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These Are A Few of His Favorite Things

Saturday is rapidly becoming one of my favorite days.  Yes, it's everybody's favorite, I know.  But Saturdays are when Del Posto holds its 5 for $5 classes. Beautiful space,  delicious wines, and a relaxed atmosphere; what's not to like? 

This week's topic was about sommelier Luke's favorite wines from the Del Posto list. He selected wines, with the exception of Champagne, that fall within the $60 - $70 range.  It's a smart way to find accessible, yet affordable, wines as a starting point to navigating a list. What I also appreciate, in addition to the education about the wines, is the discussion about food pairings, which is always a lively and hunger-inducing conversation.  I've added the ideas below for your eating pleasure. 

 

Menu, photo by Shana Sokol of Shana Speaks Wine

Menu, photo by Shana Sokol of Shana Speaks Wine

Per tradition, we started the class off with champagne. Agrapart et Fils "7 Crus", NV is from the southern Champagne region and is comprised of 90% chardonnay/10% pinot noir. The 7 Crus in the name refers to the 7 plots of land where the grapes are grown.  A little higher in residual sugar than other champagnes, the nose portrayed pear, honey, lemon and a eensy amount of yeast. The palate, though, had a gorgeous texture and more citrus fruits.  Still dry, still delicious. Pairing: anything!

Champagne, photo by Shana Sokol of Shana Speaks Wine

Champagne, photo by Shana Sokol of Shana Speaks Wine

We moved on to the J. Hofstatter Pinot Blanc "Barthenau Vigne S. Michele", Trentino, IT, 2005. Guava, mango and passionfruit were immediately obvious on the nose and when drinking, a bit of honeysuckle and sweet almonds came out.  There was a richness to the texture and the somm pointed out the nuttiness and other notes of aging that slowly came through. Pairing: cheese plate.

Pinot blanc, photo by Shana Sokol of Shana Speaks Wine

Pinot blanc, photo by Shana Sokol of Shana Speaks Wine

Next up was the Marco De Bartoli Zibbibo  "Integer," Sicily, 2008. The somm told us how the producer is famous for his marsala wine and is a champion is moving that wine from a bulk-produced, low quality wine into an artisanal product and Zibbibo, an indigenous Sicilian grape, is the next project of his offspring. The wine sees a little bit of grape skin contact so it's slightly darker in color with a veil of cloudiness. It also spends a little bit of time in oak, giving it a completely unique quality. Honestly? Hated it.  If I ever ordered this, I would think it's corked and send it back.  It was nearly devoid of fruit except for a prickly rhubarb note.  Very earthy and salty, I had a rough time getting through it. This is one that maybe would fare a lot better with food, but I couldn't imagine sipping on it solo. Pairing:  Briny, umami-rich seafood pasta, such as squid ink fettucine with uni.

 

Zibbibo, photo by Shana Sokol of Shana Speaks Wine

Zibbibo, photo by Shana Sokol of Shana Speaks Wine

Onto the reds. He next poured us the Canalicchio di Sopra Rosso di Montalcino, Tuscany, 2011.  Rosso di Montalcino is 100% sangiovese, but what distinguishes it from a Brunello (it's famous sibling) is it spends much less time aging, which produces a more fruit-forward wine. Blackberries, raspberries and cherries were very obvious as well as pepper and spice.  There was a very slight floral essence that also  came through, almost like a freesia.  There was quick a bit of acid and some structured, but not ovewhelming tannins. Pairing: pasta pomodoro.

 

Rosso di Montalcimo, photo by Shana Sokol of Shana Speaks Wine

Rosso di Montalcimo, photo by Shana Sokol of Shana Speaks Wine

For the finale, the somm served us a Cappellano Dolcetto d'Alba "Gabutti", Piedmont, 2009. Story has it the winemaker would only let critics taste his wines if they didn't rate it on a point system when reviewed. Gotta love these strong personalities. This Dolcetto, a simpler wine to the region's famous Barolos and Barbarescos, had less fruit than the Rosso di Montalcino and what did come through were darker, plummier fruits. Earthiness and a slightly sour muskiness were also in the blend, along with a tingling spice. Structure-wise, again there was a high amount of acidicty and more noticeable tannins than previous red.  This was a red that could definitely work with meat.  Pairing: lamb ragu. 

