Monday, December 31, 2007
Monday, December 24, 2007
Here are a few ideas.
Hot Buttered Rum
Mix in a bowl 1 stick butter, 1 cup dark brown sugar, 1 tsp. each nutmeg, cardamom and ground cloves, 1.5 tsp. cinnamon. Mix well and refrigerate. Boil a mug of water and a tablespoon of the butter mix and good rum.
Cinnamon flavored tea with cinnamon schnapps.
Place a scant teaspoon sugar or honey in a mug, a generous wedge of lemon, a cinnamon stick and a shot of bourbon. Fill mug with hot water.
Hot Buttered Cow
1 lb Brown sugar
1/4 lb Soft butter
1/2 ts Vanilla
1/2 ts Cinnamon
1/4 ts Nutmeg
1/4 ts Cloves
1/4 ts Mace
1/4 ts Allspice
1 pinch Salt
Optional: for each serving add to mug: 1 1/2 ounces dark rum and 1/2 ounce gold or white rum
Beat sugar and butter together until thoroughly creamed and fluffy. Beat in vanilla and spices. Chill.
For each cup to be served, place 1+1/2 teaspoons batter in a preheated mug (add rum if desired) Stir well. Fill with hot milk and serve.
Just remember that the sweeter the beverage, the more calories you will need to burn shoveling!
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Besides leaving cookies and milk and carrots for his reindeer, consider fortifying Santa for the long night with a liqueur.
What about Peppermint Schnapps for his cocoa, Irish cream or hazelnut liqueur for his coffee or just a shot of amaretto over his vanilla ice cream.
Feel like saving a trip to the store this weekend? Try some homemade recipes found at this link:
Happy Holidays to you all.
Friday, December 21, 2007
Parallels have also been made between Santa Claus and the figure of Odin, a god in Germany prior to Christianity. Children would place their boots, filled with carrots, straw or sugar, near the chimney for Odin's flying horse, Sleipnir, to eat. Odin would then reward those children for their kindness by replacing the food with gifts or candy.
Modern ideas of Santa Claus came from the publication of the poem by Clement Clarke Moore's called "A Visit From St. Nicholas" (better known as "The Night Before Christmas"). In the poem Santa is heavyset with eight named reindeer.
In some early images of 20th century, Santa was depicted as personally making his toys by hand in a small workshop. Eventually, the idea emerged that he had numerous elves responsible for making the toys.
Whatever you believe, be a jolly old elf during the visit to your relatives!
Friday, December 14, 2007
At less than $10 per bottle, I thought I had snagged a bargain to enjoy with our rustic Italian meal.
Upon opening the bottle, we noticed an amber to brown color, a sure sign of bottle age or oxidation in a red wine. Normally, you would not see this color until the wine was more than 3 years old, or if it was kept in less than ideal conditions. This was a BIG clue as to what aromas and flavors we would encounter.
The characteristics 0f clove, strawberry, plum and violet aroma were still present, but the taste was thin, weak and acidic to the point of vinegar-like.
Needless to say, the bottle was returned to the merchant for a refund. (Hint: Keep those receipts for a couple of months!)
To learn more about how the color of wine changes during bottle aging, check out this link:
In cooking it is said that you first eat with your eyes. Let color be your first impression of the wine you are pouring.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Take small steps.
Do little things that scare you, accomplish them, and then develop a belief in yourself that you can do bigger things.
Do your research.
Talk to colleagues and friends about your plans, cruise classified ads and online discussion boards. Find a mentor who can guide you through the changes.
Form a support group.
Gather friends who are also thinking of making changes, career-related or otherwise.
Read books (perhaps biographies of others who have made life-altering moves) and brainstorm about the best ways to launch your reinvention.
Embrace your fear.
As long as you're moving forward, there are no wrong moves. Turn your fear into motivation.
Find your confidence.
Let go of the old life, reach for the new life, and trust yourself.
And don't forget to celebrate the small accomplishments along the way. Have a nice meal, open a special bottle, see a movie, schedule a spa treatment, take a trip, buy a small token to mark your progress. Above all, pat yourself on the back. Change is scary but also necessary for growth.
Good Luck Rolf and Wendy! Embrace this chance to reinvent yourselves.
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Everyone we meet!
Hey, Hey we are wassailing! (Guess I am channeling The Monkees)
Wassailing was associated in the United Kingdom with the Twelfth Night celebrations. These involved blessing the fields and remembering the twelve apostles. Along with drink, there would be a range of Twelfth Night customs including singing, merrymaking in disguise, guessing games and begging to enter a house. At times drink would be demanded while at other times drink would be brought by the participants to the house.
Below is a recipe for Bishop’s Wassail that uses red wine.
1 Bottle red wine
½ lb Honey
1 Lemon and orange, thinly sliced
1 tsp. Cinnamon
Heat the ingredients, stirring constantly, to just below boiling point.
Pour into a punch bowl, at this point you can add some spirit and raisins. If you add a generous amount of Brandy, it is possible to set it aflame!
It was also often the custom to float toasted bread on top of the steaming liquid, hence the origin of our expression "to propose a toast".
Here we come a-wassailing
Among the leaves so green,
Here we come a wand'ring,
So fair to be seen.
Love and joy come to you,
And to your wassail too,
And God bless you and send you a happy new year,
And God send you a happy new year.
Lubricate those vocal cords and find your mittens!
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
During Chanukah it is customary to give gelt (money) to children, so that they can be taught to give some of it to charity.
This year, for our family gift exchange, we are giving to the charity that is important to the person whose name we drew. For me, the choice of my charity was difficult as I believe in many causes. Hunger, (Food Banks, etc.) self-sufficiency, (Heifer International), animal rights, (Humane Societies), medical research, (ACS and Alzheimers), wildlife and nature conservation, (Nature Conservancy, Dawn's flock rescue).... you get the drift.
Giving feeds your soul and is tax deductible. Give charitable donations a try this season.
So today, as you eat a latke (fried potato pancake), open a Kosher wine. Celebrate the miracle of the one day's supply of lamp oil that lasted eight days. Try the 2006 Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc. It is light golden in color and very aromatic. Nice acidity that will cut through the oiliness. The taste is very similar to a Sancerre.
I will leave you with a Hanukkah blessing that is spoken over the menorah tonight.
"Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this occasion."
Finding wine makers who use sustainable farming practices, which conserve soil and water, among other issues, is more difficult. New York Times wine writer Eric Asimov recently listed several winemakers who practice some form of organic, sustainable or natural winemaking in his article “When the Wine is Green". They includes Leflaive, Leroy and Lafon in Burgundy; Deiss and Zind Humbrecht in Alsace; Coulée de Serrant in Savennières; Chapoutier in the Rhone; Pingus and Palacios in Spain; Movia in Slovenia; Araujo and Grgich Hills in California; Brick House in Oregon; and Cayuse in Washington.
Expand your wine color palate beyond red and white.... to green.
Monday, December 3, 2007
Our olfactory receptors are equipped to distinguish more than 10,000 separate aromas. The sensory mechanism called the olfactory epithelium, a little patch about the size of the bar code on a wine-bottle back label, lies at the top of a bony cavern inside our skulls at the base of the brain.
Smells reach the olfactory epithelium through our noses. But smells also get there by an alternative route. Inside the mouth, at the back of the palate, is an internal opening called the "retro-nasal passage". It delivers another aroma shot straight to the brain, giving us a second chance to smell what we're about to swallow.
This mechanism likely evolved to give early humans a second line of defense against consuming rotten or spoiled food. But in modern times, it gives us another way to analyze our wine.
That is why you will sometime see people hold a small amount of wine in their mouth and suck in some air through slightly parted lips. They are aerating the wine and allowing the aromas to reach their retro-nasal passage.
Next time you pour a glass, try this method and see if you don't increase your enjoyment.
Upon further research, I found the 2005 Ottella from the Lugana appellation in the Veneto, was made with the Trebbiano grape. Also known as Ugni Blanc, it accounts for around a third of all white wine in Italy. Trebbiano is also used to produce balsamic vinegar and is the primary grape used in producing Cognac.
