Tuesday, March 30, 2010

You have questions?

by Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

I get some funny pitch e-mails every so ofter, from people who want me to mention their product on my blog. I do not, it is what I used to do and hope to do again in the future when I am once again employed. One from Ask.com caught my eye because of how funny the answers could be.

Evidently there are thousands of questions about wine that are asked regularly. And Ask.com records all of them. If you think that every single keystroke you make is not recorded somewhere, you are kidding youself. The people at Ask.com looked through their database of what people have typed in and come up with their top 10 questions that people ask on Ask. I have included my own answers, although there were different, perhaps better (who is to say for sure) answers included in the e-mail I received.

1. How many calories are in a glass of wine?
Depends how big the glass is, but then you have to ask yourself, why are you eating glass...
2. How do I make wine?
Ask a winemaker, I just drink the stuff.
3. What is port wine?
4. How many bottles of wine are in a case?
Traditionally 12, but I can stuff closer to 15 in one of those babies.
5. What is Marsala wine?
Wine from Marsala. You see, wasn't that helpful?
6. What wine goes best with chicken?
Twisted Oak. Although maybe that's just rubber chickens... still need to get me one of those.
7. Who is the god of wine?
The one that brings me the most bottles... or Dionysus, whichever!
8. How long does wine last once opened?
Fifteen minutes to an hour. If I am really thirsty, not even that long.
9. How do I remove red wine spills from carpet?
10. What is the best way to open a bottle of wine?
This way: Smash!
Source:  Ask.com

How often do you find yourself asking these questions?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Quick Taste: Bluecoat

by Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

Gin and Tonic is one of my go-to drinks. It is easy, everyone knows it, and usually a bar will have a few different types of gin, so I will not be stuck with the well gin which might make me regret coming into the bar in the first place. New York City especially is a great place to find many different gins. I found a great gin in Oxley and had my friend Eric Feldman taste it and write up an appropriate review, which he went above and beyond the call of duty to do.

Then along came the Bluecoat Gin. It is five-times distilled in my hometown, Philadelphia. This gin is distilled by Robert Cassel for Philadelphia Distilling, using organic juniper berries and American citrus peels and other organic botanical elements.  It is distilled in a custom-built, hand hammered copper pot still. I do not think that Philly is known for its Gin (or its copper pot stills for that matter), but if Mr. Cassel were to make more of this and find wider distribution, it might give cheese-steaks a run for the money.

I'll have "one, with, whiz" please.

Friday, March 26, 2010

A Lunch with Ruffino

by Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

I have decided that I love Spring. This is the time of year when every winemaker and their brother comes into town. I sometimes get jealous of all the bloggers in California that can go out to wine country every weekend to meet winemakers, taste their wines, and do so with a group of other wine geeks. In New York, the wine country is both father away and not nearly as attractive as the wineries near San Francisco (although I have been hearing great things about wine being made in Brooklyn).

This past Monday, I attended a tasting at the International Culinary Center (ICC) of wines from Ruffino. This company, founded in 1877 by Ilario and Leopoldo Ruffino and purchased by the Folonari family in 1913, makes some of the finest wines from Italy. Adolfo Folonari, the CEO of the company came to New York to talk to some of the most important wine writers and journalists that have been in the business for several of the past few decades. I have no idea how I wrangled an invitation.

Along with the wines from Ruffino, we had the pleasure of having Cesare Casella, a renowned Italian Chef, give us a taste of Italy. Casella has run many successful restaurants in New York, and is currently the Dean of the Italian Culinary Academy at the ICC. Casella most recently opened Salumeria Rosi (www.salumeriarosi.com) on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, a shop and restaurant with a focus on premium Italian salumi (yes, I spelled that right). With seven types of salumi to taste and a delicious meal prepared by students of the ICC, it was a delicious rainy afternoon.

Have you ever seen two Italians (I mean real Italians, direct from Italy) talk about food? It is like watching two professors discuss their favorite topic to someone who takes an opposing view. With arm waving to match the conductor of the New York Philharmonic. There has to be a thought of how the food was grown, where the pigs were housed, what they ate, how long the smoking took, which village has the best atmosphere, etc. On Facebook one of my friends said, "They were probably actually talking about sex." I loved every minute of it.

Speaking of Facebook, between the journalists there was a lot of banter regarding how often one of them posts status updates and comments. This really highlighted for me how far behind the people in the room really were in today's world of social communication. The room was filled with people for whom I have the utmost respect. Their wine savvy is unquestionable, their contribution to the wine industry immense, and their connections to the most powerful winemakers and import companies could change the course of the market. One of their number was learning how social media works, checking out how to use Facebook. I know one or two of them are on Twitter, but they do not really interact with people there. They did it to see what it is all about. I applaud their efforts and I encourage them to keep going. Read the blogs just as often as the newspapers. Put the wine reviewing site on the radar. Add an RSS feed or two to an RSS Feed Reader. If that is all gibberish, read about it on Wikipedia.

