Monday, April 11, 2011

NEW! from Swirl Events



In collaboration with Hot Pot Culinary Events, Swirl Events has launched Flavor School™, an interactive cooking and wine tasting package.

Turn your next team building or dinner party into something truly unique.

Through a dynamic lesson, guests learn the fundamentals of cooking the event's themed dish and how to taste wine. They also explore the flavor principles of pairing food and wine. Then, it's time to get hands-on! Guests rotate through a series of "Flavor Stations," as they cook up their own creative versions of the highlighted dish. 

Each Flavor Station is focused on a distinct flavor profile - from Earthy to Spicy to Sweet - and is equipped with a set of ingredients highlighting the Station's unique flavor profile, like aged cheeses and gourmet mushrooms at the Earthy Station. Guests taste test through the selection of wines at each station and figure out which one brings out the best in their new creation and why.

What's included:
• Wine
• All kitchen equipment (ovens, etc)
• Team of chef instructors and wine experts
• Food ingredients
• Glassware, plates, napkins
• Set-up and clean-up
Location: Flavor School events can be held anywhere - at your office, in your home, a bar, a restaurant, or raw space. No kitchen or refreigeration equipment needed. We can also help you locate a venue.
Cost: Flavor School events start at $150/person (incl. tax + gratuity).
Contact: or call 917.463.3994 for more information and to book your Flavor School event.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Wine vs. Beer: The Ulitmate Battle

Wine or Beer? This is the question that often plagues foodies when they sit down to their favorite meal. Though we here at Swirl believe that you can find the right wine to pair with almost anything, sometimes a frosty craft brew can hit the spot.

It is in that friendly spirit of competition that we are pairing with Urban Oyster and Jimmy’s #43 for our latest public event, Beer vs. Wine: The Ultimate Battle. At this event you’ll taste four different dishes, each paired with wine and beer and then we’ll vote on which was the best pairing.

While you are helping figure out who will win the ultimate battle, experts from Urban Oyster and Swirl Events will help you learn how to taste beer and wine like a pro and pair it with your favorite foods.

Looking forward to seeing you at Jimmy’s #43 March 31st!

 March 31st, 7-9pm at Jimmy's #43. 43 E. 7th St. NY, NY 10003
Tickets are $45/person
Advance Purchase Required.
here for tickets.

Monday, January 24, 2011

New Bridal Shower / Bachelorette Party Idea in NYC


cupcake decorating

Swirl Events just partnered with Taste Buds to offer a Wine Tasting & Cupcake Decorating package. Sounds like a pairing made in heaven, right? It's different than the "same old, same old" and a perfect solution for bridal showers, bachelorette parties and girl's nights. Best of all - clients don't life a finger to throw the most unique event. And don't knock it for corporate events - guys like eating cupcakes too!


What it is: Cultivate that inner Ace of Cakes. Learn how famous bakeries get their signature icing "swoosh". Decorate cupcakes like a pro using fondant and delicious buttercream icing to make gorgeous designs. Try your creations while you sip carefully selected wine pairings and learn how to pair wine with decadent sweets.

Decorating cupcakes

What's included: We provide everything you need including six different wines with three full size cupcakes to decorate and of course, eat. Wine experts and cupcake experts are on hand to show guests how to create gorgeous cupcake creations complete with fancy icing techniques and fondant creations. All glasses, tools, plates, napkins, etc. included.

Where: In the comfort of your home or space or at the adorable AND affordable Taste Buds kitchen in downtown Manhattan.

How much: $85/person for private events. Inquire further for corporate tastings.

CONTACT: OR 917.463.3994 for more info.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Wine Picks for Thanksgiving

Over at Swirl’s wine headquarters, we drink a lot of wine during the Thanksgiving weekend. Not just during the meal, but the whole weekend. We’ve taken pictures of the numbers of bottles we’ve gone through and it’s simply embarrassing and nears a call for counseling if it weren’t known that the adults present treat the weekend as a vacation while the grandparents monitor the six children wreaking havoc.

Just as Thanksgiving dinner is as much of an excuse to overeat as it is to give thanks, drinking wine during Thanksgiving weekend is a reason to pull out the good bottles each of us wine loving adults has been saving all year in hopes of impressing the other wine drinkers in the house and secretly wishing our choices are the ones most loved. As for during the meal itself, choosing wine to go with the wide array of dishes traditionally served on this holiday dedicated to eating (my favorite kind) can be challenging. Yams, turkey, cranberry, mashed potatoes, pies, and whatever greens manage to sneak their way in – with the exception of dry sparkling wine, no one wine will work perfectly with all of these dishes.

Instead, choose few food friendly (i.e. good acidity, dry and not overly tannic) wines on the more affordable size. Don’t be afraid of trying a bunch of different wines. Think of Thanksgiving as a testing ground for what you want to serve during the December holiday season. Check out the suggestions below:

St Michael-Eppan Lagrein, 2008, Alto Adige, Italy – I’m having an Italian (wine) love affair currently and Lagrein from Alto Adige makes for an irresistible lover. The smooth tannins and blackberry and earthy plum notes are backed by fine acidity. ($16)

Rocca Sveva Valpolicella Ripasso 2007 Italy – The love affair continues with the Valpolicella Ripasso style of wine that has somehow managed to stay under the mass radar but is loved by foodies. It’s tart, dried cherries and shows just enough earthiness not to be dusty. Very easy to drink throughout the meal. ($21)

Quinta de Roriz, “Prazo de Roriz”, 2008, Douro, Spain – You could drink this wine into the next day if you didn’t already have a headache. Not overly complex or opulent to take away from dinner but is supported by bright acidity that makes it infinitely drinkable. An excellent value. ($16)

Pali “Riviera” Pinot Noir 2008 Sonoma Coast, CA – There are nearly zero Pinot Noirs from the US I would recommend under $15 but this slightly heavier than normal Pinot gets an enthusiastic thumbs up for just a few dollars more. (Found as low as $18 online)