I would have preferred to drink either of those. The flavor profile was non-fruity, acidic and thin. It might pair well with a summer salad or shellfish but neither were in our fridge.
It reminded me again that you can't judge a wine by it's label, a book by it's cover (or Amazon rating) or a person by their looks, job or clothes. Once again, I am thankful that my mother showed me how to treat the people with whom I come in contact each day. She showed me that we are all connected and each of us matters.
Thanks Mom! I hope I live up to your expectations.
Friday, November 30, 2007
Talk to winemakers anywhere and they'll tell you about their terroir, about soils that are sandy/loamy/chalky/stony, about microclimates that seduce sea fog in at night to cool the grapes, about how they were smart enough to buy the east/west/north/south side of the hill that's a few feet higher than the other guy's and gets the best sun exposure and the best air-drainage so the frost always slides down the slope and devastates their neighbor's vineyard.
But, these guys have the Andes!
The Andes offer three things that define Argentina's terroir: a weather break that moderates temperatures and humidity, abundant water from winter snow melts allowing winemakers to irrigate vineyards as much or little as needed, and altitude.
What does this do for the grapes? With every climb of 100 meters in altitude, the average temperature decreases by 1 degree Celsius. That means grapes with higher acidity and softer tannins. But the intensity of the sunlight also increases, allowing the grapes to achieve maximum ripeness while the cooler temperatures keep the sugars in check.
Intense sun does not equal heat. The combination of low temperatures and high-intensity sun yields red wines of high extraction, soft if not disappearing tannins, and impressive structure and balance. Carefully made, they do not have the excessive alcohol that mars so many modern, "international" wines. White wines can feature bracing acidity and verve without the need, in the case of Chardonnay, for much if any malolactic fermentation.
We conquered our fear of heights by opening a 2005 Viognier-Chardonnay 50-50 blend called High Altitude Agrelo from the Bodegas Escortheuela Gascon. James Molesworth of Wine Spectator gave it 86 points and said it has a mix of peach, melon and pippin apple flavors, with a crisp lime edge taking over on the finish. It retailed at $14.99 but we purchased it for 50% off at the fall dot sale. With a pot of homemade chicken, vegetable and broken spaghetti soup, it wasn't half bad!
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
For spicy wines: Garnish with smoked sea salt after carving. Or, rub the chicken skin with a combination of equal parts chile powder and cumin before roasting.
For tannic wines: Drizzle the roast chicken with high quality olive oil. Or, add 1/3 cup white wine to the pan while roasting the chicken,deglaze the pan with 1/2 cup chicken broth after the roasting is done, reduce slightly, and whisk in 1 tablespoon butter or 2 tablespoons heavy cream to finish the sauce. Serve alongside the chicken.
For wines with a high percentage of alcohol: Peel and cut 2 or 3 large onions into quarters, and roast them in the pan with the chicken. After roasting, transfer to a food processor or blender, and puree with olive oil, a splash of high quality balsamic vinegar and salt to taste. Serve as a condiment alongside the chicken.
For acidic wines: Serve a wedge of lemon alongside the chicken. Or, drizzle the chicken with high quality balsamic vinegar before serving. Or, serve with a pickled vegetable chutney or relish.
Never fear wine, chicken woman is here!
If food, glassware, ambient temperature, perfume and the people sitting next to you all influence the taste of wine, why wouldn't music? This seems obvious, and is the reason professional tastings are done in silence.
Clark Smith, 56, an MIT dropout who drifted to California to become R.H. Phillips' founding winemaker, spent months with various tasting panels sampling 150 different wines with 250 different songs to find harmonies and discordances. He has worked up a set of some convincing examples.
His theory involves "sweet spots." When reducing the alcohol level of a wine from the "natural" level produced by fermentation, it's possible to create a finished wine with any percentage of alcohol you choose: 14.2, 12.7, whatever. But Smith says (and demonstrates convincingly) that only a few specific alcohol percentages, "sweet spots", actually taste good. He compares the sweet spots to musical chords. A particular percentage of alcohol tastes harmonious, while just 0.1 percent more or less alcohol tastes dissonant.
I recently read a book by Dominic Smith called “The Beautiful Miscellaneous” about a young man who is left with synesthesia after a car accident. Synesthesia is a condition in which people experience one type of sensation with a different sense. Famous synesthetes include composers like Duke Ellington and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, who experienced musical notes as colors. But Smith feels that something else is going on. He wasn't experiencing music as flavor; he believed the music was changing the flavor of the wines.
He has only a few guidelines so far for music and wine pairing. "Never play polkas with anything," he says, unless you really like White Zinfandel. "Red wines need either minor key or they need music that has negative emotion. They don't like happy music. With expensive reds, don't play music that makes you giggle. Pinots like sexy music. Cabernets like angry music."
Give these tips some consideration next time you download a song into your iPod or open a favorite bottle.
Friday, November 23, 2007
The producer was Crystal Valley Cellars in Yountville, CA. I plan to buy more as this is a wine whose character may undergo interesting changes as it ages.
What wine did you serve with your feast and what were your impressions?
Thursday, November 22, 2007
I am grateful for all my blessings. A warm comfortable home, a bountiful table of food, early morning pre-hunting breakfasts with good natured ribbing between relatives, healthy breaths of crisp air, colorful birds at my feeders, and fluffy flakes of snow.
Traditions abound, such as turkey with all the fixings, parades and football, after holiday sales and post-feast naps. Today, I am also experimenting to see which wine pairs the best with some twists I am making to familiar fall flavors.
The turkey is stuffed with citrus and seasoned with herbes de provence, yams with a toasted spice rub, green beans with pine nuts and lemon zest, cranberry sauce with fresh orange juice and a sage sausage and apple stuffing. The wines I chose were a Cabernet Franc and a Rhone style Grenache. Both have supple tannins which make them more food friendly and both have a spicy bright fruit flavor.
Most wine critics suggest serving a zinfandel with turkey, but many zins on the market are big, jammy fruit bombs with a strong alcoholic bite.
Stay tuned for the results of our sensory experiment.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Beaujolais Nouveau is as about as close to white wine as a red wine can get. Due to the way it is made -the must is pressed early after only three days- the phenolic compounds, in particular the astringent tannins, normally found in red wines, isn't there, leaving an easy to drink, fruity wine. This, coupled with the fact that it tastes best when chilled, makes for a festive wine to be gulped rather than sipped, enjoyed in high spirits rather than critiqued. As a side note, it makes a great transitional wine for anyone wanting to move from white to red wines.
Let the celebration begin!
The first was Coutier Brut Rose, a French sparkler with a creamy strawberry flavor. Another was a Clos Du Bois Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 that has a dark cherry and cocoa aroma with a hint of vanilla. The third wine mentioned was a banyuls.
It is a fortified aperitif or dessert wine made from old vines cultivated in terraces on the slopes of the Pyrenees in the Roussillon wine region of Southern France.
Most of these wines are red, although some white wines are produced. Permitted grape varieties are Grenache Noir (at least 50%, 75% for the Grand Cru), Grenache Gris, Grenache Blanc and Carignan, and also (but rarely used) Macabeu, Muscat and Malvoisie.
The production process, known in France as mutage, is similar to that used to make Port. Alcohol is added to the must to halt fermentation while sugar levels are still high, preserving the natural sugar of the grape. The wines are then matured in oak barrels, or outside in glass bottles exposed to the sun, allowing the wine to maderise. The maturation period is a minimum of ten months for Banyuls AOC, and thirty months for Banyuls Grand Cru AOC. The resulting wine bears a similarity to port but tends to be lower in alcohol (~16% vs. ~20%).
How ever you celebrate, I hope today is special!
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
According to the contract, the magazine bought the rights to my words, which include editing. It was both an exciting and disappointing moment to read the article.
My unique "voice" changed to fit their requirements, became more generic, less colorful, IMHO.
I now understand why retaining your creative rights mean so much to people in the arts.