Now that I got that out of my system, I can turn back to the wines. My favorites of the tasting were:

2009 Ruffino Lumina Pinot Grigio Venezia Giulia IGT - Bright and creamy, with very nice hints of lemon. This wine had flavor and body, something I find lacking in so many Pinot Grigio's. The group also loved this wine and for $10 it's a steal.

2004 Ruffino Greppone Mazzi Brunello di Montalcino DOCG - Delicate, with slight cedar wood notes, blackberry and a pleasant heat on the nose. Rich and fruity with soft spices, a heap of cinnamon, and a liveliness that gives the wine energy and a strong desire for food.

2001 Ruffino Riserva Ducale Oro Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG - A smooth wine, deep dark fruit, but with a solid base of structure and bright acidity and a chocolate finish. This is a big wine that has done well for nine years and I think would love some more time to sit.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

World Cup Wine

by Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

Most wineries wish they could say that their wine was world cup material. Nederburg can claim this honor as being the official wine for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. This is not actually a very interesting claim because it usually means that Nederburg paid for the honor. What makes this more interesting is the focus on South Africa that the 2010 World Cup brings.

Tariro Masayati, is a black Zimbabwean. Tariro grew up extremely poor in Zimbabwe, a country torn by war and political conflict, but he went on to study viticulture and oenology first at the University of Zimbabwe and then at the University of Stellenbosch - a career path not at all common amongst black Zimbabweans. Tariro, the Shona word for hope, is responsible for making white wine for Nederburg in South Africa, the viticultural capital of the African continent. He has succeeded in the face of adversity throughout his entire life and in many ways represents hope that a new South Africa is not only possible but probable.

And the wines are solid! Not amazing, but quite drinkable. Nederburg created three Limited Edition "twenty 10" wines for the 2010 World Cup:

2009 Sauvignon Blanc - Fresh gooseberry, grapefruit, kiwi, with a slightly herbal but pleasant background on the nose. The taste started with lemon rind, a little creamy in the midpalate, but some ripping acid.

2009 Dry Rosé - This rosé is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. There were lots of light raspberries and rose petals on the nose. The taste was a little harsh, with some extreme acid but mellowed into raspberry and cherry fruits.

2008 Cabernet Sauvignon - Best of the bunch, with rich and fleshy blueberry on the nose. There was none of the "burnt tire" smell that I have found in other South African wines. The taste was fleshy and fruity, with enough tannin and acid to make me want some food to go with it.

Stories like this are fantastic. It is even better when they are true and happen at a time when the rest of the world is looking at the country with a microscope.

Monday, March 22, 2010

A Bitter World

by Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

In today's world, there are a lot of bitter truths.Therefore it becomes strange when something so bitter makes the world better. I am talking about The Bitter Truth's bitters, a group of ingredients that transform the sickly sweet cocktail into a balanced and refreshing beverage. Bitters are a highly alcoholic herbal flavored liquor, used as a digestif or cocktail ingredient.

Celery Bitters: It does not sound the most appetizing, in fact I am not particularly enthusiastic about celery in general, however I found this to add a nice herbal note to a drink.

Lemon Bitters: Like putting lemon fresh on a dinning room table, this bitter not only gives the necessary balance to a sweet drink, but also adds a bit of freshness.

Orange Bitters: There is something about slipping a slice of orange peel into a drink. You see it in a lot of upscale lounges and bars, so there is definitely some cache. But there is no denying that orange freshness can be the perfect complement to a drink.

Bittermens Grapefruit Bitters: To get this taste right, The Bitter Truth partnered with Bittermens Inc. to create this bitter. This was more of a mineral taste, something to go well with gin.

Bittermens Xocolatl Mole Bitters: So the note above RE: Bittermens. There must be some kind of higher power to understand that I need chocolate in every form. This bitter pulls in the cocoa notes perfectly, complementing a dark rum drink.

Thanks to The Bitter Truth for the samples and for the use of the image of their product.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Spring Means Events

by Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

The weather is starting to become warmer, with hopes that the storms of winter are behind us. I know the people of Connecticut, New Jersey, and Upstate New York are all hopefully that we will not have another tree uprooting storm like the one that happened this past weekend.

With the hint of spring comes events, and New York is thick with wine events. I recently went to a few of them and I thought I would talk about them briefly here.