 

Dolcetto, photo by Shana Sokol of Shana Speaks Wine

Dolcetto, photo by Shana Sokol of Shana Speaks Wine

I love Saturdays...

Cherry Bombe Jubilee

Last weekend I had the honor of the attending the inaguaral Cherry Bombe Jubilee after-party at Corkbuzz, sponsored by OpenTable.  Cherry Bombe is this ridiculously gorgeous biannual magazine all about women and food, highlighting and exploring all of their culinary accomplishments.

More than ever, food has become a primary focus in our society, from the chef-as-celebrity icon to reality TV shows to the locavore movement, just to give a few examples.  One of the biggest controveries as of late was the Time magazine list called "Gods of Food" which, not only was predominately male, but also ignored female chefs, causing much backlash.  It was the smashed plate heard 'round the world.     

Ironically, until the past 50 years, a woman's place was supposedly the kitchen, where she oversaw the home and wellbeing of her family.  So why are women chefs, who are in essence doing the same thing in a restaurant kitchen, largely overlooked? Why does it feel like Sysyphus pushing the rock up the mountain when it comes to creating equality in the professional realm?  

The magazine couldn't have come at a better time.  Its celebration of women in all aspects of the culinary world, not just in the restaurant kitchen, is exciting and invigorating.  It's inspirational in how it showcases their innovations in the food world.  Did I mention aesthetically it should be displayed as a coffee table book? 

Out of the magazine came the inaugural Cherry Bombe Jubilee, a daylong conference about females and food. While I wasn't able to attend during the day, I was beyond thrilled to join in the evening. 

Let's just say this was one of the best cocktail parties I've ever attended - check out the menu below:

 

After-party food menu, photo by Shana Sokol, Shana Speaks Wine

After-party food menu, photo by Shana Sokol, Shana Speaks Wine

And of course, the wines were impeccable.  Four top female sommeliers selected two wines each, each unique and creating a unique and well-rounded tasting experience. The story behind each wine is so compelling it's better to show a picture of the wine menu that explains their appeal: 

Wine menu page 1, photo by Shana Sokol, Shana Speaks Wine

Wine menu page 1, photo by Shana Sokol, Shana Speaks Wine

 

 

Wine menu page 2, photo by Shana Sokol, Shana Speaks Wine

Wine menu page 2, photo by Shana Sokol, Shana Speaks Wine

Did you note the commonality with all these wines? They were all made by women winemakers. 

The conversation will continue but it's moments like this party, where we can stop and celebrate all that's been done so far, that will keep the discussion fresh.  

#NotWine

Setup for the beer class.  Photo by Shana Speaks Wine

Setup for the beer class.  Photo by Shana Speaks Wine

Here's a snapshot from Saturday's Beer Class at Top Hops in NYC.  Full report to come!  

Del Posto - A Taste of Some Things New

Pssst.  I have a tip for you. There's a little known event that takes place in New York City every other Saturday. It's not advertised and you'd be hard pressed to find any information on it.  It feels like a secret society, but it's open to all, and very welcoming at that.  DId I mention it's at one of the most renowned restaurants in the city? It's called 5 for $5, it's at Del Posto and it's one of the best ways to spend an hour or so of your weekend. 

To elaborate, for $5 you get to taste 5 different wines, each time a different theme based on the somm's whim - dealer's choice.  For my initiation, we went through new additions to Del Posto's wine offerings.  A newbie tasting Del Posto's newest acquisitions - how fitting. 

Tasting menu, photo by Shana Speaks Wine

Tasting menu, photo by Shana Speaks Wine

 

We started with the Baron Dauvergne Cuvee Privilege Brut, Bouzy, Montagne de Reims, Champagne, NV. From one of the warmest Grand Crus in Champagne, this sparkling greeter is comprised of 80% pinot noir and 20% chardonnay. Aged in 100% stainless steel, its bubbles burst with tart green apple and slight hints of dairy, giving the body a sense of richness.

