Archive | June, 2014

A Dry White Summer

26 Jun

Last week I hosted a tasting for some wine-loving friends and neighbors. I served only white wines from around the globe.

One of the great joys people find in wine is being able to introduce people to wines and vice versa. I had guests who loved some wines immediately, others didn’t care for a wine until I suggested a specific food pairing- sweet, salty, savory- and with a quick bite, often their assessment changed.

Here are four of the riskier, ‘dark horse’ wines I served that were really fun, and I wanted to share them with you. Each is a dry white wine with lovely expression, and each pairs beautifully with food. They are delicious, artistic expressions of geography and oenology and are not only fun to try, but easy on the wallet.

Better yet, they took a group of people by surprise. Most people adored one of these four- people were surprised how good they were, or had never tried an unusual geography or grape like this before. Every one of these wines is worth your time to explore!

In no particular order:

Cantina Terlano’s Alto Adige Pinot Bianco, 2012, Terlano Italy. 13%ABV, street price around $14.

Martin Codax Albariño 2011, Rias Baixas, Spain. 12.5% ABV, Street price around $12.

L&T Durnberg Grüner Veltliner 2012, Falkenstein, Austria. 11.5% ABV. Street price around $10.

Leitz Rheingau Troken Reisling 2012, Germany. 12% ABV, Street price around $17.

dry white wines


Each of these, perfect for food with subtle aromas and delicate minerality, under $20 and pretty easy to find.

When your friends ask you for a “dry white wine” won’t they be amazed when you bring a perfect expression from an area they won’t expect?

Tell me which ones you have tried and what you thought, please? I look forward to hearing from you!


à votre santé!



The New Wine School

26 Jun

The NY Times Wine Critic Eric Asimov has begun a new revolution.

His monthly column called “Wine School” suggest three bottles from various vintners (with alternates) to introduce his students/followers to a specific grape.

Guess what… it’s working! Look for yourself: his first post from the series the past March covered Bordeaux and asked readers to sample one of the three bottles and consider three specific questions:

1) what does the wine smell & taste like?

2) what is the wine’s texture?

3) how does the taste change over time?

Keeping it simple and straightforward is working. That digital post has 633 comments, and wines are flying off the shelves. No doubt wine stores would like a chance to stock up on orders prior to his posts, fortunately the suggested wines aren’t impossible to find, nor are they limited production or highest profile (and price).

Asimov’s second article in the series ‘decanted’ the process and covered his reaction to the responses while providing a few lessons in what one could have expected, sharing reader’s experiences, and providing commentary that furthers the education of the process. I love the way he describes both the objective and subjective response to drinking a wine, including practical and temporary emotional responses. “Curiosity and an open mind are vital. Listen carefully to your responses and note them, but don’t accept them as the final word.” To me, Asimov is mentoring flawlessly here. I have always told people asking for wine advice “all you need to know is what you like” as a starting point, but few novices are ready to follow that up beyond figuring out what to order in a restaurant, pair with a meal, or pick up from the store to enjoy at home.

The comparitively small number of responses to the ‘decanted’ (22 comments) isn’t proof that people didn’t pay attention. But it does show that people were thirsty for the next taste: Beaujolais,  which pulled in 175 comments. The signal to noise ratio on the commentary demonstrates that those who wrote back often provided lengthy and detailed responses, which is both rare and appreciative in the world of digital media.

The next assignment, Sancerre, received 130 responses, again many with powerful detail and personal insight. I applaud The Times for inclusion of those who didn’t enjoy the wines as well as those who did.

The current assignment (Riesling) has been out for three weeks and already has over 90 comments, again most providing intelligent and quality worth reading, with a good percentage of responses describing the wine sourced, the food pairing, and the overall wine response, making a good dialogue.

So what’s enticing to your palate? Which wines are you tasting when you attend school?

Personally, I’m fascinated by the concept of open wine tasting & commentary, as opposed to formal tasting & wine school. Who knows how well it will work!

What do you think? Do you like this idea? Why or why not? Thanks for sharing!

