Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Guest Post: Best Apps for Organizing Your Wine Cellar

5 wine apps to turn you into a full-fledged wine snob



While using your LG phones when drinking wine might not be a great idea (we’ve all texted something we shouldn’t have after a few too many celebratory beverages); you can accomplish a lot of work on your wine cellar thanks to your smart phone when you’re not tipsy. Putting together an impressive wine cellar requires a lot of wine exploration—followed by a lot of wine education. This includes learning about vintages, food pairings, exploring different wine regions and grapes, taking notes on your favorite wines, and finally picking and categorizing wines for your own personal cellar.
Regardless of if you are familiar with tannins or not, or if you drink from a screw cap bottle vs. only bottles with corks, the following wine apps will help you put together a wine cellar that even the biggest wine snobs will be jealous of:
1. Vintage Chart (Free – for iPhone)
The Vintage Chart app for iPhone gives you access to Wine Spectator’s most admired features—its vintage charts. This means you’ll have advice from the real experts as you go shopping for the perfect wine for your collection. These vintage charts will help you make an educated decision about the quality and character of wines depending on particulars—like year, region, winemaker, and etc. Thanks to Vintage Chart, you’ll have the voice of an expert in the palm of your hand.
2. Pocket Wine ($3.99 for iPhone)
Voted one of the most popular wine apps in the world, Pocket Wine will help you unlock the complexity of wine and all the major Table Wine grape varieties and blends (78 in all). To help you choose a suitable wine for your cellar or just for a special occasion, Pocket Wine will identify the style of wine that you will mostly likely prefer based on your own answers to user questions. If you prefer a certain food with wine, Pocket Wine can help you with food pairings so you can catalogue your wines with meal serving details. Soon you’ll be buying and drinking wine like an expert.
3. Cellar ($4.99 – for iPhone)
The Cellar app is not simply a list of names and vintages—it helps you organize your cellar online so when you browse your app it’s like exploring a real wine cellar. You can categorize wine by type, grape, region, price, personal notes, pairings, vintage, wine producer, year, and you can even give it a score or rating. And when you finish a bottle, simply remove it from your collection by using the app to place it in the “garage”. If you get a bottle you despise, you can use the app to throw it in the “trash” so you don’t make the mistake of buying it again. You can also take it along to restaurants so if you try a particularly tasty bottle, you can put it on your “wish list” so you don’t forget the name.
4. Snooth Wine Pro ($4.99 – for iPhone)
Utilizing recognition technology to make you feel even more like James Bond, Snooth Wine Pro let’s wine lovers capture a photo of the wine label and match it to a vintner in the app’s enormous impressive database. You can also create your own “virtual cellar” wine inventory management system, which categorizes your wines as far as type, price, region or vintage. Plus, read descriptions and user reviews of wines in your local liquor store, or perform a geographic search for the nearest wine store to your current location.
5. Wine Notes (Free – for iPhone)
Have you ever tried a wine at a restaurant or social event that you loved and wanted to remember, only to forget the name the next morning? I know that I have and I kick myself for it every time. Well, good news is that the Wine Notes app allows you to record the name of your favorite wines right away so you never forget them. Plus, you can provide all the details on tasting notes (e.g., berry, cherry, oak and citrus) food pairings that made it so special the first time.  And if you don’t have time for much more than a picture—that’s OK too! Use Wine Notes to snap and store a photo of your newfound favorite vintage using the app.


Author bio: Melanie Gray is a writer for AndGeeks, a popular site that provides Android news, commentary, reviews and beginner Android tips for Droid newbies.
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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Wine Bites Book Review


Wine Bites: Simple Morsels that Pair Perfectly with Wine (San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books, 2011), by Barbara Scott-Goodman, with Photographs by Kate Mathis, is just a gorgeous book, chock full of great photos and mouthwatering recipes. “Chardonnay and Cheddar. Cabernet and chocolate. Rosé and…ceviche? Go beyond the basics with simple appetizer and wine pairings that bring friends together with a glass in hand.”

What I appreciate most about this recipe book is the sheer variety of it. From vegan to seafood and everything in between, there are dishes that should please everyone on your invite list. Many of the plates are very simple to make, so you don’t have to wait for company to make a match!

Barbara Scott-Goodman is the author of The Ski Country Cookbook among others. She lives in New York City. Kate Mathis is a commercial photographer based in New York.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me for review purposes, courtesy of Chronicle Books. I was not compensated in any other way for the review, was not obligated to give the book a positive review, and all opinions are my own. Some information in this review was taken from the company website.

Would you like your book or 
wine-related product reviewed?
Contact me at Kovas@50statesofwine.com!

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Monday, February 27, 2012

The ABC’s Of Wine Varietals: G

As you start drinking and learning about wine, it's good to, at some point, to start paying attention to the varietal and its general characteristics. This will help when you taste a winery's Cabernet Sauvignon and compare it to, say, its Zinfandel. Knowing the characteristic of a varietal will also help note differences between the grapes taste and body when compared across wineries, regions, or from a different country.

When looking for wine info, I often turn to the Wine Spectator, both for its broad reporting and its attention to basics. They have some introductory information on Varietal Characteristics, here are ones starting with the letter G:


"GAMAY (Red) [ga-MAY] - Beaujolais makes its famous, fruity reds exclusively from one of the many Gamays available, the Gamay Noir à Jus Blanc. Low in alcohol and relatively high in acidity, the wines are meant to be drunk soon after bottling; the ultimate example of this is Beaujolais Nouveau, whipped onto shelves everywhere almost overnight. It is also grown in the Loire, but makes no remarkable wines. The Swiss grow it widely, for blending with Pinot Noir; they often chaptalize the wines.