We next tried the Pietracupa Greco di Tufo, Campania, Italy, 2012. This southern Italian site is a bit more inland, rather than coastal, so the warm climate is tempered by cooler weather at night. It spent a little time on the lees (sediment comprised of dead yeast, grape skins and other matter that forms during the fermentation process), resulting in a rather full-bodied white and like most Italian wines, it's rife with acid.  Citrus fruits dominated the profile but there was a lot of volcanic ash and minerality as well. 

We next journeyed further south to Sicily, with a Palari Rosso del Soprano, 2010. A blend of indigineous Sicilian grapes, this was my first introduction to non-Mt. Etna Sicilian wines.  Instead of a high-elevation site, this wine was grown close to the coast.  The warm climate and cooling ocean breezes gave the nose strong aromas of overripe fruit along with black pepper, rosemary and cumin.  Drinking it, though, was a differet story; peppery and vegetal, it was rather lean and light-bodied.  Not totally in my wheelhouse but I see how it lives on a well-rounded wine list. 

Moving into Tuscany, we next tried Ricasoli Castello di Brolio Chianti Classico Riserva 2007. Traditional to Tuscany, it was Sangiovese-dominant, with some Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon in the mix.  Breaking from code, though, was the manner in which it was aged. Small French oak barriques were used instead of large oak barrels.  The result? Chocolate n' spice and everything nice, especially in relation to the ripe plum and blackberry fruits.  Again, it was rather high in acid with good tannins for balance.  Not a textbook Chianti by any means but it's fun to see results when a winemaker goes rogue.

Finally, it was dessert (wine) time.  The Antinori Castello della Sala Muffato, Umbria, 2007, was an unusual blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Grachetto, Riesling and Traminer.  Even more interesting? It was produced by one of the oldest and most renowned Chianti producers; the somm went so far as to dub him "The Godfather" of Chianti wines. There are several ways a wine can become dessert wine; this one was affected by Botrytis, one of the only "nice" fungal diseases out there (yes, fungus can be nice) There was a sweet nuttiness on the nose of almonds and hazelnuts as well as candied apricot and overripe peaches. Sipping on it, I was reminded of baklava, with the nuts coated in a honeyed, syrupy sweetness.

well, four out of five ain't bad. Photo by Shana Speaks Wine

well, four out of five ain't bad. Photo by Shana Speaks Wine

 

Did I say 5 wines? Did I forget to mention that the somm kicks ass and opened up a 6th wine for us to try?  Trying to contrast the unusual Chianti we tasted earlier, he opened a more classic style Chianti, a Felsina, Rancia, Chianti Classico Riserva, Tuscany, 2008. Tart and tight berry fruits were a marked difference from the ripe plumminess on the other.  This was definitely leaner and spicier and I could envision it being served with a cioppino or other heavy seafood dish. 

  

The bonus wine.  Photo by Shana Speaks Wine

The bonus wine.  Photo by Shana Speaks Wine

 I probably should mention there is a secret handshake you'll have to learn...

Tre Bicchieri - A Visual Report

Picture this. A college party in some frat house basement.  Hot and chaotic, everyone is jostling to get their turn at the keg, clutching the plastic cup of brewskie protectively to their chests as they muscle through the crowd.  Small knots of friends yell at the top of their voices in order to be heard over the roar of others.  Now, replace the basement with a large, white-walled hall, the t-shirts and baseball caps with suits and ties and the plastic cups with wine glasses and you have a pretty good idea of the madhouse that was the Tre Bicchieri tasting. 

Tre Bicchieri translates to three glasses and is the highest rating given to a wine given by Gambero Rosso, an Italian food and wine magazine, publishing group, and sponsor of this event.  Many of the wines represented were beautiful, but damn, that was a shitshow to get a taste.  

In lieu of a written roundup of the best in show (I would have been trampled if I stopped to write anything down), I've pulled together a gallery of my favorites. 