Biltmore Estate, Blanc de Blanc Brut Sparkling Wine NV, CA – Made in the traditional Champagne method, this delightful sparkling wine can be drunk throughout the entire meal. An excellent value compared to most Champagne. Green apple and lemon flavors shine through. ($25)

Luigi Bosca, Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2009, Argentina – An aromatic nose of honeysuckle and a touch of lemon; it’s fresh tasting but without the mouth-puckering acidity like so many Sauvignon Blancs on the market. ($21)

Veramonte, Sauvignon Blanc Reserva, 2009, Casablanca Valley, Chile – Another crisp Sauvignon Blanc to try that doesn’t sear your mouth with tartness but instead has nice lemon sweet grape flavors. A “Best Buy”. ($9-$11 online)

Cantina Terlano, Gewurztraminer, 2009, Alto Adige, Italy – A delightful, medium bodied white wine with a spicy finish and enough acidity to keep it fresh tasting. Marshmallow topped sweet potatoes anyone? Yes, a near perfect pairing. And if you’re one of the adventurous ones who buck tradition, this wine is for you and your spicier dishes. ($25)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Spas & Swirl's Wine Tasting- a perfect pairing

A spa day and wine tasting as bridal shower? Sounds like my kind of bride. Swirl Events just held a wine tasting for these ladies. Looks like they're having fun!

Microterroir - Best Expression of a Wine or Marketing Gimmick

I recently received the Microterroir Carmenere 2005 from Casa Silva in the mail. Between my love of Carmenere from Colchagua, Chile and my curiosity into the concept of "microterroir," I immediately had to try it. The concept of microterroir basically implies that the winery has idetified small areas within a vineyard that are especially suited to specific grape varietals. Casa Silva approached this concept in an incredibly scientific manner. I can't say whether or not their hypotheses on Carmenere in the Los Lingues vineyard were correct or whether the labeling is particularly novel marketing of a vineyard re-mapping and improvement project. I can say that the wine was exactly what I long for in a quality Carmenere. I let the wine open up for half an hour (the winery suggests an hour of decanting but I wasn't that patient. Who is?). The Carmenere was rich and plush with a nice tannic backbone and acidity to keep it from being "flabby" (flabby being one of those wine words that seems so odd yet so aptly describes that sensation). It's a wine best enjoyed on its own and will most likely provoke you to drink too much of it.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Napa Valley Itinerary - Must See's Part I

Planning a trip to Napa? This series of posts provides an itinerary with a
bit of everything; big corporate winery, small family, luxe, the downhome - plus, great food.

A cramped six-hour flight to San Francisco and an hour and a half drive later, and you’re transported to arguably the most gorgeous wine country in the country, Napa Valley. Other appellations vie for other “Most” superlatives, but Napa personifies the wine country image floating through your head when you daydream about retiring on a little parcel of (super pricey) land in California wine country while tending your own vines. Here’s a wine country itinerary guaranteed to give you a taste of all aspects of Napa.

Start the day with Staglin Family Vineyard, a small, family winery that makes you want to renounce your own kin and beg for adoption. Staglin is one of the valley's most prestigious properties, with amazingly warm hospitality and incredible wines. The tour and tasting are pricey ($50, by appointment only) but worth it for the quality of wines tasted and luxe experience. You’re welcomed with glasses of 2007 Salus Estate Chardonnay. Next, try the 2008 Staglin Estate Chardonnay ($75) and a series of cellar worthy Cabernet Sauvignons, the varietal for which Staglin is known. Take your time on the outdoor verandah overlooking the vines – yes, it’s that stereotypically Napa – but in the best way possible.
If you need another reason to drink their wine, know they’ve raised $725 million to support charities. Consider that $50 tasting fee well spent.

Swirl’s Wine Pick: 2006 Staglin Estate Cabernet Sauvignon ($175). Cellar it for 10 years.

Napa Valley Itinerary - Must See's Part II

Next stop on the itinerary (see earlier post for the start):

Drive North to Calistoga for seasonally inspired lunch at the Michelin Guide starred Solbar, the restaurant at the hotel/spa, Solage. If you’re lucky enough to be there when tomatoes are in season, get them. And don’t miss the fish tacos either.

Move down the valley to Titus, another family run winery of the downhome, authentic variety. It prides itself on being the Napa Valley the way it used to be, i.e., generations of families growing and making terrific wines at reasonable prices. Walk through the Titus brothers’ ranch home to get to picnic tables to taste through wines (free, tastings by appointment only) made by winemaker Phillip Titus, who also runs winemaking at Chappellet. The wines here are a veritable bargain considering the price of the highly awarded wines Phillip Titus crafts for Chappellet.

Swirl’s Wine Picks: Titus is known for their full-bodied, well balanced reds, but we couldn’t resist picking up a bottle of the 2009 Titus Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($20) in addition to the 2007 Titus Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($41).

Napa Valley Itinerary Must See's Part III

Your Personal Napa Valley Wine Country Itinerary of Must See's continued:

Cap off a day of tastings in wine country with Silverado Vineyards' “Fridays on the Terrace” ($35, 5:30-8:00). It’s fitting this winery is owned by Disney; the views from the terrace are so darn perfect it seems as if someone painted an idealized, technicolor version of wine country with rolling green hills and a red-orange sun setting behind them. It’s hard for the wine and seasonal paired bites to compete with the setting, but it does.

Swirl’s Wine Pick: If you can get past the fact they’re partyly owned by a corporate behemoth, sit back and watch the sunset with a glass of Silverado Vineyards 2006 Estate Sangiovese ($28) in hand.

Soak up the wine with dinner at Bistro Don Giovanni, longstanding Valley go-to for big groups. Try any of the pasta dishes.

Last pieces of advice – hydrate early and often. And designate a driver. We want to see you Swirl-ing away again.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Holiday Party Planning Time - Already?!?!