California, meanwhile, grows a variety called Gamay Beaujolais, a high-yield clone of Pinot Noir that makes undistinguished wines in most places where it's grown. In the United States the grape is used primarily for blending, and acreage is declining, as those serious about Pinot Noir are using superior clones and planting in cooler areas.

GEWÜRZTRAMINER (White) [geh-VERTS-trah-mee-ner] - Gewürztraminer can yield magnificent wines, as is best demonstrated in Alsace, France, where it is made in a variety of styles from dry to off-dry to sweet. The grape needs a cool climate that allows it to get ripe. It's a temperamental grape to grow and vinify, as its potent spiciness can be overbearing when unchecked. At its best, it produces a floral and refreshing wine with crisp acidity that pairs well with spicy dishes. When left for late harvest, it's uncommonly rich and complex, a tremendous dessert wine.

It is also popular in eastern Europe, New Zealand and the Pacific Northwest.

GRENACHE (Red) [greh-NAHSH] - Drought- and heat-resistant, it yields a fruity, spicy, medium-bodied wine with supple tannins. The second most widely planted grape in the world, Grenache is widespread in the southern Rhône. It is blended to produce Châteauneuf-du-Pape (although there are some pure varietals) and used on its own for the rosés of Tavel and Lirac; it is also used in France's sweet Banyuls wine. Important in Spain, where it's known as Garnacha Tinta, it is especially noteworthy in Rioja and Priorato. Grenache used to be popular in Australia, but has now been surpassed by Syrah; a few Barossa Valley producers are making wines similar to Châteauneuf-du-Pape. In California it's a workhorse blending grape, though occasionally an old vineyard is found and its grapes made into a varietal wine, which at its best can be good. It may make a comeback as enthusiasts of Rhône style seek cooler areas and an appropriate blending grape.

Also, Grenache Blanc, known in Spain as Garnacha Blanca, which is bottled in the Southern Rhône. It's used for blending in France's Rousillon and the Languedoc, and in various Spanish whites, including Rioja.

GRÜNER VELTLINER (White) [GROO-ner VELT-linner] - The most widely planted grape in Austria, it can be found to a lesser extent in some other parts of eastern Europe. It achieves its qualitative pinnacle in the Wachau, Kremstal and Kamptal regions along the Danube River west of Vienna. Grüner, as it's called for short, shows distinct white pepper, tobacco, lentil and citrus flavors and aromas, along with high acidity, making it an excellent partner for food. Grüner is singularly unique in its flavor profile, and though it rarely has the finesse and breeding of the best Austrian Rieslings (though it can come close when grown on granite soils), it is similar in body and texture."

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Friday, February 24, 2012

The ABC’s Of Wine Varietals: D

As you start drinking and learning about wine, it's good to, at some point, to start paying attention to the varietal and its general characteristics. This will help when you taste a winery's Cabernet Sauvignon and compare it to, say, its Zinfandel. Knowing the characteristic of a varietal will also help note differences between the grapes taste and body when compared across wineries, regions, or from a different country.

When looking for wine info, I often turn to the Wine Spectator, both for its broad reporting and its attention to basics. They have some introductory information on Varietal Characteristics, here is one starting with the letter D:

Source: Flickr

DOLCETTO (Red) [dole-CHET-to] - Almost exclusive to northwest Piedmont, this produces soft, round, fruity wines fragrant with licorice and almonds that should be drunk within about three years. It's used as a safety net for producers of Nebbiolo and Barbera wines, which take much longer to age. There are seven DOCs: Acqui, Alba, Asti, Dinao d'Alba, Dogliani, Langhe Monregalesi and Ovada.

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Wildfire Restaurant Oakbrook Review



On Monday, we went to dinner at the Lettuce Entertain You restaurant Widlfire at the Oakbrook Mall. I wrote earlier about how much I enjoyed trying their White Wine Flight - my wife tried their jazzy reds and, while not as successful as the white varietals, still a nice way to try multiple wines.

The restaurant itself was incredibly busy, even for an early dinner (with four kids aged 2 -11, we tend to eat early) – perhaps it was because of the Presidents’ Day holiday. It’s all dark wood and cool old photos, with the main room dominated by an open kitchen with lots of open flames. Our kids loved the chickens on a spit in one of the ovens.

Source: Wildfire

My wife, her aunt and her uncle all opted for the Basil Hayden’s® Bourbon Tenderloin Tips, with fries on the side. Two of our kids opted for the wood-fired pizzas and 2 opted for grilled cheeses with fries on the side. I chose the Penne and Wood Roasted Vegetables, though I modified the dish by having them skip the tomato sauce and substitute olive oil instead.

Everyone who ordered them agreed the tips were well-prepared, though the sauce was a bit on the sweet side. The penne was outstanding, perfectly cooked and, with the goat cheese topping, mated wonderfully with the wood roasted veggies. Grilled cheeses were outstanding, both the boys happily chowed down. Some thought the fries were on the salty side, but it didn’t stop anyone from enjoying them. The only true disappointments were the kids’ pizzas. Steaming hot, they were overly heavy on the sauce and the dough was mushy and limp, though the kids enjoyed the flavors.

Source: Wildfire

Just as it was odd that the kids opted 2 and 2 for the same dinner, all three desserts ordered were the Key Lime Pie! It was really delicious, great balance between sweet and tart of the lime custard, with a nice graham crust offering a contrasting taste and texture.

