Saturday, October 27, 2012

Storm Staples- what to drink when the lights go out!

I'm visiting my friends here at Greenfield Liquor Shop and Premier Wines in Fairfield, CT and the place is HOPPING with folks stocking up for a few days at home with hubby and the kids with no lights. Here's some suggestions for cozying up by candlelight the next few days. Avoid beer- it needs to be ice cold in order for maximum enjoyment. Plan B- Load a cooler with ice and drink away! Grab some softer reds that don't need food to be enjoyed, or work well with hard cheeses. I'd avoid the soft cheeses as they will get pretty runny without proper refrigeration. Here's a few suggestions for good Storm-worthy reds: American, Oregon, Chilean or New Zealand Pinot Noirs. Why? They are generally fruity and easy to drink with or without food. If doing cheese- find something milder or a Gouda that isn't too aged. Dolcetto- Why? it's the Pinot Noir of the North- Italy's North that is! Elegant, fresh and super delicious with charcuterie and all kinds of yummy dishes. Even a cold pasta salad will work with this lovely red. Port- You may think this premature, but man, there's few things more delicious than a big bar of dark chocolate and a super-ripe ruby or reserve port. Grab a good thriller novel and you're in business! If a big box of cookies is more your style, don't fret- tawny ports go beautifully, and when the freezer is in danger of melting, pull out your ice cream for a real pairing of bliss! Bourbon- I'm a real Bourbon fan, because while it warms me up to my tippy toes, it still has a glorious hint of orange peel and spices with toasty wood and a bit of sweetness to take the "edge" off of it. Woodford Reserve is always easy to find at your local stores and is pretty darn good for a commercially available bottle. Otherwise seek out Booker and Hirsch for a real treat! I hope I've given you the necessities to make your storm a more pleasant experience! Batten down the hatches and down the hatch with some delicious wine and spirits! Stay safe everyone!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Summer Wine Cocktails

It's currently 93 degrees here in New England with insane humidity, causing us to run for the shade and tempting indoor air conditioning. So what to drink to cool off? While Rose' is my go-to summer "all-purpose" wine to go with everything from salads, to BBQ to local shellfish, sometimes a girl's just gotta have a cocktail to enliven and refresh after a long day of sun worship. My favorite cocktail of the season has been a hit with my wine-loving friends and customers, The St. Germain Cocktail. This deliciously floral, aromatic drink is so complex, made from French Elderflowers. Mix 2 parts Dry sparkling wine or dry white wine with 2 parts club soda, and 1 1/2 parts St. Germain Liqueur. I mix a pitcher of these on the patio and find myself running to the kitchen to make more in short order! When I like a little white-pepper type of spiciness to my cocktails, I like to make the Montparnasse, a blend of 1 1/2 parts apple brandy, like Laird's Applejack, Calvados, or Clear Creek's Apple Brandy, with 3/4 part St Germain, 1/2 part fresh lemon juice, and 1/2 part Sauvignon Blanc. It has all the zestiness of a great dry white with the added spice of the apple and citrus kick. Finally, for fans of the Negroni, or Aperol will rejoice with a great cocktail called the Bois de Rose. 3/4 part St. Germain, 1/4 part Aperol, 1 part Gin, 1/4 part Fresh lemon, topped with Sparkling Rose or Brut Rose Champagne. You get that wonderful bitter component of the Aperol, the floral component of the St Germain, and the aromatic/ savoriness of the Gin. Oh yeah..... Grab a thermos, measure up and head out on the water, to the pool, or the back deck for a celebration that will cost you and your friends less than $50 for an entire day's worth of deliciousness!! Cheers!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Shop Local- Win Big

