Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Wine Gossip - Antonio Banderas, Bordeaux

Dear Readers,

From time to time on the blog, we're going to start including the wine gossip column from Swirl's "Go-Sip Girl" that we normally include in Swirl Events' newsletters. Here's the first installment:

With temperatures finally rising and the Dow still sadly falling, its no surprise that the gossip is hot hot hot! Word on "les rues" is that the vintage in Bordeaux is way too warm to secure a long harvest and that the “En Primeur” campaign might not happen at all! “En Primeur” is like the Kentucky Derby of France, where all of the big names release the price for the year’s wine and a feeding frenzy ensues. For the past few years, Chateau owners have functioned functioned like mini Madoff's and pushed prices as high as possible. With the market for fine wine taking a nose dive, no one wants these blue-chips anymore!

Someone who isn't afraid to jump right into the maelstrom is that Spanish stallion himself, Antonio Banderas. You might think keeping Melanie Griffeth happy would be a full time job, but the artist formally known as Zorro has bought 50% of the Ribera del Duero property Anta Bodegas (yes, he is changing the name to Anta Banderas). To you bargain hunters, don't worry-he plans to keep prices down and increase distribution in the United States. Way to put the spice in Spain, Antonio! Until next time...

XOXO Go-Sip Girl

Perfect Spring Wine Picks

Usher in spring with Chile's best Sauvignon Blancs (more of Swirl Savvy's writing from TastingTable.com)

With the trees budding and air warming up for spring, we're finally ready to put away those big winter reds and bring out the crisp summer whites. In the past, we reached for ubiquitous New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, but this year we're smitten with Chile's take on the same grape.

Although Chile has been producing Sauvignon Blanc for years, the country has only recently produced wine that fulfills the grape's potential. The best picks come from a trio of up-and-coming regions--Leyda, Casablanca Valley and San Antonio Valley--where cool climates and long ripening times result in wines that aren't as bracingly acidic as their Kiwi counterparts. If a comparison must be made, these Chilean versions express a finesse and minerality similar to France's Sancerre. However, Chile's low production costs keep prices down, making the country one of the best sources of Sauvignon Blanc values in the world.

Keep these bottles in mind for pairing with spring's first crops of vegetables:

2006 Kingston Cariblanco Casablanca Sauvignon Blanc ($15) In addition to its bright citrus flavors and crisp acidity, this wine offers minerality and a silky texture (oceanwineandspirits.com).

2006 Matetic EQ San Antonio Sauvignon Blanc ($16) Warm nectarine notes and a welcome hint of smoke intensify on the palate and makes this a perfect alfresco party pick (wallywine.com).

2008 Casa Lapostolle Rapel Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($8) Tropical fruit flavors of pineapple and banana linger in this soft, value-priced bottle (pjwine.com).

2008 Montes Limited Selection Leyda Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc ($12) Intensely aromatic, this wine's aromas of clean linen (seriously) are followed by racy acidity and lemon-lime flavors; try it with ceviche (hitimewine.com).

Friday, March 27, 2009

5 Wines to Order on a Date

If you want to impress your date or appear sophisticated, here are some "big date" worthy wine choices:
  1. If you want a white want – try something more sophisticated than a Pinot Grigio - Next time, try a Sauvignon Blanc from either New Zealand or, to be really chic, from Chile. Chile’s just coming onto the scene for Sauv Blancs. Great value choices include – Oyster Bay Sauv Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand. OR Casa Lapostolle Sauv Blanc from Chile.
  2. A spicy, smoky and sexy wine - like Syrah or Shiraz (which are the same grape but will taste different based on where they're from). Try the Green Point Shiraz Or Layer Cake Shiraz – both from Australia. For a really impressive Syrah – try any of the Syrahs from Terlato which run from $30 to $55. Their Angel’s Peak is my favorite. This is a perfect one to have at home to really impress.
  3. A big, bold brawny red – a Malbec from Mendoza, Argentina is the ultimate budget-friendly “muscular” wine to offer your date. Ladies - don't have a guy over and only be able to offer him Prosecco...
  4. A bottle of Champagne -You can get great value in Champagne with high quality by looking for what’s called a “Grower Champagne”. Look for the initials “RM” on label vs. “NM” (which are the big brands)
  5. Stock your home with a wine with a story! If you want to expose your adventurous side, have a bottle on-hand from a place you've traveled to. Tales of adventures in faraway lands are sure to make your date inch just a bit closer...

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Free Online Wine Delivery - in under 30 Mins

Ever wish you could have free online wine delivery and nearly immediately have the wine delivered straight to your door like your Tuesday night Thai food? In a City where you can get everything from McDonald's to homemade chocolate chip cookies delivered within 30 minutes, not being able to immediately order and have wine delivered seems strange. Wakozi.com is changing that for the better - in Manhattan at least. While many wine shops in New York City allow you to buy wine online and have it delivered, it's usually delivered next day, not in time for that Alsatian Riesling you want to perfectly pair with your Red Curry. Wakozi now allows you to put in your address, find the wine shops, bodegas and liquor stores closest to you and lists their delivery windowns, any fees, and then their selection with price. It's a perfect service when you need to buy a lot for a party or want something to pair with the dinner you're preparing. Check it out and tell us what you think.