à votre santé!


Gimme Shelter / Sympathy for the Wine Reviewer

13 Jun

This week I was making dinner and popped the cork on a rosé wine that has been in my queue waiting to taste. And I tried it and was forced to spit it out. I poured another glass, swirled it, and gave it some time to air. I tasted it again. “Mildly better,” I thought, but still the same basic feeling: “YECH!” and into the sink it went.

The Stones were on my stereo, Mick was belting about not getting what he wanted. “I can’t agree more,” I thought as I chucked what was left in the glass and poured a third attempt, leaving it to the air. I went back to my stir-fry, chopping more veggies and adding my spices to the dish. I finished cooking and reduced the heat, grabbing dishes for my family to eat. I called them to come down for dinner, as I tasted the wine a third time. This time, I could actually drink some of it, but didn’t want to. I poured first the glass, then the entire bottle down the drain.

As my family started dinner, I grabbed another bottle from my queue, popped the cork. After a quick rinse of my wine glass with a  swirl of the wine, I tossed that, poured a taste, and examined the bottle.

Peter Zemmer, Alto Adige-Süditirol 2010 Lagrein DOC. 13% ABV, $19 from Sherry-Lehmann.  Turning back to the glass: Near-black center in color, I held it to the light to see the deep purple color and the violet edging. I put my nose in the glass and inhaled the scent of rich black fruit, sharp acidity, and violets cutting through the smell of my stir-fry dinner’s ginger and sesame oil. I put a small sip in my mouth, inhaled air across it, swirled around my tongue, and swallowed.

Ahhhhh. Blackberry and boysenberry, powerful acidity, supple tannins. Some more herbal/floral notes, a touch of earth and note of slate under the old wood in the finish. This is a wine meant to enjoy with food that has a little punch.

Mick’s backup singers were fading out, and the intro for ‘Gimme Shelter’ started. I fixed myself a plate of dinner, tasted the sauce, then the wine. Then the chicken and rice, then the wine. My eldest daughter smiled at the studious look on my face and asked if she could taste my wine. “No, but you can smell it. You wouldn’t like this. Trust me, it’s very acidic.” But I had to admit, my mood had shifted with a total reversal from my earlier state of mind. I went to the cupboard and grabbed three spices, trying each one with the food against the wine to see how it fared against cutting the flavor and cleansing my palate each time. Each time, the lagrein left me with a clean and fresh palate, until I tried a hot sauce that the wine could clean the flavor but not the heat.

This is a completely European wine. It has reserve and balance, it’s not going to win any huge awards, but instead it will be enjoyed by oenophiles who know how to pair a good wine with the proper food. For me, this pairing was entirely accidental, but it’s a wine I’d like to have a case of for the right time- when a cab franc is too strong but a pinot noir is too light, this lagrein’s fruit and acidity is just right.


This wine put me in a great mood, thankfully. I don’t often get stuck with a bottle as bad as that rosé, but some days you can find shelter in a wine that will put you right.

Have you all had a legrein yet, dear readers? I hope so. If not, it’s time you take it upon yourself to find one at your local wine store and try it out when you’re feeling adventurous. It might just give YOU shelter at a time you so need it.

à votre santé




Slow and Certain Wins the Race!

9 Jun

Tortoise Creek Wines 2012 Sauvignon Blanc “Cuvée Jeanne” Côtes de Gascogne. Mayfair Wine & Liquor, $15. ABV 12%.

Pale straw color with green edging, the nose is citrus with cut herbs and a hint of funk so common with sauvignon blanc. In the mouth it is crisp and lively, a grapefruit-citrus blend with passionfruit and good acidity. Nice medium finish, perfect to pair or clear the palate. Over several evenings, this wine complemented grilled salmon, a mixed green salad, an italian red sauce and  some gentle cheeses quite nicely. A perfect wine to keep in your summer cellar or cold in the fridge, ready for a meal or just to take the edge off rush hour when you get home.