Wildfire, a steak and chop-house, is a step back in time to the 1940’s when going out for dinner meant something really special. From the décor to the jazz music, Wildfire has the style and warmth that makes for a perfect evening with friends or just for two. Wildfire’s open flame cooking and spit roasting over wood creates hearty savory dishes with a unique fullness of flavor. Wildfire’s signature dishes include Horseradish Crusted Filet Mignon, Roasted Prime Rib of Beef, Barbecue Baby Back Ribs, Char Crusted Ribeye Steak, Wood-Roasted Mussels, Cedar Planked Pacific Salmon and Ahi Tuna “T-Bone”. In addition we offer a variety of fresh, seasonal salads and sandwiches. (Source: http://wildfirerestaurant.com/)

Other area locations include ChicagoGlenviewLincolnshire,  and Schaumburg.

Wildfire Oak Brook on Urbanspoon

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Contact me at Kovas@50StatesOfWine.com!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Wanderlust Wining Book Review


Synopsis


Wanderlust Wining: The Outdoorsy Oenophile’s Wine Country Companion (Chicago, IL: Price World Publishing, 2011) is a fun delicious journey through many of America's finest wine countries; exploring their outdoor activities and wine tasting specialties. It's a one-stop-read to crafting active wine tasting trips in unique (and familiar) wine countries all over the United States. Discover how to kick off mornings with action-packed activities and spend the remainder of the day sniffing, swirling and sipping through local wineries. Learn how to taste wine like a pro and be in the local know about the best hiking and mountain biking trails or places to paddle, surf and sail. Visit creameries, galleries or savor a sustainable wine dinner served in the middle of a vineyard. Each fast-paced, easy-to-understand chapter offers light-handed wine education and historic facts about the area's wines, local parks and sports outfitter, must-go restaurants, art galleries, markets, vineyards, and more. (Source: Price World Publishing)

Wanderlust Wining is a comprehensive visit to the best and lesser known wine regions in the United States: California, Oregon, Washington State, New York, Virginia, Texas, and Colorado. Each chapter is chock full of things to do, places to go, people to meet and is a great reference book to take along – since it’s neither overly thick or overly large, this will slip into the pocket of your carry-on quite handily. Wine tasting tips are offered, as are fitness tips (Jackenthal is an athlete, so this addition makes perfect sense in her book).

This is a well-researched, well-written book, definitely a good addition to both armchair and actual travelers. Here’s hoping she does justice to some of our Midwest wine regions in a follow-up book or edition!


About The Author

Stefani Jackenthal is an adventure journalist for print, TV, and radio and an elite international endurance racer. She has contributed to The New York Times, The New York Sun, Outside, Conde Nast Traveler, Shape, Women's Health, Fitness, Prevention, Runner's World, Marie Claire, and Oxygen amongst others. She is the author of The Complete Idiot's Guide Rock Climbing and has contributed to books including The New York Times Practical Guide to Practically Everything. Stefani has also reported for NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday as well as reported on-air for TV. Stefani is the founder and president of the wine events company NTS Wine Tasting, LLC which produces corporate and private wine tastings, dinners and educational wine series. She has been an invited guest on a number of tasting panels and she writes a monthly wine column in Commuter Week newspaper. (Source: Price World Publishing)

In addition to her writing, Stefani also runs Jackenthal Custom Coaching, an endurance and general athletic training program based on the theory that every athlete has unique needs and desires. (Source: Stefani Jackenthal’s website) It turns out she’s quite the endurance athlete as well, with plenty of success both coaching and competing. She worked with Nathan Sports  to develop a women-specific backpack for her participation in the Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon in 2005.

More info can be found at the Wanderlust Wining website and friending on Facebook.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me for review purposes, courtesy of Price World Publishing. I was not compensated in any other way for the review, was not obligated to give the book a positive review, and all opinions are my own. Some information in this review was taken from the company website.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Tuesday Tasting: Wildfire Restaurant White Wine Flight


Last night we ate for the first time at the Lettuce Entertain You restaurant Wildfire. To start, I ordered the Wildfire Wine Flight White Varietals. It's a nice selection of 4 good wines, with truthful tasting notes offered:

"CAPOSALDO PINOT GRIGIO - White fruit and apple aromas, flavors of almond and melon.

KIM CRAWFORD SAUVIGNON BLANC - Aromas of tropical fruit, bright citrus flavors.

CLOS DU BOIS CHARDONNAY - Citrus and tropical fruit aromas, flavors of pear and green apple.

KENDALL-JACKSON RIESLING - Floral and citrus aromas, hints of pear and peach flavors."

The Kim Crawford was easily my favorite, both aromas and flavors bursting out of the glass. The Riesling was also really good, on the sweet side. The wines were drunk with a plate of penne, wood-roasted vegetables, olive oil, and goat cheese - each glass complemented the meal and were tasty on their own as well.

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Monday, February 20, 2012

The ABC’s Of Wine Varietals: C

As you start drinking and learning about wine, it's good to, at some point, to start paying attention to the varietal and its general characteristics. This will help when you taste a winery's Cabernet Sauvignon and compare it to, say, its Zinfandel. Knowing the characteristic of a varietal will also help note differences between the grapes taste and body when compared across wineries, regions, or from a different country.

