Thursday, January 30, 2014

Super Bowl: Beer and Cheese Pairing

It's the Super Bowl and most people are more likely to grab a brew than vino, right? That doesn't mean you have to go all lowbrow, though, as this beer and cheese pairing infographic shows:

Beer and Cheese Pairing
Read more at RedEnvelope

Stout and aged gouda - sounds good to me!

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Underground Cellar

A wine club, but not a wine club. Join for free, no monthly dues, yup, not a wine club. Underground Cellar offers limited-time deals on wines in an unusual way: pay one price, get wines of varying values.

"Our crack team of wine curators hunts far and wide for unique and private stashes of high-quality, hard-to-find wines from famous wineries as well as hidden-gems from boutique wineries. Every bottle is taste-tested and hand-selected. If the wine passes our high standards, then we’ll pass the deal on to our members. If it doesn’t- we flush it, recycle it, and never speak of it again."
A twist is that every bottle of wine you order is eligible for a free random upgrade to a higher quality bottle of wine. If you're an active member and get lots of friends to join Underground Cellar, you have a better chance of getting an upgraded bottle of wine in your shipment.

Cons? You only get the wine if the offer sells out, If it doesn't sell out, then no dice.

Get yo' wine on in the Underground Cellar Video

What if you don't have room for all those bottles you just bought? Underground Cellar offers the CloudCellar. That's their state-of-the-art temperature controlled Napa Valley wine cellar where you can store and collect any bottles of wine you order even if it's just a single bottle. How much does it cost to store wine in the CloudCellar? Storing wine in your CloudCellar is free. Forever. When you're ready to drink, just log into your account and select “Ship this case now”, and the bottles will automatically be shipped to your door. Amazing.

Ready to join? Head over to Underground Cellar, sign up, and start checking out the offers!

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Friday, January 24, 2014

Cider Summit Chicago

Cider Summit Chicago

Hard Cider has been getting more and more popular, with expanding opportunities to taste it, in restaurants, bars, and the producers themselves. We have an upcoming tasting opportunity in Chicago to get a great overall look at the hard cider industry today. Cider Summit Chicago will feature over 90 ciders from throughout the U.S., England, Scotland, France, Spain, and even New Zealand.

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Wine Wednesday: Improve with Wine

Improve with Wine

According to Wikipedia, alcohol's effect is an overall improvement in mood and possible euphoria; increased self-confidence; increased sociability; and decreased anxiety. Thus, while wine can improve with age, I can also improve with wine.

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Sunny McCoskey Napa Valley Mysteries

Sunny McCoskey Napa Valley Mysteries

If you love food, wine, and mysteries, then the Sunny McCoskey Napa Valley Mysteries by Nadia Gordon should be right up your alley. Sonya "Sunny" McCoskey is the chef-owner of Wildside, a lunch-only restaurant in St Helena. Since it's the Napa Valley, she is surrounded by characters whose business is the growing of or preparation of food, the making or selling of wine, and those that support the food and wine culture.

Besides running the restaurant, Sunny is cultivating a relationship with another chef, which adds drama and complications to all of the stories. While her delving into a variety of murders is the scaffold from which all the stories are hung, it is her relationships not only with her erstwhile beau, along with her sous chef/best friend, winemaker pal, and wineseller that round out the tales, bringing them to life.

Our library only had the first three titles of the series: Sharpshooter (2002), Death by the Glass (2003), and Murder Alfresco (2005), but happily, the Chicago Public Library has a copy of Lethal Vintage (2009), so I'll be checking that out very soon. It's just a shame that there are only 4 books in the series.

Grab a glass of wine and get transported to wine country, with some murder mystery fun along the way.

About the author: Julianne Balmain is a novelist and popular culture author whose many books about food, sex, travel, humor, and generally having a good time include the Kama Sutra Deck: 50 Ways to Love Your Lover and the very silly Office Kama Sutra: Being a Guide to Delectation and Delight in the Workplace, both of which have been translated into several languages. Writing as Nadia Gordon, she is author of the Sunny McCoskey Napa Valley mystery series.