This “tortoise”  is a sure thing- after enjoying it, I did some research to find it is listed a “best buy” in several trades. If you’d like a lovely sauv blanc from Gascony (southeast of Bordeaux) for a song, this is a textbook bottle. As a matter of fact, I’m swapping out something else for the group tasting I’m currently working on, and inserting this for a classic French sauvignon blanc.

Tortoisae Sauv


à votre santé!

Keeping as Many Balls in the Air as Possible…Without losing One’s Own!

8 Jun

The title above is a quote from my business world. Specifically, from Abe Jacob, the Godfather of Theatrical Sound Design. He’s a mentor and friend, and the man who was not being satisfied as the sound mixer for Jimi Hendrix,  The Mamas and the Papas or the other 60’s acts he worked with. So he started designing sound for Broadway shows such as Hair and Jesus Christ Superstar. He’s quite famous in the small world of theatrical sound designers. (How does this relate to wine? I’m getting there!)


But today, Abe’s famous tongue-in-cheek quote, “What exactly does a sound designer do? (He/she) Keeps as many balls in the air without losing one’s own!” is quite apropos to me, as I struggle to complete a blog post I started some time ago whilst making  a living in a totally different industry, while tackling multiple projects simultaneously, and trying to be father, husband, techno-genius and wine director at the same time.

Today, the cherry on the sundae is that I have promised a group of friends a wine tasting, and I’m terrified that what I have planned won’t please everyone. While I know that ultimately it’s impossible to please everyone, I’ve got a great plan yet I keep second guessing my choices. At the same time, I have other friends, associates, and co-conspirators whom I know would LOVE to attend this get-together, but I can’t invite them as the group is already maxed out in size. So, too, is the wine. I thought I’d pick ten bottles to taste, which is about two more than most people can really handle at a tasting before their mind or taste buds explode and they just want to stop thinking about wine and enjoy something in their glass. Currently I’m at *15* bottles, and I have about three or four more I’d like to add! Ball after ball goes in the air. Knowing sooner or later, something is going to drop.

Agreeing to hold a tasting is the same as committing to teach a master class (something else I do in my professional “production” life). You might or might not know the level that each of your attendees has attained. They might not like what you serve, they might not understand what your goals are or why you are sharing these wines. You need to keep everyone engaged, and you have to accommodate all the levels of your students simultaneously, making sure everyone learns something that is appropriate to their own level. It’s not for the faint of heart, believe me.


In this tasting, the goals are simple yet expansive: to allow a varied group of people to taste a series of wines, to begin to understand and identify individual  grapes used for single grape and blended wines, and through the process of tasting, begin to understand the language of wine as well as to be able to understand the differences between a basic vin du table versus a well-crafted, world class vintage. I’m hoping the difference will be obvious, but that’s where the terror comes into play, long before anyone even mentions terroir. (You saw that joke coming a mile away, didn’t you?)   For the advanced oenophiles, it is a taste test and comparison in evolution of style, price point, as well as terroir. As designed, any level of wine drinker would enjoy the selection.

wine notes

What can I expect from this tasting? I sincerely hope that all my guests will:

1) Learn more about wine than they knew previously

2) Experience new wines they enjoy tremendously

3) Have a good time

4)  Retain their wits and manners

5) Refrain from drinking to excess.


Honestly, with all I have left to do on my platter, I’m happy that I was still able to use Abe’s quote. If life gets any tougher, I might have to amend it to juggling chainsaws or something I learned in the circus- which is a very different blog post for another time.

Because you were wondering, for my tasting I have selected wines that range in price from under $10 per bottle to almost $100 per bottle.  Choosing price point bottles and selecting flavor samples to match wine language is almost as difficult as figuring our what foods I can serve that will pair with all these wines and prepare in advance. I hope I can keep from changing my mind,  but ultimately rolling with the changes is part of what I’m good at, both personally and professionally. Maybe that’s why this is a challenge without being terrifying. 

No one ever said that life would be easy. If however,  you look at it the right way, then boy… is it fun! 

I lift my glass in a toast to you, fellow wine lovers. Here’s to opening a bottle and finding something you love inside it.


à votre santé!

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