Tuesday, December 30, 2008

SwirlSavvy's Little Sister & Her Wine:

SwirlSavvy's Little Sister (ok, 29's not little anymore but still…) is in town so we made plans to make an elaborate home cooked Indian meal together. After several hours of interrupting each other's work at a coffee shop, we decided we didn't have time to really cook so we cheated with a ready-made tamarind curry sauce (so good I could drink it straight) from Maya Kaimal that I found at Whole Foods (had to throw a few elbows to make my way through the store -where's the holiday spirit, people?). So what wine to pair with this hard-fought "semi-homemade" meal? Generally, my favorite pairing with Indian food is Torrontes, an aromatic, native Argentinean white grape (or the classic Indian food companion, Gewürztraminer). But this sauce has a complex blend of spices, the mouth-watering acidity from tamarind and creaminess from the coconut milk. And how could an entire ethnicity of food pair with a single varietal? Plus, SwirlSavvy's little sister has a preference for red. After a little taste test (having plenty of wine on hand is a perk of the business) we choose a Les Pensees de Pallus Chinon (100% Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley in France) and a Lagrein from St. Michael Eppan winery from Alto-Adige region of Northern Italy. The common theme with both these wines is that they're slightly fragrant and juicy and lightly oaked. No gripping tannins here, making it much nicer to drink straight than the curry sauce.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Long Island for the CA wine girl

Fellow Swirl-girl Carly and I spent last night at Bridge Urban Winery (http://www.bridgeurbanwinery.com/) trying 11 North Fork (of Long Island) wines for a little research…just one of the perks of the job. The love our wine guy, Isaac, had for Bridge's wines was palpable. But was it enough to convince someone who was "raised" on California wine? We concluded that North Fork wines aren't better than CA wines, just different; a bit leaner and generally more minerally. It's still a young industry and the climate's drastically different, but the rise and evolution of a relatively new wine region is exciting to observe. Bridge Urban Winery is a great place to experience it while listening to local musicians (a friend of Isaac) and chatting at the bar with the Bridge crew (winemaker, designers, carpenters and all.)

Our favorite wines from the evening were:
Bridge '07 Chardonnay <http://www.bridgeurbanwinery.com/>- reminded me of banana laffy taffy in a good way. A sweet, tropical nose with a crisp citrusy palate, easy drinking and light bodied. A Chardonnay to challenge the "Anything-But-Chardonnay drinkers. FOOD PAIRING: Salads w/vinaigrette dressing

Paumanok '04 Merlot - <buy here> an aromatic wine chock full of baking spice on the nose. Gentle tannins and a nice dose of acidity make this a balanced wine perfect for food (which can't be said of many, many CA Merlots.) FOOD PAIRING: Savory baked vegetable dishes, game meats

Thursday, December 11, 2008

From Napa, With Love

From the moment Sean Connery steps on-screen in "From Russia With Love", he mesmerizes, just like the 2005 Joseph Phelps Cabernet Sauvignon (buy here). Connery's bedroom eyes evoke this smooth-operator of a wine. Like the quintessential 007, this Cab stealthily reveals layers of spice and complexity to make things more than interesting. Due to aging half in new French and American oak barrels, each sip is smooth and tinged with a touch of velvety vanilla. And you don't need to be a spy for Her Majesty's Secret Service to know there's just enough acidity in this wine to make it dangerously refreshing; dangerous that you'll want to drink this every night, that is.

The Undecided Votes

One thing that puzzled me about this year's election (among many obvious topics like how one could spend $150K on a wardrobe and still look like a time traveler from the 80's) was the number of undecided voters. I was puzzled that even with an abundance of information, people were undecided on how they were going to vote until the booths closed. I find myself in a similarly undecided situation, albeit for a much, much less weighty issue, i.e. aerators. Like this Vinturi Wine Aerator. Over Thanksgiving, my brother-in-law, a Napa oakey Cabernet fan, swore by it. I was less convinced. I rarely think of myself as a traditionalist, but something felt odd about using an aerator. I enjoy the unfolding process a wine goes through over the course of a glass. First sip a bit tight, the next revealing fruit, and the next nuanced secondary notes. A half hour later (in the unlikely scenario I've managed to not drink the entire glass), the wine may have evolved completely. To go from A to Z in 10 seconds seems…well, unnatural. Yet, there's a part of me - the part that turns to the last page of a book craving instant gratification - that's fascinated by the fact that simply pouring wine through a small funnel-type device can affect a it in a noticeable manner. To instantly aerate or not to aerate. Jury's still out.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Could Bollinger be the Goddess of Domesticity?