We can't believe it either, but it's true! Although summer is only "un-officially" over (even though I won't give up my white jeans), it's time to start thinking about your company holiday party. The best venues and prime dates get booked fast. Swirl's wine tasting events are an elegant yet fun option! Check us out today at

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Cider for Summer

As picnic season get into full swing bypass the commonplace and opt for a cool, hard cider. We’re not talking mass-produced candied cider a’la Woodchuck. We’re talking natural, earthy, thought-provoking ciders from Normandy and the Basque region of Spain. Take one of our picks to your next picnic. Where your friends may bring some tasty bottles, yours will truly be the hipster of the lot.

Cyril Zangs, Sparkling Cider, Normandy, 2008

This is a light-hearted, earthy, slightly sweet cider that’s loaded with rich, honeyed apple notes. There’s a hit of nuttiness toward the end that makes for a very interesting finish. This is a good cider to pair with the many different foods that can dress the picnic table. We recommend this for a picnic or a BBQ. It’s got the muscle to hold up to hearty dishes and the hit of sweetness makes it very food friendly.

(Available at UVA Wines and Spirits in Williamsburg, Brooklyn)

Isastegi Sagardo Naturala, Tolosa, Basque, Spain, 2008

This has got to be one of the coolest ciders available to the American market. Apples are pressed in stainless steel tanks and large oak casks. It undergoes all natural fermentation, as God intended, and is bottled unfiltered. This results in an extremely cloudy cider that is incredibly dry and mouth-puckering. Mild carbonation and that great Basque acidity make it pleasantly invigorating. This is a wild bottle that will get you ready for the next round of wiffle ball.

(Available at Thirst Wine Merchants in Fort Greene, Brooklyn)

Julien Frémont, “Greniers” Cidre, Brut par Nature, Normandy, 2008

Picture it: Acres upon acres of centuries old lush, green orchards in Normandy’s Calvados region. You have likely tasted the deliciousness that is Calvados brandy made from the region’s famed apples. Frémont presses his apples in the same press his ancestors built in 1765. You can almost taste the tradition. It undergoes a slow fermentation in both vat and bottle and yields a very smooth and full body with a soft mousse and mild sweetness. This is a classy cider for a more sophisticated and relaxed picnic. Sit and sip under sprawling trees.

(Available at Astor Wine and Spirits in Manhattan)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Midwest Wines Worth the Risk Taking

One of the toughest things about wine is not knowing what you're going to get, whether or not you're going to like it and still having to fork over (sometimes a lot of) your money for it. It's the reason we're less likely to buy wine from a region or grape foreign to us. This is also the beauty of drinking wine. Consider the Midwestern wines below (from my SwirlSavvy wine column for the Chicago Sun-Times) a little adventure for your palate.

Eating locally or regionally sourced food, be it cheese, milk, fruits and vegetables or meat, has become an incredibly popular movement for good reason. Fewer chemicals are used, produce is fresher, the carbon footprint is reduced and local farmers are supported. Plus, locally grown products just taste better.

Those same reasons should apply to drinking locally — and by this, I don’t mean increasing your frequency at the neighborhood pub.

While drinking locally sound like an achievable and enjoyable goal for beer drinkers given the plethora of top-notch microbrews coming out of Illinois and Wisconsin, drinking local wine if you live near Chicago may seem unlikely.

When we think of wine from the United States, California wine usually springs to mind, followed by Washington, Oregon and maybe New York.

But did you know that wine is commercially produced in each of the 50 states (although Alaskan wine is made from local berries, not grapes)? Wine from Arkansas or Idaho? Yep, they have you covered. We all can drink locally, after all.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying all of the wine is fantastic, or even palatable. But for Chicagoans, the good news is that wineries within reasonable driving distance don’t produce merely OK wines, they produce some great wines.

Look for Chambourcin, a relatively new, late-ripening grape perfect for Midwest temperatures, and Vignoles, also a lesser known grape that expresses itself well here in a range of dry to sweet styles.

Support your local winery and try some of my favorites below — as if you needed another reason to drink more good wine.

Prairie State Winery
Located in Genoa, about one hour northwest of Chicago. The winery has several of its wines available for purchase at local retailers. For my recommendations below, contact the winery or, better yet, take a day trip out to their tasting room.

Prairie State is run by Rick Mamoser, a former high school chemistry teacher. The winery specializes in Illinois-grown grapes and is making strides toward sustainable farming.

Some to try:

Vin Rouge ($19). A full-bodied, robust blend of Cabernet Franc, Chambourcin and Norton. Give this wine time to breathe and see how wonderfully it evolves over an evening.

Chambourcin Reserve ($16). A beautiful example of this regional grape. The oak aging gives the wine a toasted vanilla note and a soft, smooth finish.

Fenn Valley Vineyards
Located roughly two and a half hours from Chicago, in Fennville, Mich. Fenn Valley’s proximity to Lake Michigan and the resulting temperature-moderating effect give it what most great viticulture sites have in common.

The winery recently gained national notoriety. Its ice wine was served at the White House Governors Ball in February. If it’s good enough for the President and international dignitaries, it’s certainly good enough for me. Order directly from the vineyard by calling (800) 432-6265.

Some to try:

Edelzwicker 2009 ($12). The Traminette and Riesling blend is a touch off-dry, with soft floral aromas and a refreshing, not cloyingly sweet finish.

Lakeshore Demi-Sec ($8). A “best buy” semi-dry blend of Vidal, Vignoles and Riesling that screams fun and fruity; perfect for all those summer bridal events.

Meritage 2008 ($18). Rich and brooding with black pepper and dark cherry flavors, this traditional “Bordeaux blend” is less than 12 percent alcohol, a welcome change from similar-tasting Napa Cabs that hit over 16 percent.

Blue Sky Vineyard
Blue Sky Vineyard in Makanda opened in 2005 and is a leisurely five-and-a-half hour drive south from Chicago. It is part of the Shawnee Hills wine trail of 12 wineries in southern Illinois, which make the trip worth taking as a weekend getaway; you can stay at or near the winery’s Tuscan-inspired inn.

