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

Monday, November 16, 2009

A New Thanksgiving Wine Idea- Les Traverses de Fontanès Vin de Pays d’Oc Rouge 2007

Les Traverses de Fontanès Vin de Pays d’Oc Rouge 2007 (100% Cabernet Sauvignon) (available at Slope Cellars, Brooklyn, $14.99/btl)

Ah, Thanksgiving wines past. You’ve done Riesling. You’ve done Zinfandel. You’ve even done Gamay. And they’ve all done their jobs…of not competing with the crazy array of flavors and spices, of being all-American, of being light and easy, respectively. But now you want to do something different, not to go against the grain, but just to change things up a bit, maybe deepen your appreciation for the old reliables next year. They’ll be there for you, not to worry. And goody for you, because in just walked the Languedoc’s Cyriaque Rozier with his Traverses de Fontanès Vin de Pays d’Oc Rouge 2007, a bright, fresh, Cabernet Sauvignon that’s just perfect for Thanksgiving, even though it’s not brimming with fruit and acidity a la Riesling, all-American like Zinfandel, or light like Gamay. We like to think of it as the uninvited Thanksgiving guest who ends up being the life of the party without taking over.

Les Traverses de Fontanès is fresh and youthful, with a shimmering garnet, almost opaque appearance, and translucent purple rim. The forward nose offers cassis jam, kirsch, and a pleasant whiff of acetone. Sipping, we get sweet-tart cassis, a bit of cedar, and silky texture, underscored by a quick brush of tannin. Second sip, we get some caramel and salt, and a bit more concentrated cassis at the core, all within a medium-weight frame. But this is only if you pay attention. For those of your guests who aren’t taking wine notes, it’s just a delicious wine that seems to go well with everything you’ve put out or they’ve brought over. With turkey, dressing, and gravy, it provides just enough acidity to balance the fat and protein. With sweet potatoes and orange-cranberry relish, it holds its own against the sugar and tart fruits. There’s no real spice element, so it doesn’t compete with highly seasoned dishes, so much as complement them. And it’s not heavy, so it tastes like another one: the Fontanès is a quaffer in the end. We like to serve it barely chilled.

By pumpkin pie/football time, the Fontanès has worked the room without bringing up politics or religion, charmed everyone, and more than made up for showing up uninvited. Everyone wonders why he wasn’t invited in the past. This is what Thanksgiving should be. Or at least what a Thanksgiving wine should be.

Beth Baye

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Wine for Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving dinner is a grazer’s dream but a challenge in terms of figuring out what wine to serve. Plus, from Mom’s marshmallow topped sweet potatoes, to Grandma’s stuffing to Dad’s turkey it’s loaded with tradition. If you’re tasked with bringing the wine, these factors can make it somewhat intimidating.

The right Thanksgiving wines will work well with a wide array of flavors and textures but won’t overwhelm the dishes. It also pays to seek out wines that aren’t too tannic or too high in alcohol. The wine selection can become a tradition as well. Bring the next vintage of the same wines each year. If you make it a tradition, it has to be consistently well-made wine to which everyone welcomes. Most importantly, Thanksgiving is 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 scrambling last minute at the wine shop. I won’t tell you how many bottles my family went through last year for fear of cautionary letters of concern, but suffice it to say, I’m glad we planned ahead.


I sincerely hope the days of poorly misunderstood Riesling’s bad rap are over. The high acidity is perfect for cutting through an item’s richness while the light body doesn’t overwhelm the dish. A slightly off-dry version makes it nearly universally pleasing. If you haven’t added a quality Riesling to your must-haves list, I implore you try it.

Dr. Konstantin Frank, Riesling Semi-Dry, 2008, Finger Lakes, NY ($15)

Willamette Valley Vineyards, Riesling, 2007, Willamette Valley, Oregon ($11)

Pinot Noir

Another favorite go-to wine for Thanksgiving is Pinot Noir, again for its amenable style. Save medium-bodied, elegant versions for the dinner table and drink heavier, fruit-forward types as an aperitif.

-MacMurray Ranch, Pinot Noir, 2007, Sonoma Coast, CA ($24)

-Girasole Vineyards, Pinot Noir, 2008, Mendocino, CA ($11)


The Classic red wine to have with Thanksgiving Dinner is a Zinfandel. Although potentially Croatian by origin, Zinfandel has become a distinctly American grape appropriate for this quintessential American holiday. This is a rich, zesty, peppery red wine, not to be confused with White Zinfandel. Make sure the wine isn’t too high in alcohol, which is often the case with Zins from California.

