Archive for July, 2010

14
Jul
10

PROS AND CONS OF CORKAGE

CORKAGE IS THE PRICE A RESTAURANT MAY CHARGE WHEN YOU BRING YOUR OWN BOTTLE OF WINE. NATURALLY, IT’S ALWAYS APPROPRIATE TO BRING YUR OWN BOTTLE WHEN YOU’RE HEADING TO A BYOB ESTABLISHMENT, I.E., ONE WITHOUT A LIQUOR OR WINE LICENSE. IT GETS A BIT TRICKY WHEN THE ESTABLISHMENT HAS A WINE LIST. THEN THERE ARE CERTAIN PROTOCOLS TO FOLLOW WHEN YOU HAVE A CELEBRATORY BOTTLE OF WINE ? MAKE SURE TO CALL THE RESTAURANT TO CHECK THEIR CORKAGE POLICY AND THEN ASK ABOUT THE CORKAGE FEE. REMEMBER, IT’S FAIR FOR THE RESTAURANT TO CHARGE AS THE FEE IT COVERS THE COST OF WASHING GLASSES AND OTHER ANCILLARY SERVICES. YOU CAN TELL IMMEDIATELY IF IT’S WELCOMED BY WHETHER THE FEE IS MODEST, OR EXCESSIVE. THE CHARGES CAN RUN FROM $2 TO $50. WE HAD A RECENT DINNER AT SQUARE MEAL ON NYC’S UPPER EAST SIDE, WHICH ASIDE FROM DELICIOUS COOKING AND POLITE SERVICE,HAS A MODEST WINE LIST AND CHARGES  A MERE $2 FOR CORKAGE. IT’S A BIG TIME BARGAIN THAT IS DONATED TO CHARITY. A HIGH END FEE OF MORE THAN $20 OR $25 IS A CLUE TO LEAVE THE BOTTLE HOME, UNLESS YOU HAVE A MAJOR BORDEAUX IN WHICH CASE YOU CAN AFFORD A MAJOR AMOUNT. REMEMBER, A RESTAURANT  MAY HAVE A LARGE INVESTMENT IN ITS WINE CELLAR AND MAKES MUCH OF ITS PROFIT FROM WINE, LIQUOR, AND WATER SALES. (I HATE THE TO BE ASKED IF I WANT REGULAR OR BOTTLED WATER AS SOON AS MY BOTTOM HITS THE CHAIR AND BEFORE I PUT THE NAPKIN ON MY LAP, EXCEPT IF I’M IN A TOWN WHERE TYPHOID IS A PROBLEM.THE MARK- UP ON WATER IS INSANE!)

IF YOU DO BRING YOUR OWN WINE, IT’S A NICE IDEA TO OFFER THE SERVER A SIP, OR LEAVE WHAT MIGHT THE LAST COUPLE OF SIPS IN THE BOTTLE ON THE TABLE WITH A COMMENT, LIKE “I THOUGHT YU’D LIKE TO HAVE A TASTE OF THIS DELICIOUS WINE.”  THEN, BE GENEROUS WITH THE TIP. YOU’VE DEPRIVED THE SERVER OF THE PERCENTAGE HE OR SHE WOULD’VE RECEIVED IF YOU ORDERED FROM THE CARTE DES VINS.

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06
Jul
10

THESE ARE A FEW OF MY FAVORITE THINGS

All wines. like the little girl with the curl on her forehead can be naughty or nice. I have three favoarites that stant out among many choices. I admit to being a huge fan of friendly Sauvignon Blanc in all its incarnations.  It struts its stuff with a remarkable balance of fruitiness and acidity, showing off flavors of citrus, new mown grass and tropical fruits. It has a lovely pale gold color and a heady, attractive aroma.The current trend for vinifying the grape without its traditional partner of Semillon is a current trend for some winemakers.

Sauvignon Blanc is New Zealand’s signature grape, producing some of the world’s finest examples of this wine.  Among my favorites are those produced in the Marlborough Region where the terroir— the combination of soil and climate—is considered ideal for these grapes. And among those from the Marlborough Region, of which there are many worth seeking out, Brancott Wines are my absolute favorite. So imagine my delight in meeting its chief winemaker, Jeff Clarke, who has reigned over the winery’s production for twenty-five vintages. Clarke poured the range of Sauvignon Blancs from the winery’s 2006 vintage, bruited to be an exceptional year. The Brancott Terroir Series reflects the unique flavors of three particular vineyards, though Brancott Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, is sourced from several areas.  Now, Dear Consumer, having one producer bottle the same grape under more than one label is understandably confusing, but subtle variations are probably only noticeable when comparing one wine against the other. So Brancott fans can find a lot of satisfaction with any in the range of its wines. Best of all, they fall into the distinctly affordable range, from $13 to $25.

Babich, also from New Zealand, is on equal par with Brancott with mouth-watering crispness and bright flavors. To be perfectly fair to other wines from the region, be on the look-out  for Wairau River Sauvignon Blanc.

Great Sauvignon Blancs also are produced in California. Wherever, they can be enjoyed as a wonderful aperitif. When  mated with a dollop of Cassis, it becomes for  gently purple-hued Kir.  Partner it with the  foods of springtime and summer, but it’s my year-round favorite. Think fish, chicken, light veal dishes, grilled asparagus, seafood, and strawberries. It’s a terrific complement to a lobster bake or any raw shellfish.

So, consider trading in your tried and true Chardonnays for a new taste treat. Put Sauvignon Blanc in your wine store’s shopping basket and choose it from the menu whenever it’s available. You’re in for a treat.