I recently made another giddy appearance on the Martha Stewart Radio show to talk about wine perfect for the big Thanksgiving feast (a holiday devoted to food and football, what's not to love. And oh yes, gratitude as well.) The host, Mario Bosquez, is as lovely as you could imagine. And unlike many other radio shows, this place has its act together. Not surprising for a Martha venture, is it? That got me thinking - what wine would the demi-goddess herself be? I liken Martha Stewart to a Bollinger 1996 RD Extra Brut Champagne (buy here) I recently had the pleasure of tasting. Like anything Ms. Stewart touches, it's made to perfection. This hand-crafted labor of love has a rich creaminess that's balanced with sharp acidity. There's an intensity in this wine that Martha's famous for, both in front of the camera and off. Even with its powerful flavors, the wine shows off its delicate flavors and complexity. And other wannabe Marthas watch out - like this Champers with it's unbelievable freshness (due to its "RD" recently disgorged status), this lady and her personified wine will be around for a long, long time.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Barack Obama of Wines - It Must Be Good.

Even as I write this, the sublime perfection of this wine makes me close my eyes and smile. The Belle Glos, 2006 Las Alturas single vineyard Pinot Noir ($60) (buy here) from Monterey, California is inspiring; so inspiring that it's the Barack Obama of wine. Like Barack, this is an American wine but it touches on the exotic with its dark spicy flavor. And so smooth! And just like our Pres. Elect, this wine is all elegance and class with its lush fruit and restrained use of oak. But don't let its youth fool you; it has a concentrated depth that lets you know it's ready for the prime-time. It's honest reflection of its Monterey terroir mirrors the authenticity Barack Obama shows to his many fans. While this wine may not capture the historic nature of the election and the hope Obama inspires, it does inspire me to hope for another glass…

Jordan 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon, the George Bush of wines

In other words…a colossal disappointment. But let me back up. Through my company, Swirl Events, I put together an event for my client, Samsung, to be held at the Rainbow Room. The theme chosen by our client was All-American Wines in order to show the non-Baywatch side of our culture to the largely Korean delegation. And with Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon being a classic and well-known example of California Cab, I chose it off the Rainbow Room's list.

My last taste of Jordan Cab was the 1997, a superb year for wine. The 2004 is another story. It just goes to show you, ala the Bushes, that just because the first was ok doesn't mean the next will be even tolerable. In the often intimidating world of wine and politics, we often look for a brand name to assure us and believe that through osmosis, the positive qualities will always seep through to the next of kin. I was fooled with the Jordan, as I'm sure some our public (or at least Florida) was with the Bush, Jr.. Like "Still-President" George, the 2004 Jordan Cab lacked depth and had little concentration of flavor. I kept thinking it would evolve over time and give me more, but instead, I got more of the same superficiality. There must be hope somewhere in the near future. Yes we can…find a better bottle of wine. And we did. More on that next.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Non-Macy's Related Thanksgiving Tradition

I talked about Thanksgiving tradition earlier in the form of dishes from family members. This year, add a tradition that will be welcome by all and bring the same excellent wine year after year. Pick a starting point vintage and bring the subsequent vintage annually. An excellent pick that will stand the test of time and not break the bank is the Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvignon ($42) from the Margaret River area of Australia. A deep, dark, beautiful Cabernet that has great aging potential is a good option for a traditional wine. This one has lots of dark berry flavors and some vanilla notes due to the new oak aging. And just how much wine should you bring? Budget one glass of wine per person, per hour. You can 4-6 glasses per bottle, depending on how generously you pour. And since it's Thanksgiving, shouldn't we all be generous?

Monday, November 10, 2008

What Wine Goes with Gratitude?

Thanksgiving is a stand-out holiday not only because we give gratitude for what's come to us in the previous year, but what we're grateful for feasting on! And it's one loaded with tradition. Often it’s at the same person’s house, traditional items like Mom’s sweet potatoes, Grandma’s stuffing, creations with marshmallows and jell-o. So bringing the right wine can sometimes be intimidating – but remember, it’s a celebration, a time for fun and bringing people together – so have fun with your wine choices, but plan what you want to bring so you’re not overwhelmed at the wine shop. I'll give you a few tips to help you through it. Gobble Gobble.


