Friday, December 10, 2010

Elegance or Power tonight?

Always a tough question in the winter. So often I go for those big, clumsy, clunky reds, like chewy Malbecs, Cabernets, Shiraz, and Zins, but there's a time when I just want something balanced and easy to drink while I stir my winter stew. It could be a lovely, juicy Cru Beaujolais from Moulin Au Vent, an elegant Chinon from the Loire Valley, or a perfumey Pinot Noir like the following:

This is a single-vineyard Pinot Noir from highly awarded Dry Creek, Sonoma winemaker Clay Mauritson. When we met last year, I knew he was making my kind of wines. Balanced, soil-driven "terroir" wines, from small batches, each representing a very special place from which they are sourced, and carefully grown under his guidance. Clay practices sustainable farming methods, uses indigenous yeasts, and thinks outside of the box. (Plus he has a cute Yellow Labrador named SoHo)

He told me that this very Russian River Valley Pinot Noir was produced exclusively for none of than famous restauranteur, Charlie Palmer! Hey, If it's good enough for Charlie's restaurants, I think I'll serve it at my Christmas dinner with my duck!IF you can find it, BUY IT!

Elegant red fruits of strawberry refresh the palate with such balance and precision. A wine to drink, and drink, and drink. I don't think I could easily tire of this style, as it is just so easy and delicious. Dangerous!!! Yum

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Rainy Days with Rose'

Elvis is dreaming of chasing pigeons at my feet, his legs twitching wildly in an imagined chase across the park in his head. My feet are up, bowl of soup in hand, and I'm ready to go. Almost....It's raining outside. Not just rain, but that dark, gloomy, 'put on your best sweatpants' kind of weather that keeps us from truly functioning on a day like today. If Only it were Sunday.....Ahhh...but it could be! I walk to the fridge and instantly make the choice between ice tea and a chilled bottle of Domaines Ott Chateau de Selle Rose' (really WAS there a choice in there?).

Butternut squash soup with truffle oil?- OH YEAH! A little fresh pepper? Don't mind if I do! Now it's seasoned perfectly to bring out the spicy and elegantly crisp wild strawberry flavors of the Ott. Juicy pears, and a hint of white pepper and tropical fruit take you to the white, sandy beaches of St. Tropez, where beautifully tanned people hand you glass after glass on your private yacht whilst sailing with Matthew McConaughey (sans shirt of course!)- Sorry this is MY daydream we're in. For you gentlemen, just improvise- I suggest Penelope Cruz- lol!

Anyway, I digress. Ott may be the "King" of Rose, but the Queen is without a doubt the gorgeous wines of Bandol, made primarily from the Mourvedre grape. These wines of great intensity and character are noble and refined. Truly of royal blood. For the best of the best, try Domaine Tempier or Chateau Pibarnon. They are the benchmark for the region and will stop the show with their floral nature. Tiger Lilies come to mind with pineapple and dried cranberries. Gorgeous.

Back to my couch and Facebook on this rainy day. But I'm not at all discontented with my Ott, my soup, and my trusty Labrador at my side.


Friday, September 17, 2010

Sauvignon Blanc and Cat's Pee

Ok, if I were stuck drinking one wine day in and day out, I must say (and my wine geek friends will surely have a field day and roll their eyes at me) that Sauvignon Blanc can be pure, unadulterated sipping pleasure. Just the right touch of acidity, and that tart, juicy grapefruit and hint of freshly mown hay mingled with gooseberry to give me goosebumps. I'm NEVER without a bottle in the fridge, as it never fails to please. The bad day at the office. The argument with the bill eollector on the phone? Sauv Blanc. The crappy service at my favorite happy hour haunt? Nothing a decent glass of Sancerre can't fix! It truly is a rugged, all-purpose white. Kind of like Rue in a good chef's kitchen- it simply wouldn't be complete without it. It is the basis upon all good things are started. In fact, I don't doubt there was a little Haut Brion Blanc passed around during the signing of our nation's Constitution! Hey- what could be more inspirational than that? As I sit here, drinking the dregs of my last gorgeous sip of Merry Edwards Russian River Sauvignon Blanc from my glass, I wonder what great works of art and what melodic symphonies were composed over this humble grape? It knows no pretense, it does not age exceptionally well (unless adulterated with a decent whallop of Semillon), yet it never ceases to impress with its layers and complexity, its structure and austerity, and the sheer class and darn drinkability of our wonderful, delicious Sauvignon Blanc. Cat's Pee in a glass? I think NOT!