A TONGUE-TWISTER WINE WITH OUTRAGEOUS FLAVOR

Want a wine to cozy up to? It’s easy to see why ardent fans of Gewürtztraminer (spelled with or without an umlaut—the two dots over the U, and the “w” pronounced like “v”) shorten it to Gewürtz . The long word doesn’t come easily off American tongues. But take it from me, it’s worthwhile to learn how to pronounce it, in the long or short version. It is vastly different from the usual run of whites like Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc most Americans prefer. The pinkish-brown variegated grapes produce golden, full-bodied wines ranging from medium dry to syrupy sweet. Sounds nose-wrinkling terrible? Uh-uh. Gewürtz entices you with floral notes, like heavily scented roses and tastes of honey or tropical fruits. It is best described as an engaging, generally low alcohol wine with a heavily perfumed and heady, intoxicating aromas that will permanently imprint itself in your memory Yum.
The grape is a prima donna, difficult to grow. It produces small bunches and grows best in a cool climate. Because it hasn’t reached the first rank of popularity among consumers here in the States, few vintners are racing to grow, crush and bottle it. Alsace-Lorrain, has produced Gewürtztraminers since the Middle Ages, and producers, like Leon Beyer, craft very credible wines from , the border area between Germany and France. Producers in Oregon and Washington, and on Long Island’s North Fork have taken the leap to create this special wine. Napa Valley’s highly esteemed Cathy Corison converts this special grape into one of the most enjoyable wines on the planet. New York’s Finger Lake Region has the perfect climate for the Gewurtz grape. Try Treleavan’s addition to the product.
Aficionados enjoy Gewürtztraminer as an aperitif. When produced on the dry side, it’s an excellent complement to savory dishes and hard, strong cheeses. Sweeter Gewürtztraminers are great paired with dessert, and is knockout-delicious with Chinese and Thai dishes.
Gewurtz is best served chilled. Inhale the wine’s distinctive aroma, imbibe, and cast a vote for this delectable wine.

Why, we might ask, has Merlot (pronounced MER-LOW) zoomed up in popularity as America’s number one choice among red wine varietals in the last ten years? It’s because consumers prize the wine’s fruitiness, mellow flavors, and velvety texture. This grape is valued for its generally attractive deep ruby color, sometimes tinged with purple. Merlot’s yummy flavors of red fruit, berries, black cherries and plums with an occasional hint of spice make it a ubiquitous match to veal, pork, beef and game. Let’s not forget how well it partners with pasta. Merlot is a fabulous choice when diners play menu roulette by ordering unmatched courses that presents a challenge to finding a wine that will make everyone happy. For many years, the wine was a second-stringer, the bridesmaid that never made it to the high altar. Often used as a blending partner where it softens the harsher qualities of Cabernet Sauvignons and is most often a major conmponent in the classic Bordeaux blend. Merlot becomes the dominant player in Bordeaux appellations of St. Emilion and Pomerol where the wines are more feminine and delicate than those in which Cabernet Sauvignon reigns.

Winemakers unleashed Merlot’s softer, more accessible flavors by vinifying alone. Merlot’s unaggressive tannins makes it user-friendly. Most Merlots are ready for drinking without being aged for a long time. Therefore, they rarely need decanting. Serve them at cellar temperature of around 65 degrees.

Because Merlot is holding its own as the current red wine sweetheart, producers have come into the market at affordable price points from many wine-producing regions around the globe including the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Italy, France, Chile, and Argentina. Merlots from different regions vary in style depending on the winemaker’s skill and philosophy as well as the overall conditions of sun, soil, and rainfall.

06
Jul
10

My Killer Recipe for Sangria

A  Victorian summer dinner was a formal affair offering a plethora of substantial courses. When heat and humidity strikes modern palates cry out for lighter fare. It’s time to throw out antediluvian constraints of white wine with fish and red with meat and step up to new ideas. Opting for grilled meats, salads, fish, paella, and shore dinners of lobster and raw crustaceans. Red and white Sangria are refreshing additions to the pantheon of summer beverages.
Sangrias of all stripes are delightfully refreshing. Its latitude of no-fail ingredients is its great appeal because there is no definitive recipe. I’ve tinkered with choices for years, adding a dollop of this and a soupçon.

My special recipe for red sangria starts with pouring a bottle of a full-bodied red into a large pitcher: A Côtes de Rhone, Chianti, or classic Spanish Rioja works. In fact, any hearty red wine fills the bill. The addition of a substantial dash of orange juice, a cup of good, inexpensive brandy such as E & J or Christian Brothers adds a special kick. To build up additional flavors,add a substantial dash of orange juice, an optional tablespoon or two of sugar, (don’t make it sweet), and 6 ounces of club soda for sparkle. Fruit is an indispensable requirement. Slices of stone fruit, like peaches, nectarines, and plums  together with cantaloupe and/or honeydew soak up the wine. and make a great stand-alone treat or topping on vanilla ice-cream. Allow the ingredients at to meld least an hour before serving.
White Sangria is an equally delicious, if less well-known alternative to its bolder red sibling. It’s so cool and enticing in a clear glass pitcher that it practically lowers the surrounding temperature. Start with a Sancerre, a fruity Sauvignon Blanc from Chile or Napa, a Vouvray from the France’s Loire Valley, or an Auslese Riesling from Germany or Alsace. (Chardonnay is too heavy for my tastebuds.) Add a cup of brandy, (see above), two or three tablespoons of Grand Marnier, a slug of peach nectar, club soda, green grapes and diced honeydew melon or cantaloupe. Serve over ice cubes as an aperitif or as a divine complement to sushi, sashimi, and grilled fish.

Use your imagination to make these inventive wines suit your taste.




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