Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Is there any better way to celebrate the New Year than with a cheerful sparkling wine?!? - Spanish and Italian bubbly rocks too! - My Easy Going Picks!

Is there any better way to celebrate New Year’s Eve than with cheerful sparkling wine?!? Certainly Not! Bring on the Bubbly!
Since we’re talking of sparkling wines, champagne is of course the king of bubbles and apart from recognized and celebrated maisons, such as Krug, Bollinger and Ruinart…

In fact the New York Daily News was so kind to publish the top 10 champagne brands for 2013 by volume sales:

1. Moet & Chandon

2. Veuve Clicquot

3. Nicolas Feuillatte

4. G.H. Mumm

5. Laurent-Perrier

6. Taittinger

7. Piper-Heidsieck

8. Pommery

9. Lanson

10. Canard-Duchene

All just awesome! But there’s more to this story…

So… in no special order because I really enjoy all of these…here is my selection of easy going sparkling wines of the New Year … actually for any time… a perfect match for every mood and pocketbook. Enjoy, and not all are Champagne of course… Spanish and Italian bubbly rocks too! Stock this stuff up; so you always a have some sparklers that are good.

Freixenet Cordon Negro Extra Dry - $10 – The crowd pleasing Cava in the black bottle; it's earthy and fruity and not really dry…It’s flavorful and is nice and smooth.

Depreville Extra Dry, France - $10 -  a light off-dry bubbly with nice fruit white peaches, lemons, pears, cream… well-dressed with tropical notes

Mumm Cuvee Napa Brut Prestige, Napa - $20 – Simply the best complex sparkler for the price…Crisp flavors! Fresh apple, ginger spice and smoke with notes of raspberry; Layered…

Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava, Cava - $10 - creamy bead supporting red apple and pastry cream with lemon notes

Barefoot Bubbly Pinot Grigio Champagne, California – $10 - Yes this one… the ‘Pinot Grigio’; Aromas and flavors of Key lime pie and medium dry

Banfi Rosa Regale Brachetto D’Acqui DOCG, Itlay - $20 - Perfumed with a hint of rose petals, raspberries, strawberry shortcake, like punch in color. Effervescence is softer…Truly remarkable stuff.

Marques de Monistrol Brut Cava – $10 - A good straight forward Cava; with apple and stone-fruit fragrances. A nice easy finish too  

Nino Franco Prosecco Rustico NV, Valdobbiadene – $15 - A bad boy Prosecco! White peaches, flowers, wet stones, smoldering tinges

La Marca Prosecco di Conegliano, Valdobbiadene –  $13 – This Prosecco with a heady bouquet of ripe lemons and flowers on the tongue it’s ultra-juicy; vanilla cream on both nose and palate

Domaine Chandon Brut Classic, California –  $15 - Nuts and stoned fruits. Peaches with creamy vanilla flavors; with a hint of raspberry. Delicious! There’s a slight sweetness peeking through…

I hope this list inspires you to pick some of these up and ...Happy New Year!


Sunday, December 21, 2014

Restaurant Review - Ulele - 1810 N Highland Ave Tampa, FL 33602

Ulele - 1810 N Highland Ave Tampa, FL 33602

From the owner of the famed Columbia Restaurant… The service was really very good. But the wait was tremendously long although there were plenty of spaces open. A little stressful.

The concept of Brewery (good beer!) and Restaurant is fantastic and the Porterhouse steak was delicious. Big Steaks! It is something original.

The best part for me is the American wine list that is well thought out and priced properly. A good selection of Pinot Noir too. You can return to mix and match wines with your meals; which is the key to a good restaurant. Go check it out.

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Story of BBQ is Competitive and Brings a lot of Fun and Bragging Rights!

The Story of BBQ is debated but a lot of fun!

Spanish immigration to Cuba began in 1492, when Christopher Columbus first landed on the island, and continues to the present day. The first sighting of a Spanish boat approaching the island was on 27 or 28 October 1492, Bariay; probably the landfall place of Columbus in Cuba, on the eastern point of the island.

Columbus, on his first voyage to the Americas, sailed south from what is now the Bahamas to explore the northeast coast of Cuba and the northern coast of Hispaniola (Haiti, Dominican Republic) and Puerto Rico. Which is arguably where Barbeque originates and thus brought to North Florida by the Spaniards a little later.

Barbeque meat can come from a grill, oven, a crock pot, but is normally thought of as resulting from a smoker, pit, or open fire, where charcoal and wood are the primary fuels in BBQ ; At home and in competitions, meats usually used are Pork Ribs, Boston Butt, Beef Brisket and Chicken and there are all kinds of techniques.

The Kansas City Barbeque Society (KCBS) is a standard of BBQ in the U.S. and it certifies BBQ Judges (CBJ); it which carries a lot of information with it

By the way, did you know that today the French are coming the U.S. to learn about approving cuts of meat and Japan is working on the language barriers to generate their own BBQ programs as well…These are Interesting times

Here are some of the basic information and storytelling...

BBQ is about the meat not the garnishes or the sauce. It’s about the appearance, taste and texture of the meat. Meat is pork, beef and brisket and chicken (in most states, some think Chicken is the North’s doing… having pulled chicken at cookouts not for ‘real’ BBQ). Some get testy with Texas. Don’t mess with Texas!

A key difference to know is that is BBQ is low and slow and grilling is quick and hot.   

…the process where fats and tough connective tissues in a meat are gradually broken down during the long, slow cooking is called “rendering” and is a key component in BBQ.                                                                                

The joke is that Yankees up North feel that BBQ means a cookout and a day out to cook or they think BBQ is the actual grill or that BBQ is an action (verb).