Rancho Zabaco, Reserve Zinfandel, 2007, Dry Creek Valley, CA ($24)

Ridge, Pagani Ranch Zinfandel, 2007, Sonoma Valley, CA ($30)

Cabernet Sauvignon

While not inexpensive, a Cabernet Sauvignon with a few years of age (if not more) can be a wonderful wine to add as a holiday tradition. Its tannins have somewhat mellowed out while the rich flavors and structure still shine. These are “special occasion” wines that truly celebrate the generosity of the holiday.

Louis M. Martini, Monte Rosso Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005, Sonoma Valley, CA ($85)

Robert Keenan, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2004, Napa Valley, CA ($45)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

When is it okay to send a bottle back?

When is it okay to send a bottle back (and how to do it politely)

Sending back a bottle of wine at a restaurant can seem intimidating or snooty, but the occasion to do some can come up. Have the confidence and voice your informed opinion if either a) you smell or taste the wine and sense cardboard or musty basement aromas or flavors. That means it’s faulty or “corked.” or b) if the sommelier or waiter chose the wine for you after you described what you were looking for and the actual wine doesn’t fit the description, send it back.

You can’t send it back if you just don’t “love” the wine you picked, unfortunately. A way to avoid this situation in the future is to order a glass or bottle that is sold “by-the-glass” and ask for a taste of it first. The waitstaff should easily oblige you.

To politely send a bottle back, first ask the waitress to smell the wine herself and comment that you think it’s corked and mention the musty aromas. Or, ask her to try the wine herself either from the bottle at your table or, if you ordered it by the glass, the bottle from which it was originally poured. You can also mention how the wine doesn’t match your request but be prepared to voice why and reassert the qualities you’re seeking. Strike an authoritative yet kind tone and you should quickly be accommodated.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Throw A Wine Tasting Holiday Party at Your Place

Are you a holiday entertainer? Time to start planning. With Swirl, you could throw the best holiday soiree where the RSVPs flood in - who can resist a wine tasting party?! The best part of all, you don't have to lift a finger - Swirl Events makes your holiday entertaining effortless with our special holiday party packages.

For this holiday season, we can work with you to craft a package for whatever size and style of holiday party you're having - whether guests stay all night or come open house style. We're available weeknights and weekends and serve NY, NJ and CT.

Call 917.463.3994 or Email Info@SwirlEvents.com

wine party

We provide EVERYTHING for your party including:

  • Amazing wine
  • Gourmet chocolate and cheese pairings
  • Elegant stemware and all the party essentials (plates, trays, silverware, etc.)
  • Our team of professionally-trained, dynamic Swirl wine experts.
  • We can come to you OR help you locate the perfect venue.

private holiday party photoAND NOW - Swirl Events is offering our wine tasting parties as a holiday gift. It's the perfect experiential present that's different from the "usual." We present you with a beautiful, customized, gift certificate redeemable for the amount you set. Just email Info@SwirlEvents.com to get more info.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Wines for Halloween?

While the kids are out trick-or-treating this Halloween and you’re stuck at home passing out candy, try some wines that are tricks and treats in their own right (drinking out of plastic jack o’ lanterns optional).

Wines that trick

Anne Amie Vineyards, “Prisme” Pinot Noir Blanc, 2007, Willamette Valley, Ore. ($45). This golden-hued wine made from organic Pinot Noir grapes is a “Vin Gris,” a white or rose wine made from black grapes in a method different from traditional roses. It spends 18 months aging in French oak barrels. If you were blind-folded and sipped this, you’d swear you were drinking a creamy, toasted Chardonnay.

Fre Sparkling Brut ($6). I’m usually not a cheerleader for dealcoholized wine, but this alcohol-free sparkling wine is pleasantly surprising and a nice option for revelers who are designated drivers. Keep a bottle or two on hand as a responsible host. Crisp and dry, the red apple flavors and bright acidity set this sparkler apart from other non-alcoholic counterparts.

