Monday, August 18, 2014

Wine Tip of the Week - Wine Glass Storage

As you progress towards becoming a wino, you might find your inventory of wine glasses starting to grow. As you begin to appreciate the need for different glasses to serve and enjoy red wine vs. white wine. vs sparkling wine, you may find yourself running out of place to store all this glassware!  
 I have a couple of tricks to help you out. You will need to dedicate some cupboard space for your wine glasses, but the first way to limit the impact is to figure out how much glassware you will need on a regular basis.  Find a primo spot for this glassware, and keep your extra glasses (you do have extras for breakage and those big dinner parties right???).  Another trick is to store the glasses one up, one down - this way you can fit more glassware into a single space.  I'm sharing some pictures of my readily available wine storage. In only two fairly small shelves I have 8 very big red wine glasses, a wine decanter, 6 white wine glasses, 4 sparkling wine flutes, and 4 small dessert wine glasses (plus 3 martini glasses and two Scotch glasses for those non-wine moments...shhhh don't tell anyone!).

Friday, August 15, 2014

Get to Know your Grapes Series - Malbec

When people find out how "into" wine I am (translation - I'm a wino!), the first question is often "what is your favorite wine?" The questions makes perfect sense to ask - but is very difficult for me to answer... so invariably I end up answering "it depends."  What is the weather - hot, cold, sunny rainy? What am I eating, if anything? What am I doing - relaxing, socializing, cooking, hanging outside by the pool? How am I feeling? What time of day? What day of the week? Is it my first, second (or third) wine of the day? There are so many great wines that I love, and (hopefully) more great wines I find with each passing week - it is difficult for me to say my favorite.  I have been lucky to try a few once in a lifetime wines that were monumentally good - but to declare them my favorite would be frustrating as a favorite to me is something you enjoy regularly.

When I do think about the wines from grape varieties I most enjoy, there is also no real overall favorite, but the red wine grapes that come to my mind immediately are:
  • Syrah/Shiraz - The depth of flavor and variety of aromas (including such epic aromas as raw bacon) lead me to try a lot of this grape.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon - With a well cooked steak, can't be beat.
  • Tempranillo - Spanish Rioja's are a go to to pair with food, or just to sip (or gulp!).
  • Grenache - Grenache based blends from the Rhone or California, and wines from Spain (called Garnacha there) are also very complex and interesting.
I could probably name several more here, but my overall point is that it would probably take a while before I would mention Malbec on this list, but quietly...slowly, secretly, Malbec has become one of the wines that I enjoy regularly.  In the history of wine, Malbec is one of the blending grapes used to make French Bordeaux (along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petite Verdot to make up the big Bordeaux five).  I do enjoy Bordeaux and Cahors which is a Malbec based wine from another region in France. But this use or old world style of wine is not the Malbec I'm talking about so fondly. I am talking about the grape that rocketed to a primary spot when it was taken to South America, primarily in Argentina.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Weekly Wine Review - Washington State Red - 2010 Kestrel Tribute Red

Pop quiz - I selected this wine because:

a. I have been experimenting more with blended wines
b. I have very much enjoying the wines of Washington (taste and value)
c. I was looking for a wine for a Hunger Games viewing party
d. All of the Above
e. Nothing I hate more than a Pop Quiz

(Hint: the answer is between c. and e.!)

Wine: 2010 Kestrel Tribute Red
Region: Yakima Valley, Washington State
Grape Varieties: 52% Mourvedre , 44% Merlot
Obtained from: Purchased at Total Wine & More
Price: $20
Wino4Life Category: Weekend Wine
Aeration before tasting: Just a swirl or two, no special aeration.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Wine Tip of the Week: Eat This Drink That Series - Raw Oysters

Raw oysters are not for everyone. To serve at home they take some skills and special tools. They look a little bizarre. You need to buy them alive and very fresh in order to enjoy raw. But if you buy a shucking knife and a protective glove, forget the looks, find a good fresh source to buy from... and WOW! Pure, fresh, wonderful flavors of the ocean.  For a wine pairing, think of the delicate flavor of a raw oyster  how a squeeze of lemon juice elevates the flavor of seafood, especially oysters. The right wine with the right level of acidity and a delicate enough flavor profile will provide you with one of the most epic wine pairings you will ever experience!

Eating this?:
  • Raw oysters - shuck em, being careful not to lose the liquid (liqueur) inside.
Drink this:
  • Chablis. This Chardonnay based French wine is grown in soil that contains fossilized oyster shells. It was literally grown to pair with oysters! Chablis typically sees only a little time in oak, so the wines will be nice and crisp and excellent for this pairing. Cheaper Chablis can be disappointing, so you may want to splurge for a Grand Cru to get the best result.
  • Sauvignon Blanc.  When you are looking for an acidic white wine, Sauvignon Blanc is a great option. California, French or New Zealand versions will go nicely with oysters.  Be careful to not to get a version that is oaked (sometimes bottles as Fume Blanc).
  • Sparkling Wine - but be careful! Champagne or other sparkling wine is often paired with oysters, but you want to be careful to get a crisp fruity version so the taste does not overpower your oysters. A Blanc de Blanc Champagne which is made from all (or almost all) Chardonnay grapes is a good bet.
Avoid this:
  • Avoid Red Wine. You will almost never hear such a generalization in food and wine pairing.  The truth is you could look to a super light red like a Beaujolais made from the Gamay grape for a possible pairing, but there are too many spot on options to mess around with anything in the red world.
  • Avoid Fuller Bodied Whites. Especially avoid big buttery, oaky Chardonnay wines. As fantastic as a Chablis will pair with oysters, the same grape made in a fuller bodied style will destroy the delicate taste of the oyster and will likely end up making the wine taste unbalanced.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Weekly Wine Review - Spanish Red - 2013 Aviva Vino Almansa Niel Santofimia