 

 

Bubbles

Bubbles

Chianti

Chianti

 

Amarone

Amarone

Corvina clones, cab sauv and syrah blend

Corvina clones, cab sauv and syrah blend

More Amarone

More Amarone

Love this bottle shape

Love this bottle shape

Back in Piedmont territory

Back in Piedmont territory

The newest Barolo release from a good Piedmont producer

The newest Barolo release from a good Piedmont producer

Franciacorta, one of Italy's great sparkling wines

Franciacorta, one of Italy's great sparkling wines

More Barolo

More Barolo

This was a massive plum bomb - in the best way

This was a massive plum bomb - in the best way

 

More Piedmontese offerings - Barbera dAsti

More Piedmontese offerings - Barbera dAsti

And another Barbera for good measure

And another Barbera for good measure

Slow Wine Picks Up the Pace

What a difference a year makes.  Remember the Slow Wine/VInitaly tasting debacle a year ago? Maybe it was due to the new venue, or learnings from last year, or, more likely, the fact that this was the industry, not consumer tasting, but this year's event was spectacular. 

As a quick refesher, Slow Wine is part of the Slow Food Movement, an international organization the promotes clean, affordable and accesible food to all while preserving the traditions of the region and culture. Local and organic practices play a large part in their philosophy and the group, which started in Italy, now has global reach. 

The day started with a seminar on the aromas of prosecco.  It was simply illustrated with the key aromatics in glasses.  A rather basic lesson but still entertaining. 

 

Prosecco seminar. Photo by Shana Speaks Wine

Prosecco seminar. Photo by Shana Speaks Wine

Then, onto the tasting.  

The highlight of the event came at the very beginning.  One of my favorite producers, Marchesi di Gresy, whom I visited on my trip to Piedmont, and greatly influenced my passion for wine, was present at the event.  Even more exciting? Jeff, the cellar master who guided us through the tastings all those years ago, was at the table. So many memories came back to me and I felt my passion reignited once again. 

Marchesi di Gresy Barbaresco and Jeff Chilcott, Cellarmaster.  Photo by Shana Speaks Wine.

Marchesi di Gresy Barbaresco and Jeff Chilcott, Cellarmaster.  Photo by Shana Speaks Wine.

Of course, the wines were spectacular. He featured Barbaresco Camp Gros 2009, Barbaresco Gaiun 2008, and Barbaresco Martinenga 2010. All were elegant, balanced and finely structured.  

I primarily focused on the Piedmont wines as I wanted to delve even deeper into this favorite region. Much was tasted, much was noted, but these below are the other best in shows:

 La Spinetta Barolo Campe, Nebbiolo, 2009

Plums smoked with ash. Aromatic violets.  Tannins. Acid. Structure. Simply gorgeous.

 

image.jpg

 Contratto Milliesimato 2009 

This estate is actually part of the La Spinetta portfolio and produces sparkling wines. This pinot nero/chardonnnay blend showcased pear, lemon, rose and a bit of buttered toast.  Very fresh, very crisp.

Contratto For England Rose 2008 

This 100% pinot nero was a very pretty sparkling rose option. Sweet cherry, strawberry and a hint of rose came through this berry-forward sparkler. 

 Casanova della Spinetta Sezzana 2004 

La Spinetta also owns property in Tuscany and creates Sangiovese-based wines from these vineyards.  The single-varietal Sangiovese was ripe with black cherry, plum and sweet baking spices.  

Wines from the La Spinetta portfolio

Wines from the La Spinetta portfolio

 La Gironda Barbera D'Asti La Lippa 2012

An easy-drinking option, this accessible Barbera was a bushel of mixed berries on the nose and the palate also oozed the blueberry, raspberry and blackberry fruits.  Quite a bit of earth also came through on this moderately acidic sipper.  

 Osvaldo Viberti Langhe Nascetta 2012

Nascetta, which is actually another name for Barbera, burst with overripe berries, freshly laid soil and wafts of mocha. 

Osvaldo Viberti Barolo 2007 

Rich and round, everything one could ask for in a Barolo. 

 Anna Maria Abbona Dogliani Superiore Majoli 2011

This dolcetto started with raspberry and strawberry but some baking spices and mocha gave it a little depth and intrigue.  

Keep tasting, friends... 

Benvenuto Brunello 2014

For all of the beautiful and various wines that Italy produces, there's a bit of a West Side Story drama to two of their most revered wines: Barolo and Brunello. Allegiances fall to whatever region you are from and folklore says the two areas will always spar over who makes a better wine. My palate happens to be nonpartisan, so when Benvenuto Brunello, an event comprised of seminars and tastings of this superstar wine came to NYC the other week, I was anxious to expand my Piedmont-trained palate.  

