Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Spas & Swirl's Wine Tasting- a perfect pairing

A spa day and wine tasting as bridal shower? Sounds like my kind of bride. Swirl Events just held a wine tasting for these ladies. Looks like they're having fun!

Microterroir - Best Expression of a Wine or Marketing Gimmick

I recently received the Microterroir Carmenere 2005 from Casa Silva in the mail. Between my love of Carmenere from Colchagua, Chile and my curiosity into the concept of "microterroir," I immediately had to try it. The concept of microterroir basically implies that the winery has idetified small areas within a vineyard that are especially suited to specific grape varietals. Casa Silva approached this concept in an incredibly scientific manner. I can't say whether or not their hypotheses on Carmenere in the Los Lingues vineyard were correct or whether the labeling is particularly novel marketing of a vineyard re-mapping and improvement project. I can say that the wine was exactly what I long for in a quality Carmenere. I let the wine open up for half an hour (the winery suggests an hour of decanting but I wasn't that patient. Who is?). The Carmenere was rich and plush with a nice tannic backbone and acidity to keep it from being "flabby" (flabby being one of those wine words that seems so odd yet so aptly describes that sensation). It's a wine best enjoyed on its own and will most likely provoke you to drink too much of it.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Napa Valley Itinerary - Must See's Part I

Planning a trip to Napa? This series of posts provides an itinerary with a
bit of everything; big corporate winery, small family, luxe, the downhome - plus, great food.

A cramped six-hour flight to San Francisco and an hour and a half drive later, and you’re transported to arguably the most gorgeous wine country in the country, Napa Valley. Other appellations vie for other “Most” superlatives, but Napa personifies the wine country image floating through your head when you daydream about retiring on a little parcel of (super pricey) land in California wine country while tending your own vines. Here’s a wine country itinerary guaranteed to give you a taste of all aspects of Napa.

Start the day with Staglin Family Vineyard, a small, family winery that makes you want to renounce your own kin and beg for adoption. Staglin is one of the valley's most prestigious properties, with amazingly warm hospitality and incredible wines. The tour and tasting are pricey ($50, by appointment only) but worth it for the quality of wines tasted and luxe experience. You’re welcomed with glasses of 2007 Salus Estate Chardonnay. Next, try the 2008 Staglin Estate Chardonnay ($75) and a series of cellar worthy Cabernet Sauvignons, the varietal for which Staglin is known. Take your time on the outdoor verandah overlooking the vines – yes, it’s that stereotypically Napa – but in the best way possible.
If you need another reason to drink their wine, know they’ve raised $725 million to support charities. Consider that $50 tasting fee well spent.

Swirl’s Wine Pick: 2006 Staglin Estate Cabernet Sauvignon ($175). Cellar it for 10 years.

Napa Valley Itinerary - Must See's Part II

Next stop on the itinerary (see earlier post for the start):

Drive North to Calistoga for seasonally inspired lunch at the Michelin Guide starred Solbar, the restaurant at the hotel/spa, Solage. If you’re lucky enough to be there when tomatoes are in season, get them. And don’t miss the fish tacos either.

Move down the valley to Titus, another family run winery of the downhome, authentic variety. It prides itself on being the Napa Valley the way it used to be, i.e., generations of families growing and making terrific wines at reasonable prices. Walk through the Titus brothers’ ranch home to get to picnic tables to taste through wines (free, tastings by appointment only) made by winemaker Phillip Titus, who also runs winemaking at Chappellet. The wines here are a veritable bargain considering the price of the highly awarded wines Phillip Titus crafts for Chappellet.

Swirl’s Wine Picks: Titus is known for their full-bodied, well balanced reds, but we couldn’t resist picking up a bottle of the 2009 Titus Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($20) in addition to the 2007 Titus Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($41).

Napa Valley Itinerary Must See's Part III

Your Personal Napa Valley Wine Country Itinerary of Must See's continued:

Cap off a day of tastings in wine country with Silverado Vineyards' “Fridays on the Terrace” ($35, 5:30-8:00). It’s fitting this winery is owned by Disney; the views from the terrace are so darn perfect it seems as if someone painted an idealized, technicolor version of wine country with rolling green hills and a red-orange sun setting behind them. It’s hard for the wine and seasonal paired bites to compete with the setting, but it does.

Swirl’s Wine Pick: If you can get past the fact they’re partyly owned by a corporate behemoth, sit back and watch the sunset with a glass of Silverado Vineyards 2006 Estate Sangiovese ($28) in hand.

Soak up the wine with dinner at Bistro Don Giovanni, longstanding Valley go-to for big groups. Try any of the pasta dishes.

Last pieces of advice – hydrate early and often. And designate a driver. We want to see you Swirl-ing away again.

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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