Try the estate wines below for a showing of the winery’s best efforts. Order wines online at or by calling (618) 995-9463.

Some to try:

Cabernet Franc ($19). The seductive smokiness of this wine makes it a perfect pair for coal-fired oven pizzas.

Chambourcin Reserve 2006 ($12). A bargain price for a wine of this depth. Get your hands on several bottles before word spreads.

Vignoles 2009 ($18). If you enjoy Chardonnay from the warmer regions of Australia, try this full-bodied white bursting with tropical fruit flavors.

Chateau Grand Traverse
Not all Midwestern wineries are small, nor are they all new. Started in 1974, Chateau Grand Traverse is one of the oldest and most well-known commercial wineries in the Midwest, producing more than 85,000 cases of wine annually.

The winery is on a mission to turn the area’s “up-and-coming” label into a respected, well-known wine region.

Due to its location in the Old Mission Peninsula of Michigan, Riesling is the grape best suited to the often frigid local climate. It’s the winery’s stand-out grape, whether in a blend or on its own.

Some to try:

2008 Dry Riesling ($13). A great example of how Riesling shines in this region. You’ll find aromas of green apple and grapefruit and a crisp finish.

2008 Ship of Fools ($14). A charming, easy-drinking off-dry blend of Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir.

Roses for the Anti-Rose Fan

By this point, you’ve heard the merits of rose wine ad nauseum, whether from your friendly neighborhood wine writer, wine shop worker or pastor. And although I’m an advocate for drinking rose, even year-round, it’s especially worth a refresher now since summer has (finally) defrosted the last of the ice off my parka and I’m braving the occasional skirt.

Underlying the case for rose is how incredibly food-friendly it is. This also is the reason I could be the spokesperson for adding rose to your drinking repertoire regardless of the season.

Generally, rose has the “light” crispness of a white wine. It could be as dry as a saltlick or off-dry. And it has the flavor kick of a red, making it an easy palate pleaser. If you haven’t gotten over the “this-must-be-sickly-sweet-because-it’s-pink-and-furthermore-I-don’t-drink-pink-wine-because-it’s-frou-frou” attitude, then please, get over it. Soon. Don’t make me bring my full 100 pounds of intimidation over there and make you try it.

This isn’t the commercially manufactured pink-colored blend of red and white plonk. I’m talking about rose made either through the “saignee” or bleeding method, wherein some of the pink juice of a wine is run off early and then fermented, or by an abbreviated red wine production.

Ultimately, the best argument for drinking rose is that it’s simply pleasant. It’s the kind of wine that puts a smile on your face as you drink it. Maybe there isn’t a cause-and-effect relationship between rose and good spirits, but there is a correlation in that we tend to drink rose in the merriest of circumstances: picnics, barbecues, parties, sunny sidewalk cafes.

Regardless of where you drink it and whether or not you’re a fellow rose diehard, try one of my new favorites below. Maybe you’ll even stash a few bottles for autumn.

2009 Mulderbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Rose, South Africa. The taste of homemade strawberry preserves is unmistakable and adds to the soft and lingering finish.

2008 Bonterra Rose, Mendocino County, Calif. Almost fizzy on the first sip. A surprising note of crisp green apple is followed by a lovely strawberry shortcake-like finish.

2009 Torbreck Saignee Rose, Barossa Valley, Australia. A pleasantly different style of rose with a slightly creamy palate due to the six months spent in oak. It doesn’t fall into the super juicy and fruity category, but instead is almost savory.

2009 Cline Mourvedre Rose, Contra Costa County, Calif. Refreshing with a depth uncommon in most roses. Layers of spice complement dark plum flavors that yield a rose red-wine-only drinkers will eat up.

2009 Montes Cherub Rose of Syrah, Colchagua Valley, Chile. This picnic-perfect rose bursts with juicy berry and orange peel flavors.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Brides Newlywed Nest

For those oenophiles out there who also are looking to set up a new home with their fiancé or significant other Swirl will be participating in Brides Newlywed Nest starting April 24th!

We would love to have our Swirl fans join us and Brides Magazine for a peek inside a couples' dream apartment. Explore renowned interior designer Inson Dubois Wood's transformation of an eco-luxury two-bedroom triplex apartment into a stylish, attainable and sustainably-chic space where you'll genuinely feel at home. With interactive demos on sustainable design, entertaining, trends, décor and more, you'll learn to live better in every sense and leave truly inspired.

Swirl will be presenting free wine tastings April 24, May 2nd, May 8th and May 9th. Check the Newlywed Nest website for the schedule of weekend events that also includes complementary portraits, home entertaining demos by IKEA, tips on writing love letters as well as a host of fun activities and fantastic wines from Hob Nob.

The Bride's Newlywed Nest is located at:

311 E 11: Village Green
311 East 11th Street, PH2A
Between First and Second Avenues
New York City

Wines for a Perfect Spring Party

Whether you're hosting a casual garden luncheon or a formal sit down dinner, spring brings a fabulous range of garden–fresh, succulent flavors to incorporate into your menu. We asked three caterers to create a three–course menu spotlighting springtime ingredients; each course is paired with a wine chosen by Anu Karwa of Swirl Events. —Abigail Reid

Two Chefs are Better Than One, Boston

First course: Grilled long stem artichoke hearts and fennel served with shaved parmesan and lemon vinaigrette
"Spring is artichoke season in California, so they're readily available in grocery stores across the country," says Chef and co–owner Steve Beauvais. "In this dish, the artichokes are complemented by the fennel, which has a sweet, aromatic anise flavor after it's been grilled."

Pair with: Vernaccia di San Gimignano, Fattoria il Palagio, 2007 "A lemony white wine like this will bring out the bright citrus flavor of the vinaigrette," says Anu.

Second Course: Smoked duck ravioli accompanied by sautéed pea tendrils, served with raspberry and white balsamic aioli
"Pea tendrils are the young, tender climbing vines found on the pea plant," says Steve. "They can be used raw in salads, steamed, or sautéed, as in this dish. They have a very crisp, garden–fresh taste that's perfect for a spring menu," says Steve.

