Monday, June 22, 2009

How to Pair Cheese & Wine Part II

Here's part II of how to pair cheese with wine.

1. Don't bring in the blue before the end. Blue cheeses coat your mouth and make it hard to taste other more subtle cheeses.

2. Try to match subtleties in a wine with subtleties in a cheese. The nuttiness of a cheese like Piave Vecchio (some almond taste) with slight nuttiness of a wine. The bright, tanginess of a fresh chevre goes well with the bright, acidity of a Sauvignon Blanc.

3. Match boldness of wine with the boldness of cheese - otherwise one will overpower the other.

4. Try sweet with salty - dessert wines taste excellent with salty cheeses like Stilton and Roquefort

5. I'm not sure why but Champagne tastes amazing with brie and d'affinois. I don't question it, I just eat much as possible...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Gotham's Wine Gossip - Hello Kitty Wine, Christian Audigier & More

Greetings savvy sippers - read on for gossip on Hello Kitty wine and Christian Audigier designed wine bottles.

While it feels less like June and more like Indonesian
Monsoon season, signs of summer are all around: Jitney tickets for sale, free (rainy) concerts in Prospect Park, sightings of Hollywood starlets at the Delacorte theatre, and glasses of rose on every bistro table in Gotham. But even if the streets are full of puddles, the windows are steamed up from all of the delicious gossip!

With most of the world’s blue chip wine heading over to Asia, it’s no surprise that some cultural emblems are making their way west, and onto wine labels! And what better an ambassador of globalization than Italian Sangiovese stamped with the emblem of world famous “Hello Kitty!”

It’s true- Hello Kitty is no longer relegated to lunch pails and tiny backpacks and can instead be found on Asti Spumante from Lombardy producer Tenimenti Castelrotto. Now, I am as likely to stock my cellar with Hello Kitty bottles as I am to drink out of a beer mug, but I’m sure those teenagers will love it!

In fairness, you kind readers know me to be a friend of progress, and I never met a trend I didn’t like, so I will embrace alternative wine labels with gusto, as long as its gossip worthy. Christian Audigier certainly fits that bill. The French fashion designer (who famously paid Britney Spears to attend his birthday party!) turned trucker hats hip, so its no surprise his latest canvas is a bottle of French Grenache. Like his $300 tee-shirts, Audigier covers the bottles in an opaque tattoo design and sells them for the relative bargain of $100. Sipping one the other night, I drew attention from the bartender (which wasn’t such a bad thing, darlings) but couldn’t finish the glass. Unless I’m flooded with apparel, or a model, to match, I’m going to pass my time wishing the rain away with a bottle of gimmick-free Riesling and good ol’ Page Six.

Until the next, hopefully sunny, installment…

Domaine Chignard Fleurie 2006 - The Harry Belafonte of Wine

This wine is very close to perfection when it comes to pleasing a crowd. I brought some home to my roommate and her friends, and they gushed. It’s an absolute delight - one of those wines that make you smile with satisfaction upon the first taste.

The 2005 vintage in Beaujolais was pretty remarkable, and this 2006 is also showing extremely well. It’s made of 100% Gamay and comes from the cru appellation of Fleurie which, as the name implies, stands for “flowery”. Cru Beaujolais is the highest classification in the region. It must be said that cru Beaujolais is not Beaujolais nouveau (the highly marketed wine released the 3rd Thursday in November). Where the nouveau style is made for simple quaffing, a cru Beaujolais will have more body, complexity and ageability.

The Chignard has a stunning nose of flowers and ripe summer berries and cherries with more earthy notes coming through on the palate. It is super fresh and delivers a true Cru style of fantastic fruit and good tannins. It showed a genuine sense of place through pure expression of the Gamay grape. I’d easily liken this wine to Harry Belafonte – smooth and elegant with depth and originality. Overall, classic summer fun!

Monday, June 15, 2009

How to Make a Cheese Plate & Perfect Cheese & Wine Pairings

Pairing cheese with wine seems like a no-brainer, but one wrong move and you might (gasp) have the salty, pungent taste of a blue cheese all night long. To save you from your cheese woes, here's how to make the perfect cheese plate, and then in Part II of this post, we'll discuss the order to serve cheeses them if pairing with wine.