Trendy Boxed Wine Meets the Tube

If you didn't think you'd see 1980's era wine-in-a-box become hip again in your lifetime, you might be even more surprised by the alternative packaging movement's newest incarnation - wine in a tube. FOUR is the first premium California wine in a sleek eco-friendly tube. Not only does the 3L tube reduce a wine's carbon footprint by 50% (versus a typical glass bottle) but it also helps reduce waste by staying fresh for 30 days after opening. The first release of FOUR is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from the California appellations of Monterey, Paso Robles and Lodi from the 2006 vintage. The winemaker's goal was to create a $25 bottle for the price of $10 by putting the savings from packaging into higher quality grapes and production. FOUR achieved their goal with this deeply aromatic wine firm with dark plum and dark toffee taste. So, leave your corkscrew and foil cutters behind - they're, like, totally 80's anyway.In NYC, buy it at Astor Wines.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Learn about Sparkling Sake!

Taken from my writing on Tasting Table

Put down your
shochu: The latest Tokyo drink trend to make its way stateside is sparkling sake. And if you aren't much of a sake lover, it might be just the eye-opener you need to embrace the joys of rice wine.

Bottled in everything from elegant, long glass vessels to girly pink-and-blue flip-top cans, sparkling sake is an adventurous alternative for the Prosecco-drinking crowd. Like traditional sake, sparkling sake comes in unfiltered (nigori) and crystal-clear styles. However, sparkling sake has about half the alcohol of other sakes, and it's slightly sweeter as well, making it the perfect pairing for spicy foods and dessert--or a great entry point for the neophyte sake drinker.

Begin your sparkling-sake love affair with these bottles:

Chikurin Hana Hou Hou Shu ($19 for 300 ml) An infusion of rose petals and hibiscus makes this sake especially flavorful, while the touch of sweetness means it's a good match for spicy food (sakayanyc.com).

Harushika Tokimeki ($17 for 330 ml) Aromas of tropical fruit highlight this extra-bubbly sake (astorwines.com).

Ozeki Hana Awaka ($19 a glass) Fruitier than traditional sake, this crystal-clear sake is a good bet in your next brunch-time mimosa. Available at Megu Midtown, 845 United Nations Plaza; 212-964-7777‎ or megunyc.com

Chikurin Hou Hou Shu ($37 a bottle) This easy-drinking, creamy sparkling sake has a grainy nose but a fruity, grape-like taste. Available at Mr. Jones Yakitori, 243 E. 14th St. (between Second and Third aves.); 212-253-7670 ormrjonesnyc.com

Interview with Windows on the World Wine School educator Kevin Zraly

Kevin Zraly is probably the most famous wine educator in the world. He's beginning his 33rd year of teaching the Windows on the World Wine Sc hool and has had over 19,000 graduates come through his class. I had the pleasure of interviewing Kevin at the NY Wine Expo last weekend. He tipped me off about a new book he's starting to write called "The Final Ingredient" about the Dos and Don'ts of understanding your food and your wine and why they work together. Look for the upcoming 25th Anniversary Edition of Windows on the World book. Here are some quick tips from Kevin Zraly:

Kevin Zraly's Quick Tips on Food & Wine Pairing:

1. It's all about the sauce and the way it's cooked - not just the main ingredient.

2. Ban scented candles and flowers from your dinner parties where the wine is the star.

3. Broccoli and asparagus are the hardest items to pair with wine, keep them off the plate for a wine dinner.

Kevin Zraly's Top Wine Values by Region:

1. Argentina for Malbec - best value for a big bold wine

2. Chile for Cabernet Sauvignon - the best value for Cab

3. Italy for Soave and Valpolicella - it's not what we once thought it was

4. France for Cru Bourgeois from Bordeaux - all the big Bordeaux taste at a fraction of the price

5. Australia for Bordeaux blends (aka Cabernet Sauvignon & Merlot) - it's not just for Shiraz any more

Friday, March 6, 2009

Top 5 Wines Perfect for a Party

1. Campo Viejo Reserva 2004 Tempranillo, Rioja Spain $13 -smooth red fruit and a hint of black smoke amps up the sultry factor http://www.argonautliquor.com/r/products/bodegas-campo-viejo-reserva-2004/?utm_source=google;utm_medium=base

2. Crios, Torrontes, 2007, Salta, Argentina $12 - tastes like a cross between perfumey Viognier and crisp Sauvignon Blanc. Sure to please many palates.

3. Robert John Cava, NV, Spain $14 - kick start the party with some (affordable!) bubbly

4. Clos de Beauregard Muscadet 2007, Loire, France $11 - crisp, clean white you drink all night long

5. Los Vascos, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007, Chile - $8 - the best values in red are Cabs from Chile and this is a well-made, super deal. Enough said.

Learn about Rioja Wine

There's no doubt, Rioja wine from Spain is hotter than ever, but if you're like most folks, the label looks as bewildering as a chart of elements. The folks at Campo Viejo have helped me break it down.