Pair with: Nicolas Joly "Les Clos Sacres" Savennières, 2007 "This dry chenin blanc is gentle enough for the pea tendrils, since they have a unique taste that should not be overshadowed by a heavy wine," says Anu. "Yet it also has an underlying earthiness that will be able to hold its own against the strong flavor of the smoked duck."

Third course: Lavender– and honey butter–stuffed Statler chicken breast, served with lemon– and spring onion–infused basmati rice and sautéed patty pan squash, on a bed of wilted baby spinach
"Patty pan squash starts becoming available in the early spring months," says Steve. "Its delicate flavor combines nicely with the honey and lavender in the chicken, as well as the fragrant basmati rice."

Wine Pairing: Viognier, Zaca Mesa Winery, 2008 "The aromas in this dish are very aromatic," says Anu. "You'll need an equally fragrant wine, like a full–bodied, perfume–y viognier. The Zaca Mesa Winery in Santa Barbara makes an excellent one."

Cobblestone Catering, New York City

First course: Butter lettuce served with heirloom radishes, fava beans, and ramps
"I think radishes are very under–appreciated in the catering world," says Executive Chef and Owner Jeremy Wachalter. "I love their spicy, earthy flavor, and the varieties of shapes and colors they come in. Butter lettuce has a mild to sweet flavor and a firm crisp texture that pairs great with the peppery taste of radishes, the sweetness of fava beans, and the earthiness of ramps."

Wine Pairing: 2007 Francis Coppola Sofia Blanc De Blanc Sparkling Wine "I love the idea of kicking off a meal with sparkling wine," says Anu. "It adds a touch of elegance and works well with practically any dish."

Second course: Pan–roasted black cod, served with spring onions, chanterelles, English peas, and asparagus sauce
"Cod has a rich, buttery flesh that lends itself to a variety of accompaniments," says Jeremy. "This particular combination of seasonal vegetables makes a spring–appropriate 'nest' for the crisp fish. I'm of the 'less is more' school: when showcasing super–fresh ingredients, it's always better to keep the dish simple."

Wine Pairing: Louis Latour Montagny Premier Cru La Grande Roche, 2007 "A subtle–nosed white Burgundy with a velvety texture has enough heft to pair well with the rich flavor of cod, yet is also delicate—it won't overshadow the flavors of the fresh, seasonal produce," says Anu.

Third course: Strawberry–rhubarb semifreddo, salted pistachio brittle, and thyme shortbread
"I am not a huge fan of overly sweet desserts," says Jeremy. "By using fresh herbs and a little sea salt in dessert recipes, you can develop more complexity, plus it makes the dish much easier to pair with wine."

Wine Pairing: Seven Sisters, Twena Rosé, 2007 "This off–dry rosé has a juicy, slightly strawberry taste that will bring out the bright flavors in this dessert," says Anu.

A Joy Wallace Catering Production & Design Team, Miami

First course: Spring lettuce and arugula bundle, wrapped with prosciutto and drizzled with herb vinaigrette, served with a shot of chilled pea and mint soup (pictured) garnished with fresh mint micro greens
"This salad immediately greets guests with the flavors of spring," says Director of Sales Adelee Cabrera. "The greens are wrapped at the base with salty prosciutto and presented on the plate like a floral bouquet. Our chef pairs this salad with a minty pea soup that also leaves the palate feeling fresh and alive."

Wine Pairing: Montes Limited Selection Sauvignon Blanc Leyda Valley Leyda Vineyard, 2008 "Crisp, zesty wine will make these fresh flavors sing," says Anu. "This Chilean sauvignon blanc is bursting with citrus flavors and earthy, mineral–like qualities."

Second course: Blue crab with shaved fennel and minced chives, presented on a slice of Florida heirloom tomato and garnished with steamed sugar snap peas
"In Miami, spring is technically our summer, so the star of this course is the Florida heirloom tomato. It reaches peak flavor during the spring months, while the rest of the country doesn't get flavorful tomatoes until August," says Adelee.

Wine Pairing: A to Z Wineworks Rosé, 2006 "The fruity taste of a dry and elegant rosé like this one tends to complement shellfish like blue crab," says Anu.

Third course: Sticky braised short ribs in an apricot saffron sauce, served with carrots, golden beets and asparagus ragout topped with watercress
"Instead of featuring just one seasonal vegetable, this dish celebrates spring's bounty by including an array of colorful, fresh produce—guests will love the variety," says Adelee.

Wine Pairing: Domaine Charbonniere Vacqueyras Rouge, 2006 "This medium–bodied Vacqueyras from the Rhone Valley in France strikes a balance—it's aromatic and pulls in fruity elements," says Anu.


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Cheers to Bridal Season!

With Spring weather also comes Bridal Season! Swirl loves Brides and our wine tasting events are a perfect way to get ready to say I do. A Swirl event is a great way to have a unique bridal shower, bachelorette party or even cocktail reception for your wedding.

Swirl had the opportunity to participate in an event last weekend with the lovely ladies of Merci New York and Poppies and Posies along with other bridal bloggers, vendors and enthusiasts!

Merci New York is a fabulous place to go for wedding inspiration. For brides looking for a great idea for local vendors it has beautiful photos that help you plan all of your wedding details. Merci also is a stylish house that can help you create inspiration boards as well as put together chic guest gifts.

Poppies and Posies is a beautiful floral and event design firm who creates gorgeous floral arrangements that are inspired by the organic movement. For the Bride who wants something fun and unique their flowers are gorgeous!

A great tip from Swirl, when you are choosing wines for your bridal event or wedding itself think fun rather than trying to impress your guests with big label wines. Instead of an expensive toast with Champagne try serving a refreshing Prosecco or Sparkling Shiraz! A favorite of ours is Althea Prosecco which is fruity, bright and refreshing. We like it better than Champagne and your wallet will as well!

