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.

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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