Tempranillo is the primary varietal used in Rioja wines, followed by Garnacha (aka Grenache in France), Graciano and Mazuelo. Rioja's quality wines are classified either Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva. Each denotes a minimum aging requirement in oak barrels and in bottles.

The youngest Rioja style is the Crianza which spends a minimum of 12 months in barrel and 12 months in bottle before being released to you. This is your easy drinker and a popular choice for house wines in Spain. It's also usually the least expensive option of the three classifications because the costs are lower.

Reserva wines also spend a minimum of 12 months in barrel but 24 months in bottle. It's usually an earthier style than its Crianza counterpart and is a bit more lush vs. bright.

Gran Reservas, the granddaddy of them all, comes from the most select grapes and spends 24 months in barrel and 36 months in bottle at minimum. These wines are not necessarily the most full-bodied of the wines though.

I highly recommend the Campo Viejo Gran Reserva from Elena Adell, a female winemaker, who you know we always love to support. It's a steal at $20 for this kind of depth with black fruits, earthy oakiness and dried spices. (buy here)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Best New Wine Book - The Battle for Wine and Love book review

The Most Helpful Wine Books: There are a few genres of wine books: Sassy Wine 101s, In-Depth Regionals for Wine Geeks, Encyclopedic for Reference and the always amusing Self-Reverential wine book that serves as an ego trip for the writer. When you're beyond the Wine 101 types but not quite willing to dive deep into memorizing all the producers in Burgundy, you need a book that expands your wine horizons and gets you thinking, and drinking, differently. "The Battle for Wine and Love Or How I Saved the World from Parkerization" by Alice Feiring is one such book that I highly recommend. Feiring battles against the homogenization and general "messing with" of wine. For those of you who still think of wine as a natural product from grape to glass, think again. This book sadly serves as a there's-no-Santa-Claus-Easter-Bunny-and-Tooth-Fairy type end to innocence about the purity of what's in your glass, but it opens your mind to new possibilities. If you don't want wine that's gone through the addition of oak chips, saw dust, acid, colorant and other scary additives and well as processes like reserve osmosis and de-alcoholization, read up and begin to choose wisely. Check out her Best Wine Blog nominated "In Vino Veritas" at: http://www.alicefeiring.com/

The Perks of a Wine Job

Are you considering careers in the wine industry? When you picture someone who works in the wine industry, do you imagine her sitting on a porch, swirling a glass of red while gazing out at the sunset? Or do you assume I have a glass of wine in hand while I write? Umm…well, the second is often right, but the first a rarity. Don't get me wrong, there are perks aplenty when you run a wine tasting party company like Swirl Events. For example, I have three inviting bottles of Rioja that were sent to me waiting to get reviewed and I can expense "research" trips to Bordeaux. Teetering on the edge of perk and work is a trade tasting. Those magical invites find their way into you inbox and implore you to come and taste their portfolio's 58 wines in 45 minutes in the middle of the day or morning. I went to one such trade tasting last week for "Jenny & Francois Selections", the infectiously smiley team importing natural wines from artisanal, small winemakers in France who use organic methods in the cellar as well as the vineyard. More on that later, but onto the trade tasting. First, I stewed over my uninformed high school decision to learn Spanish over French. Why can't I pronounce St. Aubin correctly? Then I focused. I had 45 minutes to assess wines from 12 different winemakers, each with a selection of 4-8 wines. Swirl, sip, spit, make notes…repeat…over and over. Keeping your taste buds intact is challenging. Swishing water through your mouth a must or you end up with teeth only Barney would approve. And then be ready to go on with the rest of your work day. I agree it's better than formatting a ppt deck all day, but not as glamorous as you might think, n'est-ce pas?

Orin Swift's The Prisoner 2005, 2006 & 2007 Vertical Tasting

I was the lucky recipient of an invitation for a vertical tasting of "The Prisoner" from Orin Swift Cellars in Napa, CA. While I am on a mission to drink more Old World (i.e. non-US, Australian, South American) wines, I'm a sucker for The Prisoner. The 2005 Prisoner launched into stardom when it reached #17 in Wine Spectator's Top 100 List of 2007 and received 93 PTs. I'm not a big point person, but I'm always open to trying anything on their Top 100 list under $40. At $37, The Prisoner slides right under my recently downward shifting magical price point. Plus, a blind vertical tasting is a challenge no oenophile can resist, however daunting. We had to guess which wine was which vintage, give our reasoning and rate our favorite. The intimate group all rated "Wine B" their favorite but we differed on the vintages. Thinking myself a pro, I stood fast behind my guesses…and ended up wrong on all 3. The interesting part was that Wine B, our favorite, was indeed the 2005. The 2006 ranked second best and the 2007 third. What separated the 2005 from the others was its complexity, balance and complete integration of alcohol. Layer after layer of concentrated blackberry, silk, and sweet spice were revealed with each sip. I could have been happy with just smelling the intoxicating nose all evening (well, maybe not!) The blend of Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petite Sirah and Charbono seemed ready to drink now but could last another two years. The 2006 is well on its way to developing a similarly complex profile but the 2007 leaves me wondering...and reaching for another sip of the 2005.

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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