The tasting hall, photo by Shana Speaks Wine

The tasting hall, photo by Shana Speaks Wine

Brunello is made from the Sangiovese grape, and only Sangiovese; blends are not allowed in this single-varietal powerhouse. You want a blend? Go talk to Super Tuscan, he'll tell you a thing or two.

Brunellos reside in the Montalcino territory within Tuscany, a tiny district where only 15% of the land is comprised of vineyards. The small production is one of the major factors in the premium reputation of these wines.  

Although small in size, microclimates can be found within the district and the variables are detectable in the wines. The northern part of the region is cooler and produces elegant, perfume-y wines, rather feminine Brunellos.  In contrast, the southern part of the territory is warmer, creating wine with more density and power. To my Piedmont-leaning palate, I equated the North with Barbarescos and the South with Barolos. 

Brunellos are aged for a minimum of 5 years, so this tasting was a showcase of the 2009 vintage.  What was the verdict?

image.jpg

 

Brunello di Montalcino DOCG - Collosorbo - approx. $50

On both the nose and palate, this wine spoke of cranberry, dark cherry, cinnamon, cumin and other baking spices, along with some herbaceous rosemary and parley. It had a decent amount of acid and moderate tannins, giving it structure, but it wasn't as bold as other Brunellos.

Brunello di Montalcino DOCG - Il Poggione - approx $85

This one was a little deeper in color than the preceding wine, but it again showcased dark cherry and baking spaces. However, this smelled a little more ripe and lush in the fruit and even the weight felt heavier on the palate than number one. 

Brunello di Montalcino DOCG - La Togata - $N/A

Ripe fruits? Check.  Baking spices? Check.  However, this wine bloomed with violet and floral notes, an aromatic that balanced well with the edible notes. On the palate, a bit of smoked paprika came through, and the sensation was plush and rich on the tongue.  The tannins and acid were higher than in any of the previous wines, giving it a heft and structure that didn't seem fully realized in the others.

Brunello di Montalcino DOCG - Ridolfi - approx $36

This plot, in the north northeast of Montalcino, was a clear example of the differences brought on by climate. The fruit was a  bit more tart on the nose and the baking spices seemed to diminish. Instead, the purple florals came through again, but this wine felt leaner than any of the others before it, almost shy and delicate.

Brunello di Montalcino DOCG - Solaria - approx $75

One of my favorites tasted, this wine from the southeastern zone was the most intense in color than anything else in the lineup.  It was a sweeter bing cherry and blackberry that came through this time and the florals were completely absent; in their place was a whole rack of sweet spices.  On the tongue, there was a bit of mocha, which hadn't been seen in anything else.  Again, it was high in acid and plush, but the tannins were very well integrated and almost soft.

Brunello di Montalcino DOCG - Talenti - approx $50

This one was relatively savory and sweet n' spicy tones rang throughout the glass, only to be tempered by tarter fruits.  What was most noticeable, were the very prominent tannins, which marched around my teeth and gums with short, staccato steps, trampling everything in their path.

Brunello di Montalcino DOCG - Uccelliera - approx $55

The last one of the bunch was the only one that really showcased any wood.  A few cedar notes stood out in the fruit-spice medley I had come to expect.  However, the fruit was more noticeable on the palate and the texture was again plush and soft in the mouth. 

 

 

 

'inoteca's Last Days

While I'm working on recaps of the tastings from the past couple of weeks (Benvenuto Brunello, Vinitaly/Slow Wine and Tre Bicchhieri) I wanted to post this sad news as a public service announcement:  'inoteca on the Lower East Side is closing after 11 years after service on Saturday night.  Farewell, bruschetta and truffle egg toast.  Your pioneering ways will be sorely missed.

 

Truffle egg toast, photo by shanaspeakswine.com

Truffle egg toast, photo by shanaspeakswine.com

 But wait, there is a bit of a silver lining!

The restaurant is offering most of their reserve wine list at special prices.  I'm talking La Spinetta Barolos and Barbarescos.  '01 Brunellos for about a Benjamin.  Lots of goodies to be had.

You can thank me for this important notice by letting me have a glass (or two) from whatever bottles you get.  

Keep tasting!  