Another joke is…Is Florida really a BBQ southern state? But the there is some serious Irony there…(Irony is the Spanish are thought to come to Florida with the BBQ technology, go figure)

…So essentially, BBQ is a meat prepared in a very special way.

Oh! … one more thing that’s probably the single most important part of cooking good BBQ meat and if you are dead-on… you are on your way to barbecuing magnificence! It’s control the temperature; so start looking for those gauges and thermometers!

Here are some quick BBQ ‘Tidbits’ on States:

Texas – Home of the Longhorn Steer, Smoking their Brisket (slab of beef) the coating is called bark

Tennessee – Loves their smoky sauce; serves a sweet tomato sauce flavored with pepper and molasses

Memphis – Is all about their dry rub; also "pulled" rather than chopped. Pulled pork is slow-cooked, shredded by hand; alongside coleslaw, cornbread, and sometimes French fries; ribs are either basted with sauce or rubbed with a mixture of tangy spices before pit cooking

Georgia – is caught between sweet or spicy

South Carolina – BBQ is a yellow sauce and it’s because it is a mustard sauce; the pig is still chopped or sliced; they also like Hash which is made of stewed organ meats and skin of the pig is often removed and fried separately

Mississippi – the BBQ is totally vinegary and Pork shoulder is cut of choice

North Carolina –also a peppery vinegar base BBQ; the meat is chopped or sliced pig; side dishes include coleslaw and hush puppies

Louisiana – Home of the Cajuns they like their BBQ spicy and very spicy

Kentucky likes mutton which is sheep. Most of the state enjoys sliced pork butt

Arkansas is similar to Georgia. It is a melting pot of BBQ and sometimes they can make it very spicy; side dishes can include baked beans, coleslaw, and potato chips

Alabama is different in that they use white BBQ sauce that uses mayo; but most sauces are also red, but a bit spicier than those served in Tennessee

***Here are a few of the KCBS rules to go by:

At sanctioned KCBS BBQ competitions; if two pieces are stuck together you are disqualified, sauce on the side also disqualified, electronic appliances (Microwave) disqualified too. If bone is hot it is a sign of microwave. Look for toothpicks and foil to disqualify; removing membrane is a choice. But not necessary. Sculpting the meat is not acceptable. Hollywood cut is acceptable though (all meat to one side of bone); six (minimum) pieces per tray, six judges and six tables. 180 is the perfect score. There is a table captain that presents the meat for Blind Judging for Appearance, Taste and Tenderness and there are officials that oversee this process.

One thing I say...is bring on the wine...but that's not part of the judging...yet!  :-)





Thursday, December 4, 2014

Special Report by Ralph Del Rio, Wine Correspondent -This Year’s Lucky Seven Wines are definitely to seek out! Outstanding! 2014 Toppermost!

By Ralph Del Rio, Wine Correspondent

It's year end again. Can you believe it ?!?

I make the effort to bring up some memorable wines for the year; which are some of the overall best; standouts! In the past the list was a little more comprehensive. Last year I started a 'Lucky Seven' list. This year we are a concise again nd it's a great seven wines. So let's get on with 2014's top wines.

2012 Fess Parker Santa Rita Hills Ashley’s Chardonnay
A standout wine that’s full of life and minerality!  Apples, Pears and Limes; streaks of chalk. This full bodied wine has a nice balance to it which makes a nice complement to probably all seafood you can think of; poultry or pasta dishes with lighter sauces, and makes and first-rate pairing with mushrooms. It is an graceful, elegant and complex wine that has this fresh feel too that cannot be ignored.

2009 Clos Figueras Font de la Figuera - Priorat Spain
With a direct July ruby color; stone scented with a sexy floral nose. Firm blackberries with pencil lead break through, black currant, cherry and licorice; It’s a schist soil wine with a clean feel and this deep dark cherry and crème de cassis in the mid palate…plenty of flavors abound.

2011 Seghesio Zinfandel Sonoma County Old Vine
Just so much going on. This is what it’s all about. Deep black ripe cherries nose, fruits and herbs, jam and good acidity with concentrated layers at the center of this classic zin . Hints of cinnamon spice and toasted oak; full bodied tannins. It screams for stews, pizza, a big thick grilled steak with blue cheese or just bring out the cuisine!

2011 Chateau Lilian Ladouys St, Estephe Bordeaux, France
The last few vintages of this wine have been spot on and this one is topper most. Rich in licorice blackberry and has these tangy citrus that hints flow through this rounded feel that's truly earthy and stony. It’s a plush and long Bordeaux that’s located very near Petrus. So there is great acidity and structure here, to go along with it’s plushiness.

2012 Tikal Jubilo Mendoza Argentina
The heart of dark chocolate prevails on this lush supple integrated cherry pit and blackberry steeped wine that’s a focused effort with a glimpse of coffee notes  and Asian spices. Think Duck and Lamb with fruit sauces or really strong cheeses and mushrooms. Wow!

2013 Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl Riesling Columbia Valley
Crisp and racy with the mouth-watering acidity which is that you would expect from  flavorful Washington Riesling fruit. I beg to differ that only Alsace has similar terroir to do Riesling like this. But Hey!  The core with hints of honey and minty lime combined with its layered citrus, peach and apricot stone fruits come across with a vibrant appeal…It goes the distance.

2013 Amavi Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Washington State
This is a blend of 3 Amavi vineyards... just about. There are actually six estate vineyards as I understand it! Not only do they make an outstanding  Syrah; This Cabernet is the kind that you pair with a pan fried pork belly, grilled steak, earthy mushrooms; risotto… you get the picture. The aromas of sweet oak, blueberry cobbler and french style lavender seasonings. It is inviting yet challenging to the spirit with supple flavors of black plums which texturize the tannins to support the taste and the long finish.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Salmon pairs up great with different Wines. So Wine with Salmon is a must!