Friday, September 10, 2010

You know your day is going badly when cocktail hour starts at 4....

Hello Fellow Winos!

What wine to drink with a case of the blues? Today for me it's Serge Lalou Sancerre. Why? I had it in half bottle, so quantity control was of the essence (therefore no hangover for my silliness). My honey is off traveling in France drinking Chateauneuf du Pape without me (as a matter of fact, I believe he's having dinner tonight at none other than Domaine Pegau- Very jealous!), my dog is laying beside me begging for some frisbee-action, and I'm strapped to my laptop on the couch, woeing over my finances and how to change them.

I suppose we all do this from time to time, and it occured to me that certain wines have a way of "lifting me up" rather than bringing me down. Here's a list of "Wine Uppers" I've stumbled upon over the years, and some definite "Downers" that should be avoided when one finds oneself in a melancholy state. Cheers to experimenting and finding out what works for you! (Just keep some Kleenex nearby and some DVDs of 30 Rock on hand for emergencies if it goes the wrong way!)

Wine Uppers:
These need to have the right balance of acidity. They truly need to have "lift" in their very nature and character. For instance, my heart soars with Barbera and Dolcetto, I get giddy with Gavi, and simply silly with Sancerre (like right now!)........I digress...A wine for me that refreshes the palate also refreshes and invigorates the spirit, so I gravitate towards this style whenever I find myself having a rough day or a foul mood. Sauvignon Blanc from anywhere outside of the Americas is my "stand-by, fail-safe" wine for any fight with the guy on the corner who failed to yield to a pedestrian. Jeez....SOME people! Anyway....Check out juicy, and refreshing Oregon Pinot Noir or those from Burgundy or even New Zealand! Yeah, they got GREAT juice there too! If that doesn't pick you up like Hulk Hogan lifting a 5lb weight, then wine just isn't your thing, baby!

Wine Downers (to be avoided at the cost of your marriage, your children's happiness, and your co-workers who hate to be drunk-dialed (AGAIN)).
Syrah. Yeah, you know the stuff. Aka Shiraz, it's the big, black dense, chewy, and extremely high alcohol stuff that always gets us into trouble. Same with Cabernet. Not too many people should sit around sipping Cabernet after a hard day's work, unless they have a good dentist and a shrink on speed dial. Not only will it stain your teeth, it will make all those mommy issues come up at midnight when you least expect it. Don't be tempted! Zinfandel? No coincidence that it rhymes with hell! Which is what you will feel like the next day if you get going on this high alcohol, big, fruity wine without a big plate of bbq ribs in front of you to soak up all that alcohol. Just don't do it!

So do yourselves (and me) a favor. First, lose my telephone # before you start dialing tonight, then second, stick to the light, refreshing wines to keep happy hour just that- HAPPY!

Cheers Everyone!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

You'll NEVER guess where the next "hot" region is!

Check out page 74 of the March 31st issue of Wine Spectator, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised- it isn’t Argentina! In fact, many of you will be shocked and pleasantly surprised that it’s within a few hours drive- the New York Finger Lakes region. Here’s the fantastic article

Traditionally known for growing native American and hybrid grapes such as Catawba and Vidal Blanc, and lots and lots of Concord grapes for co-ops like Manischewitz and Welch’s, this AVA (American Viticultural Area) was breathed new life with a wave of European varietals, such as Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, and Riesling being grown more prolifically throughout the region. These grapes are well adapted to cooler climates and thrive best when yields are reduced (a fancy way of saying cutting production in half in order to increase concentration by pruning most of the fruit off the vine). I personally am a Riesling and Pinot Noir FREAK, so when I met Morten Hallgren yesterday in our store, I was more than excited!...........