Orange You Glad You Tried This Wine?

The wine industry is a study in contrasts: it prides itself on history and tradition but yet is quick to embrace new trends.  Case in point? Orange wines.

In the past few years, these sunset-hued sippers have captured the attention of sommeliers and wine buyers and are being showcased on wine lists as the new new. It's not uncommon to find a fourth category on the wine menu: sparkling, white, red, and orange. 

Like rose, these wines are created by allowing the juice to stay in contact with the grape skins for an extended amount of time during fermentation instead of draining off immediately, which is the normal process for creating white wine.  The difference between these wines and rose? The grapes.  Rose wine is made from red grapes, orange wine is made from white ones.  

These wines often have a bit of earthy funkiness and spice on the nose but also can showcase quite a bit of cherry.   

 

photo by Shanaspeakswine.com

photo by Shanaspeakswine.com

I tried this Le Ghiare, Lo Zerbone, Cortese, Piedmont, 2010, at Maiden Lane in NYC (www.themaidenlane.com) and found it to be a great intro into the world of orange wines.  The nose definitely has a bit of the earth, wool and  curry spice on it, but a cherry juice essence comes through, along with pear and lemon.  On the palate, it's crisp, acidic, and medium bodied. The orchard fruits sing loudly but are balanced with a citrus zest.  It's a great match for seafood if you're wondering what in the heck to pair this with.  

Keep tasting, friends...

 

 

Detox, Take 2

Let's try this again...

photo by shanaspeakswine.com

photo by shanaspeakswine.com

With the blizzard behind us, I tried the detox idea again.  This is not a cleanse, where all I do is drink juice and get hangry.  Rather, this is an adjustment in what I'm consuming.  See ya later, sweets.  Alcohol, be gone.  Caffeine?  Well, alright, you can stay (there's no way I'm gettng through a workday without my coffee and Diet Coke).   Fruits, veggies and lean proteins become my best friends while processed foods and anything that comes in a snack bag are banished.  It's not forever, only a few days, but it does give me a moment to breathe and reflect on the year past, not to mention recalibrate and give myself a fresh start.

Do you detox for the new year? Or perhaps have some other ritual to recognize new beginnings?  Let me know! 

Detox?

I planned on detoxing for a couple of days after New Years.  Here's how that's going:

photo by shanaspeakswine.com

photo by shanaspeakswine.com

Oh well, there is a blizzard going on, and this juicy berry bomb with a little bit of sweet spice is a a cozy companion for the storm.  

Let's table that detox until next week... 

Happy New Year! Love, Shana Speaks Wine

 

photo by shanaspeakswine.com

photo by shanaspeakswine.com

 

Rioja's Unsung Hero

Think you know Rioja wine? Well, I have something fun and new for you. 

Quickie crash course on Rioja grapes. The region we call "Rioja" is actually comprised of 3 different sub-regions: Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa, and Rioja Baja.  They all have different climates so a variety of grapes are grown in each region based on what succeeds in each. The major grape players are Tempranillo, Graciano, Mazuelo and Garnacha.  From there, they are blended into what we know to be Rioja wines.

However, there is a red grape that's not often mentioned.  While other grapes have gone on to international waters, seeking fame and fortune in other vineyards and regions, there's a local variety that's quietly become a bit of a celebrity in its own right.  Maturana, rarely mentioned and minimally utilized, is now bringing its unique style to an international arena. And as a single varietal wine, no less.

photo: shanaspeakswine.com

photo: shanaspeakswine.com

The Baron de Ley, Maturana, Spain, 2010, is rather confusing upon first sip. The high acid  is reminiscent of an Italian wine, such as a Nebbiolo, and a plum essence was immediately apparent. The nose revealed that chewy purple fruit, green peppers, black pepper, cumin and a few whiffs of sweeter baking spices.  Sipping on it, the term "jam" came to mind, both in weight and fruit, but the spices again came through.  "Purple!" my mind kept saying and as the acid and tannins did their thing in my mouth. Maturana, it's your turn to shine. 

Not For the Birds - Canary Island Wine

What's this?