When looking for wine info, I often turn to the Wine Spectator, both for its broad reporting and its attention to basics. They have some introductory information on Varietal Characteristics, here are the ones starting with the letter C:


"CABERNET FRANC (Red) [cab-er-NAY FRANK] - Increasingly popular as both stand-alone varietal and blending grape, Cabernet Franc is used primarily for blending in Bordeaux, although it can rise to great heights in quality, as seen in the grand wine Cheval-Blanc. In France's Loire Valley it's also made into a lighter wine called Chinon. It is well established in Italy, particularly the northeast, where it is sometimes called Cabernet Frank or Bordo. California has grown it for more than 30 years, and Argentina, Long Island, Washington state and New Zealand are picking it up.

As a varietal wine, it usually benefits from small amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, and can be as intense and full-bodied as either of those wines. But it often strays away from currant and berry notes into stalky green flavors that become more pronounced with age. Given its newness in the United States, Cabernet Franc may just need time to get more attention and rise in quality.

Much blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, it may be a Cabernet Sauvignon mutation adapted to cooler, damper conditions. Typically light- to medium-bodied wine with more immediate fruit than Cabernet Sauvignon and some of the herbaceous odors evident in unripe Cabernet Sauvignon."


CABERNET SAUVIGNON (Red) [cab-er-NAY SO-vin-yon] - The undisputed king of red wines, Cabernet is a remarkably steady and consistent performer throughout much of the state. While it grows well in many appellations, in specific appellations it is capable of rendering wines of uncommon depth, richness, concentration and longevity. Bordeaux has used the grape since the 18th century, always blending it with Cabernet Franc, Merlot and sometimes a soupçon of Petite Verdot. The Bordeaux model is built around not only the desire to craft complex wines, but also the need to ensure that different grape varieties ripen at different intervals or to give a wine color, tannin or backbone.

Elsewhere in the world—and it is found almost everywhere in the world—Cabernet Sauvignon is as likely to be bottled on its own as in a blend. It mixes with Sangiovese in Tuscany, Syrah in Australia and Provence, and Merlot and Cabernet Franc in South Africa, but flies solo in some of Italy's super-Tuscans. In the United States, it's unlikely any region will surpass Napa Valley's high-quality Cabernets and Cabernet blends. Through most of the grape's history in California (which dates to the 1800s), the best Cabernets have been 100 percent Cabernet. Since the late 1970s, many vintners have turned to the Bordeaux model and blended smaller portions of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petite Verdot into their Cabernets. The case for blending is still under review, but clearly there are successes. On the other hand, many U.S. producers are shifting back to higher percentages of Cabernet, having found that blending doesn't add complexity and that Cabernet on its own has a stronger character.

At its best, unblended Cabernet produces wines of great intensity and depth of flavor. Its classic flavors are currant, plum, black cherry and spice. It can also be marked by herb, olive, mint, tobacco, cedar and anise, and ripe, jammy notes. In warmer areas, it can be supple and elegant; in cooler areas, it can be marked by pronounced vegetal, bell pepper, oregano and tar flavors (a late ripener, it can't always be relied on in cool areas, which is why Germany, for example, has never succumbed to the lure). It can also be very tannic if that is a feature of the desired style. The best Cabernets start out dark purple-ruby in color, with firm acidity, a full body, great intensity, concentrated flavors and firm tannins.

Cabernet has an affinity for oak and usually spends 15 to 30 months in new or used French or American barrels, a process that, when properly executed imparts a woody, toasty cedar or vanilla flavor to the wine while slowly oxidizing it and softening the tannins. Microclimates are a major factor in the weight and intensity of the Cabernets. Winemakers also influence the style as they can extract high levels of tannin and heavily oak their wines."

"CARIGNAN (Red) [karin-YAN] - Also known as Carignane (California), Cirnano (Italy). Once a major blending grape for jug wines, Carignan's popularity has diminished, and plantings have dropped from 25,111 acres in 1980 to 8,883 in 1994. It still appears in some blends, and old vineyards are sought after for the intensity of their grapes. But the likelihood is that other grapes with even more intensity and flavor will replace it in the future."

"CARMENERE (Red) [car-men-YEHR] - Also known as Grande Vidure, this grape was once widely planted in Bordeaux, but is now associated primarily with Chile. Carmenere, along with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, was imported to Chile around 1850. According to Chilean vintners, Carmenere has been mislabeled for so long that many growers and the Chilean government now consider it Merlot."

"CHARBONO (Red) [SHAR-bono] - Found mainly in California (and possibly actually Dolcetto), this grape has dwindled in acreage. Its stature as a wine was supported mainly by Inglenook-Napa Valley, which bottled a Charbono on a regular basis. Occasionally it made for interesting drinking and it aged well. But more often it was lean and tannic, a better story than bottle of wine. A few wineries still produce it, but none with any success."


"CHARDONNAY (White) [shar-dun-NAY] - As Cabernet Sauvignon is the king of reds, so is Chardonnay the king of white wines, for it makes consistently excellent, rich and complex whites. This is an amazingly versatile grape that grows well in a variety of locations throughout the world. In Burgundy, it is used for the exquisite whites, such as Montrachet, Meursault and Pouilly-Fuissè, and true Chablis; in Champagne it turns into Blanc de Blancs. Among the many other countries that have caught Chardonnay fever, Australia is especially strong.

Chardonnay was introduced to California in the 1930s but didn't become popular until the 1970s. Areas such as Anderson Valley, Carneros, Monterey, Russian River, Santa Barbara and Santa Maria Valley, all closer to cooler maritime influences, are now producing wines far superior to those made a decade ago.
Though there is a Mâconnais village called Chardonnay, no one agrees on the grape's origin—it may even be Middle Eastern.