…..well, to my surprise he had quite a few things up his sleeve. Not only was his Riesling the HIGHEST SCORING DRY RIESLING in Wine Spectator this month, but his REDS! WOW, the reds, were amazing. He has the HIGHEST scoring RED NY WINE in this issue as well. This guy can make wine. He should know…..he worked at none other than a little Chateau that you may know in Bordeaux called Cos D’estournel……..gee….ever heard of it? Hmmm…..

Ravines Dry Riesling- 90 pts- $15.99- bone-dry, mineral, crisp, and SO refreshing, this is a must-have spring alternative to Sauvignon Blanc

Ravines Cabernet Franc- lush, dense texture and a full-bodied palate. This is what NY is BEST known for!
AND, I ADORE Rose’. It’s the season to start thinking pink. Because Pinot Noir ROCKS from upstate NY, of course Rose’ made from Pinot Noir is going to be spectacular. This has a gorgeous medium body, and is made in the exact treatment as his Pinot Noir. It has layers of flavor and bouquet with a sumptuous palate. Really special.
Ravines Pinot Noir Rose’- $14.99

Believe it or not, my tasting group’s FAVORITE WINE of the entire lineup from NY was this stunning Chardonnay. I have NEVER had a Chardonnay like it, and I’ve tasted THOUSANDS of Chardonnays. He does something truly ground-breaking and profound with this Chardonnay that I find to be brilliant. He ages some of the grapes in new and older French Oak barrels, then takes a portion of grapes, and DRIES them on racks in the sun for 47 days to concentrate the sugars in them (raisin them), and THEN adds them back to the fermentation. (like a Recioto!)This makes for a wine of such ripeness and complexity that I would see tasting in most $60 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, like Ramey, and dare-I-say Kistler…..this is fantastic wine for an even better price.
Ravines Chardonnay $19.99

Monday, February 8, 2010

Chocolate and Wine for Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day and I have a long-standing love-hate relationship. Not only did I break up with BOTH of my long term boyfriends the week of Valentine's Day (yes, sometimes love can be cruel)- hey what can I say? I have bad timing! But, I LOVE LOVE LOVE (did I mention I love?) all things chocolate, and all things wine, and to combine my two great loves creates sheer bliss in my little world. The possibilities are endless. Besides- who needs a boyfriend when you've got a sick bottle of bubbly and some creamy caramels to dull the pain with?

Ok, so here's some basics you might want to know before venturing into the wonderful world of chocolate and wine pairing to make it the best possible foray.
  • Dark Chocolate- because of the bitterness in dark chocolate, look for a bolder, more tannic red, such as Cabernet, Shiraz, Grenache, Bordeaux, or Malbec (to name a few) TRY: 1975 Wine Co. "The Sum" 2007- $20
  • Milk Chocolate- Milk chocolate has a lower cocoa content, is much sweeter than dark, and goes with sweeter wines, such as Tawny port, Hungarian Tokaji, and Muscat- Check out Warre's Otima 10 Year Tawny Port for $20- super silky, with almond and orange peel notes- delicious!
  • White Chocolate- has NO cocoa liqueur in it, and lots of sugar, so here's where you break out a bottle of Extra Dry or Demi Sec Champagne or sparkling wine and buy some white chocolate covered strawberries and have a romantic night in (by yourself- lol!) FYI- Stew Leonard's Dairy in Norwalk sells some KICK ASS chocolate covered straberries the size of softballs- ridiculous! Buy a bottle of Schramsberg Cremant at $30 or Gruet Demi Sec at $16 and you're good to go.
  • Caramels- We've come to my personal favorite.....Buttery toffee flavors complement the richness of creamy caramels, and nothing brings out the best in these chocolates like great Tawny Port, Sauternes, or for you WHITE WINE fans, a gorgeous bottle of Meursault! Check out Joseph Drouhin for a good producer without breaking the bank that you can find in most local stores- about $45/ btl.

So, ditch the boyfriend, grab a box of chocolate and a chick flick and your best girls, and celebrate V-Day with me like it was meant to be celebrated! With good friends, good wine, and of course, yummy chocolate. Oh- and for the best chocolates around, visit my friend Michelle's store in Westport- Cocoa Michelle's