Swirl Events will also be toasting brides this coming March 23rd and 24th at Urban Wed! There are a limited number of 50% off tickets that can be purchased by using "urbanwedhalf" when ordering. Hope to see you there!

(photos courtesy of Jen Huang photography)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

New Zealand Special

I confess that for me, the best wine choice is always something from New Zealand. From the stunning scenery to the friendly people, it is no wonder that they grow some of the best wines in the world. They have great drainage from the hilly terrain, abundant sunlight and a pure aquifer to feed the grapes. New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs are not a new story, but definitely a story worth telling again. Here are some shining examples in my opinion, some with a bit of a twist.

1. Craggy Range, Sauvignon Blanc "Te Muna Road Vineyard", 2008. $17.95. I am not leaving a vintage here because they are all good. The 2007 and 2008 are particularly noteworthy (across the whole country) but they are all amazing. When I open a bottle it takes me back. Citrus hints, kiwi fruit, flint, green apple, fruit forward on the nose. On drinking the fruit is still there, but it has a restrained quality that is not always a trademark of New World wines.

2. Mahi Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, 2008. If you can find it this is a great small production wine. The juice was fermented cool to retain the fruit characters and then held on yeast lees for three months to gain palate richness and texture. A small portion of this was kept in older French oak to once again add complexity. The Mahi shows a range of fruit characters, from citrus through to tropical notes. The palate has an elegant structure with a textural mid-palate and a long finish.

3. Seresin Sauvingon Blanc Marama Marlborough 2006. $26.77. Seresin is a great vineyard, with a small tasting room overlooking the vineyard sloping down from it. The Marama is biodynamically grown and hand harvested. They use wild yeasts, and age the wine in oak for 15 months. The bouquet is of pineapple, mushroom and citrus with a hint of buttered toast. The Marama is absolutely delicious, with vanilla, grapefruit and strawberries on the palate with a pleasing grassy finish. It really shows the care that the Seresin team put into all there wines. The flagship Seresin is great for weeknight specials when you just need to get away from the dreary weather. Like opening up a bottle of sunshine.

4. St. Clair, “Pioneer Block 3” Sauvignon Blanc, 2008 $18.95. This is another amazing vineyard from which almost any bottle is a good choice. When I visit the tasting room in Marlborough I feel like a kid in a candy store. In addition to the flagship Sauvignon Blanc, St. Clair issues, "Pioneer Block" bottles that are single vineyard wines that really show the breadth of terrroir that can be found in Marlborough. They do 11 Sauvignon Blanc Pioneer Blocks, one that is a standout is Pioneer Block 3. It has a fresh vibrant palate of passionfruit, gooseberry and crushed herb. The wine has a wonderfully full and rich palate with striking minerality. It is the crushed herb flavours that make the Block 3 a little bit more edgy than a traditional Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc.

I always enjoy these wine on there own to really take me back to this amazing country, so no food pairings here. There is so much more to say about Kiwi wine: the Bordeaux blends from Hawke's Bay or the unbelievable Pinots from Central Otago, but we can save that for the next installment. Enjoy!

Anu Pohani

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Savvy Cookie and Wine Pairings for the Holidays

'Tis the season and the cookie exchange parties are in full swing. If you're a sampler at heart, preferring to order 3 tapas rather than one entree, then this is your dessert heaven. But why do the foodies get to have all the fun? This year, take one for the oenophiles and incorporate a dessert wine pairing. If you're a novice to pairing wine with dessert, just keep in mind that the wine should be at least as sweet, if not a touch sweeter, than the cookie you are serving it with. Otherwise, the taste may veer towards bitter or sour. Here are a couple recommendations of cookie & wine pairings to get you started. And if you run out of time to actually make the cookies yourself (tsk tsk!) others will be so smitten by your bottle that they won't even notice ;-)

Sugar Cookies: The bubbles in a demi-sec sparkling wine (which is sweeter than a standard sparkling wine) go wonderfully with the crunchy sugar coating on the cookies. Try Cerdon de Bugey, Demi-Sec, Lingot Martin . This delightful French sparkling rosé is made from the Gamay and Poulsard grapes. It's full of redcurrant and strawberry flavors. ($20)

Gingerbread Cookies
: Try a sweet and creamy Sauternes to accompany the spicy ginger. Le Tertre du Lys Sauternes is a perfect match, showing delicious honey, vanilla & fruit flavors and is sure to be a holiday hit. ($25)

Chocolate & Peppermint Cookies: A holiday favorite! Cabernets and Zinfandels are a great match for any variation of mint and chocolate because they have pronounced minty nuances of their own. For starters, try Rosenblum Zinfandel "Maggie's Reserve" from Sonoma. This California Zin is a cornucopia of rich raspberry, blackberry and cherry, with hints of clove and mint that explode on the palate. ($30)

White Chocolate-Based Cookies: White chocolate tends to be more mellow and buttery in flavor, making it an ideal candidate for Moscato d'Asti. This dessert wine, which is dangerously easy to ingest, will pick up the creaminess of the white chocolate. Moscato fabulously accompanies any fruit-filled cookie as well. Moscato d'Asti, G.D. Vajra, from Piedmont, Italy is one of my favorites. ($20)

Dark Chocolate-Based Cookies: Dark or bittersweet chocolate needs a stronger wine with concentrated fruit notes, and perhaps a hint of its own chocolate notes. Cabs and Zinfandels have a history of perfecting the dark chocolate match, resulting in an unparalleled tasting combination. But if you're feeling a bit adventurous, give Banyuls, a red dessert wine from the Pyrenees region of Southwestern France a try. Made from the Grenache grape, it has hints of espresso, plums, and mocha and is credibly presented as one of the few wines that goes naturally with chocolate. Banyuls Clos de Paulilles from Languedoc-Roussillon, France is a great option. ($20)

Milk Chocolate-Based Cookies
: Ruby Port, a fortified wine, is the strongest match with milk chocolate. Its nutty nuances highlight milk chocolate’s nutty and caramel notes and enhance the overall chocolate flavor. Warre's Warrior Special Reserve Port from Douro shows fragrant aromas of fruits and a rich palate dominated by sweet black fruits. A perfect combination. ($15)