Wine Cube 2007, Chardonnay, CA ($17, 3L). Part of a trend that threw many for a loop was the comeback of boxed wine, albeit in a more premium style. The Wine Cube is a joint project between Target and Trinchero Family Estates, whose estate wines start at $35. The tricky part — it’s a boxed wine that is actually tasty. The medium-bodied, pleasing Chardonnay is quaffable and bursts with Granny Smith apple flavors.

Wines that treat

Seven Sisters, Bukettraube, Odelia, 2008, South Africa ($13). The rarely seen Bukettraube grape produces a semi-sweet wine from a storied vineyard with the nuttiness and complexity of a much more expensive wine. White flower petals and clover honey with a good amount of acidity at its backbone balance the sweet flavors.

St. Supery, Moscato ($20). Intense tropical fruit flavors of lychee and ripe white peach and the juice of sweet green grapes hit your palate and linger with a slightly sweet finish — a perfect complement to fall’s poached apple and pear desserts.

King Estate, Signature Vin Glace ($18). An superb ice wine from 100 percent organic Pinot Gris grapes shows that sweets don’t have to come in colorful wrappers this holiday. Made from a process wherein ripe, frozen grapes provide concentrated sweet juice, try this wine with almond cookies for a real treat.

Monday, October 26, 2009

What to do when a bottle is presented to you at a restaurant?

What to Do with That Bottle?

You confidently ordered the wine for the table and the waiter presents the bottle to you. Your tablemates eagerly look to you. Haven’t you done enough? Here’s how to masterly finish the job in 3 quick steps.

  1. Check it out – Make sure the bottle is actually what you ordered. Make sure you have the right winery/producer, vintage (year), grape, and region.
  2. Give it a swirl – Your waitress or sommelier will pour a small amount of the wine in your glass. Give it a vigorous swirl (there’s little fear of spilling here since it’s such a small amount).
  3. Get your nose into the game - Now smell the wine. As long as it doesn’t smell like old cardboard, musty basement or vinegary, nod your head and thank the sommelier. She’s not looking for a lengthy discussion on the wine. She just wants to make sure it’s not “corked” or tainted in some way. You don’t even need to take a sip of the wine, although you’re more than welcome to in order to get a better sense on the wine.

By the way, the cork may be presented to you. Do yourself a favor and just set it on the table. You can’t tell much from smelling it or squeezing it.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Bodega Bernabeleva Garnacha - Autumn in New York

Bodega Bernabeleva Camino de Navaherreros Garnacha 2008 ($15, Available at Picada y Vino)

"Autumn in New York/You'll need no castle in Spain..."

And so goes the song. OK, so you might not need a castle in Spain, but you might find yourself needing this biodynamically produced garnacha from Madrid to ease the transition from a pretty decent summer into what's looking to be a textbook-brisk autumn in New York.

We found that this wine welcomes cooler weather but lets you hold onto your memories of warmer days - kind of a scarf and sweater to Priorat's full-on coat, hat, and gloves. Presenting itself with a luminous, blue-purple red appearance and fresh plums and herbs on the nose, then revealing blue fruit, bright acid and dusty tannins on the palate, this wine is as cozy with a plate of cured jamón, mustard and cornichons as it is with sausage soup.

As it as it opens up in the glass, the fruit gets a bit sweeter, a bit of saffron is detected, and we can't help making Châteauneuf du Pape comparisons, as we're wont to do when tasting grenache-based wines. This wine could handily hold its own against some of the younger, new world-style Châteauneufs, but it's definitely doing its own thing, Spain style. Plums more than cherries, raw almonds rather than marzipan ... fall rather than winter, let's say. It's loaded with flavor but without too much weight, which is what we want when we're still a bit in denial about summer's end. Hey, it's a lot easier to greet autumn in New York when you've got this bottle to take off the chill.

-written by guest blogger, Beth Baye

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Office Holiday Party Idea in NYC

A Wine Tasting Office Holiday Party

A SWIRL WINE TASTING is a festive, fun and elegant idea for Corporate Holiday Parties from 8 to 600 guests. A wine tasting is a great way to add a theme to your holiday party. The best part of all, you don't have to lift a finger - at Swirl, we'll make your entertaining effortless. We work with you to fit your budget, allowing you to still celebrate with style. Previous clients include Simpson Thacher, McKinsey, BCG, JPMorgan Chase and many other firms of various sizes and industries.