When well made, Chardonnay offers bold, ripe, rich and intense fruit flavors of apple, fig, melon, pear, peach, pineapple, lemon and grapefruit, along with spice, honey, butter, butterscotch and hazelnut flavors. Winemakers build more complexity into this easy-to-manipulate wine using common vinification techniques: barrel fermentation, sur lie aging during which the wine is left on its natural sediment, and malolactic fermentation (a process which converts tart malic acid to softer lactic acid). No other white table wine benefits as much from oak aging or barrel fermentation. Chardonnay grapes have a fairly neutral flavor, and because they are usually crushed or pressed and not fermented with their skins the way red wines are, whatever flavors emerge from the grape are extracted almost instantly after crushing. Red wines that soak with their skins for days or weeks through fermentation extract their flavors quite differently.

Because Chardonnay is also a prolific producer that can easily yield 4 to 5 tons of high-quality grapes per acre, it is a cash cow for producers in every country where it's grown. Many American and Australian Chardonnays are very showy, well oaked and appealing on release, but they lack the richness, depth and concentration to age and have in fact evolved rather quickly, often losing their intensity and concentration within a year or two. Many vintners, having studied and recognized this, are now sharply reducing crop yields, holding tonnage down to 2 to 3 tons per acre in the belief that this will lead to greater concentration. The only downside to this strategy is that lower crop loads lead to significantly less wine to sell, therefore higher prices as well.

Chardonnay's popularity has also led to a huge market of ordinary wines, so there's a broad range of quality to choose from in this varietal. There are a substantial number of domestic Chardonnays, which can range from simple and off-dry to more complex and sophisticated. The producer's name on the wine, and often its price, are indicators of the level of quality."

"CHENIN BLANC (White) [SHEN'N BLAHNK] - This native of the Loire Valley has two personalities: at home it's the basis of such famous, long-lived whites as Vouvray and Anjou, Quarts de Chaume and Saumur, but on other soils it becomes just a very good blending grape. It is South Africa's most-planted grape, though there is called Steen, and both there and in California it is currently used primarily as a blending grape for generic table wines. Chenin Blanc should perform better in California, and someday it may. It can yield a pleasant enough wine, with subtle melon, peach, spice and citrus notes. The great Loire whites vary from dry and fresh to sweet, depending on the vintage and the producer. In South Africa, Chenin Blanc is even used for fortified wines and spirits."

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Friday, February 17, 2012

The ABC’s Of Wine Varietals: B

As you start drinking and learning about wine, it's good to, at some point, to start paying attention to the varietal and its general characteristics. This will help when you taste a winery's Cabernet Sauvignon and compare it to, say, its Zinfandel. Knowing the characteristic of a varietal will also help note differences between the grapes taste and body when compared across wineries, regions, or from a different country.

When looking for wine info, I often turn to the Wine Spectator, both for its broad reporting and its attention to basics. They have some introductory information on Varietal Characteristics, here are the ones starting with the letter B:


"BARBERA (Red) [bar-BEHR-uh] - Most successful in Italy's Piedmont region, where it makes such wines as Barbera d'Asti, Barbera di Monferato and Barbera di Alba. Its wines are characterized by a high level of acidity (meaning brightness and crispness), deep ruby color and full body, with low tannin levels; flavors are berrylike. However, plantings have declined sharply in the United States. A few wineries still produce it as a varietal wine, but those numbers too are dwindling. Its main attribute as a blending wine is its ability to maintain a naturally high acidity even in hot climates. The wine has more potential than is currently realized and may stage a modest comeback as Italian-style wines gain popularity."


"BRUNELLO (Red) [broo-NEHL-oh] - This strain of Sangiovese is the only grape permitted for Brunello di Montalcino, the rare, costly Tuscan red that at its best is loaded with luscious black and red fruits and chewy tannins."

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Happy Anniversary Charles Shaw!

I've always been a fan of 2 Buck Chuck. It's a great starter wine, incredibly inexpensive ($2.99 here in Illinois), and has a couple of lessons to teach. First, tasty wine can be cheap. Two, you get what you  pay for - the sheer volume of Charles Shaw means there's incredible variation in the quality of the wine. Still and all, for everyday drinking, it's hard to beat.

Happy Anniversary Charles Shaw!


"Hard to believe that Charles Shaw Wines have been in our stores for 10 years. But it's true. Ten years since we first introduced Charles Shaw Wines at Trader Joe's. Ten years since the world went a bit bonkers for these $1.99* bottles of wine. In that time, we've sold about 600 million bottles of the various varietals. Yes, you read that right: 600 million bottles. Depending on what's available at any given time, you can expect to find Charles Shaw Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, and White Zinfandel in our wine section.

Somewhere along the way, these wines were dubbed “Two Buck Chuck.” We wish we could take the credit for that, but alas, some other scribe came up with that moniker. We do think we know why these wines have struck a chord—they've proven that wine doesn't need to be expensive to be good, drinkable wine. These are not expensive; they are good, and they're very drinkable."

Source: Trader Joe's

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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

reading between the wines Book Review



Some wine books, much like some wines, sneak up on you and leave you enjoying them much more than you first expected. Thus was my experience with Terry Theise's reading between the wines (Berkeley, CA: University of California press, 2011). The preface to the paperback edition starts with writing that I can only describe as hippy-dippy or quasi-spiritual or something that I can't quite name but was unsure I liked. But the more I read the more I realized I was intrigued by his dry with and underhanded method of describing both wine and its impact in our lives. "Many wine, even good wines, let you taste the noise. But only the very best let you taste the silence." Usually I want the noise, but sometimes I taste a wine that simply is, which I think is what Theise is getting at, or at least that's my interpretation.

