OTBN- Open That Bottle Night- Italian Bordeaux

2010DR_InteregationI had loosely participated in Open That Bottle Night off and on (when I remembered) up until last year. The couple that started this unique celebration of wine, Dorothy J. Gaiter (Dottie) and John Brecher, hosted the event live, in a small restaurant near our home. Although my wife and I were in a room full of strangers it was like having dinner with old friends, as people shared their wine and their stories.

As soon as I read that they would be returning to the same restaurant, I immediately booked a reservation.

The wine I am bringing:

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Obvious wine choices for Valentine’s Day

Rather than being obscure, I am going to be obvious. Here are some easy choices for selecting wines for Valentine’s Day, or any other romantic occasion…

RosesRosé- Pink wines are easy to drink, and sexy, whether they are still or sparkling.

First, the 3 basic ways of making Rosé wine:

ALL grape juice is virtually colorless, it is the grape skins that give a finished wine their color.

  1. Skin maceration- leaving crushed grapes in contact with their skins (maceration) gives the wine depth of flavor, and of course color. Red grapes with short maceration can produce rosé wines, white grapes can produce orange wines. My favorite still wines are created this way as they they are the intended final product (see alternative saignée method below)
  2. “Bleed off” red wine that is fermenting to create a lighter red (rosé) wine. This is called the saignée method in France and most of these wines are created as a byproduct to make use of grapes intended for finished red wines
  3. Miix red and white grape juice before final fermentation. This method,used to for rosé Champagne, is allowed for some wine production but not all.

roseintheglassMixing finished red and white wine, to make a pink wine is not a generally accepted method to create rosé wine and is therefore not legal in most wine producing regions.

My favorite Rosés are from Provence, France or the Loire Valley (Sancerre Rouge).

Dessert wines

2005CoteauxduLayonDessert wines are wines intentionally finished with residual sugar and are meant to be drunk after dinner. These wines can be paired with sweet foods, cheeses, or drunk alone, as dessert. Some of the most famous examples of dessert wine from around the world. Some of my favorite dessert wines, to drink solo, are Coteaux du Layon, from the Loire Valley or Italian Vin Santo. Because they have high acidity, in addition to sugar, they are not overly syrupy or cloying.

Splurge wines- $$$

2000CalonSegur 2000CalonSegurcorkCult Napa Cabs (USA), Burgundy, Bordeaux (France), Barolo, Barbaresco, Brunello, Amarone (Italy), and Rioja (Spain) are all classic wines. They are expensive to produce, and/or need a long time to develop, and are therefore usually very pricey. One of my favorites is Calon Ségur.

This estate came to be owned by Nicolas-Alexandre, marquis de Ségur who also owned Chateau Latour and Chateau Lafite. Despite his ownership of these two First Growths, the Marquis said that “I make wine at Lafitte (spelling) and Latour but my heart is at Calon Segur.” The wine’s label today includes a drawing of a heart around the Chateau’s name.

 

 

 

Summer wine pairing

pesto_roseOne of my favorite (easy) fresh summer appetizers is Basil Cream Cheese pesto with tomatoes.

The fancy version involves making an “X” shape in the end of a cherry tomato and stuffing the tomato with the pesto filling.

I prefer to spread it on grilled bread and top with chopped fresh garden tomatoes to make bruschetta.

Pesto_ingredientsHere is my version of this summer favorite:

8-12 basil leaves (around 2 cups)

2 or 3 cloves garlic (depending on size)

1/4 c. pine nuts (toasted preferably)

1/4 c. Parmesan cheese

6 oz. low fat cream cheese (or Neuchâtel preferably)

1/2 c. Olive Oil

Pulse all solid ingredients together in a food processor while drizzling olive oil into the mixture. Blend until smooth.

Brush fresh bread with olive oil and grill or broil.

Spread pesto mix onto bread, top with chopped tomatoes and extra cheese if desired.

Enjoy with a low-tannin light red, or rosé wine.

IRDC_LaSpinettaMy wine pairing suggestion is a pink Sangiovese like this one. Il Rosé di Casanova- La Spinetta. Around $15.

Anything, but Santa Margherita

WineTastingMemorial Day Italian wine tasting- anything but Santa Margherita.

SantaMargheritaFor 14 years in a row, from 1995 to 2008, it was the most popular imported wine in Wine & Spirits magazine’s annual restaurant poll. And as a popular Wine Blogger Blake Gray reports “With 2.5 times the sales of the next-most-popular wine over $20, this is easily America’s favorite wine splurge. It tastes like nothing, and the logical conclusion is that’s what many Americans are looking for.”