There are few things more wonderful than having a favorite local wine haunt. A wine buyer who knows you by name, where your kids go to school, what your favorite Friday Night Cocktail is, or saves that last special bottle of your favorite bubbly for your anniversary celebration. They are local people, actively involved in their community. There are few more intimate relationships than your local wine shop. They know all your dirty little secrets! With "big-box" wine stores like Total Wine, Costco, Wine Nation, and BevMax, the intimacy of this all-too-important relationship is completely lost. You'll never see a friendly clerk carry out your purchases to the car in these places. You'll rarely see them offer to artfully gift wrap your purchases for free, and even deliver them that day to your all-important neighbor or best friend. You won't have a house account for daily necessities like cooking wine, beer for the gardener, and that last-minute hostess gift on your way to a dinner party. These big stores will categorically deny you when asked to donate or assist with your local Lion's Club Fundraiser, or annual Dogwood Festival, or Bastille Day parade. Your local wine shop will not only donate, but offer to pour wine at at your event, and knows most of the attendees by name or sight from their shop. When a limited-release special wine comes into the store, your local wine guy will drop you an email, a text, or a phone call to let you in on the secretly stash. You may even get special pricing that the big stores refuse to regular, loyal customers. Big box stores don't host intimate wine dinners with famous winemakers, or have invitation-only VIP Wine Tastings. The big boys sadly put the likes of great wines such as Mouton Rothschild next to Monkey Bay Sauvignon Blanc, in keeping with their strictly alphabetical arrangement, nearly "cooking" their fine wines in an over-heated retail space. Can you call Costco from your commuter train home and have them chill your favorite Chardonnay? I think not. How about selection? Sure those big box stores have Yellow Tail and Kendall Jackson Chardonnay stacked to the ceiling, but do they have the most fabulous Northern Italian Friulano you've ever tasted for $12? Do the people working in those big stores even know what that is? Do they care? Sadly, the answer is no. Their goal is to sell product with the least amount of physical or mental output from their under-qualified staff to save a few bucks. Your local wine guy has most likely been in the wine trade for decades, and probably has a few distinguished wine certifications under their belt. Lastly, does your big box store give you great restaurant recommendations? Do they know the owner of the hot new Bistro down the street? Can they give them a shout and have a cherry item from their wine list open and ready for you? I think not. Can they set you and your spouse up for a free tasting on your next California trip to Napa? Nope! Do you trust that the wine your just purchased is going to be exactly to YOUR tastes and delicious from the first to the last sip because your wine person KNOWS you? Has your big box clerk even TASTED any of the wines in their store? The answer is probably no. Shop local, win big. Get service, selection, support and a whole host of unexpected pleasures by forming a relationship with your local wine person. You'll be thrilled you did!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Good and Cheap and Easy

Those three words don't always go together sadly when we're talking about a luscious beverage like wine at our table for dinner, but fear not, I've uncovered some real stars in this category that you can find at your local wine store that deliver and then some. It's hard to find decent juice from the United States at a fair price, as most of the "bulk wines" come from the Central Valley in California and taste, well, pretty awful at best. Look to Spain, Argentina, Chile and Southern France for some of the best values on the market today, some even coming in alternative packaging, such as Tetra paks (think soy milk containers), screw tops, and even boxed with an internal bladder system (this is a cool choice that is both eco friendly and economical, keeping the wine fresh for several weeks!)

I know several of you scoffed at the idea of boxed wine, but seriously, most people in South America, Australia, and France drink their wines from these "box casks" as they like to call them- Come 'on and be hip like a European, man!

Check out my favorite bottles for the bucks below:

"The Climber" made by the people who own Veli Velo winery in Napa and make the famous "Clif" bars- these guys are serious cyclists who make great wine that comes in a collapsible pouch which you can easily stash in your backpack and recycle when done. Their Cabernet is super fruity, and silky-smooth and the un-oaked Chardonnay is appley, crisp and refreshing. It comes in a 1.5Liter size and is only $20

Pie de Palo viognier is a stunner from Argentina at only $8 a bottle, it brings out glorious apricot and honeysuckle notes, with a fresh, clean palate. A total no-brainer!

From the same winery comes a super-yumy Malbec at $8 also, that has lots of cocoa notes, and bright black raspberry fruit. serious wine for not so serious dollars!

Genius Winemaker Randall Graham from California makes a red and white table wine from really good juice called "Big House" red and white. These come in a nifty 3 liter box that fits neatly in the fridge or discretely in your cabinet, bring the price per bottle for this traditionally $8/ bottle wine down to $5/ Bottle cost!

A fellow wine lover turned me onto some decent cheap New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc in a box called Silver Birch- 3 Liters for $20! Good grapefruity notes, lots of refreshing acid, and a super price. A good everyday quaffer!

So fear not. Save your big bucks for $15 martinis out on a Friday night. Drink good cheap and easy, and rest assured, you don't have to spend a lot to get a lot!