It's clearly going to be a winner. Have you ever heard anyone turn down a glass of Champagne? If so, un-friend them on Facebook…now. First, to clear things up, Champagne is sparkling wine made using the traditional method from a certain area in France. You can’t call other sparkling wine Champagne if it’s not from that part “Champagne” of France. That’s why we refer to it as sparkling wine. I like starting any festive meal or events with some sparkling wine. The bubbles bring festivity and marks that it’s a special occasion. It’s also nice to hand to people once they’ve entered. It gives them someone to have in their hands and gives you time to get the rest of the meal together. Since this is a traditional American holiday, check out these great American sparklers: The Iron Horse Classic Brut – a rich, creamy wine or their “Wedding Cuvee" or from Roederer Estate, the Premier Brut. For something a bit more wallet-friendly from the same producer, try Roederer's Anderson Valley Brut. Union Square Wines has a great selection of American sparkling wines. Champagne or sparkling wine is also a great pairing with all different dishes.


The Classic red wine to have with Thanksgiving Dinner is a Zinfandel. Another point of clarification, this is WAY different from “White Zinfandel.” This is a rich, zesty, peppery wine which is also often very fruity and goes well with the richness of the food on the table. And again, since this is an American holiday, celebrate it with one of the only wines that originates in the US. If you don't want your strange Uncle Eddy to get uncomfortably cozy too soon, make sure to get one that isn’t completely toppling over with alcohol which is often the case with Zins from California. My favorite which is also widely available is the Ridge Pagani Ranch Zinfandel ($35) from Sonoma County in CA. It’s a lush, sensual and elegant. Lots of black pepper and spice on it, and check out the color – nearly inky opaque. This wine is a stunner.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Recessionista: cheap 'n' chic wines

'RECESSIONISTA' SEEMS TO BE THE NEW WORD ON THE STREET and that applies to us wino-s as well. Here are some of Swirl Savvy's favorite cheap 'n chic wines:

My fall fave, the Monte Velho Red from Alentejo Portugal. At $8, it's a steal. Which brings me to a winner strategy on picking value wines - look for lesser known regions. Everyone knows Napa and Bordeaux, but Alentejo? Only the luck. Buy it online here or locally in NYC, find it at 67 Wine @ Columbus & 68th. Another strategy, look for a cheaper wine from a great importer like Michael Skurnik like this Colonia Las Liebres Bonarda from Mendoza, Argentina for $10. Argentina is FULL of great value wines and this Bonarda tops my list. It's that inky, brooding, deep dark wine I long for on nights when I huddle under my alpaca throw. Buy it here locally at my favorite NYC wine show, Frankly Wines. On the white wine front, check out this more edgy wine, the Gruner Veltliner, which tends to get high marks from my hipster friends who like to try that something just a wee bit off the beaten path, and scoop up values at once. A classic Gruner is from Berger. Also, a Michael Skurnik selection available at Frankly Wines for $13. You get a whole lot of flavor while getting a bit in the know.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Green Point 2006 Pinot Noir Rosé - Our Rachael Ray of Wines

The 2006 Green Point Pinot Noir Rosé from Victoria, Australia is the wine you start to sip and can't put down. It's the Rachael Ray of wines - full of flavor, slightly effervescent, and makes you want to whip up a quick meal since it's super food friendly. She's the chef-next-door and the Green Point Rosé is clearly a wine you want to have to take your everyday meal up a notch. This bright cherry pink wine is made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes. It has the delicate nature of a white wine and the flavor and kick of a red. The high altitude of Victoria lends to cool nights and dry days bringing about a complexity of flavor. If you close your eyes, you almost feel like it's summer again with the aromas of red cherries and farm-fresh strawberries. And don't make me get on my soapbox and expound how rosés aren't just for summer. The same fruit flavors leap up on your palate in addition to delicate floral notes and a surprising dry finish. It may not be the wine to take over the food world as it seems Rachael is set to, but it surely looks pretty in your glass and even more yum-o to taste.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Time to Own Up: What would I be if I were a wine?

Terlato Vineyards Angels’ Peak 2005 Merlot Napa Valley, California

If I were a wine, I'd be this wine, a Merlot-based Bordeaux blend that
likens itself to the Pomerol of California. Like me, it wants to capture
your imagination and take you on a sensory journey. It makes you
smile and close your eyes as you take another sublime sip. It's a wine
that loves a celebration and sharing with friends. You turn the bottle
around to read more about it, because you know this wine has a
lot going on under its approachable surface. It's smooth and
full-bodied with soft, round flavors. And hopefully like the rising wine
entrepreneur I strive to be, this wine is successful in what it's
ambitiously trying to accomplish.