 

source: appellationnyc.com

source: appellationnyc.com

It's a vineyard.  And no, it's not on Mars, it's on the Canary Islands off the coast of Spain, a small region that has been producing some rather remarkable wines, especially considering the terroir. The islands were born due to volcano eruptions and the soil, needless to say, is volcanic, with good drainage of the already minimal rainfall.   

Want to see a vine close up? You know you do:

source: sfgate.com

source: sfgate.com

The winds blow mighty strong in this area, so the vines are grown in the round circular pits.  As you can imagine, harvest is not going to be machinated so everything is cultivated by hand.  High labor + low yields = rare wines.  Are they worth it?

 Absolutely.  I tried the Los Beremejos, Diego Seco, Canary Islands, 2012 recently at Black Crescent on the Lower East Side. As expected, it was super-chalky and ashy on the nose.  Unexpectedly, though, there was a very slight hint of cream as well, which makes me wonder if it went through malolactic fermentation. It wore off fast, though, so the sensation could have been attributed to something from the kitchen.  Drinking through it, the chalky ashiness created an interesting sensation on my palate and comingled with the intense citrus fruits.  It was medium-bodied, highly acidic, and all around delicious. 

The bottle is pretty great, too, no?  

 

 

source: wine-tracker.com

source: wine-tracker.com

Keep tasting, friends...

Gypsy Wine

Here's a #WineWednesday winter warmer for you:

 

Original photo by shanaspeakswine.com

Original photo by shanaspeakswine.com

 "Manouches" means "gypsy" and while I'm certainly not wandering anywhere in this cold weather (except to the bar), this red, Zelige-Caravent, Manouches, Languedoc. France, 2011, is a worthwhile sipper.  Smoked meat.  Animal hide. Licorice. Blackberries. It's a rich, medium-plus bodied wine that will ease the chill.

Happy Wine Wednesday!

 

Bottle Aesthetics

Lately I've been drawn to unique bottles.  There's an interesting psychological element that comes with  drinking wine from a nontraditional package.  Expectations are shifted and confusion sets in as my beloved wine starts to play mind games with me.  So maddening but often so exhilarating. Let me explain:

 

photo courtesy of granbazan.com

photo courtesy of granbazan.com

I recently had this Granbazan, Etiqueta Verde, Albarino, Spain, 2012 at dinner but upon first viewing, the fluted bottle shape, not to mention the label, brought to mind a German Riesling.  When I took a whiff, I noted the orchard fruits right away and my mind was mentally identifying with the Riesling characteristics, almost overshadowing anything else.  With the first sip though - surprise! It was an Albarino through and through - the orchard fruits minimized to let green apple, citrus and tropical fruits shine, along with a sparkling acidity and medium body, not the fuller mouthfeel that's characteristic of a Riesling.

Another wacky one I came across was this Gruner: 

original photo, Shana Speaks Wine, shanaspeakswine.com

original photo, Shana Speaks Wine, shanaspeakswine.com

Not only is the Berger Gruner Veltliner, Austria, 2012 in a larger-format bottle (1 liter), it eschews both a cork and screwtop for a bottle clap closure.  This is a wine in beer's clothing.  Both the bigger bottle, which brings to mind jug handles of poor quality swill, along with the unusual top, ring some quality-control bells. Was this wine going to be cheap crap? Luckily, my fears were unfounded and the larger format just meant there was more of this easy drinker to consume.  Lots o' citrus, little bit of floral, mineral, acid and zest made this a great dinner party option.

What unusual bottles have you come across?   

 

 


Thanksgivingukkah Wines

It's almost time for the Main Event: Thanksgiving, the kickoff to a month of serious overeating and drinking.  I'm not complaining - who doesn't love an opportunity to stuff themselves silly, knowing it's socially acceptable to go back for seconds, even thirds? And go in for the dessert round?  Not this gal. 

The wine for the Big Meal tends to cause a lot of anxiety, though, as the variety of dishes doesn't lend itself to any clear-cut pairing.  To help you breathe a little easier (well, that and unbuttoning your pants after the five types of pie you just "took a bite of"), here are a few suggestions.  Before diving in though, I want to reiterate my mantra: Drink What You Like. You're not going to enjoy any meal if you're drinking a wine that doesn't please your palate.  If you wouldn't normally enjoy a certain type of wine, you sure as hell are going to hate it when you're consuming it with a buffet of flavor profiles.  It will all clash, trust me.

The Whites

Gruner Vetliner is a really accessible white that is often used as an alternative to Pinot Grigio.  Crisp, medium bodied, apple and citrus notes, a little bit of tropical fruit, decent acidity - this wine can work with a variety of dishes. 

Another varietal that can work across the board is an Albarino. This Spanish white has the ripe apple and citrus fruits but can display a bit of peachiness too.  Again, its zesty and medium-bodied so it doesn't get lost amongst all the bites.

The Reds

You can't go wrong with a Grenache-dominant Cote du Rhone. It's juicy berry flavors, tempered with some spice from a Syrah, along with it's medium-bodied style, plays well with the turkey as much as a cranberry sauce. 

Pinot Noir is also a classic choice for the feast, particularly New World producers.  They tend to be a bit more fruit-forward than their French counterparts, but still retain the same light-bodied structure and overt earthy tones.

But there's more!  The great thing about this year is that the first night of Chanukah falls on Thanksgiving.  That's right, I'm trading in my mashed potatoes for latkes, dinner rolls for challah bread and salad for matzoh ball soup.  Is this a drinking game-changer? Not at all; in fact, it's an enhancement.  Because what goes best with fried potatoes?

Champagne!

Seriously, one of the best things to pair with fries, and therefore potato pancakes, is champers. The yeasty, toasty notes of champagne (or champagne-style sparkling wines) balances well with the salty oiliness of the dish. Throw some lox or salmon roe on top of those 'cakes and we have ourselves a party!

Or, if you're feeling particularly religious, there's always Manischewitz....

Happy Holidays!

 

 

 

Fours and a Pour - A Team Challenge

One of the main reasons why Fours and a Pour started was to force me to stop and note what's going on in this moment.   It's easy to keep projecting forward but it's challenging to be present.  However, by constantly being observant of this instance, or of this small thing, I gain a greater appreciation for all that swirls around me. 

I open with this as a way to publicly shame myself because I have not been following this ideology AT ALL.  I have a scarlett "S" for "slacker" emblazoned on my arm  I have been barreling through my days; my eyes don't see what's around and my mind is charging towards the next task at hand.  And it's autumn.  In New York.  One of the most beautiful times of year.  For chrissakes….

So, let's create a challenge together.  I'll get back to doing this column weekly and in turn, please post just one of your own "fours" in the comments section. A little inspiration for us all. 

The Fours

1. The F train musicians
Want to hear some quality live music?  Take a ride on the F train, especially to the Delancey Street and 14th Street stops.  Holy hell, there is some serious talent going on down here. I have actually let a train go by just so I can listen a little longer.  At 14th St, look for the girl with the Afro and her guitar.  Sheer, raw talent.  And Delancey Street always has a rotating showcase of soul musicians.  Forget Ticketmaster, I'm swiping my Metrocard when I want to attend a concert.

2.  The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. by Adelle Waldman
Although the protagonist is male, I can't imagine that this novel about a writer loving and living in modern-day Brooklyn isn't semi-autobiographical.  However, the rise of demise of a relationship chronicled throughout this novel is thoroughly relatable to anyone who's been, or wants to be, in love.


3. The Wancko Cookie from Sigmund's Pretzel
I'm been carbo-loading on Sigmund's Pretzels for a while, but how did I nearly overlook this cookie?! Peanut Butter. Chocolate Chunks. Pretzel pieces.  And did I mention it's the size of my head?


photo source: seriouseats.com

4. Brooklyn Based's Indie Media Camp Event
This daylong conference was a source of great information as well as inspiration.  It's encouraging to hear how even successful sites, such as Design*Sponge still consider themselves a work in progress, even ten years later.  And the sale of Curbed, a network that started as a small passion project, to Vox Media for $25 - $30 million?  Dream big, people, dream big. For a full recap, click here

The Pour
Bricco Rivoira Masna Barbera d'Asti 2007 
 Simpler, more fruit forward than other Barberas, this medium-bodied red showcases bushels of  blackberries and cherries.  Classic notes of plum and soil do come through but this juicy version of a Barbera fits the bill for the chilly-but-not-quite cold autumn evenings.