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!!!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Weekly Wine Review - Spanish Red Blend - 2009 Angosto Almendros

I have started sampling the spoils of the most recent "Cheapskate Marathon" from Wine Til Sold Out ( - everything under $25!.  Today's wine is from Valencia, Spain - and is a blend of Garnacha (a.k.a. Grenache), Syrah, and a grape I'd never heard of before - Marselan. Marselan is a grape that is a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache.