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.

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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