Great wines at $10 a bottle are one of my lifetime quests. Not an easy find, but Spanish wines are where you can definitely find some great values. I spotted this one when picking up some great steaks at a local gourmet grocery store.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Get to Know your Grapes Series - F*in Merlot

Merlot Grapes
For those of you who have seen the movie Sideways once, or fifty times like me - please don’t judge Merlot wine based on Miles’ legendary statement “I’m not drinking any f*ing Merlot!” This statement from Sideways (whether your a wine geek or not I recommend it - a great flick!) did have a fairly dramatic impact on Merlot sales in the U.S., which before the release of the movie were surpassing Cabernet Sauvignon sales in the U.S (around the year 2000).  In a bit of wine geek irony, during the movie Miles slams both Merlot and Cabernet Franc - yet his prized bottle of Chateau Cheval Blanc that he sips from a styrofoam cup at the end of the movie is in fact a blend of both of these grape varieties from Bordeaux, France.  It has been a few years since Sideways, and it looks like Merlot is recovering.
Regardless of the impact of an offhanded comment in a (really great) movie, Merlot is a grape capable of making some really great wine.  Personally, my bucket list includes imbibing in a bottle of Chateau Petrus - which will only be feasible with a very big lottery win - but hey, you never know. (Writer’s note - I seldom buy lottery tickets, as the chances of winning are about the same if you play or not - chances are about the same that someone will walk up me on the street and hand me $100 Million!!).  Merlot can make big and powerful wines just like Cabernet Sauvignon, but Merlot wines tend to be less tannic, have lower alcohol, and more of a bright fruit aroma and taste.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Wine Tip of the Week: Eat This Drink That Series - Can you Say "PB&J"?

Decadent dishes with foie gras and truffles are great and all, but sometimes you need to satisfy your craving with a simple classic. What is more classic than a good old Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich? (OK, maybe a grilled cheese, we'll tackle that pairing in another posting!) Perhaps an early harbinger of becoming a wino, my childhood favorite drink for a PB&J was Welches grape soda. A sweet tasting soda is a great pairing, as the salty and sweet mix with the peanut butter is a great mix, plus the sweetness of the drink stands up to the sweetness of the jelly.  But we want to have wine with our sammie!

Eating this?:
  • Food: The PBJ, just bread peanut butter and jelly or jam.
Drink this:
  • Drink something sweet and nutty like a Madiera or Pedro Ximenez Sherry. Be careful of other Sherry styles like Fino, Manzanilla, or Amontillado - these dryer styles will pair nicely with the Peanut Butter, but will clash with the sweetness of the jelly.
  • Drink other wines with some sweetness - real sweetness from residual sugar. An off-dry sparkling, Riesling, or Chenin Blanc would pair nicely, especially if the jelly is made from a light colored fruit such as peach or apricot.
Avoid this:
  • Avoid any dry wine - your wine should always be sweeter that the food you are pairing or the two will clash.
  • Avoid sickly sweet wines. A Port, Tokaji or Sauternes will taste good for a few bites, but the richness may get overwhelming as you finish off your sandwich - especially if you have a side of potato chips to wash down!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Weekly Wine Review - Napa Red Bordeaux Blend - 2008 Quintessa Rutherford Red Wine

Some summer weekend nights at the Wino4Life household it is just too darn hot to go anywhere.  With low temperatures dipping into the 90s (I kid you not!), you just want to stay in the air conditioned comfort of home. But what happens when you are craving a trip to a great steakhouse at the same time?  Well then it's time for steakhouse at home.  A couple of choice filet mignons, some dried porcini mushrooms to grind to a powder for a crust on the steaks, some oven baked sweet potato fries and we are all set. Wait though, something is missing - oh yeah, we need a wine!  On this hot and story night it was one of my favorites - Quintessa. This bottle has been temptingly aging in the wine fridge for several years, so time to make that patience pay off... I hope!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Wine Tip of the Week: The Terroir of Drinking Wine

If you read much about wine, visit many wineries, or even read a few wine labels you are bound to run into the term "Terrior" (pronounced Ter-WAHR).  This term refers to the elements of the natural environment that have an influence on a wine. It is the "sense of place" of where the wine grapes were grown such as the makeup of the soil, the type of terrain, and the climate. The amount of clay or minerals in the soil, the amount of slope of the hill where the grapes grow, and the weather all contribute to the taste of the wine.  To some degree, even wine making traditions of a particular area are part of a wine's Terrior. 