Q&A - How long will my wine last once I open it?

Q&A - How long will my wine last once I open it?

This is the number one question I'm asked at my events, and I understand why. Unless you have friends over, or are really 'thirsty', it's hard to finish a bottle of wine in an evening. Before Mr. SwirlSavvy entered my life, I would hesitate before opening a bottle of wine on a weeknight because I knew the rest could go to waste. But how long will your wine last? That's a tricky question with no standard answer. Your wine starts transforming once you open it. Sometimes wine will last one day, and some will be fine for several, like the Esporao Reserva Branco of Alentejo, Portugal. This wine started off lush, with tropical fruit flavors and the body of an American Chardonnay without the overly buttery/oaky feel. On Day 2, it seemed to open up even further to expose floral notes, but the alcohol did seem to poke through a bit more. It was still drinkable on Day 3. That's a wine with longevity. To prolong the life of your wines (and avoid weeping as you dump wine down the drain), try these two methods:

1) Suck the oxidizing air out through a Vacu-Vin Wine Saver. Use the stopper they provide.

2) Refrigerate your wine - red or white. This truly helps! Just let your reds get to the right drinking temperature by pulling it out of the fridge 20 mins before serving. I do the same for white wines, but 10 minutes before serving.

Reese Witherspoon, Our Kluge Simply Red 2004 Albermarle County, Virginia

Although I've been told many times that each of the 50 states produces wine, I still got taken off-guard when I tried the Kluge "Simply Red" wine from Albemarle County, Virginia. But in a sip, sublime took over surprise. This wine reminds me of the Reese Witherspoon, a Southern herself, who, as of late, has taken everyone by surprise. The wine is a "Bordeaux blend," i.e. a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Like Reese, it has a lot of complexity. Not only can it pull of a delightful "Legally Blond" easiness to drink, but it also manages to surprise us with a "I'm with Jake Gyllenhall" edginess and structure. Reese speaks her mind and doesn't let anyone think she's anything but a strong woman. This Kluge doesn't mess around with its origins, boldly stating "Albemarle" on its label. This is a wine I'd like to sip on a crisp fall evening, wrapped in a blanket on my wraparound Southern-style porch--preferably with my version of Jake closeby.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Leonardo DiCaprio of Wines

The 2005 Montinore Estates, Parson's Ridge Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley, Oregon is good for the planet and still so luscious - it's the Leonardo DiCaprio of wines. Like lovely Leo, this wine has definite depth to it. Layer after layer is slowly revealed starting with the dark berry and dusted cocoa aromas. Dark berry balances the leather and chocolate flavors while the taste of baking spices lingers in your mouth. And our environmentalist celeb Leo would approve of the biodynamic (think holistic & organic) farming Montinore practices. Like Leo, this classic is sure to please for generations.

Friday, September 5, 2008


It's back-to-school time and this Swirl Girl still gets a kick out of going school supply shopping. I
got fresh notebooks from Muji and folders from See Jane Work (they have the best bright colors worthy of display in my home office/living room).
Then, it was on to the fun "work" accessories, which in the wine world includes a brand new corkscrew. My new fave is the Rosendahl Grand Cru due to its simple and clean design and because it requires minimal effort - key when you're opening 20 bottles back-to-back. Next on the checklist was a set of Laguiole's cheese knives. Sporting elegant handles and perfect strong blades, they also make it easy to figure out which cheese goes with which knife. If only there was such a things as a wine valedictorian; I'd be sure to get to the head of the class with these supplies in hand.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Wine Shop Talk with Blue Angel Wines:

Kym Apota and Norah Kelley, owners of a new Organic and Biodynamic wine shop in Williamsburg.

