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

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.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Wine Perfect for Football and Tailgating? Oh yes!

It might be heresy to propose this, but when I'm tailgating before (and, to be honest, during) a football game, I prefer my beverage of choice to be wine, not beer.

I can't be the only one out there with this inclination, so this column is dedicated to you, my group of football fans willing to risk the occasional raised eyebrow to sip as you please.

Naturally, the criteria for a tailgate-appropriate wine is different from my guidelines for regular weekday wines or those for special occasions.

Football-ready wines should be approachable and should not require an in-depth analysis after each sip. These wines should instantly comfort and bring a smile to my face, then quickly allow me to move on to chiding the opponent or heckling other fans.

The choices also should be affordable and typical tailgate food-friendly.

With this criteria in mind -- and knowing that the first glass gets tipped back earlier than most other sipping occasions -- I lean toward bold yet easy-drinking reds that work well with burgers, barbecue and wings, and softer, fuller-bodied varietal (single grape) whites and white blends that show a nice dose of acidity for classic items like chips and creamy dip or guacamole.

For burgers, barbecue and wings

Cline, Zinfandel, 2007 CA ($10). This easy-drinking red Zinfandel (not to be confused with blush wines or White Zinfandel) has a gorgeous nose of vanilla due to oak aging, with black cherry and raspberry flavors that will sing with barbecue.

Torbreck "Cuvee Juveniles" 2008, Barossa Valley, Australia ($17). The Grenache, Shiraz, Mouvedre or "GSM" blend lends a baked blueberry nose and raisin, plum and cocoa notes on the palate that are not quite as powerful as many Shiraz from the same region, making it perfect for daytime sipping.

Yellow + Blue Malbec ($12). Made from organic grapes, this Malbec will not only stand up to chewy, meaty textures, but it's incredibly convenient. It comes housed in a soft Tetrapak (think juice box for adults) that's easy to lug around (it weighs less than two pounds) and won't break. Bonus: It has two more glasses of wine in it versus a regular glass bottle, making it great for larger groups. Available at Whole Foods.

For chips, dip and guac:

Misiones de Rengo, Sauvignon Blanc 2008, Central Valley, Chile ($11). The crisp green apple and lemon-lime notes of this wine are grounded by slate-y minerality. Its hefty dose of acidity balances the creaminess of dips and guacamole. Best served well chilled. Available soon at

Next, Riesling, 2008, Washington State ($12). Slightly sweet and soft nose doesn't overpower. Juicy rush of apricot, melon and lemon zest comes out with a dry finish. This wine is certified organic to boot. Great with fish tacos in addition to salty chips and mango salsa.

Alois Lageder, Pinot Grigio, 2008, Alto Adige, Italy ($17). Tipping the high end of our tailgating wines, this savory Pinot Grigio sets itself apart from mundane, flabby examples of the varietal with its subtle smokiness, bright minerality and slight creaminess.

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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