Salmon spend years in fresh water and then migrate to the ocean. Some salmon go through fantastic body changes in this process. Which is interesting. Salmon are found in waters along both costs of North America; but some populations of salmon remain in fresh water for all their lives.

There are Atlantic salmon and Pacific salmon consisting of Coho, Chinook, Chum, Pink, Sockeye, Masu, and Steelhead, which are actually really rainbow trouts that think they’re salmons. The majority of Atlantic salmon is farmed.

Salmon are highly prized as food and prepare in many ways and consequently pairs up great with different wines. So wine with salmon is a must!

It can be smoked and served cold; when done this way is referred to as Lox.

It can be Sweet & Spicy, marinated with maple syrup, olive oil, soy sauce, lemon juice, ginger, garlic, kosher salt, cayenne pepper and many other seasonings and flavors. They can be subtle or complex the salmon is a fish for that.

Pairing wine with salmon can be eccentric such as with Syrah Rose, Orange Muscat or White blends of Grenache Blanc and Albarino or Viognier (French Rhone Whites or Spanish White wines)… Chenin Blanc with that sweet apple character or even Spanish Cava too…

But let’s explore a several of my favorite ways to pair salmon with wine:

A Pinot Noir served with herb-grilled salmon will taste expressly flavorful. Try not to pair your salmon with any heavy red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot. It will over shadow the salmon. The Pinot Noir is a great wine pairing choice... just enough scorched earth ;-)... Especially a Willamette Pinot Noir such as Erath, Archery Summit and Domaine Serene

Chardonnay is big. Pair this richer white wine with buttered salmon. Chardonnay is a full-bodied wine that is full of flavor. A plain white fish would be totally overshadowed by this powerful white. But with a nicely buttered salmon; it is just right. Try a Carneros Chardonnay such as Rombauer, Cuvaison or Acacia is just right.

I also like Riesling with my salmon. The crisp, acidity of the wine matches best with the richer flavor of salmon. Worthy Riesling will also give off a citrus lime flavor that complements salmon. So if you are cooking up a more exotic flavored dish. It just pairs well with the spiciness of the cuisine. A Washington state Riesling such as Eroica or Charles Smith’s Kung Fu Girl are good profiles to reach for.

Pinot Gris is a bigger bodied white wine that sometimes can overpower white fish or shellfish but pairs fantastic with salmon, particularly smoked salmon. Again, I reach out to the enhanced textural richness of the Oregon style such as the Elk Cove, Adelsheim Vineyards or Chehalem Rieslings.

The united aromas of Sauvignon Blanc can bring out the taste of lemon-flavored or dill and capered seasoned salmon quite well. It also pairs well with sushi. Rutherford California’s St. Supery, Frog’s Leap and Rutherford Ranch Sauvignon Blanc with its green lime and grapefruit aromas and lemon zest and caper notes hits the spot.


Now if you are just not a white wine person, a smooth and supple styled Shiraz can act as counterpart to “fishier” fish, particularly salmon; with less fruit and a little more tannins and acid on the finish it can match up very well with a smoky cedar plank salmon. I like Australian Shiraz with salmon.     Try d'Arenberg  d'Arrys Original Shiraz/Grenache blend or d'Arenberg Footbolt Shiraz or Yangarra Estate Shiraz all from from Mclaren Vale Australia.

So these are my choices but by all means not the only ones. Salmon’s diversity makes it great for pairing with wine and when the wines meet subtle or complex flavors; the differences between wines chosen can make the dish an interesting experience and sometimes the unexpected wine does the job exceptionally well and I think that’s the feeling you are actually shooting for.


Friday, November 14, 2014

Did the Pilgrims drink wine at Thanksgiving?

Let's be BLUNT!

There's no doubt the Pilgrims sure had big balls and ovaries coming over the Atlantic the way that they did. So rest assured they figured out how to eat and drink! 

The Pilgrims did have access to wild turkeys, but there was also cod, bass, venison, eel, varied waterfowl was obtainable.

The Vegetables that were available included corn, carrots, cabbage, leeks, onions, different squashes and pumpkins; nuts, dried fruits, cranberries, and apples.

All that sounds like a good food and wine pairing as with today's Thanksgiving pairing with wines like Pinot Noir, Gamay, Riesling, Chenin Blanc...
Good Stuff!

But back then....the Pilgrims...Wine Freaks? Let's just say they were no strangers to the vino!
Has wine always been a Thanksgiving staple?  A lot of things point to Yes!

Here's a little info on it...

According to information regarding what type of cargo the Mayflower carried – wine was commonly included on its shipping roles. The ship's hold could carry 180 -200 oak casks of wine.  The Mayflower was typically full with wines from Bordeaux and La Rochelle, France (proximity to the Atlantic Ocean and its ties to Rome) for the return voyage to England.

Wine was also listed in the supplies that were sent to the New World from England, alongside beer, watered wine and hard cider.  As the colonists learned how to make these beverages in America, the liquid refreshments began to disappear from the shipping supply roles.

Water wasn't the safest thing to drink back then and it wasn't until almost 1900! Can you believe that!

Alcohol was normally frowned upon by the Puritans; but only when it was abused—as we know now; it was the actually the prophynols, not the alcohol, that made wine and beer safe for consumption. Hence, it did not have to be very strong.

In those days, the Pilgrims understandably didn't know what the reason was for the water's unsafety; so they didn't think to boil water as we do now to disinfect it. They mostly discerned people didn't get sick from beverages like beer and wine.