Friday, November 9, 2007
• Helps organize your impressions of different varietals
• Keeps track of your favorites and not-so-favorites
• Adds fun to wine-tasting parties
• Captures your memories of great wines and great friends
• Provides a handy reference for future purchases
• Improves your wine-tasting technique
• Sharpens your ability to evaluate wines
• Maintains a record of favorite wine & food pairings
• Records subtle differences of wines purchased by the case to determine how each bottle's aging improves its taste
Your journal can be as simple as a spiral notebook or as artful as a bound journal. Evaluate each wine according to look, swirl, smell and taste. Make your notes as you taste. Remember there are no right or wrong answers. They are your personal impressions and perceptions. Carefully remove the wine label and paste it to your journal page.
Wine journals make excellent gifts—accompanied by a bottle of wine. The next step is yours, so begin the trip now to a grape destination
Thursday, November 8, 2007
Dad also bought an LP soundtrack that he often played and one of the songs from that production was called, Try to Remember.
Try to remember the kind of September
When life was slow and oh
Try to remember the kind of September
When grass was green and grain was yellow.
Try to remember the kind of September
When you were a tender and callow fellow.
Try to remember and if you remember
Try to remember when life was so tender
When no one wept except the willow.
Try to remember when life was so tender
When dreams were kept beside your pillow.
Try to remember when life was so tender
When love was an ember about to billow.
Try to remember and if you remember
Deep in December it's nice to remember
Although you know the snow will follow.
Deep in December it's nice to remember
Without a hurt the heart will hollow.
Deep in December
it's nice to remember
The fire of September that made you mellow.
Deep in December our hearts should remember and follow
1. to continue at once with the next musical section or composition (often used as a musical direction).
2. to perform in the manner of the preceding section (used as a musical direction).
3. to make a transition from one thing to another smoothly and without interruption: The conversation segued from travel anecdotes to food.
How do you remember important moments in you life? Do you journal? Take photos? Save menus, matchbooks and theatre play bills? Collect wine bottle labels from memorable gatherings? Consider saving the label from your next event, adding a few notes about the menu, list the guests and include any special highlights.
So what is the best way to remove a label?
Buy a roll of the clear, 3" wide, packing tape and do the following.
1. Cut the tape into two strips that are about 4" wider than the label.
2. Fill the bottle with very hot water (trying not to get the label wet) and be sure the bottle is wiped dry afterwards.
3. Put a strip of paper about 1/2" wide across each end so that the ends won't stick to the bottle
4. Working from left to right (or vice versa) attach the tape to the bottle so that it just extends (about 1/4") above the top of the label and then bring the tape across the label, using some type of straight edge to smooth it out as you go.
Once you have the first strip in place, if it doesn't fully cover the label, attach a 2nd strip right under the first.
5. Use the back of a spoon rub hard all over the label
6. Starting at one edge, now slowly start to peal off the tape.
7. Once the label is removed, you can trim the edges with a scissors and now you have a preserved label that you can mount.
Preserve some memories today.
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
Made using the traditional French "Method Champenoise", Cava must be in contact with the lees for a minimum period of 9 months before disgorgement.
The traditional grape varieties used have been Spanish, however other varieties such as Chardonnay are being used in increasing quantities. The grape varieties permitted are as follows: Parellada, Macabeo (Viura), Xarel-lo, Chardonnay and smaller amounts of Monastrell and Pinot Noir.
About those grapes: Macabeo ("Mah-cah-BAY-oh"), it's said, contributes floral scents to the wine, while Xarel-lo ("Sah-rel-yo") adds an earthy complexity; Parellada ("Pah-deh-YAHI-dah"), provided it's not over-cropped, builds a framework with a tangy green-apple acidity.
Some of the main producers are Codorniu, Freixenet and Segura Viudas.
Cavas are classified according to their sweetness.
Extra Brut: less than 6 grams of sugar per litre.
Brut: 6-15 g/l
Extra Seco: 12-20 g/l
Seco: 17-35 g/l
Semi Seco: 33-35 g/l
Dulce: over 50 g/l
Enjoy your holidays!
Monday, November 5, 2007
Tannins, simply put, are complex organic compounds (known as "phenolics" in chemistry-speak) that occur naturally in grapeskins, seeds and stems and that impart a distinctly astringent (mouth-puckering) flavor in wine. A smaller amount of tannin may also be contributed by oak, particularly in wines aged in small, new oak barrels.
Because red wines are fermented with the grape skins while white wines usually are not, reds tend to be much more tannic than whites; and certain varieties are particularly tannic, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Nebbiolo, for example, and the less-familiar Tannat.
Tannins are considered desirable because their anti-oxidant properties help preserve wine in aging. Over time in the cellar with ageworthy wines, tannins undergo a gradual chemical change called polymerization; astringency fades and the wine's flavors take on a more mellow complexity.
The same is true even of Tannat, but its natural tannins remain so prominently puckery that the wine gives us a serious remembrance of times past. Virtually all varietal Tannat on the market comes from two places: The Southwestern French region called Madiran (which usually adds Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon to a Tannat-dominant blend); and Uruguay, a smallish South American country tucked between Brazil and Argentina, where 19th century Basque immigrants apparently introduced the grape and made it as much a trademark wine of the region as Malbec became in Argentina.
Looking for a completely different wine experience? Try Tannat.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Within the vineyard, the vine leaves should be thinned to allow more sun onto the fruit. Yields are reduced by "green harvesting", that is, removing surplus grape clusters to allow the energy of the vine to concentrate on the remaining bunches. The aim is to achieve low yields to intensify the flavor. (It has got to be hard to see tons of your profits left to rot on the ground!)
Rather than gather the grapes at the "official" start of the harvest, they are left to hang and are tasted regularly to ensure that they are physiologically ripe when picked. This ensures the fruit has no harsh tannins or bitter elements, but has plenty of natural sugar.
Not all producers follow these practices and the result is overcropping. It is often associated with irrigation, when vineyards have large yields of under-ripe grapes, and produce generic table wine.
Life is too short to drink boring wine. An enjoyable wine should be balanced, interesting and most of all, food-friendly.
An E-book called "Fool-Proof Wine Values" incorporates the results of extensive tastings into a useful consumer guide, featuring reports on 147 inexpensive wines from 44 producers that meet a tough criteria:
• Taste like wines priced in the $20 to $50 range
• Cost $10 or less
• Deliver consistent quality year after year
• Are readily available at wine shops in the U.S.
It sells for $19, with a 100 percent, 60-day, no-questions-asked, money-back guarantee. Itr can be downloaded at:
Enjoy some BOO-TI-FUL and inexpensive wine tonight!
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
This last weekend, we took a trip to South Dakota to pheasant hunt with Glenn's brother and nephew. The weather stayed dry but was very windy, the birds were more plentiful than in Minnesota, but, best of all, the memories will stay with us a long time.
Each time is different because of where we stay, what we eat and drink and what we do with our non-hunting time. As much as we want to re-create a specific hunt, each is unique.
That is also why I have decided not to post a fee schedule for my private wine tastings on the website. After talking with the prospective client and determining their expectations, I will try to do my best to fulfill them and still make a little money.
So, if you think that adding a private wine tasting to your next gathering will be costly, you may be surprised. Let's talk, share ideas and make some memories. The experience of good food and wine are enhanced by sharing with others.
Monday, October 29, 2007
Most of my hobbies can be enjoyed alone but I much prefer sharing the experience. A good book that needs a lively discussion, the movie that everyone liked for different reasons, the soup or sauce pot that needs more spice and some stirring, the walk where you all spot the young buck or bird at the same time, and the opening of a bottle of wine where each person smells or tastes something different.
The Chinese have an ancient philosophy of guanxi which has to do with relationships and caring for one another. They believe that shared experiences enhance lives.
Give it a try. Make a meal together, watch a movie, take a walk and remember to savor life.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
Bienvenidos, Velkomen, Benvenuti, Aloha mai, Selamat datang (the last is a greeting in Malay for Wendy, whom I can hardly wait to be my nephew's wife!) Welcome to all!