Caramel, Toffee, or Butterscotch Cookies: Hungarian Tokaji, with notes of apricot, butter and caramel, pairs well with buttery salt caramels. Try Tokaji Aszú 3 Puttonyos, Imperial Domain of Hétszolo. The level of "puttonyos" refers to the amount of sweetness in the wine and this gem falls right in the middle, with plenty of apricots, honey and peaches on the palate. ($25)

Nut-Infused Cookies: Tawny Port is nutty by nature and the perfect match. Taylor Fladgate 10 Yr. Reserve Tawny Port from Douro is a lovely fortified wine that has notes of dried fruit and nuts with aromas of caramel and toffee. It is best served slightly chilled. ($30)

Shortbread Cookies: A sparkling white wine that cuts through the rich, buttery flavor of the shortbread works best. Try Michel Frères, Crémant de Bourgogne (a Crémant is the name of a sparkling wine made in the traditional Champagne method, but outside of the Champagne region in France). This wine is dry, mineral-driven, and full of citrus and mixed apple fruit on the palate. ($15)

French Lace Cookies: Like lace cookies, a late-harvest riesling is light and delicate. The wine's peach and apricot flavors also work well here. Richter Estate Riesling from the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer region of Germany is an instant crowd pleaser. ($15)

All of these wines can be purchased online or in-store at Astor Wines.

Megan Golliday

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Surprising Bubbly for the Holiday Season

The start of December can mean so many things to so many people, but to me it is the start of the Party Season. Open houses, corporate get-togethers, impromptu drinks out with friends all in the name of the holiday season and cheer often including toasting with a glass of bubbly. If you are going to a ton of parties where the bubbly is flowing and you maybe responsible for bringing some, here are some alternatives to the traditional bottle of methode traditionelle that are often both a pleasant surprise to your host, and a pleasant surprise to your budget!

For Something Different
Princess Royal Station Sparkling Shiraz – Burra Creek, South Australia $21.99.

This sparkling wine is sure to surprise even the most knowledgeable wine drinkers. For your friends who love red wine and love bubbly, this marries the best of both worlds. The wine shows lovely fresh cherry and berry fruits with hints of chocolate and spicy pepper on the nose. The palate displays rich berry fruits with the method champenoise adding a layer of freshness and delicacy.

For The Girls
Mumm's, Napa Brut Rose NV $18.95

This wine is a great option for your holiday season or an all-girls poker night. Bring a little cheer to the occasion (for some reason this wine make me giggle…might be the bubbles). Medium–bodied, this is the signature sparkler for Mumm’s in Napa. It has a rose petal aroma with touches of vanilla, strawberries and melon. On the palate it shows firm acidity and crisp structure. Further layers reveal crisp yet creamy qualities that are rich and lingering.

For The Budget
2005 Marques de Gelida Cava Brut Exclusive Reserva $10.99

If what you love about champagne is the small bubbles tingling your tongue, the creamy texture and the warm biscuity flavors and aromas, then you really have to stick with methode traditionelle: that 27-step process that makes champagne so wonderful. What isn’t so wonderful may be the price tag that this hard work brings to the bottle. Thankfully, the Spanish are willing to bring us our M.T. fix on the cheap. This is a great budget option, with tart apple flavors carry over in its crisp and creamy mouthfeel, with a gentle hint of sweetness in the background.

For The Splurge, But Not Too Splurgy
Hiedsieck & Co Monopole Blue Top $34.99

When nothing but champagne will do this is a great option. It was my wine instructor’s favorite champagne. And it is easy to see why. It is perfection in a glass. A textbook example of why Champagne is Champagne and everything else is sparkling wine. The nose reveals buttermilk biscuit and toasty notes with floral components and a touch of honey. It has a creamy mouthfeel and a touch of richness. At this price point, it is a great Champagne.

Anu Pohani

Sunday, November 22, 2009

From Novice to Connoisseur?

I’m (relatively) new to wine. Until a couple of years ago, I knew virtually nothing about it, aside from the fact that I preferred white, in part because drinking red makes my teeth turn red and I take on a distinctly vampiric appearance. I was accustomed to letting others order my wine for me at restaurants and wine bars, and trying (and failing) to put on a brave of-course-I-Know-What-I’m-Doing face when having to choose wine at a retail store for a gift or party. In fact, I was reminded of my old self when, while working as a Wine Educator for Wine & Food Associates on behalf of the New York Wine & Grape Foundation, I asked a man who was strolling by whether he would like to taste some New York Wine. He replied, “No, that’s okay, I’m not a connoisseur.” Unfortunately, I think a lot of people find wine intimidating and seemingly inaccessible. In fact, one of my instructors wisely noted that (even for connoisseurs) wine is a vast study with a never-ending horizon, always a little beyond our reach.

When I first started my studies, I hadn’t yet evolved from the point of intimidation to inspiration. I got together one night with a few new friends a.k.a. wine geeks after class, and one in particular spoke earnestly about Robert Parker and his Points, offering these stats in conjunction with various wines of which I had never heard. “What are points? Who is Robert Parker?” I innocently asked. The earnest new comrade explained this simple scoring system, and informed me that less than 80 points would surely be swill. Which only made me wonder why it isn’t a 20-point system but I didn’t pose the question. I had revealed too much naiveté already.

Once I had a few good lessons under my belt, however, I was ready to start finding my own path and some inspiration in this new adventure. So, I crashed an industry tasting hosted by one of New York’s celebrity-like importer/distributors. The atmosphere was electric. Winemakers from all over the world were presenting their finest products, and plenty of cheese and espresso were available to keep the industry awake and sober during this full day event. I stole my courage and approached a man who didn’t have a crowd at his table. His name was George Hendry and he is from Napa. He told me that after years of selling his grapes to Mondavi, he decided to use them to make his own wine. As an artist, I was impressed by this potentially risky financial decision to move from essentially working for someone else to creating his own product, his own work. I told him I was really just a student but he was more than happy to share his knowledge and passion with me. I think George Hendry’s wine was much more modest than some of the rock-star wines represented at that event but he stands out for me because he is a man who works his own land, produces his own wine, and wanted to share that with me. I plan to visit his vineyard first the next time I go to Napa. I have a feeling it won’t be sexy or glamorous like we’ve come to expect of Napa, but it will be just what I am looking for.