Consequently, at the time everybody drank beer, wine and watered down wine. Even children drank due to the fact that the alcohol content killed bugs like typhus and cholera.  It was necessary on land, but was particularly necessary on ships, where you couldn't run away from the plague or sickness outbreaks.

But wine was a celebratory drink then as it is now and it looks like the Pilgrims were also having it on Turkey Day.


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Aromas of Tea and it's Flavor Profiles

As a wine drinker I naturally enjoy aromas and in terms of Tea there is an endless amount.

Other than the comfort of a great cup of Tea for breakfast instead of Coffee and a cup on a cool or even rainy day; like being stuck inside a cloud.. :-)

I think that is the attraction.

Predominantly most of taste comes from your sense of smell; as well

As part In Disney Institute program when it really was a program (that's another story) early on I learned about all sorts of culinary undertakings and it included studying Tea. There’s also a great book called Tea by Roy Moxham which covers the addiction and exploitation of Tea that is quite detailed…So I figured I'd share...

So here’s a little bit of info.

Each of the thousands of styles of teas in the world has a different flavor and aroma, but there are some generalizations that can be made about the tea flavor profiles.

We tend to think of England and China when it comes to tea….Let’s talk England.

Believe it or not the English were very slow to discover Tea, but let’s say it just hit them like a lightning bolt from the sky. You know how that can be.

It was not until the 1650 that the first records for its use shows up. It showed up in an advertisement in a London newspaper in September 1658.

The article called it ‘“China Drink”, called by the Chinease, Tcha, by other Nations Tay alias Tee’…Wow! That’s how it read in the advertisement. Isn’t that catchy…   ;-)

The first London coffee house was established in 1652; by 1660 there were several... and by the end of the Century there were was at least one for every thousands of the population. Coffee houses were places to discuss business and politics. At first it was only coffee, then came chocolate and tea(sounds like Starbucks!). It’s isn’t known where the first teas came from in London but it was probably from people returning from the East.

Anyways, what dictates the aroma of teas?

It's fairly easy to figure out that each tea has different aroma even from the same region, with same processing and such. So in general; there are several way to conclude aromas in tea terms.

There is Varietal Aroma – which is the essential aroma of a particular varietal (I think of wine as my benchmark)
These varietals hold the essential oils which made them unique without any modification. The aroma may recede but cannot be lost. For instance, Ginger Flower Dan Cong, Yu Lan Xiang Dan Cong.

According to Tea Habitat, these are the most distinctive and should not be altered. They are also the most challenging to make.

There is also Charcoal Aroma – it is a fire wood scent being smoked onto tea. This is fairly common, Lapsang, Russian Caravan, and some pu-erh, green etc…

Another is the fragrant Floral Aroma – it is the essential scent of flowers being absorbed by tea. This is very popular. For example Jasmine or Chamomile Tea

Then there is Production Aroma – This aroma is the natural process of tea which produces and simulates aromas...

For example; Let's use the: Honey Orchid Dan Cong. There are so many Honey Orchid Dan Cong's out there…

How you tell if the Tea is the original aroma or production produced to simulate:

Theoretically speaking, they are not the same at all even though it’s a natural process.

Again, take the Honey Orchid old bush which is essentially aromatic as its name suggested. The commercial production on the other hand is ‘fermented and roasted’ to taste like roasted honey with higher fire and fermentation and the results will reveal over time.

The telling difference is if both teas were left unsealed for 10 months the former will still have the same classic aroma, versus the roasted production version which will lose most of its aroma as the roasting subsides, or alters into something that is not the same.

Roasting can do a number of things to the aroma and flavor of a tea:

High fire roasting usually means sweeter, fruitier and darker teas, due to the sugar transformation from high temperature roasting. The Aroma is significantly changed after high fire.

Low fire and longtime roasting can mellow out the texture and in turn make a smoother cup and the aroma is less modified.

So there you have a little history and technicalities on Tea, its English origins and their aromas

Enjoy a cup!...and especially enjoy those Aromas!

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Last Great Wine Region: Canada’s VQA Ontario Appellations of Origin, and the Cellared in Canada, International Canadian Blend labeling

Oh Canada! As the consumer learns more about their wine regions, it gets better and better.
Folks sometimes bring up "Cellared in Canada" issue when it comes to Canadian wines...
The "Cellared in Canada" label; When you saw that on a wine bottle it meant Canadian wine producers can import pre-fermented grape must from grapes grown in other countries to produce wines under their own wine label. They’re designated on the label as being made or "cellared" in Canada, even though they may contain no Canadian-grown grapes. Which is very misleading.

Can you imagine wines from Washington State, California, South Africa, Argentina and Chile being called Canadian just. It’s just a good idea to  know where the juice come from. But that was the way to get affordable wine too people. It’s just the way it is; sometimes. because they’re “Cellared” inside Canada; meaning basically just stored in the country. It’s just odd. It’s not clear cut to the average consumer and these wines are often sold in government-run liquor stores.

Times are changing, but what’s this really all about…

The "Cellared in Canada" mark was coined in the early days of the Canadian wine industry in the 1980s and during this time grape growers received incentives to pull out existing plantings of Vitis labrusca and replace them with Vitis vinifera, which of is more suitable for winemaking.

So what happened???

There is an advantage to the producer. Wine producers who use the "Cellared in Canada" designation claim that it is a dynamic business component that permits them to compete in the "under $10" price category for table wines

Further, wine can be made at potentially lower production costs using imported grapes when compared with locally grown Canadian grapes and "Cellared in Canada" practice became a necessity due to the fact of the country having way too many grapes planted near the lakes and growers charging inflated prices which makes it hard to compete in the marketplace. That so called “Lake Effect” affects wine quality as well. It has happened in other regions.