Provence in the City: A Day of Rosé

"Vins de Provence," the regional campaign for the wines from Provence held a tasting on March 1st at the Brasserie Cognac in New York. The day was sunny and there was the hint that the winter snows were done as the piles of slush began to melt on the sidewalks and in the streets. The event was somewhat misnamed, because there were certainly plenty of other styles of wine besides Rosé. Unfortunately I did not have a lot of time to stay and taste through the hundred or so wines that were available at tables throughout the restaurant, but I did taste some spectacular Rosé. Some of my favorites were:

2009 Mas de Cadenet Arbaude Rosé - Light salmon color, very fruity with nice crisp acid

2009 Domaine Sainte Lucie "Made in Provence" (MIP) Premium Rosé - Very smooth and easy to drink. Perfect for the eventual sunny picnic day. However, the bottle is somewhat off-putting as it is shaped more like a bottle of VOS water with a thin spout.

2009 Domaine Saint André de Figuière Confidentielle - When I think of Rosé I rarely think of expensive wine. This wine is a bit more pricey, but the difference was palpable. This wine had a much more refined nose, the length of the palate stretched from here to France, and the complexity was the wine geek's romantic dream. The fresh berry flavors, slight spicy white pepper notes, and comforting floral aromas make this my favorite wine of the tasting.

Texas Two-Sip Tasting

I did a tasting with Texas wine almost a year ago and I was reasonably impressed, and after this tasting I continue to think that Texas wine might be something more than a joke that we Northeastern dwellers make at a party. As before, this was a blind tasting where a Texas wine was put up against a similarly priced wine of the same type from what most people would consider a more typical region for the varietal. The wines were chosen by Ross Outon, a Certified Specialist of Wine, award-winning cocktail designer and winner of the inaugural season of “The Winemakers,” currently airing on PBS. Ross also hosted the tasting, although only the PR representatives who executed the tasting knew in which order the wines were. While this did not make the tasting one hundred percent blind, I feel the stickers on the subject might be placated.

Here are my notes on the pairings and which I preferred, with the wine that was tasted first in the pairing listed first:

1. Vermentino: 2008 Mandola Estate Winery (Texas Hills) vs. 2008 Gagliardo Favorita "Fallegro" (Piedmont, Italy) - In this one I preferred the Mandola Estate Vermentino. I found the acidity more controlled and balanced.

2. Gewürztraminer: 2008 Messina Hof (Texas) vs. 2007 Chateau Ste. Michelle - I found the Chat. Ste. Michelle wine to be the better of the two, with more fruit, more acidity, and just a more enjoyable mouth-feel.

3. Chenin Blanc: 2008 Beringer (California) vs. 2008 Fall Creek Vineyards (Texas Hills) - I almost found this tasting unfair, but Ross made the point that it is rather difficult to find another Chenin Blanc less than $7. The Fall Creek wine blew the Beringer away.

4. Viognier: 2007 Zaca Mesa (Santa Ynez Valley, California) vs. 2009 Brennan Vineyards (Texas Hills) - I found the Brennan to be the better wine here, but is it because it is younger? It was definitely lighter, although neither of these wines had the classic Viognier perfume.

5. Rosé: 2009 McPherson Rosé of Syrah (Texas) vs. Marques de Caceres Rosé (Rioja, Spain) - This was another hard pairing because of the difference in the grapes used in the Rosés. The color of the McPherson was a beautiful bright strawberry red. Between the two I liked the McPherson above the Marques de Caceres. The McPherson was more vibrant, had more going on in the glass. Since this was just after my tasting of the Provence Rosés, I found them both paling in comparison.

6. Sangiovese: 2008 McPherson (Texas) vs. 2006 Ruffino "Aziano" Chianti Classico - This was a simple matter of the Texas wine being fruitier than the Chianti Classico. I thought both had their good points, but the Ruffino was rougher on the palate. Maybe food would have changed my thoughts on the matter.

7. Indigenous Red: 2007 Crasto Douro Red (Portugal) vs. 2006 Stone House "Claros" (Texas Hills) - This was a cool pairing, not because you can really compare the two wines, but that they had such different tastes. The Casto was a blend of Douro grapes, including Tinta Roriz and Touriga Nacional. It was a little off-color purple, and the taste was a muddle of dark fruits. The Stone House Claros is an interesting grape, also known as Cynthiana. This wine was early, very spicy and rustic.

