Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Holiday Gifts Under $100 - Cork Umbrella!!!

OK, by this time on the holiday calendar you may have someone on your list that literally has EVERYTHING!  Well, they might not have this! 

The Cork Umbrella You already know cork is Waterproof! This manual Umbrella made of cork fabric with curved handle made of wood and metal sticks and rod. 

Happy holidays to all! Cormetal sticks and rod. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Holiday Gift Idea - Saber that Champagne Safely!

Sabering Champagne is not something you do everyday, but a very cool flourish on that special occasion. If you know someone who loves a good flourish, this makes a unique gift. Not at all a saber, but that makes it all the more unique!  Not cheap at $150, but definitely a special gift for that special person!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Holiday Gift Ideas Under $50 - Aerator and Carafe Gift Set

Aeration is very important to help you get the most out of your wine.  
I own one of these Vinturi aerators and use it all the time.  You may read how an aerator like this isn't good for all wines... and that is true. So for that bottle of 50 year old Burgundy, just gently decant it to remove sediment, but for the thousands of other younger wines (that don't cost thousands of dollars), aeration is awesome!

So give your red, white, rosé (but no sparkling please!) a boost - and do the same for that wino or wanna be wino friend of yours with this great gift!  Happy holidays!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Wine Tip of the Week: Holiday Gift Idea Under $100

For just about any craft, the right tools are the key. For a wino, a great corkscrew makes an awesome gift.  This one from Wine Enthusiast  is absolutely gorgeous. At $70 it is not cheap - but what a beauty with a knife, and double hinged which makes removing corks much easier. Stay tuned for more holiday gift ideas!

A Beauty!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Weekly Wine Review - Sonoma, CA Zinfandel - 2012 Avenel Cellars Zinfandel

When the temperatures drop a bit (here in Arizona our highs have dipped down into the low 70s!), it's time to look for some bigger, bolder, "comfort" wines like Red Zinfandel. Actually we drink Red Zinfandel all year long, it was just a chance for me to brag about our weather!!! You can get even with me in the summer and brag about your weather when we are ridiculously close to the temperature on the sun. Anyway... now for the review!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Wine Tip of the Week - What's Up With that Cork Chunk???

Don't you hate it when you've just opened a beautiful bottle of wine, poured a glass for yourself or maybe yourself and your significant other, only to see one or even many chunks of the cork in the bottle... UGGG!!!  You can "personalize" your glass of wine by dipping a big ole finger in the wine to chase the chunk of cork around the glass, or even better you can try to avoid this calamity all together.  

One of the biggest culprits of wine chunks is your choice of corkscrew. A good corkscrew needs to have a fairly thin "worm" (the spiral part) with a very sharp tip. We're talking draws blood when you touch it sharp. You want the corkscrew to pierce and glide through the cork, not bore through and pulverize it.  My motivation for this week's tip was the gradual appearance of more and more chunks in our wine. My trusty go-to Tupperware corkscrew (really, they are foolproof and I highly recommend them) had been called into service so many times that the tip had grown dull, and started kicking out cork chunks. Sadly, it was time to retire that corkscrew (I've never worn one out before!) and replace it with a younger, sharper model. 

Let's all be cork chunk free in 2015!!!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Wine Tip of the Week - Rosé Wine Taste too Bitter?

Rosé wines are made from the same grapes used to make red wine - the juice just doesn't get much contact time with the grape skins so only a hint of color is imparted.  

Like red wines, the temperature you drink the wine will impact the flavor. Some Rosés can be served quite cold to refresh on a hot day - but it you have a Rosé that tastes too bitter - just let it warm up in the glass a bit, and the bitter taste will diminish.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Weekly Wine Review - Washington State Red Blend - 2007 Brian Carter Cellars Byzance

My fun and mostly rewarding experimenting in the world of red blends continues with a blend of Rhone Varietals from Columbia Valley in Washington State. This particular wine caught my eye because of the Counoise grape included in the blend. Although only a tiny 2% of the blend, it is one of the grapes allowed in Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine, and is used to add a peppery character and acidity to a wine blend.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Searching for Treasures, Avoiding the Traps - a Visit to Bar Zazpi in San Sebastian, Spain