Then I really started to like him. From the introduction: "Old World wines ask you to dance with them. New World wines push you prone onto a chair and give you a lap dance, no touching." Pretty evocative.

The rest of the book is equally pleasurable reading. Definitely recommended as a worthy addition to your wine library.


Acclaimed importer and wine guru Terry Theise, long known for his top-notch portfolio and his illustrious writing, now offers this opinionated, idiosyncratic, and beautifully written testament to wine. What constitutes beauty in wine, and how do we appreciate it? What role does wine play in a soulful, sensual life? Can wines of place survive in a world of globalized styles and 100-point scoring systems? In his highly approachable style, Theise describes how wine can be a portal to aesthetic, emotional, even mystical experience—and he frankly asserts that these experiences are most likely to be inspired by wines from artisan producers. Along the way, Theise tells us a little about how he got where he is today, explores the meaning of wine in the lives of vintners he has known, and praises particular grape varieties. Reading between the Wines is a passionate tribute to wine—and to what it can say to us once we learn to listen.

About the Author: Terry Theise, winner of the James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Wine and Spirits Professional, is an importer of boutique wines from Germany, Austria, and Champagne. His articles have appeared in The World of Fine Wine magazine. He was Wine & Spirits magazine’s Man of the Year in 2001 and Food and Wine magazine’s Importer of the Year in 2006.


To listen to an author interview, click on the below link:


Disclaimer: This book was sent to me for review purposes, courtesy of the University of California Press. I was not compensated in any other way for the review, was not obligated to give the book a positive review, and all opinions are my own. Some information in this review was taken from the company website.

Would you like your book or 
wine-related product reviewed?
Contact me at Kovas@50statesofwine.com!

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Tuesday Tasting: Comique Révolution Blanc

Comique Révolution Blanc 2010
Bottled by Central Coast Wine Warehouse, Santa Maria, CA
$4.99 Trader Joe’s


Comique Révolution Blanc is a California Central Coast blend of Rhône varietals like Roussanne, Viognier, Grenache Blanc and Marsanne. Aromas of apple blossom, juniper berry and honeydew prepare your palate for the essences of white peaches and custard. It's revolutionary in its versatility, too. (Source: Trader Joe’s)

Our 11-year old chose this wine for us to try, saying he didn’t think my wife and I had tried it before. He also loved the label, especially their assertion that they “…had no choice but to cut the fluff.” This was a really tasty wine, similar to the description on the label. Surprisingly, at 14.2% alcohol, this remained a balanced wine. Good wine for the price.

Would you like your wine reviewed?
Contact me at Kovas@50statesofwine.com!

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Monday, February 13, 2012

Wine Wit: Man Versus Wine



My wife Laima shared this on her blog Women's Endurance Gear on Friday and it's definitely worth re-sharing! Originally found on the Lynfred Winery Facebook page - they are well-worth following, as they often have funny images. Looking forward to one day trying their wine!

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Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Guide to Wine and Dessert Pairings

 

So many people checked out the post on the Super Bowl Food and wine pairings, that when I saw this over at Serious Eats, I just had to share it.

"Dessert impresario Gale Gand, of Chicago's TRU recommends focusing on the different "dessert" categories when selecting wine:
  • Custard and vanilla
  • Fruit and spice
  • Caramels and chocolates
In general, as the colors of the dessert get darker, Gand says the wine gets darker. Here is a guide to wine pairings with each of the major dessert genres:
  • Custard and Vanilla
    • Desired Flavors (in the wine and dessert): Mild, light, buttery
    • Suggested Wine Pairings: White wines (late-harvest Riesling), sparkling wines like demi-sec champagne, and Asti Spumanti.
  • Fruit and Spice
    • Desired Flavors (in the wine and dessert): Apples, pears, cinnamon
    • Suggested Wine Pairings: White wines (Sauternes, late-harvest Gewirtztraminer) and pink champagne.
  • Caramels and Chocolates
    • Desired Flavors (in the wine and dessert): Dark, buttery, caramelized, rich.
    • Suggested Wine Pairings: Red wine (like late-harvest Pinot Noir, Banyuls, Grenache, Australian Shiraz), port (the classic chocolate pairing), and Grappa.
  • Any Dessert
    • Desired Flavors (in the wine and dessert): Versatile.
    • Suggested Wine Pairings: Port and champagne.
  • No Desserts
    • Suggested Wine Pairings: Ice wine. (It's a dessert in itself!). And acidic, crisp white wines."
Source: Serious Eats

About the author: Kara Newman has written about wine and spirits for such publications as Wine Enthusiast and Sommelier Journal magazines, and is the author of Spice & Ice, which explores 60 tongue-tingling cocktails.

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Corkcicle Product Review


Keeping your wines at just the right drinking temperatures—it’s a great dilemma. Too cold and it could mask the vintner’s uniquely crafted complexities. Too warm and the flavors may take a back seat to the alcohol. The answer to this perplexity? Corkcicle.

Placed inside the bottle, Corkcicle chills the wine from the inside.



How to use the Corkcicle:
  1. Freeze Corkcicle for at least a couple of hours.
  2. Open a bottle of chilled white or room temp red wine.
  3. Pour out the first glass of wine to make room in the bottle.
  4. Insert the Corkcicle to keep whites cold and to chill reds to proper drinking temperature.
  5. When finished, wash, freeze, and reuse the Corkcicle.
It really is that simple. Corkcicle kept our whites cold for at least two hours – we finished the bottles at that point or less, so it could have been longer. Within a half hour or so, the reds were chilled and it’s amazing what a difference it makes for some wines. (Some reds I prefer room temp, but that’s personal preference).