Call 917.463.3994 or Email Us at Info@SwirlEvents.com

wine party We provide EVERYTHING for your party including:

  • Amazing wine
  • Gourmet chocolate and cheese pairings
  • Elegant stemware and all the party essentials (plates, trays, silverware, etc.)
  • Our team of professionally-trained, dynamic Swirl wine experts.
  • We can come to you OR help you locate the perfect venue.

Seated Wine Tasting

Please help spread the word and send this to your colleagues who plan your team or company holiday party.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

K Vintners "Milbrandt" Wahluke Slope Syrah - The Robert Pattinson of Wine

SwirlSavvy has jumped on the New Moon bandwagon all in the name of an unbeatable Syrah. Drinking the K Vintners Milbrandt Wahluke Slope Syrah from Columbia Valley, Washington immediately brought teen (and admittedly, grown-up) heartthrob Robert Pattison ("RobPat" for those who think Perez Hilton should be required reading) of the Twilight movie series to mind.

Like the latest "It Boy," the K Vintners Syrah has a dark, spicy side that Robert's smoldering eyes seem to echo. Pattison seems to keep the mystery quotient high as does the Syrah with its layers of tobacco and dark fruit in a smooth, refined manner which is what can be expected from this highly acclaimed corner of Washington, which coincidentally, is where Robert's brooding vampire clan resides. But no vampire legend here - this $25 Syrah easily passes for $37 bottle, good enough to dig your fangs into.

Monday, October 12, 2009

What Does Your Wine Choice Say About Your Personality?

Does the wine you order say something about your personality? As any woman will tell you, it’s her prerogative to shift personalities as quickly as she goes from a patent leather pump to a jeweled flat – so check out what wine you would be today.

Chardonnay – Like a favorite cashmere cardigan, you’re comfortable with yourself, fun-loving, and easy-going. You’re true confidant at work or at play.

Sauvignon Blanc – Always up for spinning a tale or the latest bawdy joke you heard, your sharp wit and priceless one-liners liven up any conversation with your fresh take.

Riesling – Your sweetness is always counted on, but underneath it lurks a curious, adventurous side that emerges in the boardroom or the bedroom.

Pinot Noir – You strive for a touch of chic elegance and you’re a lover of food. You like to err on the side of class when making a statement, be it fashion or otherwise.

Cabernet Sauvignon – Your bold side doesn’t take a day off and you’re rightly unapologetic about it. You play with the big girls and never fail to give an honest (or at times blunt) assessment.

Shiraz – Unafraid to make a move, your spicy side gets you past the velvet rope, through the glass ceiling, and his digits.

Merlot – You’re the level-headed go-to gal who can always be called on to calmly settle who-wore-it-best disputes, your frazzled girlfriend, or the check.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Wine Cube - An Adorable Boxed Wine?

I'm slightly embarrassed to even write this, but I found a wine that can only be described as "adorable." The Wine Cube, a collaboration between Target and Trinchero Estates, is the most adorable boxed wine in its 1.5L version. And yes, that's the first time and last time I use the word "adorable" to describe a wine - but it just is...hear me out! The Chardonnay is housed in a 5"X5.5" sunny yellow cube and fits snugly into any open space in your refrigerator. Boxed wine has received a ton of press from the wine trade in the last two years. Wine Spectator even bowed its head recently and did a feature on it, incidentally, they rated the Wine Cube Chardonnay the best boxed white wine from the US.

But are consumers ready to accept a boxed wine? Even if you are the most open minded consumer willing to try out these boxed, spouted wines, it may still be a habit kept well hidden from anyone but your significant other and mom. But that's where the Wine Cube comes in. Not only is the Chardonnay highly drinkable, it's actually designed chic enough to pull out in front of guests at a party. You'll all marvel at Target's usual superior marketing and design strength wondering when Wal-Mart is going to catch on. While you're chatting, you'll enjoy a medium-bodied, lovely Chardonnay that is quaffable and bursts with Granny Smith apple flavors. The 1.5L box holds the equivalent of 2 bottles, but don't fret if you can't finish it within one evening. The Wine Cube claims to hold its own for one full month. And at about $10, that's one claim I'm willing to test.

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

Travel, Malbecs, and Javier Bardem

Wine and Asian Food

Taste Wine in 5 Steps

Chianti and Italian Food