I hope that some of you have ended up on this wine blog by way of my new website. As I am not a professional wine writer, nor a website design master, I hope you will overlook the simplicity of my sites and instead focus on their contents.
Since last February, I have been writing random thoughts on this blog from my own wine tastings, wine making information basics, grape varietal highlights and other musings. Before dismissing the blog entries outright, please review any older posts that might interest you.
My hope is that you will find a new fun fact, a wine to look for next time you are shopping or just a glimpse into what has been my grape stained journey.
Last night we opened the 11th edition of Evolution. It is a blend of 9 different grape varietals that has an enticing tropical aroma. We expected the flavors to mirror this bouquet but found a medium bodied, semi-dry wine with a crisp finish. The alcohol listed was 12% and we knew that the 10-12% range made the wine more food friendly.
Having heard and read about this wine, I was excited to finally find and try it for myself. We paired it with a chicken, vegetable and cheese pie that used brown rice for the crust. What a winning combination!
The label suggests that you chill, pour, sip and then chill (as in chill out). We took their advice.
Friday, October 19, 2007
This past week, Gary Vaynerchuck of WLTV, the original Vaynaic, spent time sorting fruit, learning about yeast and inoculating juice. The great thing is he had some "real-time" input via a computer monitor from those vaynaics unable to make the trip.
Check out this video showing the birth of the 2007 Vaynaic Napa Cabernet.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
As a newbie, it took me most of last night to figure out the design and how much "free" broadband capacity was available.
Ready to liven up your next gathering? Consider a private wine tasting.
Saturday, October 13, 2007
Wine's evolution is an interesting history lesson, but our wine club is proving to be "one for the books!" The most novice member was the most prepared for our discussion. He had thoroughly researched, found phonetic pronunciations for difficult varieties and regions and although his palate is still evolving, he gave me great hope for the future of this club.
Embracing new things and sharing a common interest is a good equation for growth.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
There are many strains of wild or “native” yeast present on the grapes as they come from the vineyard. Wild yeasts found on grape skins can produce unwelcome off odors when they ferment and can stop fermenting at 6-9% alcohol leaving lots of unfermented glucose in an unstable, easy to spoil wine. However, Pinot noir and Syrah grapes like to start fermenting with native yeasts and then the wine maker uses a large amount of cultured yeast near the end to ensure a complete fermentation.
Alternatively, the wine maker can choose to use commercial cultured yeast that has been proven to have specific results in the finished wine. Proponents of cultured yeast strains point to a stronger, steady and stable fermentation, control over the finished product and lower probability of stuck fermentations as advantages. There are different yeast strains for fermenting specific grape varieties.
The form of yeast typically used in winery production comes in a dried state, sold in vacuum packed containers, and must be hydrated and acclimatized to the juice. To do so, the yeast is mixed into warm water (104°F) then slowly added to a portion of the juice it will inoculate. This will provide it with sugar and begin to move the temperature of the yeast preparation towards that of the juice.
Glucose is heavier than ethyl alcohol so the wine maker will follow the progress of fermentation by measuring the drop in densitiy of the fermenting juice with a hydrometer,to estimate degrees Brix. At the beginning of fermentation (days 0-4) the degrees Brix will not drop because the yeast cells are metabolizing and increasing in numbers.
In the second stage, (days 5-11) the degrees Brix fall rapidly as the alcohol increases and the glucose drops. The density of the wine will eventually reach -1.0 to -2.0 degrees Brix and an increase in temperature of the juice, when fermentation is finished.
Yeast.... it's more than beer and bread.
Saturday, October 6, 2007
Each day I will try to remember what gave me joy, what I want for my life and how I can help others. It won't always be easy but it will give me peace.
Thursday, October 4, 2007
Wednesday nights are our time to spend on the water, catch up on news, watch nature and fish.
This year, the prey of choice is the Musky. It is rare that we are fishing for anything else. But after 4 fish boated this year, quite a few "follows" and some near misses, we caught....
THE BIG ONE!
We think we have almost hooked this fish before due to the size of the swirl he makes at the lure. Still, nothing can compare to having him hit, fight, surface out of the water and actually net him.
The smile on Glenn's face in the photos we took after measuring the 55" fish says it all.
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
Technically, verasion is a term that applies to one of the periods of the ripening process when the fruit changes color. However, during this period the grower must be alert and sensitive to what is going on in the vineyard.
During the months of June and July the grape bunches and individual grapes gradually grow and develop. During this period the sugar level is about 6%. Along about the first week in August the grapes suddenly begin to accumulate sugar at a rapid rate. This period is called verasion. The individual grapes begin to turn purple for red wines or from opaque emerald green to translucent golden green for whites. And during all this the sugar level is steadily increasing moving in a matter of three to six weeks from 6% to 22 -24% sugar. This is the magic of photosynthesis. The grapes will generate about a ton of sugar per acre.
This is a critical and very stressful time for vintners. Weather wise, the grapes need warm days with temperatures between 85 and 95 degrees and no rain. Nighttime temperatures should be 65 - 75 degrees. And the irrigation regime has to be carefully controlled. Too much water can pump up the grape bunches with excess moisture and maybe even cause the vines to start growing new leaves and shots. Too little water can cause defoliation, wilting causing the vine to stop producing sugar. Sudden hot spells or cold foggy days can cause serious problems for the ripening bunches.
This is the current stage for the grapes that are making up the Napa Vayniac Cabernet Sauvignon. There has been a cool, wet spell that has increased the "hang time" which could result in great flavor concentration. It will also allow the grape seed to ripen from green to brown. For winemakers pursuing longer hang time has it pros and cons. The longer the grape is on the vine, the riper the tannins (astringent components in the skin, seeds and stems) become and the wines are softer and more lush and smooth. However, the grapes lose moisture (weight) as they become concentrated and this can mean a loss of profit as the growers are paid by tonnage. Also, overripe fruit loses the acidity it needs to bottle age and the wine will taste "flabby".
What constitutes full development/potential? For most of us, the results are worth the wait.
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
The oak tree is examined both before and after being cut, and wood is selected based on many criteria, including tree shape and growing conditions. These factors determine the textural variety of wood fibers, the fineness of its grain and its tannin content. Tight grain and fine tannin content are found in the best wood.
The logs must be hand split to preserve wood grain without breaking wood veins, which is essential for creating impermeable barrels. The oak log is first split in two, then into quarters to obtain wood for the oak staves. After splitting and planning, the stave wood is stored outside. Exposed to air and water, the wood is naturally aged by the weather for several years. During the aging process, the development of sugars and acids are monitored.
After aging, the staves are formed by machines into the proper shape and form for barrel assembly. After they are cut to the proper length, they are tapered at each end and beveled. Then they are planed on the outside, slightly hollowed on the inside and jointed by high precision machining.
The sharp-eyed cooper selects his staves, setting aside those that do not suit him. Then he assembles the staves inside a metal hoop that serves as the assembly jig. The cooper seals the joints by passing a wet cloth inside and outside the staves, then heating the barrel over a wood fire for approximately 30 minutes. Rendered flexible by heat and humidity, the wood fiber can now be bent by the cooper, who uses a winch to gradually arch the staves and tighten them to obtain the shape of the barrel body. The body is held trussed in place like this until the metal hoops are definitely placed.
Toasting is a signature of the cooperage. The length of heating results in a "toast level" on which the flavors of the wine aged in the barrel will partially depend. During the heating of the staves, some substances of the wood are caramelized and develop a multitude of aromas, such as vanilla, fresh bread, buttered bread, or a touch of nut, that will be found in the final taste of the wine. Toast level will be adjusted according to the customers' requests: light, medium or heavy toast. Light toast gives more barrel tannins and aromatics of oak. Medium will integrate tannins and showcase varietal characteristics Medium plus will give aromas of spices like cloves and vanillin and will be more sweet. The heavier toast will impart a smoky grilled flavor or coffee to the wine.
What's the difference between French and American oak? French oak adds more subtle flavors to wine, while American oak is more aggressively flavored. Wooden barrels allow for a small amount of evaporation of the contents during the aging period. The wine in the barrel matures and becomes stable. Co2 is released during fermentation, alcohol is formed and extraction is produced.