Shrimp (Gambas) to Die For
San Sebastian is a wonderful food mecca in the beautiful Basque country of Spain. If you are a foodie or thinking about becoming one, I highly recommend visiting San Sebastian at least once - and if you’re like us, it will immediately become a regular stop on your vacation itinerary.  A big part of the attraction of San Sebastian for me is that there you can find everything from a simple, but life changing Shrimp Pintxo (the Basque version of Spanish tapas) for 2.50 at a little spot call Goiz-Argi in the Parte Vieja (Old Part) of San Sebastian, to all the Michelin starred restaurants you could ever want. In fact, San Sebastian is one of the top cities in the world for total number of Michelin stars per square meter - outdoing even Paris, France.  Not quite sure yet? How about a beautiful piece of seared Foie Gras with Apple Compote at another spot in the Parte Vieja, La Cuchara de San Telmo?  Just being inside (pintxos served only inside!) and listening to the crowd make their pintxo orders, as the servers yell orders back to the kitchen…”Luis… Dos Foie!”, “Luis… Cuatro Foie!, Dos Ravioli!” and hearing Luis shout the orders back was all part of the great experience there.

Luis! Dos Foie!!

Martin Berasategui
We have been lucky enough to dine at Martin Berasategui (three Michelin stars) this year, Mugaritz (two Michelin stars) a few years ago, and hope to visit Arzak and Akelare (each with three stars) sometime in the future. Our experience at these restaurants have been consistently awesome, you just need to pack a suitcase full of cash and expect to pay between $500 - $1,000 for a meal for two plus wine… and you really need to drink the wine! Each time we go to San Sebastian we typically stay 3 nights/4 days and plan to hit one of the heavy hitter Michelin star spots. Past trips have also included one of my all time favorite places - Asador Etxebarri, which is actually about 1 hour outside of San Sebastian. That leaves us three-ish days to enjoy the more reasonably priced offerings of the area.  

It’s super easy to Google Michelin star restaurants in order to find restaurants to try in a particular area, but the toughest part is actually getting a reservation.  Tourists, foodies, and travelers from all over the world are googling the exact same thing and trying to get the exact window table for two that you are hoping to score.  The challenge is finding those other places that offer wonderful food, great service, and a memorable experience in a town where food options are very plentiful.  With any destination that draws a large number of tourists each year, there are plenty of “touristy” spots that are easy to find near tourist attractions, probably recommended by your hotel staff, have lots of tables with very little waiting for impatient tourists. In short, everything you don’t want to look for if you are a foodie.  Will you be able to eat at these places? Of course - but do you really want to visit such a food haven and eat uninspired food, designed not to challenge or confuse the palate of the tourist crowd, and designed to be cranked out in a manner valuing quick over quality?  I do realize that the world has those who look at food as “meh, eating is just something we have to do.”  Like vegans, I know they exist and have seen them in the wild - but do not understand the point of view at all!

Wine Tip of the Week - Return that Corked Wine!

A reality of drinking wines from bottles sealed with natural cork is an occasional case of cork taint.  This syndrome is caused by a chemical substance called trichloroanisole, referred to as TCA.  If present, the substance is most often introduced to the wine through the cork - and if you drink enough wine you will eventually run across a tainted bottle.

If your wine is devoid of the fruit and other aromas, and smells only like musty wood or even like wet cardboard (for me it's often the musty smell of my grandmothers basement when I was growing up) - you may be the victim of TCA.  What should you do?  Push the cork back in the wine and return it to where you bought it. Return policies may differ, but a good wine shop should have a reasonable return policy.  Remember - this is a bottle by bottle occurrence, so give the wine another try. You don't want to miss out on a great wine just because you were unlucky enough to have one corked bottle!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Weekly Wine Review - Central California Syrah - 2010 Wrath Syrah KW Ranch

During a wonderful long weekend in Napa, we stopped off at the Oxbow Market (a wonderful collection of food shops and restaurants in downtown Napa) and I found a great Wine & Cheese shop. Yes we needed some wine even though we were hitting 9 or 10 wineries  as most of the wine we bought was getting shipped home.  This bottle was recommended by the wonderful person manning the wine section - big and bold was the promise and that sounded great to me!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Wine Tip of the Week - HOGAN!...Be Careful How You Clink!

A little known fact about Colonel Klink from the 1960s TV comedy Hogan's Heroes was that he was a wine fanatic. 

OK, maybe that's not true - if the Colonel or you invest a chunk of change on nice wine glasses, you don't want the delicate crystal broken by good intentioned friends or family raising their glasses - and clinking them together for a toast.  

Typically you will see people tilt the glasses toward their clinking partner. This however means the glasses will strike each other a the rim - the most delicate and fragile part of the wine glass.

Keeping your glasses upright for the clink will allow the clinking to occur further down on the globe of the glass, where it is a bit stronger. So clink away (HOGAN!) but be careful out there... especially with your nice wine glasses!!!