A couple very important things came about…

1.       On June 30, 1999, the Canadian wine industry announced the formal establishment of Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA) of Canada (It’s just had its 15th anniversary). VQA is about place. Which is great. It is comparable to other regulatory classifications in place in countries like France (AOC), Italy (DOC), and Germany (QmP)

2.       In the fall of 2009, local and international criticism of the "Cellared in Canada" practice developed. Grape growers in Ontario began complaining and objecting to the practice as a hazard to their means of support and employment, claiming that thousands of tons of Canadian grapes were left rotting on the vine because producers were using imported grapes to make wine labeled as "Canadian"

WINE CONTENT AND LABELLING ACT, 2000 was eventually amended as follows:

A winery that uses imported grapes or grape product in the manufacture of wine shall, in manufacturing all such wine during a year, use an average of 40 per cent of grapes grown in Ontario or grape product produced from such grapes to which no water has been added at any time, for wine that is packaged on or after September 1, 2010.

In Ontario as of April 1, 2014, the wineries which existed prior to 1993 will be allowed to produce "International - Canadian blends" which contain no more than 75% foreign content (meaning that they in fact contain only 25% Ontario wine, which may be from labrusca varieties). Historically, this percentage has fluctuated wildly, due to periodic shortages and surpluses of Ontario grapes, and lobbying by both the grape growers and the producers.
I hope this helps in understanding a little bit more about Canadian wine .


Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Politics of Wine... distributors, mobsters, environmentalists, regulators, and critics

Unlike what we just experienced this past Tuesday, with the US elections; The politics of wine often operates out of the limelight. Celebrity winemakers may come off as all powerful when it comes to making wine, but they are subject to all kinds of political forces.

Politics controls not only which grapes grow where, what can be written on the wine label, which wines are exported or imported, which wines are obtainable in local stores, and how much a wine costs, but, practically most significant, it also affects the quality of the wine in the bottle.

For example there’s distributors, mobsters, environmentalists, regulators, and critics and all of them have a hand in the producing, selling, and delivering the glass of wine we ultimately drink.

For instance, both France and America produce a lot of the quality wines we enjoy today and there are all kinds of battles regarding  the soil and the societal influences and each has different aspects that affect outcomes that have predisposed both the rise in quality and the broad social acceptance or rejection of drinking wine; just like politicians.

Heck a lot of the grapes wine ends up in other places to the consternation of winemakers such as fuel products and probably not why the wanted to be in the wine business at all.
A lot of the time the term politics is often understood negatively. It is an as an obstacle to a desirable result; that definition applies to the wine industry insofar as politics often increases red tape, reduces consumer choice in wine and raises prices. But in the United States, which will eventually be the worlds largest consumer of wine, shifting fortunes and odd alliances have now led to groups aligning to produce some positive results for consumers.

While in France there’s anxiety due to an abundance of French producers’ associations which may not be providing the vitality and social capital needed now to improve quality sufficiently to enable their products to compete.
There’s a great book by Tyler Colman called Wine Politics that goes into depth on the subject with statistics as well as the insightful writing of Time’s writer George Taber and author/educator Kevin Zraly which touch on these developments.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween Candy is a Great match for Wine... Check this Out!

Oh Yes Halloween!  Quickly becoming a holiday for adults. Yet another reason why America is so cool!

While the kids are trick-or-treating a lot of parents and folks take the time to throw wine gatherings; After all…that’s one of the best parts of being and adult. Another good thing is you can buy you can buy as much candy as you want. What can you say being an adult has its perks…

Believe it or not some of your favorite candies can match up pretty well with wines.

Yes you heard correctly and it’s mighty good too.

Let’s take a look at 3 of my favorites.

Sour Patch Kids and a Late Harvest Riesling from Washington State or a Canadian Ice Wine 
It’s the mouth-watering acidity of the Riesling with sweet and sour notes of granny smith apples, apricots and nectarine and honey flavors floating around make for an all-in-one match with the puckering Sour Patch Kids candy.

Hershey Krackel Fun Size Miniatures (in fact that whole bag has some merit) w/ Banyuls and Brachetto d'Acqui

...I started with just Krackel but I had to throw in the whole bag  :-)
I will bring both wines out for this and interchange them

First is a Banyuls with its perfect match up for chocolate. It’s a ‘chocolate love letter’. A grenache-based fortified wine with cherry flavors that goes great with dark chocolate and nutty candies

The second is the sweet, frothy red Brachetto d'Acqui to wash everything down with its aromatic slightly sparkling quality. All this goes so well with the crunchy goodness of these mini chocolate candy bars.

Butterfinger and a nice Madeira wine

Thomas Jefferson would probably approve. He had a sweet tooth. The Madeira’s sweet raisin, toffee, nutty and graham cracker flavors go with that crunchy chocolaty peanut butter wafer salt action and texture of the Butterfinger candy bar. A good Tawny Port from Australia would be really good too.

Now you can either take a look at your kids’ bag and pluck a tasty treat or just buy it up and have them handy. After all you are an adult… ;-)

Now that you know this; there is no stopping you now!!!

There are some great wines that go with the theme. Here is a link to several good ones to try…

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

If Wine in a Box is just as good as Wine in a Bottle... why does Boxed Wine Expire?

A friend of mine asked me; or sort of was trying to make a point that Wine in a Box is just as good as wine in a bottle and why should he pay more for a wine in the bottle which is more expensive.

I basically told him. That…” it’s a pretty safe bet that a more expensive wine is usually a higher quality wine”....but whether it is a better wine would be totally up to him. He looked at me a little strangely. Like I was from another planet.