Oak used in winemaking is typically produced from trees of different species. These are the American White Oak, Quercus alba, harvested primarily in Missouri from 90 years old trees. The European species, Quercus sessilis, is a tree found throughout central and eastern Europe. In France it is generally harvested from the north eastern forest of Vosges, and the central forests of Allier, Never and the most beautiful of all, Troncais. These trees are usually 100 to 120 years old.
Now you have the facts of coopering, lock stock and barrel.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
There are so many awards that are given in judging wines, that if every producer was to enter every contest, most would win an award. It is a subjective subject.
So what is a good wine? It is the one that is in your glass!
Now that our wine cellar/refrigerator is near it's 100 bottle capacity, I have researched a couple of sites:
They each have their own unique characteristics. But, if your stash is growing, you need help tracking what you have, what you need to buy and what you have drank or gifted, without having to re-invent the wheel.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
It's easy if you try,
No hell below us,
Above us only sky,
Imagine all the people
living for today...
Imagine there's no countries,
It isn't hard to do,
Nothing to kill or die for,
No religion too,
Imagine all the people
living life in peace...
Imagine no possessions,
I wonder if you can,
No need for greed or hunger,
A brotherhood of men,
imagine all the people
sharing all the world...
You may say I'm a dreamer,
but I'm not the only one,
I hope some day you'll join us,
and the world will live as one..
Monday, September 24, 2007
I miss the brilliant orange and reds that we used to see years ago. Scary stuff, this climate change and I will probably live long enough to see lots more.
Is it too late to turn back the changes? Just take a few common habits and turn them green. Replace a bulb, use less paper products, drive smarter and grow more native plants to conserve water.
Green has always been my favorite color, now I know why.
Even though the riotious color signals the end of growth and death to some plants, what a glorious way to go!
When I leave this world, I want to go out in a similar blaze of glory. I hope to leave people I have known and loved, touched.
Friday, September 21, 2007
Merlot possesses luscious and succulent ripe cherry, plum and chocolate qualities that are a silky complement to chicken or turkey or "red meat" fish like salmon and tuna.
Tempranillo is a delicious, all-purpose red that is peppery and earthy. It is packed with dark berry flavors with ripe tannins that can be enjoyed alone or with anything you put on the table.
"Food-friendly" and "crowd-pleasing" are also descriptors for the next red wine. Sangiovese is the grape known predominantly in many Chiantis. It is a medium-bodied wine with dusty violet aromas and bright cherry or raspberry flavors. These wines are best matched with pastas, red meats, wild game and vegetables that are roasted or grilled with olive oil, herbs and garlic.
Cabernet Sauvignon has hints of bell pepper, currant, plum and black cherry flavors. It pairs well with marbeled red meats, lamb, duck or sausage as the fats in the protein will cut through the more agressive tannins.
Cabernet Franc is a grape variety first grown in France's Loire Valley. It has an intense floral aroma that is seductive. Rich, dense and velvety with currant and berry notes, it has polished tannins. Serve with pork tenderloin, herbed poultry, rich pastas and ham.
Malbec is the signature grape of Argentina and is planted high in the Andes at elevations that would give other varieties nosebleeds. In the sun-drenched days and cool nights these grapes develop dark color and flavor while maintaining acidity. Try it with grilled meats.
Syrah will typically have hints of licorice and anise when grown in warmer climates and be more peppery in cooler regions. It goes well with hearty red meat dishes and venison.
Zinfandel has a heady bouquet of new leather, violets and licorice, intense boysenberry and blueberry. It's a hit with BBQ ribs, meat loaf, roast turkey or chili.
When the weather changes, be ready. Have a sweater, a pot of chili and a hearty red wine on hand.
What are some words used to describe taking a drink? How about gulp, sip, slurp, swallow, swig, glug or imbibe.
Just remember to be responsible.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
From Washington State down to Santa Barbara, there is an endless array of climates and geography for adventureous viticulturists. They insist their wines pair better with food, and many are making more affordable vintages. The Rhone tradition dictates far less use of new oak barrels, so the woodiness in much of the American cabernets doesn’t extend to these Rhone-style efforts. Tannins are mellow, so the wines feel more inviting in your mouth. It is, perhaps, the beginning of a new style.
With 40 or more varietals, Syrah and Grenache lead the reds, but Mourvedre and Carignane hold their own and add spice and depth to blends. Viognier is the most popular of the whites while Marsanne and Rousanne also shine.
Last night we paired a non-vintage bottle of Louis Bernard Cotes du Ventoux with a hearty paprika chicken stew with pieroges. Delish! It was a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault and the peppery qualities of the Syrah were evident but the blend was earthy and "smooth as butta".
In France, the Rhone is actually two regions. The 4,000-acre northern Rhone relies primarily on Syrah for its reds and Viognier for its whites, encompassing famed appellations like Hermitage and Cote-Rotie. The 120,000-acre southern Rhone blends Grenache with other reds, and Roussanne with other whites; and is home to the ever-famed Chateauneuf-du-Pape. The appellation of Cotes du Ventoux is situated in the southeastern fringes of the southern Rhone Valley between Coteaux du Tricastin and the Cotes du Luberon. Perched on the southwestern side of Mount Ventoux, the vines grow in a typical Mediterranean climate. The vineyards have been cultivated for more than two millennia, making them among France's oldest.
So,who are these masked men? To find out more about the Rhone Rangers, visit their site at
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Most red varietals usually taste better in a fairly large, elongated and somewhat narrower bowls that will focus their characteristics. Narrower wine glasses are used for lighter white wines as a way to concentrate the "delicate aromas".
You want to make sure that you fill your wine glass about 1/3 to 1/2 full. This allows the "bouquet" to be captured in the upper bowl as it rises when the wine is swirled. Red wine glasses can be held under the bowl since red wine is served at room temperature and this shouldn't affect the taste of the wine but with white wines that are served chilled, always hold them from the stem so that your body heat doesn't warm them.
You also want to look for wine glasses that have a "cut" rim rather than a "rolled or bumped" rim. A "cut" rim lets the wine pour evenly onto your tongue so you get the full effect of the wine. The best wine glass brands are Riedel, Spiegelau, Libbey, Mikasa, Lenox, and Bodum.
Marie Antoinette decided to combine her love of herself and her love of a good party and came up with the idea of casting a wax mold of her breasts. This she had made into a glass, and “Viola!” – the champagne glass was formed. This "D"cup shape disperses bubbles quickly so for Champagnes and sparkling wines, a simple, tall, narrow flute is preferred.
If space is an issue, a tuliped shaped glass is the most versatile. Or if you prefer a more casual trattoria type glass, Riedel has a new line called the Tyrol which takes their popular "O" series and places them on a pedestal.
Most experts suggest washing your glasses in warm water with a neutral soap. Then rinse the heck out of the glass. Soap residue left on your wine glass will interfere with the flavor and aroma of wine. Either air dry or use a scent and lint free drying cloth.
So, Do You Need New Glasses?
Monday, September 10, 2007
In general, these wines tend to earn less respect than wines grown, produced and bottled by the wine maker whose labels will say "estate-bottled" or, in France, "mise en bouteilles au chateau".
But in Burgundy in particular, where most vineyards are subdivided into a fiendishly complicated jigsaw puzzle of tiny plots - the heritage of Napoleonic land redistribution and inheritance issues - the negoçiant system became a logical way to handle the output of vineyards too tiny to support individual wine producers.
Some of the best, and best-known, Burgundy producers are primarily négociants—including Jadot, Drouhin, and Bouchard Père & Fils. However, many New World wineries also employ a middleman.
Feel free to negotiate.
The land of Hungary has a climate and a wide variety of soil types that have made it a wine making region going back to the Celts in the 3rd century A.D. The Romans brought the first vine-shoots to the fertile land of the Carpathian Basin and they established vineyards. In the 16th century, the Tokaj region planted aszu grapes that were prone to botrytis. They were harvested later, producing the sweet white wines for which the region is still renowned. We tried a 2006 Donausonne from the Blaufrankisch grape, which is known for its peppery character. It was a sweet, extremely aromatic pale red wine with 11% alcohol. Although not my choice for sipping, it may pair well with authentic dishes that are flavorful, spicy with lots of paprika and garlic and often rather heavy.