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Thursday, January 16, 2014

SOMM

SOMM

I've been on the fence about whether or not to see "SOMM," the documentary that follows a group of guys studying for the Master Sommelier exam. I'd heard both positive and negative about the movie, mostly negative about the self-centeredness of the characters. I was also intrigued by it, as the exam seems beyond crazy difficult.
"Somm is the story of four sommeliers attempting to pass the prestigious Master Sommelier exam, a test with one of the lowest pass rates in the world. The exam covers literally anything having to do with the entire world of wine and that is just the beginning. Access to the Court Of Master Sommeliers has always been strictly regulated and cameras have never been allowed anywhere near the exam.... Until now. How much do you know about wine?"
Turns out it's pretty good. The guys are definitely portrayed as self-centered, with passing the exam their main focus. But....my impression was that while it was important, the reason they were going through this was to prove something to the world about how great they were, but also for their wives and girlfriends.

SOMM Documentary Trailer 1 from Forgotten Man Films on Vimeo.

Overall, this was an engaging movie -- for the most part, you care about whether these guys pass the exam, though you also have to wonder about putting that much effort into this. Ultimately though, with only about 200 Master Sommeliers in the world, it's a pretty exclusive club to belong to:
  • Pros: Gives the highs and lows of their progress; characters are neither positive or negative; inside glimpse into the stress of preparing for this exam
  • Cons: Not a single woman - really?
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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Winestyr: Buy Wine Online

Buying wine online offers many options, but it's easy for smaller wineries to fall between the cracks, lost among the huge choices available. Boutique online wine marketplaces, like Winestyr, fill in those cracks by focusing on smaller producers. Unlike wine clubs, there are no upfront costs or monthly fees. You learn about new wines and buy the ones you want. When Winestyr contacted me about promoting their site, I was doubly excited, as they are based not far from me in Chicago.

Winestyr: Buy Wine Online

How it works: Winestyr finds great wines they can stand behind and offer them in their marketplace. Each wine and winery is fleshed out with a story, suggested pairings, etc. You buy as many or as few wines as you like through Winestyr, and the wineries ship directly to you. Shipping is no more than $10, but you can get $.01 shipping by buying $100 from 1 winery, $150 from 2 wineries, or $200 from 3 wineries. Not bad.

Winestyr is based in the Midwest, but the wineries are in California, Washington, Oregon and, big props to them, Michigan (Old Shore Vineyards).

Ground Effect Wine Co

We received wines from the Ground Effect Wine Co., a family producer with a sense of humor and an emphasis on terroir. When people talk about tasting earth in a wine, it's meant as a positive, and Ground Effect is a great winery to try if you've never quite tasted what everyone is talking about. We also loved their simple labels.
  • 2011 Rock Garden Red Blend (Paso Robles, CA) - dark fruit, all about the dirt, thick and delicious; 62% Syrah, 28% Grenache, and 10% Zinfandel; no fining or filtration; cork closure; 172 cases produced.
  • 2011 Gravity Check White Blend (Central Coast, CA) - tart, light fruit, minerality, and amazing acid; 37% Chenin Blanc, 33% Albariño, 30% Pinot Gris; fermented in stainless steel, aged in stainless and old wood; cork closure; 129 cases produced.
Winestyr has a nice selection of wineries from the West Coast and the Ground Effect wines show the high quality they've ferreted out. I would, of course, suggest by starting with the Old Shore Vineyards "Michigan's Best Wines Pack," though I would guess you couldn't go wrong with any of the others, either.

Check out the goods on the Winestyr website, on Facebook, and Twitter.

These wines were provided for review purposes.

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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Scratch and Sniff Wine Expert

How do you take wine, make it simple and appealing, remove any traces of snobbery, yet make your info educational and useful? Why, make a scratch and sniff board book, of course. Richard Betts did just that, and the results are pretty amazing.

Scratch and Sniff Wine Expert

Betts breaks it down to this simple fact: tasting is smelling. He then goes on to explore the world of fruit, wood, earth, other smells, with scratch and sniff patches along the way. Do all of them smell like what they represent? No, but it doesn't take away the enjoyment of reading (and smelling) your way through this book.

The book concludes with a fold-out "Whole Wine World" map. Start in the middle, choose red (red or black fruit) or white (subtle or exotic), then follow the rings outward, choosing amongst options of fruit, woods, earth, and more. I bemoan the lack of a rosé option, but this IS a simplified book after all. If you're a novice or just want to see where you might end up, it's all in good fun.

Everyone should own a copy of this book, either as an actual useful tool or to remind one that wine is, after all, something to enjoy and not make overly complicated.