The fact that there is no messing with ice cubes or bucket means no drips, no mess, and no subsequent clean-up. Really a handy product! Recommended.

For more information and to purchase, visit the Corkcicle website, like them on Facebook, and follow on Twitter.

Disclaimer: This product was sent to me for review purposes, courtesy of Corkcicle. I was not compensated in any other way for the review, was not obligated to give the product a positive review, and all opinions are my own. Some information in this review was taken from the company website.

Would you like your wine accessory reviewed?
Contact me at Kovas@50statesofwine.com!

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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Wines That Rock

The Official Wine of Rock and Roll? Why not? I love finding connections between my interests and rock and roll and wine rank up there.


"As passionate wine lovers and die-hard music fans, we've created the ultimate blending of two worlds. Our mission is to produce a new category of wine.

Years in the making, Wines That Rock knew it wanted to create a unique experience in the wine world. We didn’t want to just “slap” cool labels on a bottle and call it a day. We wanted to challenge our winery to produce varietals that were a great tasting, quality product that we could all be proud of...and you would thoroughly enjoy. Enter our partners at the award-winning Mendocino Wine Company who really understood our mission and helped us produce these world-class varietals. Try it for yourself…it all starts with great tasting wines!

As passionate wine lovers and die-hard music fans, Wines That Rock is creating its own category in the wine industry - “Great Tasting Wines Inspired by Music”. Wine and Music: with classic tracks from The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd and The Woodstock Festival blasting in the cellar, our winemaker Mark Beaman crafted custom wines for each of these legendary artists and their timeless albums - blending one-of-a-kind wines with Rock ‘n Roll mythology.

When was the last time you saw a wine label and said “WOW” or even better the last time you looked at a wine label and music started playing in your head. Our back labels are set up just like the back of the album jacket, liner notes and all. Wines That Rock is not your typical wine experience and these are not your typical wine labels. These are tapestries from the rock vaults. Classic, iconic album art that’s part of YOUR musical DNA. Hail, Hail Rock and Roll!

One of Wines That Rock’s missions from day one was to embrace sustainable practices – let’s leave the earth a better place than we found it. Coming out of Mendocino County, our award winning vineyard leads the pack in environmental leadership. Sustainable farming, 100% green power (solar & wind), eco-friendly packaging and carbon neutrality – how’s that for starters. From the grapes to the labels, Wines That Rock operates with full respect for the planet! Our winery won the 2009 Governors Economic and Environmental Leadership Award for the second time in 3 years.

Wines That Rock is approaching the wine business in a totally new way. This is not your Grandfather's Wine Company. Wines That Rock set out to do things our own way. By crafting these great tasting wines with classic music as our muse, utilizing the tapestries from the rock vaults as our cover, and truly creating something that tastes great, Wines That Rock is out to change the boring perceptions of your typical wine. Wines That Rock is meant to be fun, a conversation starter, an eye popping party gift that makes you do a double take once you actually pop the cork and taste what’s inside. It's also the perfect complement to your meal or just what you need when you want to kick back, relax and enjoy."


Connect with them on the Wines That Rock website, on Facebook and Twitter.

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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tuesday Tasting: Tenuta del Giaj Bianco Venice

Tenuta del Giaj
Bianco Venice
($5.00 purchased at Whole Foods)


A blend of Tai (Toccai Fruiliano) and Chardonnay grapes and made with organically grown grapes, this was a fantastic find for the price. Nice medium-textures wine, with citrusy flavors and a nice acidity to balance the fruit. My wife, who ALWAYS prefers red over white, actually reached for this bottle the next day first even though red was available.

Would you like your wine reviewed?
Contact me at Kovas@50statesofwine.com!

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Monday, February 6, 2012

Illinois Wines

You would think that, living in Illinois, our state's wineries would be the first we'd visit. But it hasn't turned out that way. Since we vacation mostly in Southwest Michigan, we've had better opportunities there. As parents of four children, with the attendant schools, music lessons, sports, and everything else, it's hard to find time in our every day lives to visit an Illinois winery. That will change this year!


The Illinois Grape Growers and Vintners Association are the ones to welcome you to Illinois Wine Country, with resources for those in the trade, the media, and also the public.
There are more than 90 wineries and 450 vineyards across the state. Many of them are conveniently clustered near one of six wine trails, allowing you to discover a variety of wines in just one trip.
The experiences offered visitors are diverse; ranging from the quaint bed and breakfast vineyard in the rolling hills of Southern Illinois to larger wineries offering classes, tours, tastings and even on-site chefs.
Yet all are united in a genuine passion and pride in creating hand-crafted wines and delivering a sophisticated yet approachable wine country experience.
Find Illinois Wine on Twitter and on Facebook.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Super Bowl Wine Pairings


When it comes to the Super Bowl – chips, dips, pizza, chili and other pub grub are in high demand. While beer has had a long and tenacious history with "The Game," more sideliners are opting to enjoy the occasion with wine. But which wines go with buffalo wings, nachos and hot dogs?

Wine for the Chips
Believe it or not, but fancy, formal Champagne is amazing with salty, greasy potato chips! Talk about versatility. It’s hard to beat a crisp Chardonnay or a sparkling Cava for chips and salsa or try a bold, Australian Shiraz with a plate full of nachos or buffalo wings. A light sparkling wine will also handle cheesy nachos well, especially if there is a bit of spice to them.

Wine for the Veggie Tray
For those opting for the healthy veggie plate and creamy ranch dips, a fruity Merlot or a citrus and herb-based Sauvignon Blanc should fit the bill.