Turkey was the center of ancient wine tradition. In its hilly landscape, a multitude of vines flourish. The best whites are from the vines of Hasandede, Narince and Emir. Some of the wine regions are the Aegean Sea Costal Region, East Anatolia, South Anatolia and Ankara. The best wines come from the Yakut, the Dikmen and most notably, a red wine from Kavaklidere.
The wine lands of Chile are located in the center of the country, stretching 250 miles north and 350 miles south of the capital city of Santiago. Chile’s fine wine production lies in the heart of this lengthy expanse in the Aconcagua and Central Valleys.
Chile was explored and settled by the Spanish in the 16th century and was introduced to wine culture by the importation of the Mission grape, a vinifera vine that followed the church during the early days of colonization. In Chile, this grape is called the País. There is not an indigenous grape but two varieties are widely grown, Sauvignon Vert, a less-aromatic clone of Sauvignon Blanc, and much of what was thought to be Merlot is actually Carmenere, a grape variety that once played a significant role in the red Bordeaux blend. The nose has aromas of musk, berry jam with a hint of vanilla. The palate is a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with lovely sweet oak. Some of the top Chilean wine producers are: Concha y Toro, Veremonte, Montes, Santa Rita, Los Vascos and Carmen.
So, what wine would you drink with your turkey chili?
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
Although it is fun to buy a wine with an interesting label, learning some label lingo can arm you with the tools to make you a savvy consumer.
Labels all provide the same general information, with only minor differences in format and content. You will find the wine maker or winery, the appellation (which is the country or region where the grapes for this wine were grown), the vintage, the grape variety, and for foreign wines, the national regulations. German wines, for example, carry an "Amptliche Prüfungs Nummer (AP Number)," the serial number it received during official testing. French wines may carry their ranking from traditional classifications (such as "Cru Bourgeois" on a Bordeaux). Wine labels also carry small print disclosing the wine's approximate alcoholic content and the size of the bottle, as highlighted on the Spanish and U.S. wine labels.
Learn a new language today, read a wine label.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
Since reading a few books like the "Celestine Prophecy" by James Redfield and one about the perfect present (think time not gifts), I have tried to adopt the philosophy of answering when opportunity knocks.
Today, Wine Library TV announced the chance to be part of the development of a "community-based" 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon with the help of Crushpad, skilled vintners, grapes sourced from four distinct Napa regions, and a crazy bunch of wine geeks that call themselves vayniacs.
I am still not sure what part I will play in this adventure, but if a door opens, I am walking though to the other side.
When opportunity knocks, don't hesitate as it might lead to an unforgettable experience.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Some of you might have even purchased a "split" or half-bottle of a sweet dessert wine.
But unless you "hang" with some high rollers, professional athletes, or movie / rock stars, I'm betting you have never seen these size bottles of Champagne. The number in bold is the number of standard size bottles in each of these formats.
Magnum (TV private detective, 1980's). 2
Jeroboam (Founder and first king of Israel, 931-910 BC) 4
Rehoboam, son of Solomon (King of Judah, 922-908 BC) 6
Methuselah (Biblical patriarch who lived to the age of 969) 8
Salmanazar (King of Assyria, 859-824 BC) 12
Balthazar (Regent of Babylon, son of Nabonide, 539BC) 16
Nebuchadnezzar (King of Babylon, 605-562 BC) 20
A useful mnemonic for these big bottle sizes is:
My Julie Really Makes Splendid Belching Noises
Big bottles have a novelty value, but because of the difficulty in moving such a large mass for riddling and disgorgement,(see earlier post about how champagne is made) in most cases the secondary fermentation is carried out in magnums. The wine is then decanted into the larger bottles. This inevitably results in a loss of pressure. Some would say that there is a chance of more oxidation as a result of this, and that Champagne from a giant bottle is inferior to that from the magnum from which it was fermented. (See, size really does matter!)
Hint: We are not talking body types (somatotypes), but wine.
Have you ever wondered why wine bottles are different shapes? Many times, you can tell a wine bottle's contents from its shape.
First some history. 7000 years ago in Egypt, wine was stored in two-handled containers, usually clay, called amphorae. Glass was a major step forward because it's inert, neutral in flavor, and was much better at preventing oxidation when well sealed. In the late 17th century, glass making technology advanced and uniformly-sized neck bottles could be consistently produced to fit a cork stopper.
Around the beginning of the 19th century, different regions began to adopt their own bottle shapes, and they're the same ones we use today. The most common bottle shapes are:
The Bordeaux Bottle:
This high-shouldered bottle may have derived its shape from the fact that older red Bordeaux varietals often have sediment settled at the bottom. When the wine is either decanted or poured into glasses, the shoulder of the bottle helps to trap sediment particles and prevents them from escaping with the good wine. All red Bordeaux wines are to be found in green glass, while all white Bordeaux varietals are to be found in clear glass (with a few exceptions in green), but both have the distinctive high shoulders. Grape varieties found in these bottles are usually Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel. (Think Serena Williams)
The Burgundy BottleThis elegant, sloping-shouldered bottle, with a fairly wide body can contain either red or white wine. In both France and California, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are the classic varietals bottled in this shape. Pinot Noir is usually found in green glass while Chardonnay may be found in either green or clear glass. In California, Chenin Blanc and Rhone varietals are also usually bottled in this shape. (Think Sophia Loren)
The Champagne Bottle
This large, thick-walled and tall-necked bottle has evolved into the ideal shape for storing sparkling wine under tremendous gas pressure. All Champagne and other sparkling wine bottles have a recess or indentation in the bottom of the bottle. For wine stored under tremendous gas pressure, this is essential because it relieves the pressure on the bottom of the bottle. Without the punt (or kick, as it is also called) the bottle might well blow out at the bottom. (Think Jlo)
The German, Alsatian and Dessert Wine Bottle
Many dessert wines made in California are bottled in long-necked bottles that resembles the bottles of Alsace and the Mosel and Rhine wines of Germany. Color plays an important part in distinguishing the wines, too, for all Rhine wines are bottled in brown glass, while all Mosels are bottled in green. In California, the glass may be green, brown or clear. (Yup, you guessed it! Kate Moss)
Next time you are shopping for wine, guess the variety by the shape of the bottle or amaze your friends by "feeling up" the covered bottle at your next blind tasting.
Two years after Hurricane Katrina, nearly 6 years after 9/11, and just weeks after the 35W bridge collapse and flooding in southern Minnesota, I can't complain.
Sure, we could have used some rain from those recent weather systems but I am thankful that we did not suffer the damage, loss of property and tragic loss of lives that others experienced.
So today, as I haul the hose to yet another drought-stressed tree, I am grateful for a deep well, our health, fresh tomatoes from my garden, sunshine and birdsong, friends and family.... can't complain.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
This "noble rot" penetrates the skin while preserving it's integrity. The resulting shrivelled clusters have increased concentrations of both acid and sugar. The balanced thick syrup is chilled and clarified and then warmed and inoculated with yeast nutrients. Because of it's Brix content of 35-45 degrees, the resulting wine could end up quite dry with a high alcohol percentage. But, the fermentation is chilled and filtered to produce wines that can bottle age for 10 years or more.
Grape varieties that are highly susceptible to Botrytis include Chenin Blanc, Sémillon and Riesling. Look for a Sauterne from France, a German dessert wine like a beerenauslese or for the richest, sweetest and honeylike wine, a trokenbeerenauslese.
Dried grapes are not limited to raisins, try a dessert wine today.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
So, the question of which wine goes with chicken depends on two main factors; the method of preparation and the sauce or spices.
Both wine and food have body, which is the same as weight or richness. Wine is often described as being light-bodied, medium-bodied or full-bodied. Components that add body to wine include; sugar, alcohol and tannins. In addition, intense aromatics increase the perception of body whereas, acidity decrease this perception.