About the Author: "Richard Betts has been featured in the New York Times, Wine Spectator, Food & Wine, Outside, GQ, and Details and speaks frequently on wine throughout the country. He is the founder of two wine companies, Betts [and] Scholl and Scarpetta, that have won top praise from leading wine publications. He is also the founder and president of Sombra Mezcal and Tequila Astral, and his newest wine ventures include Saint Glinglin Bordeaux, My Essential Red, and My Essential Rosé."

This book was sent to me for review purposes.

I use Grammarly's plagiarism checker because I respect originality over talented mimicry.

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Thursday, January 9, 2014

Obed and Isaac's, Springfield, IL

Obed and Isaac's

On the way back from St Louis and the Show Me State wineries, we decided to stop in Springfield and take in some Presidential history. Our plan started with a visit to Abraham Lincoln's home, which is set in a recreated street from that time, and run (quite well) by the National Park Service. After lunch we headed over to the Lincoln Tomb, which turned out to be closing for a 4 month restoration the next day, lucky us.

We happily discovered that Obed and Isaac's, a microbrewery in Springfield, also has a restaurant (with plans for expansion well underway) all of which sits a block away from the Lincoln Home historical district.  The restaurant sits in an attractive older home, with the expansion next door in an even more beautiful building; the brewery sits between the two buildings.

The menu is typical pub fare, with my son's Pony Shoe being a table favorite (a Pony Shoe is half a Horseshoe sandwich: originating in Springfield, this is open-faced sandwich topped with meat, covered with French fries, then smothered with a cheese sauce - Yum!). The Roast Beef and Gouda Panini was tasty, but not much bite to the horseradish sauce. The Pub Burger was simple yet good, with happy kids eating Grilled Cheese and Mac-n-Cheese to round it out.

Being at a brewpub, we felt obligated (in a good way) to taste their beer. I'm a fan of dark beers (and a sucker for fun names), so I had an easy choice, opting for the Silly Pants Stout, which was quite good, though a bit light for a stout. You can also get growlers of their beer to go.

Obed and Isaac's food

If you're in Springfield, it's worth checking out the restaurant, especially if you're visiting the Lincoln Home. Nothing fancy, but decent beer and food, good location, what more could you ask for?

Obed and Isaac's Microbrewery and Eatery on Urbanspoon

Obed and Isaac's Microbrewery on Foodio54

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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Show Me State Wines

A few months back, we took the opportunity of a longer weekend to knock off two birds with one stone. Our son Munchkin has been agitating (for some unknown reason) to visit St Louis, and, since we hadn't been there as a family, we decided the time was nigh. At the same time, we could continue our 50 states project, visiting a winery in each state - this would be our 6th!

Missouri Wines

Facts from Missouri Wines:
The Missouri wine industry has more than 100 wineries, most near one of the state’s larger metro areas. There are 4 American Viticultural Areas (Missouri
 is actually 
home 
to 
the 
country's 
first 
designated 
AVA) and 9 wine trails.
At the Wine Tourism Conference in Portland, we conferred with Danene Beedle, Marketing Director for the Missouri Wine and Grape Board, on which wineries to visit. Since they had to be as close as possible to St Louis, we finally narrowed it down to 2 wineries, Noboleis and Montelle.

Our first stop, Noboleis, was situated in a gorgeous setting, on and among rolling hills. Open daily, this estate vineyard and winery is near Augusta, about an hour or so outside of St Louis. While the setting is flat-out gorgeous, the tasting room and winery are very simple in design and scope. Along with wine tasting, the winery offers food. Live music is on tap most weekends. They offer about 10 wines from blush to red, made from hybrid grape varietals, with a flavor and quality on par with the other wines we've tasted from Missouri.

Our second stop, Montelle, is actually closer to St Louis by a small bit, but we opted to go to the furthest point and then work our way back (much easier with small children). As simple and small as the Noboleis facilities are, Montelle Winery does things on a much grander scale, with a large tasting room, store, and deli inside, and endless decks with tables and seating wrapping around most of the building. The views are quite breathtaking, a surprise to us - we had never thought of Missouri as having much elevation change before visiting this area. Open daily, Montelle offers as many as 20 wines (made mostly from hybrids, but some vinifera and fruit as well), along with spirits. The one negative is that there are no vineyards to be seen, taking away, in my opinion, a bit of charm that vineyards can impart.

Wine video of Noboleis and Montelle

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