Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Check out the Best NYC Wine Bars with Outdoor Space

Memorial Day, the starting bell of summer, is around the corner.
So we at Swirl thought we would bring you the Best New York City Wine Bars with Outdoor Space as a follow up to our Best NYC RoofTop Bars.

Sip under the moonlight or in the middle of day under the sun with your aviators on - we won't judge. So, before heading out to the Hamptons, Fire Island, the Catskills or your staycation, check out our fave spots below

- while we don't give them points for creative naming, SwirlSavvy does love their sidewalk seating. The location is the perfect daytime spot for people watching. Head into the dark wooded interior for communal tables that still manage to create a "big date" atmosphere. Skip the apps and look straight to wines by the bottle. The list covers France, Italy and Spain with a really interesting selection of some less familiar producers and regions. The helpful and ever patient staff knows their stuff so don't be afraid to ask for their favorites in your price range. You can easily snag a quality bottle under $40. 65 Second Ave., at 4th St., Manhattan, 212-777-1608

Stonehome Wine Bar
- an impressive and affordable "by-the-glass" list ensures you can dabble in their wide selection if you're lucky to snag a spot at the bar, or better yet, the garden patio. And with over 200 bottles on the main list with a bent toward Italy and France, you can keep coming back, time after time. A solid spot for a date or an intimate group - or in our most recent case, a trio of tipsy and therefore loud, sippers who so thoroughly enjoyed the wine flights we stayed for dinner. 87 Lafayette Ave., between S. Elliot Place and S. Portland Ave., Fort Greene, 718.624.9443

Petrarca Cucina E Vino - a more refined setting for when the occasion requires you to behave, at least until you've tasted through the first bottle. Their mostly Italian list covers lesser known regions waiting to be explored such as Sardinia. Hint, if you like Grenache, try a Cannonau, Grenache's Italian equivalent.
34 White St., at Church St., Manhattan, 212-625-2800

Pure Food & Wine - while not
technically a wine bar (ok, or not at all), Pure Food & Wine has the best garden in Manhattan. To top it off, you can actually get a table here on a gorgeous day - without a wait. And the last time I visited, Giselle was a few tables over, sans Tom Brady. If raw food isn't your thing, this restaurant is likely to convert you. If not, just skip the edibles and while away a few hours at the outside bar. The list caters more toward American wines and always has a great Willamette Valley Pinot Noir or Walla Walla, Washington Syrah on hand. 54 Irving Pl., near 17th St., Manhattan, 212-477-1010

Wine & Roses

This is the place for wine-loving Upper West Siders and the people who love them. If you can get past the hammed up photos on the website, this is a great spot, but be forewarned, it fills up quickly. Having received
Wine Spectator's Award of Excellence in 2007 and 2008, Wine & Roses has a laudable 40 wines by the glass and nearly 200 wines by the bottle with a well-rounded cheese list. 286 Columbus Ave., btn 73rd and 74th Sts., 212.579.9463

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

*Free* Swirl Wine Tastings at Bloomingdale's in May

Come check out Swirl Events at Bloomingdales (59th & Lex) where we're partnering with their Wedding Registry and holding Wine & Chocolate Tastings every Saturday & Sunday in May from 3-5PM.

The delicious chocolate red rose and portly fig truffles are generously provided by Roni-Sue's (which make a perfect gift for Mother's Day and are located in the Essex Market) and the mouthwatering wines
are provided by Wines ofAustralia.

Discover Chenin Blanc - The Kate Winslet of Wine

Learn about the versatile Chenin Blanc grape through the Champalou, Vouvray, Loire Valley, 2007

Chenin Blanc, like Riesling, is a versatile varietal that can be made in every style from sweet to sparkling. It is grown throughout the New World, but the best expressions are found in the Loire Valley of France and in particular, Vouvray.

is a stellar estate operated by the husband and wife team, Olivier and Catherine Champalou. Olivier tends the vines and Catherine oversees the winemaking.

Their lovely 2007 is complex with green apples, sweet ripe cantaloupe, stone fruits and great acidity. The key to balance with any wine showing residual sugar is acidity. It's the Yin to residual sugar's Yang.

The acidity in the Champalou does its job fabulously, providing a supportive backbone to the sweet, plump fruit.

As a varietal, I'd compare Chenin to Kate Winslet. It's secure in its full-body and compels in each and every role with intensity and class.

The Latest Wine Gossip

Greetings dear sippers,

As the temperature rises along with the Dow, it seems that I can put away my bitter pills and swallow something deliciously sweet for a change! As I was indulging in a mid-day glass of Moscato d'Asti (which, dear readers, is a lovely lightly sparkling, slightly sweet wine), I was shocked to discover the latest celebrity entering the wine-making business, singer Martina McBride.

While the closest I usually get to country is a glass of Shiraz with some of Virgils Best Barbeque, I was impressed to learn that this Nashille diva has hired an amazing wine consultant and will be using grapes from California. She joins the ranks of other songbirds like Madonna, Sting, the Rolling Stones and even blues crooner Dan Akroyd - all have wine labels. What is it about musicians and wine? There's so much crossover between the two camps, and while many musicians have summoned the muse from a bottle of grand cru Surgundy (or more likely a handle of Kentucky Bourbon), its surprising to learn of all the winemakers that learned the cleft scale before their varietals.

