-true places deliver a comfort that comes with something known, a little adventure can lead you to something new and exciting.

After brunch with some friends at a popular wine bar and restaurant, we found ourselves with an afternoon to kill in Manhattan. We wandered about, shopping and people watching, but eventually we needed to seek refuge from the mean streets. Venturing off the beaten path near Union Square, we came across an interesting little place, a small "Victorian Establishment" by the name of Lillie's. Between the Victorian decor and the live Celtic Folk band playing at the entrance, we thought we might have found an Irish Pub, but the varied and international wine list let us know we were in the right place. We find it rare for such a casual bar to offer such a varied wine menu, it's typically "red" or "white" or at best "merlot" and "chardonnay." Not here: the selection was well-rounded and diverse.

We sat at the bar and enjoyed a couple of glasses, listening to the music. We didn't get a chance to try any food, but the pub menu looked comforting. All told, it was nice to find an alternative to the big named restaurants of the neighborhood, and an opportunity to enjoy some interesting wine in a more casual setting.
Lillie overlooks the scene.

Friday, August 2, 2013

How-to: Enjoy Red Wine in Summer

Even the most stubborn fan of red wine might hesitate before uncorking their favorite bottle during the hot summer months. Tina was reminded recently that, even in hot weather, you can -- and should! -- enjoy a glass of your favorite red wine. The trick? Chill it first.

Remember: all wine is meant to be served at 55 degrees. So, pop that bottle in your refrigerator for 15 minutes or so, then enjoy. Just be careful not to let it get too cold. It will still be refreshing, but you might miss out on some of the more complex flavors which get lost when a wine is served too cold. (The same holds true for white wine). So, consider saving that expensive bottle for when the weather is more conducive to red wine drinking, and opt for something a little less expensive for the summer months.

After all, summer is the time of year that we tend to give our palates a break. We opt for lighter flavors and lighter portions. So consider doing the same when selecting your wine--but don't give up on red wine entirely in the muggy summer months.

Thursday, August 1, 2013