Give Equal Opportunity - you want a variety of milks represented. Include at least one of each of these cheeses:

A goat's milk - it's tangy and earthy; e.g. Chevre, Valencay
A sheep's milk - for its nutty and gamey flavors; e.g. Pecorino, Monchego, Pyrenees Brebis
A cow's milk cheese - all rich and buttery but a bit more neutral; e.g. Everything else from Mozzarella to Piave to Brie and Gouda

3's Not a Crowd - A sufficient cheese plate contains a minimum of 3 different cheeses and a maximum of 5. Any fewer and you don't get to taste the full spectrum that cheese offers; any more and you're unable to differentiate between the cheeses much.

Think Variety - Get your taste buds ready for bootcamp and include a broad spectrum of tastes and styles. If you have 3-4 cheeses on your plate, choose one soft, one semi-soft and or one firm, and one hard cheese, with each cheese offering something unique.

Pretty It Up - Offer accompaniments to the cheese including sliced baguettes or plain water crackers and then one of two of the following: marcona almonds, quince paste, grapes, pear slices, and figs

I've Got The Blues - I love pungent, stinky blue cheeses; the more mold the better! But - I rarely include them on a cheese plate if I'm serving it with wine. More on this in Part II of the post.

Some of my favorite cheese combinations include (plated in order):
a) Vermont Butter & Cheese Co. Fresh Chevre, D'affinois, Piave Vecchio, 3-Year Aged Grouda
b) Westfield Capri, Brillat Savarin, Pyrenees Brebis, Parmigiano-Reggiano

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

What not to pair with wine

So, you're planning a wine tasting party. You got creative with the invitations and followed SwirlSavvy's advice in creating your own by using the bottom of a wine-stained glass as a stamp on blank invitations. You followed our protocol and are starting off each tasting with a glass of ice cold Prosecco. And maybe you went all out and decided to do a travel-themed tasting with wines from every region in South America. Whew! All set to go, right?

Almost - here are a few foods that are notoriously hard to pair with wine:



Pickeled items

Don't pair sweets with dry wines

Don't bring out the blue cheeses early in the tasting. They'll coat your mouth and you won't be able to eat much else

Hugh Jackman, The Terrazas Reserve Malbec of Wine

Review of the 2004 Terrazas de Los Andes Reserve Malbec

I go through the Almond Joy "Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't" phenomenon with wine - sometimes I want my wine with a meal (lunch, dinner but *rarely* breakfast - what no late harvest viognier with your honey nut cheerios?) and sometimes I want it to stand well enough on its own. With the Terrazas de los Andes Reserve Malbec, you can drink your wine and eat with it too. The combo of hearty yet smooth brings up an unmistakable comparison to the lovely Hugh Jackman. From his Broadway moves and unbeatable Oscars hosting to his tough and muscular portrayal in Wolverine, you can enjoy a little Hugh, no matter what mood you're in. Like Jackman, this Mendoza wine is irresistable in it's classic Malbec meatiness with muscular structure behind the velvety tannins due to new oak aging. The Southern Hemisphere duo shares yet another bond - both women and men love them. So try this Malbec with a juicy steak or roasted lamb or just tipple it back on its own - that's what Hugh would do.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Amisfield Pinot Noir 2006 - the Shia LaBoeuf of Wines

Review of the Amisfield Pinot Noir 2006 from Central Otago, New Zealand

Pinot Noir from Santa Barbara and Willamette Valley may face the fan craze often received by teen heartthrobs like Zac Efron, but we beg you to explore the up and coming region of Central Otago, New Zealand for a real Pinot treat. To SwirlSavvy, it has all the allure of "It Boy" actor, Shia Laboeuf, with his much heralded potential as the next big action hero. And the one "It" Pinot Noir to check out from Central Otago is the 2006 Amisfield. Like Laboeuf's turns in Transformers and Indiana Jones, the Amisfield Pinot Noir has received top-notch accolades including its mention as one of Food & Wine magazine's Top 30 Pinot Noirs. The earthiness of the Amisfield Pinot is balanced by smooth, silky tannins - another reason to compare it to Shia's young good looks and gritty bad boy attitude. The wine has the structure to age well, like Shia whose potential is remarked upon often - if only he keeps out of trouble's inviting hand.

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 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