SwirlSavvy: What made you open specifically an organic wine shop?
BAW: We understand that people are becoming increasingly concerned about what they eat and drink. As this demand increases, so has both the quantity and the quality of organic wines made
throughout the world. We noticed a real void in organic selections in wine shops throughout New York City and saw an opportunity to create our own.
SwirlSavvy: How did you catch the wine bug?
Norah Kelly: I caught the organic food and wine bug while partnering for three years at the uptown organic restaurant A where I met tons of like-minded food and wine drinkers.
Kym Apota: During my four year tenure at Astor Wines, my love for wine appreciated as I had the opportunity to travel around the world meeting winemakers and tasting their wines.
SwirlSavvy: Why "Blue Angel"?
BAW: We named our shop Blue Angel because it was the first name given to organic and environmentally friendly certified products in Germany--though we have no connection to Germany, this is simply where this group started and still exists today.
SwirlSavvy: What is your favorite wine right now?
BAW: Our favorite summer wine right now is the Domaine des 2 Anes Rosé, made from Grenache and Mourvedre in the Languedoc region of France. The winemaker is a 32 year old woman known for her delicious biodynamic wines and this is the first year this rosé has come into the United States.

Blue Angel Wines
638 Grand Street
Brooklyn, NY 11211

Monday, August 18, 2008

Swirl and BLOOMINGDALE'S: Wed August 20, 2008

Swirl is teaming up with Bloomingdale's this Wednesday, August 20 to talk about how to entertain the Swirl way--effortlessly.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Does it seem like every time you send an email, you get 10 "out of office" replies? Where is it, you wonder, that everyone's gone off to…and why can't you be there? I know the feeling.

The end of summer is approaching and that means it's time to GET - get to the beach, get to concerts in the park, get tan, and get out of town. But with the dollar in a major slump, not all of us can afford to vacation for a month in the South of France (or even Fire Island for that matter). That doesn't mean you can't GET the party going and bring the exotic locale to you. Throw an armchair traveler wine tasting party for all of your friends still in town. Pick one country and have everyone bring a corresponding bottle. Print out and laminate wine maps to use as place mats and scour vintage stores for old postcards to use as invites (or better yet, call the local embassy to see if they have anything you can repurpose)!
My pick is Argentina, where your dollar still gets you 3 pesos to 1, and subsequently amazing wine values. Argentina is known for its Malbec, the deep, delicious red that holds its own against a big, juicy steak. My favorite is the Ben Marco Malbec from Mendoza, the heart of Argentina's wine country. A bargain at $15.99, it's deep, inky purple color lends perfectly to the smoky, deep plum and fragrant berry flavors. It's a Javier Bardem to us. A bit mysterious and brooding but tempting to drink it in one big gulp. Another enticing, dark layer is revealed with each sip, which is why I LOVE Malbecs.

But don't be fooled by Argentina's darker side, it's brimming with fruit-forward, value-driven whites as well. My favorite is the organic Crios de Susana Balbo Torrontes. Susana is the "it girl" when it comes to Argentinean wine and her Torrontes shows us why. A native Argentinean grape, the Torrontes immediately brings to mind Blake Lively.
It's light and lively with a heady aroma of wild flowers, but shows a surprising dry finish. It doesn't have a ton of substance, but it's perfect for an end-of-summer evening on the terrace. You might not have a view of the Andes foothills, but this armchair traveler is sitting pretty with an Argentinean summer sipper in hand.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

One of my favorite ways to relax after a long day of running Swirl is to sit back and read New York Magazine, cover to cover (especially the Approval Matrix which is pure and simple genius). And this week's issue is one that makes me drop everything I'm doing (which includes gearing up for the new season of Project Runway by watching a day long marathon). The Cheap Eats 2008. It’s one of my dining bibles for the rest of the year. The sections on pizza, tacos, and noodles got me thinking. If I'm bringing home a regular slice from Artichoke Pizza (my pizza fave minus the 30 minute lines at 8PM; I skip the overly creamy artichoke style) what am I going to drink with it? Let's put beer and soda aside for now and go to the wine picks. I should first mention that my overall favorites for pairing any type of wine with food are crisp, high acidic whites and lower tannin, lighter bodied red wines. If you’re settling in with a thin, crispy slice with red sauce my wine pick is a Barbera d’Asti or Chianti. Pairing food and wine regionally is a good guideline. The high acidity of tomato sauce requires a wine that is its acidic equal, which Italian red wines tend to have. The light, juiciness of a Barbera matches the sweetness of a tomato sauce. Try the Carlo Giacosa Barbera D'Alba for a nice late summer treat. A Chianti such as the Ruffino Riserva Ducale is a classically deep yet rustic Tuscan wine made from Sangiovese grapes, sans the wicker basket. Noodles with all of its slurpy glory, seem to be all the rage. And like most East Asian dishes, they need something to battle the powerful flavors while being light at the same time. My pick is a dry Riesling from Alsace or Washington State. But when I think of Mexican food, I think fish tacos and nothing less. Pairing fish tacos with wine is challenging, but don’t automatically reach for that Pacifico. Try a tangy, citrusy Vinho Verde from Portugal or Albarino from Rias Baixas.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Today I'm holding a charity Swirl Events wine tasting event for Sakhi, a fantastic organization that provides resources for South Asian women who are victims of domestic abuse. Organizing and running a fundraiser wine tasting for Sakhi was my initial inspiration for Swirl. But this post isn't about that. It's about how a lot of people (including myself very briefly) have the impression that starting and running a wine company is all glamour and fun. They think it's about waking up late, lounging and working in PJs, then spending the rest of the day sipping fine wine with winemakers. Admittedly, some of those things are true (namely working in my PJs). But glamorous--not so much.