I am at the beginning of what could be a lifelong process of learning. I am now inspired. I would like to visit small, family run vineyards, gaining experiential knowledge of the grape growers and wine makers, their land, and their craft. If possible, I would like to spend some time working on the land, learning about wine from the very bottom, up. Education thus far has motivated me to want to know more. It has provided me with a sound foundation but I am eager to get to the source of the matter. To me, wine, for all its seeming mystique, cache, and complexity, is at its core, most simply about the land, the people who make it, and the people who drink it.

Rebecca Mills

How to Pick a Summer Wine: The Gentler, Lighter Side of Wine

Summer’s soaring temps beg you to step away from heavy Cabernets and check out the gentler, lighter side of wine. When choosing the perfect summer wine for your outdoor engagement party or wedding, think light, crisp, refreshing--and because people tend to drink more in the heat--lower in alcohol. Nothing more prettily suggests summer than a dry (i.e. not sweet) rose. Avoid the simple, syrupy versions and try French roses from the Mourvèdre grape or roses made using the Saignee method for more complexity. Pick wines from countries where you imagine the locals sipping leisurely at sidewalk cafés while basking in the sun, like Spain. A Spanish fave is Albarino from the Rias Baixas region. Made to drink young, Albarino is a crisp, white wine with intense fruit, lively acidity and generally a lower level of alcohol. It pairs perfectly with summer foods from seafood to grilled vegetables. But you don’t need to swear off red wine for summer. Look for light bodied wines like Pinot Noir from Oregon or a Valpolicella from Italy, both capable of standing up to barbequed foods. And don’t be afraid to put a slight chill on your red wine. It is summer after all!

Rías Baixas Albariño from Spain, “Exceptional with Everything” Oh Really?

There's nothing we love more than a challenge. It's in our makeup. We're two women, thirties. One Indian. One Filipina. The first, founder and CEO of a business in the arguably male-dominated wine world. The second, building experience to be a future proprietess of a wine store. Add to this: In New York City. So when presented with the opportunity to play wine and food critic for a night—to pair Rías Baixas Albariño wines, proclaimed to be "exceptional with everything" with Mercat’s offerings —it is impossible and simply against every ounce of who we are, to refuse.

Mercat means “market” in Catalan, the language of the northern Spanish region where owner, Jaime Reixach, is from and where the restaurant’s menu draws its inspiration. The albariños we’ll be drinking also originate from the northern region, and so we’re already anticipating more perfect wine pairings than tragic mismatches.

It’s a beautiful warm Thursday night—and we are tasting two Albariño wines: Alba Rosa from Martinez Serrantes and Pazo San Mauro, both 2006 vintages. We take our time with each wine—assessing them alone and then side by side. At the end, we agree that both are delightful: the Alba Rosa is sparkling with surprising depth while the Pazo San Mauro would bring life to our springtime picnic. Further, we imagine that if each wine were to be personified, they might just be these two ladies, described as such:

Alba Rosa Martinez Serantes Albariño | Scarlett Johansson: "Sparkling with surprising depth"

Alba Rosa Martinez Serantes Albariño | Scarlett Johansson: "Sparkling with surprising depth"
This golden blonde hued wine gives an almost effervescent quality that shoots racy brightness into your mouth. It has the usual grassiness and citrus qualities one expects from this wine. The reason why this wine fits Scarlett most is because it has the quality of lightness but comes with surprising depth of character and fullness in body. The comparison would be perfect were the wine to show great legs, but its light-bodied, lower alcohol nature doesn’t allow it.

Pazo San Mauro Albariño | Cameron Diaz: “Livens up your springtime picnic”

Pazo San Mauro Albariño | Cameron Diaz: “Livens up your springtime picnic”
Cameron would be a fun addition to any springtime outing. Her lightheartedness would make everyone smile and this wine does the same. The light yellow straw color gives way to granny smith apples, peaches, melon, and citrus scents that jump at your nose, smelling like springtime in a glass. This wine begs to be explored further. The crisp and pleasantly tart apple is balanced with pear and makes it the perfect brunch wine.
Now, we move on to the heart of our challenge: Exceptional with everything? Oh really? How do these two beauties handle themselves in company? After the three and a half hours of glorious sipping, chewing, and chatting, among ourselves and the restaurant staff, here are our findings:

No surprise, our lovely wines get along splendidly with their classic and traditional partners: we have raves for the nicely seasoned patatas bravas—not too spicy, not too garlicky—and the padrones/blistered shishito peppers, the char and oil offset by the tartness of the wines. One of us goes wild for the Canelons de Verdura/eggplant wrapped spring vegetables, manchego, and cranberry reduction. And then Chef Lowder sends over Trencat d’Ous/mushroom with salsa verde topped with a fried egg, which again, goes splendidly with our wines. Even the suckling pig/Cochinillo, which we think will surely clash, in fact becomes the surprise of the evening. Like the beauty and the beast, our wines and the pig make an unlikely but harmonious pair.

We ask ourselves for the last time: Rías Baixas Albariño from Spain: Exceptional with Everything?

If not for being the gluttonous bottomless pits that we are, we would certainly have answered YES with an exclamation point. But since we order those two desserts—Torrades Sta. Teresa/fried bread with lemon yogurt and Pa Amb Oli Xocolata/bread, olive oil, and chocolate, our answer must be: Almost. These two desserts with our two Albariños — are disastrous.

Rías Baixas Albariño from Spain: Exceptional with almost Everything.

--Anu Karwa and Marie Estrada

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