8. Montepulciano: 2006 Cataldi Madonna vs. 2008 Mandola Estate Winery - This was almost too close to call. Both were well made wines, smoky, floral with an interesting hint of campfire marshmallow. Yup, first time I've used that as a tasting note. I would say the Cataldi was just slightly more earth driven while the Mandola was slightly more fruity, but the difference was only pronounced because I had them next to each other. I found both to be quite enjoyable.

9. Bordeaux Blend: 2006 Chateau Calon Ségur (Saint-Estephe, Bordeaux)vs. 2006 Inwood "Magellan" (Texas) - Here is the difference between an effortless wine and one where the winemaker had to work for it. There is no question that both are very good wines, but the Chateau Calon Ségur won out for me, with just beautiful transitions in flavors and balanced structure.

10. Cabernet Sauvignon: 2007 Llano Estacado Cellar Reserve (Texas) vs. 2006 Clos du Bois (Alexander Valley, California) - Here another pairing where I had an eyebrow raise after I found out the wines. I found the Llano Estacado wine more pleasant than the Clos du Bois.

11. Desert: 2008 Flat Creek Estate Muscato D'Arancia and 2006 Haak Madiera Jacquez - Both of these desert wines were from Texas. I was not over the moon about either one.

The verdict: Texas is definitely making some quality wine. I would want to get a larger tasting together to say for sure that a majority, or even a good portion of the wines from Texas are tasty, but if these twelve wines are any indication, there is potential.

Today's Bordeaux

The Conseil Interprofessionnel de Vin de Bordeaux (CIVB) hosted a tasting at the Tribeca Rooftop for trade and media of the 100 top affordable wines from Bordeaux, selected by a panel of experts. I tasted as many as I could before I had to leave, but I left with a simple thought: These are all excellent examples of Bordeaux wine. For the full list check here.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Whiskey, Gin, Rum, Tequila!

by Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

I went to a very strange summer camp. No, the camp did not give alcohol to its campers. Instead the beverage of choice was Coca Cola. Counselors would give Cokes as a prize for doing something for them, for being especially good, and for not being annoying children. Not sure what the theory on that was, since giving a hyperactive camper a sugary, caffeinated drink probably did not calm the situation, but when you are a sun-browned camp counselor, I am not sure that it matters.

I forget which counselor taught this to my little brother, but at odd times during the day as we would go to our activities he would start shouting, "Whiskey, Gin, Rum, Tequila!" If you have never seen an eleven year old do this, I would suggest it. It is worth the initial laughs and the subsequent ones to be annoyed every once in a while when he does this right in your ear.

Why am I bringing this up? No not so my mother gets upset with the summer camp; it is way too late for that since I spent at least part of fourteen summers there and my brother is now up to eleven or twelve summers. I bring it up because today is my brother's 21st birthday. I am sure he has learned more about those four imbibables than he thought  possible when he started that manic chant.

In honor of my brother I thought I would review of few whiskeys that I think he might enjoy:

Canadian Club Classic 12 Year Blended Whiskey - A sugared caramel nose with no heat, this was an easy sipping whiskey. It was sweet and light.

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon (Distilled 1997, Bottled 2009) - Smooth and fresh, with caramel mixed with eucalyptus and cinnamon. With a light heat, the flavors were rich and intricate. A very nice drink to sip straight or on the rocks.

Woodford Reserve Master's Collection Seasoned Oak Finish - I must admit I do not get into the darker spirits much, but this bourbon might pull me closer. The dark chocolate, rich caramel, and enticing herbal notes on this Kentucky Bourbon was extremely pleasant. I found dark cherry, cinnamon, caramel, with a little eucalyptus on the end to finish it off.

Happy Birthday Mike!

Monday, March 15, 2010

A Softly Spoken Birthday

by Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

It happens to be my birthday today and it is almost a sin to not report what wine I am drinking tonight. The answer is: I have no idea.

Instead I am going to tell you about an amazing wine that I had last Thursday night for a pre-birthday dinner with my girlfriend Leah and our friends Denise and Celso. We went to the Ottomanelli's Cafe, owned by the Ottomanelli Brothers. Ottomanelli Brothers is a butcher shop company with three butcher shop locations, two steakhouse locations, and a tiny traditional Italian restaurant, the Ottomanelli's Cafe.

The food there is delicious. Traditional Italian food served with a side of pasta, with fresh cut products and simple home recipes. And incredibly fair priced. I had a Chicken Marsala and a bowl of New England Clam Chowder for less than $15 and both were the most delicious examples of those two dishes that I remember having.