A similar concept can apply to the time when you crack open a bottle and take a taste.  Many factors can influence your wine tasting experience. These factors make up the "Terrior of Drinking Wine."  Change the soil, terrain or climate of where wine grapes are grown, and the resulting product will be impacted. Changing factors when you taste can also impact how much you enjoy - or don't enjoy a particular wine.  These factors include
  • Your Climate.  A big tannic red wine on a hot day will taste different than on a cooler or even a cold night.  A chilled white or rosé is better for a summer day that for a cold winter's night.
  • Your Mood.  If you have had a bad day, or your favorite TV show was just cancelled, it may not be the best timing to try a expensive, wonderful wine.  If you've had a great day, or maybe are enjoying a vacation in wine country - the wine will probably taste better than it will on any other day.
  • Wine Temperature.  In addition to the temperature you are experiencing as you drink the wine, the temperature of the wine itself will have a huge impact on the flavor of the wine.
  • Your Focus.  If you are sitting down alone or with a significant other and really concentrating on drinking wine - trying to identify aromas, levels of acidity, sweetness, and tannin, it will be a completely different experience that tasting a wine while watching a game, a movie, or at a party with friends. 
  • Your Health.  Your mouth can only detect five tastes, but when aroma is added to the mix it opens it up to thousands of flavors. A cold or even a hint of allergies will deaden your ability to enjoy a wine. Even if your nose isn't impacted, but you just don't feel well - it will impact your enjoyment of a wine.
If you taste a wine you expected to like, but found it disappointing - think about the Terrior of Drinking and consider trying the wine again in a more wine-friendly situation. You may have tried a potential gem of a wine that you wouldn't want to disregard because of a bad day or record breaking temperatures.  Also, when enjoying a vacation of wine tasting, before you buy cases and cases of a wine you liked - consider for a moment that it may be the situation that is making the wine taste better, and that the wine may never taste as good as it does today. It may be an awesome wine, just have one more drink and really concentrate on the taste and flavors of the wine - and try to block out the other factors that may be making the wine taste even better.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Weekly Wine Review - California Zinfandel - 2012 Michael-David Vineyards Zinfandel Earthquake

A wine whose label seemingly promises to make the earth move is very intriguing.   Plus, a wine to go with a spur of the moment summer grilling extravaganza - what more could you want!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Get to Know your Grapes Series - Tempranillo

Tempranillo Grapes
Up until now, there is a good chance that you've seen most if not all of the grapes I've written about in my "Get to Know Your Grapes" series. You may have seen them on a wine label in your favorite wine shopping spot, or seen a writeup about the grape in Wine Spectator, Wine & Spirits, or your local newspaper's food and wine section.  Most of the ones I've written about so far, such as Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot are considered "international" varietals in that they are grown in many parts of the world.  For today's effort to get more acquainted with our fruit - I turn to a grape whose name you may not have seen on a wine bottle or even heard of before - Tempranillo.  Tempranillo may not be well know in all parts of the world, but I can tell you it is very well known in it's native Spain. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Wine Tip of the Week: Eat This Drink That Series - Hamburgers

Burgers are a pretty basic concept - some type of ground meat (sorry I'm not including anything prefixed with "Veggie" in this discussion!) served in a bun.  A basic concept yes, but then come the toppings. Condiments of all shapes and sizes, fresh and cooked produce, mushrooms, fried eggs, cheese from plastic wrapped American singles to intense blue cheese, BBQ sauces, chilies, peppers... the list goes on and on.  This variety makes pairing wine with your burger a bit of a challenge, but today we'll tackle three very different  burger configurations.

Eating this?:
  • "Basic" Hamburger. with classic condiments and toppings: mustard, ketchup, lettuce, tomato, pickles or pickle relish, and a slice of american cheese.
  • Mushroom Burger. Sautéed mushrooms with a slice of a mild cheese like swiss.
  • Greek Lamb Burger. One of my favorites, with feta cheese, a garlicky tzatziki sauce, black olives, and some raw baby spinach.
Drink this:
  • For the Basic Hamburger - Drink a lighter bodied Zinfandel or Syrah. You don't want a huge tannic monster, but these wines will pair nicely with all the different flavors on a classically dressed burger.
  • For the Mushroom Burger - Drink Pinot Noir.  With a lighter taste profile, this burger needs a lighter bodied wine. Plus, Pinot does a great job picking up the earthy taste of mushrooms.
  • For the Greek Lamb Burger - Drink Rioja or Ribera del Duero. With the higher acid level from the sauce, you need a wine with a good level of acid that will also go nicely with lamb. Tempranillo based wines like this are very food friendly.
Avoid this:
  • For the Basic Hamburger - ABC - Anything But Chardonnay! Red wine is needed to accentuate the char of a good burger... so save the Chardonnay for another day (maybe a lobster day!).
  • For the Mushroom Burger - Avoid big tannic reds that will overpower the subtle tastes of this great burger creation.
  • For the Greek Lamb Burger - Avoid light bodied whites like Pinot Grigio. A light wine will get lost in the big flavors of this epic burger.