Only you can decide if you like a wine or not.

I also told him that in expensive wine there are 3 things you can look to that makes things more expensive and it has to do with techniques…

1.       are they using oak... and how;

2.       time in the whole process of making the wine;  and

3.       the terroir (the whole location, land and climate thing)

In value wines to find it’s hard to find those 3 things in play and if you do the wine would probably be coming from a developing country.

I also added “that is what is great about wine…It’s in the eye of the beholder."

Likewise; according to an article I read from the Wine Spectator; the bags in the box will let microscopic amounts of oxygen pass through, into the wine, and after a while, that oxygen will make the wine taste less fresh. Which makes sense.

Bag-in-the-Box wines aren’t meant for long-term aging, so that’s good, honestly the packaging doesn’t really allow for it. You really don’t see cellars full of plastic bags of wine. Can you imagine life with giant Wine Capri Suns in the cellar...Probably not.

By the way the “expired” wines will not make you sick, but they might not taste like they did when you first bought them; most likely the fruit flavors have likely faded alot, and wine has taken on nutty and oxidized characteristics on the nose and flavors. But...some wine is awesome like that and is made to be that way...But, that's a whole other story!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Is Chenin Blanc the most versatile wine?

I often go for a dry Chenin Blanc for pairing with seafood. it has so many flavors though. It's full-bodied yet crisp, aromatic, lively and complex. It is a wine of excellent quality. The talking points on the fruits such as pear, quince, pineapple and apple flavors and regions of the wine make so it can be explained to regular wine drinkers.  "How in the world does a Macintosh apple get in a white wine from France?" Also, the can wine get very interesting as it ages.

Chenin Blanc goes with everything from rich scallops, shrimp to delicate filet of sole. Look to France's Loire Valley for this wine or South Africa; some California. It is a good Cheese. Ideal serving temperature for the wine 45ºF- 50º . It can be stored a little lower than that.

Retail is usually $25 and up. It has several styles dry to sweet and you can also find good values at lower price points. Use a white wine glass, like a Chardonnay style; although since it can be fuller and viscous and has those fruit aromas; try a Bordeaux glass just for kicks to show it off to friends or customers. Try it with a country fried veal steak and mashed potatoes or Gyro meat!

In the olden days in France they used to try to hide the acidity of the under ripe grapes in parts of the Loire. Now the less ripe grapes are made into awesome sparkling wines like Cremant de Loire. In Anjou you'll find the I think best expressions of dry Chenin Blanc with the quince and apple flavors sometimes flowers and honeysuckle; which in Vouvray they get that style and can even get Noble Rot to make great dessert wine which evolves and improves with age. Very versatile; Don't you think?!?

PS: There so much you can write about this place! ... but I'll be brief... there is a favored place within Chaume in the Loire that has a separate appellation called Quarts de Chaume which pays attention to grape maturity an the yield can be lower; which can mean the wine can age for years and years. Try to find one of those to drink now and another to lay it down.

Friday, October 10, 2014

What major factors influence wine styles?

In regards to key wine styles. Today, wine is produced everywhere Brazil, Israel, Australia, etc..in the world even in Wisconsin, USA where alot the great cheese of the world is at! Get the point?!?

The grape variety, the environment, the care given to the grapes and how the wine is made and matured are vital.

Tradition is key; but economics is crucial too. The ability to grow the crops sustainably within a given climate is probably most essential these days, I think.

Wine, is historical, artistic, romantic, geographical, cultural... gastronomy is so important, investment potential and science is big time important as well-- one giant ball of thinking and enjoyment.

Terroir: the climate, the soil and the grape varieties... are at the core of terroir ... The land or soil, a sense of place...The climate-soil-water relationships; again the grape varietal, wine processing, wine aging and the wine region.

Sometimes it doesn't matter what the weather does, but generally when weather is on target, wine regions produce outstanding wines. I heard somewhere that winegrowers are calling it the "Goldilocks Effect" which is cool!

So how do the you organize and choose the most ideal wines for your taste? Well, there is a system to wine styles that most appeal to you. Think about Elegance, Boldness, Fruitiness and Suppleness and how it fits around those terms to start. It's in the eye of the beholder though and very nuanced. Trust yourself!


Thursday, October 2, 2014

Is Tobacco the cure to Ebola?

Is Tobacco the cure to Ebola? It looking positive that it is...The question now is...Wll our leaders make it viable for Big Pharma to work on the cure. Or will they push under the rug and delay it.

As fellow blogger of Vinography Alder Yarrow writes…’Like many such medicines, tobacco began its life as a gift from the gods, to whom it would return with messages from the living when smoked. From dark pitch to burnt caramel to sweet fruit, and always laced with wood, the smell of cured tobacco makes its way into many wines, most often thanks to wood itself. The toasted oak of a barrel can lend Cabernet, in particular, a deep note of pipe tobacco, shown best as a grace note rather than a blast of flavor. At its best, tobacco's richness marries with the darker qualities of fruit to add spice and mystery, if not a bit of nostalgia, to a glass of red. Sounds like it’s better to drink it than to smoke it.’

Various medical studies have proven that wine in moderation is good for your health. Good for your heart in fact! There are antioxidants in red wine called polyphenols may help protect the lining of blood vessels in your heart and there is a polyphenol called resveratrol that has gotten major attention because it .helps prevent damage to blood vessels and reduces the LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol (the "bad" cholesterol) and prevents blood clots. Wow!

So let's keep an open mind...

According to two CBS news articles on August 12 and 15th and recently other very high profile News outfits such as USA Today, NBC and Web-MD. There are a number of Ebola treatments and vaccine in development, and one comes from tobacco plants grown in specialized greenhouses at another operation, Kentucky BioProcessing, in Owensboro, Kentucky.