Similarly, a dish can be described as light or rich. Poached chicken calls for the lightest, most delicate flavored white wine such as an Italian Pinot Grigio, Oregon Pinot Gris, Alsatian Riesling or a New World Sauvignon Blanc. These wines range in flavor from citric or herbal to floral and fruity. Roast chicken can stand up to a more concentrated wines like white Riojas, white Bordeaux or Chardonnay.
Grilling, smoking or frying will add to the perception of weight. Fire up your grill and open a bottle of Viognier or Pinot Noir to enjoy with your chicken. And if you have picked up a bucket or have the recipe for the best Southern fried, pop the cork on a Spanish cava or Italian prosecco. The bubbles will cut through the fat for a mind blowing combination.
Spices and sauces are the second factor to consider when choosing a wine pairing. Take the tandoori chicken. Curried dishes either require very bold reds like a Syrah or Shiraz to stand up to the complex spices or a fruity, low acid white like a Chenin Blanc or a spicy Fume Blanc.
The most successful combinations are fruit-driven wines of moderate acidity. Beaujolais is an excellent match for the tandoori chicken, accentuating the smoky-char flavors of the dish. Other fruity wines, such as Gewürztraminer, provide enough fruit to cushion the spice in the dishes. These wines offered dimension and balance with Latin, Asian, Thai cuisine.
In the "Secrets from the Wine Diva: Tips on Buying, Ordering & Enjoying Wine" by Christine Ansbacher she uses an acronym for wine and food pairings.
C: cooking method
U: umami (the word for “yummy” in Japanese, identified as the fifth taste bud sensation)
F: fat in the meat
F: fatty ingredients in the preparation
S: spicy, salty or smoky components (avoid tannic wines)
Don't be chicken. Roll up your White Cuffs and reach for the wine list.
Sunday, August 19, 2007
Blending can enhance aroma; improve the color; add or minimize flavors and tastes; adjust the pH of a wine; lower or raise acidity; raise or lower alcohol levels; adjust the sweetness of a wine and raise or lower levels of tannin. Blending is used to improve the quality, character and complexity of wine.
Winemakers can blend different varieties; blend grapes from different vineyards; blend wines from different vintages; blend by mixing and matching different varietals from a variety of vineyards; blend wines that have received different vinification or blend wines from different casks or barrels. Basically, you can blend any time but it is most often done between fermentation and bottling.
If the wine maker has a specific goal, they will use a tool called the Pearson Square.
The center of the square, represents the "target" value we want to blend for (in this case, we want to obtain a wine of 12% alcohol).
The upper left corner, represents the known alcohol percentage of wine #1 (Our first is 15% alcohol).
The lower left corner, represents the known alcohol percentage of wine #2 (another which is 11% alcohol).
To use the Pearson Square, find the difference between the values in the corner and the center "target" value, and place the answer in the opposite corners. This value is always the absolute value (no negative numbers allowed!) of the difference.... so, for our example:
15 minus 12 equals 3, and12 minus 11 equals 1.
We will need 3 parts of the 11% wine to mix with 1 part of the 15% wine to end up with our "target" wine of 12%. Pretty neat, huh? It's easy to use this equation when you want to raise or lower pH, acidity, sugar levels, etc. Just put your target value in the center, your known values for the two wines in the left corners, and do some subtraction to obtain the mixing ratios.
Meritage is a trademarked name for Bordeaux-style red and white blends coined by a group of fellow California winemakers in 1988. Some of America's best-known "establishment" wines are bottled under proprietary names, wines like the Mondavi-Rothschild joint venture, Opus One; Justin Vineyards' Isosceles; Dominus by Christian Moueix; Joseph Phelps' Insignia.
Don't be afraid to mix it up!
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
As I was pushing the old-time rotary mower today, I reveled in the scent of freshly cut grass. What this has to do with wine follows.
This grassy scent reminded me of a characteristic in one of my favorite grape varietals, Sauvignon Blanc. However, unlike other grapes, this one suffers from a multiple personality disorder.
Depending on the terroir, vineyard canopy management that controls sunlight and summer heat, and wine making techniques, like fermentation temperatures, the flavors can range from grassy, grapefruit or citrus to melons and sweetly tropical. Wine writers often use the phrase "cat's pee on a gooseberry bush” or green chiles as favorable descriptions of Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough region of New Zealand.
It was thought to originate in France along two major rivers, the Loire and the Gironde, the later cutting through Bordeaux. Here in Graves, it is commonly blended with Semillon to “fatten up” the "austere" wine. However, In France’s Loire Valley, vineyards sit in the rolling rocky limestone hills of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume which are full of nitrogen, boosting Sauvignon Blanc's mineral qualities. This fermented juice is kept pure and is found under these distinct appellation names. If you want to explore further, French Sauvignon Blancs also go by such names as Cheverny, Menetou-Salon, Quincy and Touraine.
Sauvignon Blanc made it to California in the 1870s and was one of the first wine grapes in America to be popular enough to get its name on the label, starting in the 1930s. Robert Mondavi introduced a change in cellaring in the 1970s, when he began aging Sauvignon Blanc in oak barrels instead of the usual stainless steel tanks. He also called the wine, "Fume Blanc" to increase consumer interest.
Today there are a growing number of world-class Sauvignon Blancs coming to the United States from South Africa, Chile and of course, New Zealand. A secret of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is blending -- vintners use grapes from as many as 10 different vineyards to make a single wine.
Sauvignon Blanc's alcohol level is generally lower than other whites, and has enough palate-cleansing acidity to cut through Asian, Mediterranean and Latin American cuisines. When slightly chilled, it pairs well with fish or cheese, particularly goat cheese or chevre. It is also known as one of the few wines that works well with sushi.
Friday, August 10, 2007
Morgan trained 22 years ago as the backup to Challenger crew member Christa McAuliffe, a New Hampshire social studies teacher who died along with six astronauts seconds after the Challenger liftoff on January 28, 1986, when a booster rocket blew up.
Civilian fliers were banned from shuttles after Challenger and Morgan joined the astronaut corps in 1998.
Today, NASA is moving forward with a new focus for the manned space program: to go out beyond Earth orbit for purposes of human exploration and scientific discovery. And the International Space Station is now a stepping stone on the way, rather than being the end of the line.
As a fan of Gene Roddenberry's vision of space exploration in both the Star Trek movies and TV series, I certainly hope that they find more evidence of life beyond Earth. It is less isolating to think that our existence is all that there is in this universe.
Writing a blog about your life and interests can also be isolating. I would love to hear your comments and questions as you continue on your own personal life quest. I know that learning is very stimulating but getting different points of view broadens the discussion. Where or what would you like to explore today?
Thursday, August 9, 2007
Here is an excerpt from Peter McWilliams' book, "Ain't Nobody's Business If You Do"
The Eighteenth Amendment only prohibited "manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors . . . for beverage purposes." Although this was the "supreme law of the land," it still required an Act of Congress to make it enforceable. Enter the super-dry, ultra-religious congressman from Minnesota, Andrew J. Volstead.
Many who supported the Eighteenth Amendment took the term "intoxicating liquors" to mean liquor: whiskey, rum, and other distilled spirits. Most liquors were at least 40% alcohol ("eighty proof"); some, particularly of the "greased lightning" variety, were as much as 90% alcohol. Surely beer, with its three to seven percent alcohol content, and wine, with its less-than-fifteen percent alcohol content, would be permitted—with certain restrictions and regulations, of course.
Much to people's surprise, Volstead, backed by the triumphant evangelicals, defined "intoxicating liquors" as any beverage containing more than one-half of one percent alcohol. Using the momentum of the anti-German, anti-beer bias, Volstead was able to pass his National Prohibition Act over President Wilson's veto.
Prohibition began easily enough: the people who drank stocked up on liquor before it was illegal; those who planned to give up drinking treated January 28, 1920 as though it were New Year's Eve, and the following day their New Year's resolutions began. The poor, who couldn't afford to stock up, were catered to by saloon keepers who, rather than closing voluntarily, stayed open until they were shut down.