 

WIneLineupWe tasted 4 alternatives against Santa Margherita Pinot Grigo:

This was an informal tasting, on the beach, so we used my favorite summertime wine accessories: stainless carafes.

ORANGE• Santa Margherita Alto Adige Pinot Grigio 2013- This wine needs no introduction, as Santa Margherita is the standard for the crisp, refreshing notes of Italian Pinot Grigio. Your Price: $19.97

Villata_ArneisAQUA• Villata Arneis Terredavino- Piedmonte NW Italy- Generous, crisp, and refreshing, releasing aromas of blossoms and green apple

$8.50 on sale grape varietal Arneis means “little rascal” in Italian. Difficult to grow.

 

AloisLageder_PGBOTTLE (covered in foil)• Alois Lageder Pinot Grigio 2013– Crisp, mineral driven, lively, delicious. The perfect summer sipping beverage, and a killer pairing for seafood. It’s cheaper, and better than SM, and just a fantastic wine period. – PJ Wine: $12.97

 

DelSannino_FalanghinaGREEN• Mastroberardino Sannio Falanghina –Campania Italy. The tongue of the boot. 2013- The nose whacks you with a cool sea-breeze of peach, pesto, and salt. It’s also got this fantastic fennel thing going on and smells like sweet basil being extracted by the mid-day southern Italian sun. PJ Wine $16.97

 

Luisa_RibollaGiallaSTAINLESS• Ribolla Gialla is a signature varietal of Friuli Venezia Giulia. The origins of this varietal are uncertain, but some have identified its ancestor as Avola, a varietal brought to Friuli during the occupation of Friuli by the Romans. However, others say Ribolla Gialla is a native varietal of the region. Record of its existance in the region goes as far back as the 12th century. This is a fine and pristine expression of Ribolla Gialla, with bright fruit aromas of peach, citrus and pear. There’s a touch of dusty mineral at the back and the wine is fresh and tart on the close. $17.95

CONCLUSION: The Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio was the most expensive and least favorite of the group.

Open That Bottle Night

2006_CdBMeritageFor our first trip to the North Fork of Long Island we attended Wine Camp. With each winery, that you visit, you learn a different aspect of the wine business; from the owners or winemakers. A very personal and hands-on approach, we blended wine at one, pruned vines at another and learned alot about the region and it’s wines. It was a very special experience. And on the last night we celebrated with a wine/food pairing at Castello di Borghese.

The owners, Marco and Ann Marie Borghese were gracious hosts and true ambassadors for the wine region.

One of the rewards, of Wine Camp, is a mixed case from each of the participating wineries, including two bottles from Borghese.

Over the years we enjoyed these wines, for special occasions, and each time it brought back great memories. Continue reading

Champagne for the Holidays…

DavidBowlerChampagne “insider” secrets:

Attended a recent Champagne tasting at PJ Wine. Meeting with some very knowledgeable reps provided some great wines and some new (to me) “insider” information.

Basics:

The primary grapes used for making Champagne are Chardonnay (white grape), Pinot Noir, Pinot Menuier (red/black grapes).

Most Champagnes come from a blend of all three. Meunier gives fresh fruit and energy, Pinot Noir gives body and backbone, Chardonnay, high in acid provides the ability to age.

Champagne made with only  Chardonnay (or very rarely, Pinot Blanc) is called Blanc de Blanc– white (wine) from white (grapes).

Champagne made with 100% Pinot Noir, 100% Pinot Meunier  or a mixture of the two is called Blanc du Noir– white (wine) from black (grapes).

Now for the Advanced…

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Thanksgiving wines! It’s that time of year, again…

Tomatoes shriveled on the vine

Thanksgiving is one of the toughest meals to pair with a single wine. At a traditional meal you have savory elements (stuffing/gravy), and sweet elements (cranberry dressing), as well as a good amount of fat (flavor) but also delicate white meat.

In addition, throw in some items that are hard to pair with anything (Brussels sprouts, turnips) and you have a challenge on your hand.

 Challenge accepted!

First off, Thanksgiving is really about your loved ones, around the table, and you should serve wines that your family/friends enjoy drinking.  Secondly, the food is really the star, and in my opinion wines should take a backseat.

 Safe Bets for Thanksgiving if you can only serve ONE wine… Continue reading