That experimental treatment, called ZMapp, uses proteins called antibodies, and is designed to inactivate the Ebola virus and help the body kill infected cells. It hasn't been tested in people but had shown promise in animal tests, so it was tried in three people sickened by Ebola in West Africa - two U.S. aid workers, who appear to be recovering, and a Spanish missionary priest, who later died.

 So the big question…

Q: Why isn't ZMapp being tested more widely to find out if it works in people?

A: There's not enough available. The antibodies are grown inside tobacco plants, and then extracted and purified, a slow process. U.S. officials have estimated that only a modest amount could be produced in two or three months, unless some way to speed production is found.
Tobacco seems to be the cure to the Ebola virus. So let’s get on with it and fix the issue.

This is a new Generation and a new time they need to help push through all the gridlock thinking.

Everybody know, there continues to be reporting about how bad tobacco is for you and the lawsuits continue. There is money to be made on the issue; Nevermind a person’s right to choose and the ‘Pleasure Police’…But that’s a whole other story. People like tobacco as much as people like wine or chocolate; period.

There’s no doubt to smoking’s certain calming and medicinal effects. Not to mention it does murky up the lungs and has negative addictive features such as a link to Cancer which has not been cured yet. Because the negative health effects were not initially known, the issue continues to be exploited.

But now that there is news that Tobacco is the successful cure to the the Ebola virus. It may be time to give tobacco it’s due.

According to a cool and informative CNN news article years ago; tobacco was first used by the folks of the pre-Columbian Americas. Native Americans actually developed the plant and smoked it in pipes for pleasure, medicinal and ceremonial purposes. They were on to something way back then.

Christopher Columbus brought a few tobacco leaves and seeds with him back to Europe, but most Europeans didn't get their first taste of tobacco until the mid-16th century, when adventurers and diplomats like France's Jean Nicot -- for whom nicotine is named -- began to popularize its use. Tobacco was introduced to France in 1556, Portugal in 1558, and Spain in 1559, and England in 1565.

The first successful commercial crop was cultivated in Virginia in 1612 by Englishman John Rolfe. Within seven years, it was the colony's largest export. A lot of our major leaders smoked and or grew tobacco from George Washington to Abraham Lincoln to Barak Obama over the next two centuries; the custom and growth of tobacco as a popular past time and cash crop which partly fueled the demand in North America for slave labor and todays hemorrhaging of our legal system.

Cigarettes, which had been around in crude form since the early 1600s, didn't become widely popular in the United States until after the Civil War and the invention of the first practical cigarette-making machine; sponsored by tobacco baron James Buchanan "Buck" Duke, in the late 1880.

That’s essentially the origins…

Truthfully, he negative health effects of tobacco were not initially known; in fact, even back then most early European physicians subscribed to the Native American belief that tobacco can be an effective medicine. Which now we know is true and always has been true.

Let’s do all we can. Let’s make the cure to Ebola…and use the tobacco for its medical properties; this gift from the gods and help save as many people as we can! Sure we can make it controversial, but why??? Put your paradigms to the side... 

We can save lives!


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Go visit the Finger Lakes region! Talk it up – USA's Eternal Diamond in the Rough – even if it’s been producing grapes for 200 years

You heard it here first OK…well it’s in New York local papers…

Casinos in the Finger Lakes Wine region???

This week, supporters and opponents will deliberate on three proposals in the Southern Tier-Finger Lakes region for Casinos! ... which includes a project planned by developer Wilmorite for Tyre in Seneca County and the other two projects are proposed for Nichols in Tioga County and Johnson City in Broome County, which are both in the Elmira-Binghamton area.
If this occurs it will have a significant impact on the already growing Finger Lakes Wine Country!

Johnson City and the whole Binghamton area is really a sleepy area and it's really because a lot of factory jobs have been shipped overseas over the past 20-30 years.

But, the Finger Lakes has always been heavily dependent on walk-in traffic such as tourists, accidental tourists, people who really don’t know much about wine.

Most Finger Lake wineries are apt to see a decent amount visitors a year, yet alot of production is tailored to people who like sweet wines.

Arguably, Casinos would bring a lot more attention to the area.

Let’s be clear here…

The Finger Lakes are incredible and it has taken way too long for it to explode; because, and I know I am not alone in this opinion...

The American wine world is honestly lacking the full-on cool-climate viticulture scene. Just like people know Fall Season is here and leaves change; the awareness to the coming of cool-climate wines should be the equivalent.

The future is bright though; now is the time for more promotion; maybe Casinos will be the tipping point.

Not only is there Late Harvest wines, and a plethora of Riesling styles(Bone Dry to Sweet); there is Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc. Cabernet Sauvignon and others... 
plus a whole host of Native American and French-American Hybrids.

It wasn’t until the 1950s, when Konstantin Frank, a Ukraine refugee, arrived in the Finger Lakes and started his Vinifera Wine Cellars, and proved that that vinifera grapes could grow in the cool, wet climate of the Finger Lakes. Dr. Frank planted alot of grape varieties to see which would thrive. In the 70’s is when the emphasis on Reisling took hold.

But really… grape vines have been growing around the Finger Lakes since the 19th century so it’s hard to come to grips with how little acreage of planted Reisling there is there, if you come to think of it.

Now that Reisling is so popular and the fingerlakes can make such diverse reisling – really world class, dry or sweet in a multitude of styles. We are talking Mosel and Alsace potential. Now is the time…really.