Wine for the Pizza
If pizza is on your plate, a minerally Pinot Grigio or a bold California Zinfandel will make you wonder why in the world you’ve limited its intake partner to beer!

Wine with Chili (and chili dogs)
If you've got a cup full of chili, then grab a glass of Merlot or Chianti to handle the mix of cheese, beans, meat and tomatoes.

Wine with with Buffalo Wings
Buffalo wings, typically accompanied by creamy blue cheese dressing, are a Super Bowl staple, but what wine can handle the grease and spice of this particular tradition? Consider a Spanish Cava, an American Zinfandel or a Riesling to offset some of the spice.

Wine with with Burgers, Brats and Hot Dogs
Burgers, brats and hot dogs all match up well with a variety of fairly easy-going red wines. Look for a wine with good fruit, decent tannins and enough palate power to handle the fat components of the meat. Consider opting for an Argentinean Malbec, an Aussie Shiraz or a Californian Cab, with the most versatile vino pairing for this lineup going to the fresh flavors of Zinfandel.

Wine for the Appetizer Table
A tried and true Riesling will stand up to a majority of appetizer options. Likewise, a light Pinot Noir tends to complement a white chicken chili or other poultry dish particularly well.

Wine for Brownies
For your basic chocolate brownie, you might want to give a Port or a Pedro Ximénez Sherry a try otherwise, consider a Merlot or Pinot Noir.

If you are looking to up the festivity factor, then you might consider setting up a Super Bowl Sangria Station - a party-friendly wine punch that is perfect for Super Bowl gatherings, where less may be more.

Source: Stacy Slinkard, About.com

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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Maynard James Keenan: Tips for Becoming a Wine Aficionado



A few tips on how to best appreciate your sips:

  • Watch your sugar intake
    • “One of the first things that’s going to interfere with anyone trying to appreciate wine is sugar. If you’re really serious about learning about wine, the best way to learn about it is get a couple bottles of the same thing. If you’re a person who drinks a lot of Coca-Cola, or eats candy, or eats a lot of ketchup and mustard, go ahead and have your wine with those foods. Then don’t eat or drink any of that stuff for a week. Just stick to stuff that’s not seasoned. No sugar. Don’t eat sweet stuff for a week. Then have your wine and try to recall your experience before when your palate was completely polluted with the sugar.”
  • Beware of the heat
    • “Think of wine like you would ice cream. If you’re picking up wine from somewhere and you put it in the trunk of your car and watch a movie and expect the wine to be OK when you get back… it’s just not going to be. It’s a vulnerable product. The heat will ruin it. That’s why we don’t ship during the summer. Once it’s left your hands, there’s no way to control how the postal service is gonna get it to you. They’ll just leave it in a truck in the sun in Phoenix overnight. Your wine’s toast.”
  • Know your allergies
    • “If you think you’re allergic to sulfites in wine, but you drink fresh orange juice—then you’re not allergic to sulfites. You’re probably more allergic to histamines or wines that have more wood in them then they should. Really oaky, woody wines. People think they’re reacting to the wine, when they’re really reacting to the wood tannins. Choose a wine that’s not been aged in oak.”
Source: Revolver Mag

Maynard James Keenan (born James Herbert Keenan) is the singer and songwriter of the rock bands Tool and A Perfect Circle with whom he has released five and three studio albums, respectively. In 2003 he created Puscifer as a side project. Since rising to fame, Keenan has been somewhat of a recluse, although he does emerge to support charitable causes and his winemaking endeavors.

Keenan is the current owner of Merkin Vineyards and the associated winery, Caduceus Cellars, and has part ownership of Stronghold Vineyards, all located in Arizona, where he lives. As the winery began to take off, he began scheduling all records, promoting and touring around the winery's most important weeks shortly after its establishment. From the movie "Blood Into Wine": "The guys know that I've gotta be in Arizona for the harvesting and processing, and then I'll need to be back there again for the bottling. We'll be working our touring schedule around it."

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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Guest Post: Mandola Estate Winery, Driftwood, Texas


I visited the Mandola Estate Winery in Driftwood initially in this past Summer and again in the Fall, and I have to say, it is a beautiful location with great food and lovely wine. It’s located just outside of Austin, Texas; I lived in Austin for 5 years and this winery represents Texan Hill Country to the max.

The architecture of the winery screams Austin; Texas stone encompasses the majority of the structure, inside and out. Beautiful wood beams and window furnishings through-out the building only add to the rustic, Hill Country feel.


And the reasonably priced wine is delicious. The tasting room allows visitors to taste 6 wines for only $5. I particularly liked the Vermantino; it was fruity, crisp, and refreshing. The guided tours are awesome as well; on ours, the staff made sure we had plenty of wine to taste during its duration.

And Trattoria Lisina, the beautiful Italian restaurant on site, is awesome. The food is delicious; the noodles and bread are obviously homemade and the seafood is super fresh. Their pizza is as authentic as you’re going to get outside of Italy: It is baked in a wood-burning pizza oven traditional to the Italians. The service is awesome; the servers are there when you need them without being overbearing. And to top everything off, there’s a homemade gelato bar; it reminded me so much of Italy. Far from the Olive Garden, this restaurant is legit.


All in all, I recommend this winery to everyone I know and would recommend it to perfect strangers if they’d listen. The food, location, atmosphere, and wine are outstanding.

About the Author: Gina Williams is a guest post and article writer bringing to us her experience at the Mandola Estate Winery in Driftwood, Texas.

Gina also writes about Motorcycle Accidents.

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