This morning starts with washing 65 glasses. By hand. Then drying each of them. By hand. Then it's a quick zip over to a doctor's appointment. But on the way, I have to stop at Pour wine shop to say hello to the owner and drop off some Swirl postcards for potential clients. Next, I (try to) purchase the chocolates I'm pairing with the General Bilimoria Tempranillo. The chocolates aren't there. Or at my back-up spot. So, it's crazy creative time. But it works out. Now the website's down and may not be up till Monday. Blasphemy! Then it's a stop to pick up Drano for the shower. Did I mention the glamorous part yet? (and no, it's not the Drano.)

Well, the "glamorous" part thankfully comes now: I'm writing this while sipping on Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé Champagne. Huh?? Well, Carrie Bradshaw smoked cigarettes while writing her column, so me myself and I un-guiltily sip wine and nibble on a plate of Brillat Savarin, a decadent and sensuously creamy cow's milk cheese. And why--you ask--Champagne? I'm not one for saving Champagne for celebrations, but I did wait to open this gorgeous, zippy bottle for a true celebration--my very first bit of glamor.

Yesterday, I was a guest on the Martha Stewart Living Radio show. I spoke about weddings and wine for their Weddings Week. It was live and they give you zero prep. Thankfully, I knew I wouldn't throw up since my nerves prohibited me eating anything all day.

The craziest live listener question I got was whether running wine in a blender would aerate it faster. Hmmm...always something new in wine. But, as it happens, I love being on the radio and there's nothing that feels more natural. So, what's next? Bring me on the show, Martha! Or Oprah, or Rachael, or Meredith. (I don't discriminate when it comes to dealing with influential and powerful women.) I promise to put down the glass and get out of my PJs.

Savvy SwirlGirl

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Shortly after I got the idea to start an in-home and corporate wine party business, Swirl Events, I started testing out wines on much obliging friends. I wanted to see what did and did not go over well and why. In the name of supporting a nascent entrepreneur, my friends gathered and happily conducted “research.” As we tasted the wines, I noticed every once in a while, my friends would struggle to articulate their impression of the wine. I sensed intimidation in not coming up with the so-called “right” answer. And then it happened. The night before, I had watched the George Clooney directed movie “Good Night and Good Luck.” I remember thinking (oh so originally) “this guy (George) has it all. He can direct, act and he’s got a smile that makes you feel like you’re the prettiest girl in the room.” Not that George has personally ever smiled at me, but that’s what I imagined…and still do. We tasted Orin Swift Cellar’s “The Prisoner” 2005 and it came out. “This is the George Clooney of wines.” A retort from one of the men zinged quickly, “No, no, this is the Salma Hayek of wines.” And we somehow knew what he meant. While the conversation at first was polite and academic, it was now like dinner at the Karwa household minus Mom’s famous samosas – everyone loudly and excitedly trying to toss their celebrity into the ring. Characterizing a wine like a celebrity was a much easier and interactive practice. It’s hard to remember those paragraph-long descriptions of wine and even harder to figure out how they came up with them. But the celebrity thing is universal.

Orin Swift Cellar’s “The Prisoner” remains one of my favorite wines and will always be a George Clooney “smooth, suave and surprisingly complex.” And since the men disagreed with me, I give you the option of the Salma Hayek – lush and full-bodied.

To these I add the all-time favorite description for the Thabani 2003 Merlot –the Brittany Spears – starts off great but ends in disaster.

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

Visit http://www.riasbaixaswines.com for more info on Rías Baixas Albariños from Spain

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