After a year or so, the reserves (and resolves) were depleted, and people got thirsty again—including some people who had never been thirsty before. The fact that alcohol was now prohibited made it somehow irresistible. There's always something tantalizing about forbidden fruit—in this case, the fruit of the vine.
The California grape growers, no longer permitted to make wine, produced a grape juice product known as Vine-Glo. The Vine-Glo literature carefully instructed buyers what not to do, because, if they did those things, they would have wine in sixty days. The demand for grape juice grew dramatically. In 1919, 97,000 acres were devoted to growing grapes for "juice." By 1926, it was 681,000 acres. In 1929, the U.S. government loaned the grape growers money to expand even further.
Beer brewing, wine making, and distilling became common practices in the home. An enterprising home brewer could make enough liquid refreshment to give as gifts or even sell.
All you had to do to stay entirely within the law was get sick. The Eighteenth Amendment only prohibited alcohol for "beverage purposes." Medicinal alcohol was perfectly legal and, for some unknown reason, doctors began prescribing more and more of it during the 1920s. In addition, various elixirs, tonics, and other patent medicines available over-the-counter without prescriptions relied heavily upon the medicinal qualities of alcohol.
After the repeal of Prohibition, the federal goverment empowered states to legislate the sale and transportation of alcohol. Some states handed control to counties and even municipalities, a tradition that continues today and varies from state to state.
These laws hinder the online sales and shipping of wine. Let's free the grapes! Contact your representative. Make wine dreams not war nightmares.
Tuesday, August 7, 2007
Relationships are difficult regardless of relativity but history adds even more interesting twists. However, there are also opportunities for personal growth. Knowing where you’ve come from, the hereditary traits you’ve inherited can either push you to change or embrace the traits of your choosing.
Where is this esoteric rambling leading? On Saturday, after an emotionally draining day, we accepted an invitation to share a meal with my husband’s aunt and some first cousins. Slightly reluctant to experience an awkward gathering, we found out what they were serving, inquired about what we could contribute and then plucked a bottle of Conquista Malbec 2005, a product of the Mendoza, the wine capital of Argentina, out of the cellar.
As one of the “in-laws” or outlaws, as I like to call myself, I was able to watch their family dynamics with some objectivity.
It was just what the doctor ordered as we blended effortlessly into their evening. We were enveloped into the flow of conversation, meal preparation and mini dramas. (Those are a given at any family get together, right?)
Sharing wine, telling stories, making toasts to loved ones we’ve lost, and making new memories reminded me how much family means, no matter how dysfunctional.
After all, what is normal? Is there anybody out there who fits that description?
The Europeans have the right idea; they make family and mealtime an important part of their day. Open a bottle with family or friends tonight, share a meal and some stories.
Monday, August 6, 2007
I have watered the garden, the young plants and trees but our woods, our farmer's crops, our lake levels are suffering.
Saturday, after the burial of our much loved pet, the mist started and mixed with our tears. We stayed outside doing a rain dance to no avail.
Since I am unable to bring the thunder, I have to be satisfied reading and watching Gary Vaynerchuk.
You can too at:
Let's change the wine world!
My absence from blogging does not involve tales of distant destinations or of being a lazy beach bum. Rather, it is due to a combination of writer’s block mixed with high temperatures and large populations of biting insects. And apathy.
Habits are easier to maintain if you have a discipline gene. I know at a cellular level that I don’t have that particular one. I start out flossing right after my dental cleaning and it never seems to last. Up until last week, I had quit drinking coffee for 3 months but all the ads for iced coffees were too tempting. I had three in one week!
So today is a new day, I flossed last night, did not have any coffee this morning, and although I could use the excuse that my yoga instructor is on her summer vacation, I will do yoga on my own…. later.
It all starts in your hosts’ home as you stand up to leave. The current topic of conversation continues unabated as you start walking. Then, like an episode of the Twilight Zone, everyone flows toward the door at the rate of a melting glacier, before global warming.
As your hand grasps the door handle to indicate your imminent departure, your body straddles both the inner and outer dimensions. Here, depending on the temperature outside or the current population of biting insects, you may hover for mere minutes or start discussing the most favorite topic of Minnesotans, the weather.
Reaching your car with your hosts’ trailing behind, you open the door and stand near your seat, looking around to comment on any outdoor improvements you might have missed upon your arrival. Be wary of your hosts’ invitation to take you on a tour of their latest project at this point, as you may miss your flight or be dodging deer while driving in the dark.
By now you ease into the car and close the door. But everyone is still talking so you roll down your window for any last minute news or directions. This portion of the farewell can be as lengthy as everything you have already experienced.
After the leftovers or goodies are handed through the window for your drive home and calendars are consulted for your next visit, you head down the drive, turning to wave until your hosts’ are no longer visible.
When you get home, have a nightcap, you deserve it!
Saturday, July 21, 2007
Since most of us are unable to afford Premier Grand Cru Bordeaux or Burgundy wines, we should also trust our own palates and wine preferences. I believe this is the problem with the current wine marketing. We shop with our Wine Spectator Best Buy list or the latest Robert Parker picks but forget that although they may have tasted more wine than we have, what we like is what is most important.
TV ads, fanciful labels and shelf notes further prod us into peer pressure purchases. Your dollars are the best way to make changes to this system. Step out of your comfort zone, embrace the unfamiliar and try lots of different wines. Then, you will know what characteristics you like in both reds and whites. Armed with this knowledge, you can weed through the reviews, tackle a restaurant wine list or ask a competent merchant to steer you to new wines.
Climb out of your rut and hunt for your own magic bottle.
Friday, July 13, 2007
"Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans"
"He who hesitates is lost."
We have heard these quotations and cliches all our lives. But, the older I get, I have noticed that the days, weeks and months really do seem to be winning the race. Stopping to analyze this would take up more precious time. Instead, I'll write about a wine that should be savored and not dissected.
I recently had my first Torrontes from the Pannotia Vineyards in Argentina and felt it was more than a glass of wine, it was an experience. It's intense aromas are similar to Viognier, with hints of peach, apricot, rose, and litchi. On the palate, it has a beautiful structure and acidity with fruit flavors that keep you coming back for another sip and plenty of body for a wine that shows such delicate aromas and flavors. Fruity, floral and yet still quite dry, this wine has to be tasted to be believed. Best enjoyed in its youth either by itself, or as a wonderful partner with seafood or spicy Thai food.
Save the analysis for the couch.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
Lately, my wine hobby has had an impact on our finances. After searching for the best storage options, we purchased a dual control 100 bottle wine cellar. It was a major investment and so is the desire to fill it to capacity. (After all, it will run more efficiently.)
But, wine is not as wimpy as we have been lead to believe. Most consumers don't have optimal conditions to store our stash or save a partially consumed bottle. There are many gadgets on the market and some are worth your dollars. But if you buy wine to enjoy within the next few months, most wine will handle whatever you can dish out.
If you don't think you can drink a bottle that has been left in your trunk during a summer heat wave, guess again. Just watch this current episode of WLTV at the link listed below.
And if you believe that you have to vacu-seal a partial bottle to enjoy it to it's full potential, watch this link for a enlightening experiment.
So, don't sweat it, wine can take it.
Tuesday, July 3, 2007
Dry white wines are best used with poultry, veal, and fish.
Beurre Blanc Sauces
Reduction Sauces and Pan Sauces
Poaching, Steaming, Sautéing, Stir-Frying
Light to Medium Red Wines- for Sautéing, Stir-Frying, Pan Sauces, Pasta, and Brown Sauces
Medium to Full-Bodied Red Wines - are primarily used with red meats, stews, pasta sauces, and roasts. Use for sautéing, pan-frying, roasting, braising, broiling, grilling, pasta sauces, and barbecue sauces
Asian Wines - used for sauce making, stir-frying, soups, broths, pan-sauces, and grilling Generally sweet and non-acidic compared to most other white wines.
Sherry-An excellent substitute when Rice Wines are unavailable.
Try cooking with wine today!