The thing is that for years, the Finger Lakes wine industry was dominated by big companies that made cheap hybrid wines, along with even smaller wineries that did most of their business selling hybrid wines out of their tasting rooms. It’s been a slow churning path, considering how great the Reisling can be there.

What’s fascinating is that hybrids in the Finger Lakes region (including vignoles, seyval blanc and aurore) far outnumber vinifera grapes, and there are more concord grapes planted than anything else which are intended for grape juice or sugary kosher wines.

Go visit the Finger Lakes region!  Talk it up – a true diamond in the rough – even if it’s been producing grapes for 200 years or whatever…Seek the killer wines!

The Finger Lakes is home to three distinct wine trails, each offering exciting wine and food pairing events throughout the year.  With events that range in theme from chocolate, cheese, herb, barbeque, harvest and holiday as well.  It’s pretty affordable.  Wine trail event tickets usually are for the entire weekend. Also, all three wine trails individually offer tasting discounts too.

• Cayuga Lake Wine Trail | 15 member wineries, one cidery too

• Keuka Lake Wine Trail | 7 member wineries

• Seneca Lake Wine Trail | 34 member wineries

Monday, September 1, 2014

This Fall try wines from the Southern end of the Cotes d’ Or, France… Great Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the lesser known appellations!

Burgundy wines are glamorous. Smooth, well-designed and mouthwatering. At their best they are otherworldly and among the priciest wines on the planet; both the Red’s and the Whites.

It’s a combination of powerful and delicacy at the same time.

With that said….

Burgundy, France is overflowing with wine. In fact, some of the best values in Burgundy France come from the Southern end of the Cote d’ Or( which means the 'Golden Slope' and stretches from the city of Dijon running south to Santenay).

The reason I say some of the best values come from the south end of Burgundy is not only because it’s true. It's because the wine is more accessible; softer and very welcoming.

Try this approach. Search for those Burgundy wines that are just at arm’s length from the most famous appellations. Just because you won’t find any Grand Cru’s or large estate wineries does not mean a thing in my book. They are subjected to the same weather conditions, topography, and provide that incomparable taste of Burgundy. This wine is sensational and thought provoking!

By the way, the Northern part of Burgundy (Cote de Nuits) produces red wines almost exclusivlely. Just south of the Nuits is Cote de Beaune (pronounced 'Bone') which produces
the great whites. The area we are talking about is below Cote de Beaune.

Sure, there are some differences in the vintages but not in the 'sense of place'. Which is where it's at; when we talk about the wine region of Burgundy.

Let’s list out the towns to look for... and some might ring a bell; if you don’t know already. These places just don't usually jump out at you in average every day wine talk, you know.

Look for wines from the Southern Cote Chalonnaise, Bouzeron, Rully, Mercurey, Givry, and Montagny(which all have Premier Cru’s by the way…).

Also look the wines of the Maconnais with richer soils just south of the Cote Chalonnaise.

You will see wines from the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grape of course…But you’ll also see a refreshing white wine called Aligote and maybe Pinot Blanc. Try it!

Look for Negociants as well...such as Louis Jadot, Drouhin, Louis Latour and Faively to name a few.

Hence, these are the areas of southern Burgundy just before reaching Beaujolais that are not part of the most famous; yet they are incredible. It’s just the way it is…. And a lot of it has to do with history, property rights, inheritance and complex birth right laws that make it these vineyards have less of a spotlight.



Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Special Report - A list of 15 value food friendly red wines; Great deals and All on the shelves right now; Drink up!

By Ralph Del Rio, Wine Correspondent

Here are 15 red wines, with quick notes in restaurant menu style.
All are bargains that you can find on the shelves right now. You do not need to break the bank to enjoy good wine.

These are food friendly too!...and under $15 retail.

Drink these over the next year or so. Go ahead and count on this list... no vintage is listed.

These wines are from some of the top wineries/producers year in and year out; Have fun seeking them out!...

Luzón Verde, Spain                                                                                                                          Bold red cherry and strawberry flavors are the highlight in this Monastrell

Sierra Cantabria Tinto Rioja                                                                                                           This Tempranillo wine offers robust black-fruit flavors and a satisfying herbal edge.

Bodegas Hijos de Juan Gil Juan Gil Jumilla
A fleshy, new world style of Monastrell with rich flavors and generous mocha and vanilla.

Emilio Moro Finca Resalso Ribera del Duero
An earthy red whose steady tannins, spice and acidity make it ideal for picadillo, lamb or steak.

Mas de Guiot - Grenache-Syrah
Well rounded Grenache and Syrah blend good plum and brown spices come together nicely

Perrin & Fils Côtes-du-Rhône Villages, France                                                                 Vivaciously fruity, with raspberry and sweet cherry tones.

Fontanafredda Briccotondo Barbera, Italy
This delivers loads of herbs and spices and  supple black cherry flavors

Allegrini Valpolicella Classico, Italy
Juicy and supple and delicious with bright red berry fruit flavors.

Capezzana Barco Reale di Carmignano, Italy
A supple, energizing blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet.

Terrazas de los Andes Reserva Malbec
Jammy, deep and concentrared; sourced from higher-elevation vineyards.

Montes Limited Selection Apalta Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon-Carmenère                          Rich, generous and spiced, well concentrated fruit with a full body

Cline Cashmere, California
This lush Mourvèdre, Grenache and Syrah blend yield chocolate and cherry flavors

Foxglove Zinfandel, California                                                                                               Extravagantly oaked, with caramel, chocolate and cedar flavors layered with blackberry fruit.

Liberty School, Paso Robles, California
Fruit driven and smooth; juicy red plums with supple black cherry, plum and violets

Monte Antico, Italy
Leather, cherries and plums a mighty valued Super Tuscan that delivers