Until next time, happy sipping!
XOXO Go-Sip Girl

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Learn about Sweet Wines & German Riesling

E. Clusserath, Mosel St., Riesling, Germany, 2007 - The Meryl Streep of Wine

Some of the world’s best Rieslings come from Germany’s Mosel region. Here the grapes can produce exquisite wines in an array of styles. The Mosel is arguably the benchmark for fine, age-worthy Rieslings. In that respect, if Chenin Blanc is the Kate Winslet of varietals, Riesling is Meryl Streep. It effortlessly excels in any style, from deep and regal to light and cheery. The Mosel St. expression would be Meryl in “Mama Mia.

It’s full of depth yet ready for a good time. In true Riesling fashion it has a boatload of aromas including lime, stone, spice, firm peach and a touch of petrol. On the palate it’s clean, round and refined with notes of flowers, orangecicle, a touch of sweetness and energetic minerality. Although it doesn’t say on the label, I’d liken this to a German Kabinett due to its low alcohol and slightly-sweet flavor. This wine is imported by Savio Soares, a little known champion of fine wines. If you see his name on the back of a wine bottle, buy it!

Wine Label Clues for German Riesling:

Trocken - dry

Halbtrocken - off-dry

Kabinett - slightly-sweet

Auslese - semi-sweet to sweet

Beerenauslese - sweet

Trockenbeerenauslese - very sweet

Eiswein - gloriously sweet

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

How to order wine in a restaurant

Want tips on how to order wine in a restaurant? Read on:

We've all been in the situation before- you're at a restaurant on a big date or with important client when the wine list is dropped in front of you with a thud. Understandably, your reaction might be to hightail it out or order a beer and skip the daunting process all together. Some wine lists are as thick as the Twilight series. Wine lists are organized differently. And choices abound from every region, at every price. The combination of factors makes the process intimidating, especially if your dinner companion is a wine enthusiast, or worse yet, a connoisseur.

Since it's impossible to know every wine producer in the world, you need to pick your wine through a reliable process.

1) First, let your dinner companions figure out what they're eating. The old waiter’s habit of asking asked what you'd like to drink before you've had a chance to review the menu should stop!

2) Use your resources, i.e. the waitstaff or the sommelier. Sommeliers love giving suggestions and may even produce the “perfect bottle” that isn't on the list. Give the sommelier some direction to ensure you get something you’ll like. Know whether you want white or red. You also probably know whether you want a red that's big and bold or light and fruity or a white that's crisp and fresh or smooth and buttery. Alternatively, describe a great wine you had recently.

3) Know your budget and make it clear to the waiter, surreptitiously. Point to a bottle on the list in your price range and ask if the waitress can suggest something more appropriate for the group. A good waiter will pick up on your hint.

4) If you want to exercise more control on your wine choice, select your wine to complement the meal. One method is to think about what most of the diners will be eating and try to match wine by the weight of the food. Heavier dishes like steaks or heavily seasoned meats need a more full-bodied, hearty wine like a Malbec (my favorite is the Ben Marco Malbec) or Bordeaux (when I splurge, I pick the Chateau Palmer Alter Ego). Fish and lighter fare requires a light to medium-bodied wine, either red or white.

5) Go regional. When I’m in a Tuscan restaurant, I choose a Tuscan wine, in a Provencal French restaurant, I choose a wine from Provence. Over the thousands of years that wine was made in a particular region, it was developed to complement the native food style. You’re already on the right track when you choose regionally.

6) If all else fails, order a bottle of red and/or bottle of white that are universally food flattering. My "default" white wine choices are a dry Riesling from Alsace or a Gruner Veltliner from Austria. My red wine choices are a Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley, Oregon or a red Burgundy from France. And if nothing else, I choose Champagne. It suits everything from spicy Indian cuisine to cream sauced pasta. Plus, it’s amazing how quickly rising bubbles bring smiles to your companions’ faces.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Best Way to Remove Wine Stains from your Teeth

After tasting 7 different deeply tannis wines from Bierzo, Spain for an upcoming article, my teeth were deeply stained in the way that makes you shun conversation with anyone even somewhat normal. I needed a way to get all this junk off before I went to dinner with friends at Hearth and I was no where near my toothbrush and sink. So, I decided to try Wine Wipes, a product I was sent a while back and had absentmindedly tossed in my purse figuring I'd need them at some point. Now, I'm not one to disparage products because I know how hard it is to create and how personally attached one can get to said product. Here's why I'm writing about it - someone needs to come up with something that works...and isn't painful. Sadly, Wine Wipes, although convenient and cute, didn't do the trick and they left a horrible taste in my mouth. I had to drink more red wine to get the taste out, thus defeating the purpose. I think Wine Wipes should keep at it and give us something that truly works and leaves a pleasant or no aftertaste. I'd be the first to endorse it.

Instead of going to dire lengths and drinking your red wine from a straw, below are some recommended cures for mega-purple mouth. How do you solve looking like Dracula?

1) Rub a lemon wedge against teeth
2) Swish with water and chew on bread
3) Drink enough so you forget people are staring
4) Not practical, but find some baking soda and salt, make a paste and rub your teeth

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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