To top it off, the restaurant is BYO. There is no alcohol on the menu and they allow you to bring in your own, which we took full advantage of. I brought a 2007 Ridge Jimsomare Zinfandel and I have never been happier that I decided to buy several cases of this wine. The nose is soaked with fresh cranberries, cherries, and cherry blossoms and the taste is smooth as silk followed by bright red cherry and smooth cranberry at the end to give the wine a slight tart finish. It made me want another sip, and then another, and all too soon the bottle was gone. My mother had a 1990 Jimsomare and it was incredible. I hope I can resist the urge to open the rest of these bottles and allow the wine to age and show more delicate flavors and aromas, because I think it will.

Anyway, Happy Birthday to me. And I hope you all enjoy your own birthday wines, beers, and liquors. But be sure to enjoy your friends as well, for they are good at any time.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Where the time Wente

by Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

It seems like forever ago (which means I really need to blog more often or at least be timely about my blog posts) that I participated in a Taste Live event with Wente Vineyards hosted by Karl Wente, fifth generation winemaker for the winery. It was a lot of fun to listen to Karl talk about his wines on twitter and to be thrown back into the community of wine bloggers and enthusiasts that are included in the Taste Live events.

Aside: Before I popped the corks and started the tasting I wandered around the Wente website and found on the homepage a link to something called "Discover the Wine Discover the Music" and felt the need to share. I particularly enjoy when wineries find ways to include other passions with wine. I find wine is best in company, with a meal, with music, or doing whatever else you might enjoy. Yes, plenty of bloggers (myself included) go a little gaga for the liquid on its own and for its own merits, but there are so many ways to enjoy life that it make sense to combine as many of those ways as possible.

This past year was Karl's tenth vintage as the winemaker of Wente Vineyards. Unfortunately those wines are still a bit fresh from the vine to taste yet, so we tasted three of the new releases:

2008 Riva Ranch Chardonnay - The grapes from this wine are primarily grown in Arroyo Seco in Monterey and the Chardonnay has a slight amount of Pinot Blanc and, surprisingly, Gewurztraminer. I say that is surprising because I do  not see a ton of Gewurz blended into Chardonnays. Karl said it was to bring some tropical notes to the wine. I found it to be clean and crisp with clear apple, pear and peach flavors. A very nice wine and a great expression of the grapes.

2007 Southern Hills Cabernet Sauvignon - This wine was not nearly as good as the Chardonnay. There was little fruit and what was there was muddled by the tannins. Nothing very exciting but this is also supposed to be an entry level wine.

2007 Nth Degree Syrah -  Here is a serious wine. What could be called Icon or certainly fantabulously awesometastic. This wine was rich, meaty, and filled with blueberry, blackberry, with lots of pepper. It is huge with a nice smoky, bacony finish. I let it sit in my glass for an extra hour and tasted it again and found a lot of the pepper had softened into more fleshy fruit.

Disclaimer: These wines were all received as samples.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Quick Taste: Back Track to Hop Kiln

by Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

I recently tasted and wrote about a few samples from Hop Kiln Winery, and the nice people at the winery wanted to make sure I had tasted the most recent vintage of their Generations Pinot Noir. The 2008 vintage received a gold at the San Francisco Wine Competition. There is plenty of good commentary on the interwebs about the advantages of wine competitions (Wine Competitions: It Won A Medal - It Must Be Good!, Another Wine Blog 9/1/2009).

Whether you put faith in wine competitions or not (or specifically the San Francisco Wine Competition, which I hope to see someday so I can form my own opinion), the laws of statistics dictate that these competitions have to get it right some of the time. The 2008 HK Generations Pinot Noir is a good wine. The nose is smooth and round with lots of black pepper and and smoky vanilla. There is some very fleshy smooth cherry on the taste and the wine is very pleasant to sip.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Quick Taste: Patz & Hall

By Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

A little while ago I participated in a Taste Live with Patz & Hall wines. I was a little upset since I just received the wines that morning. Some believe that wines go through a travel sickness. Thomas Pellechia discussed the idea of travel sickness at VinoFictions some time ago, so I am not going to go back over it.

I am more upset with the idea that I haven't had the bottle in my possession for more than 6 hours before I have to pop the corks.

But pop the corks I did and I was not unhappy. The 2008 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay was very interesting to me. If it had been presented to me blind I could have easily mistaken it for a Sauvignon Blanc. It had a zesty nose with bright green apple and apricot mixed with some cream and dill. The taste was white peper and jalapeno that was covered in lemon zest and lime juice. So vibrant and zesty, perfect with oysters.

The 2007 Jenkins Ranch Pinot Noir was stained with sweet cherry and strawberry, a little light pipe tobacco smoke and cured meats. There was so much acidity on the taste. There was a bit of black crushed pepper, a bit of birch root, all held together by some bing cherry.

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