Friday
Nov212008

Flashy Yet Frugal Fridays - Urban Uco Tempranillo $9

Last week we had some friends over for a little dinner and among the many wines we purchased for the occasion was this Tempranillo from Argentina for $9. The wine is made by Bodegas O. Fournier and I've always enjoyed their higher end Crux wines but their economical Urban line is nothing to sneer at either. They make several different wines including a Torrontes, Malbec-Tempranillo blend and Sauvignon Blanc. We decided to try the Tempranillo and it was delicious! It paired really well with the sweet and spicy flavors of our menu which featured BBQ ribs, pulled pork and brisket. There were tons of blackberry fruit notes and the texture was pleasantly soft without being too heavy. Tempranillo is the main grape used to make Rioja in Spain and you rarely encounter any good versions of it outside of it's homeland but in this case it was a slam dunk!

The label is really cool too. I can't figure out what building it is but the violinist reminds me of Florentino Ariza serenading the great love of his life, Fermina in Love in the Time of Cholera. I'm referring to the book and not the movie, although there is absolutely nothing wrong with having a little screen time with Javier Bardem.

Friday
Nov212008

How Corked Wine Can Ruin Your Night

Even though this video has nothing to do with wine, it's still hysterically funny to me because this is basically the scene that I make if the wine that I just opened ends up being corked or spoiled. Think about it, I make the effort to go to the wine store, I find a nice bottle, fork over my money, bring it home, make a nice dinner, light the candles and after all the anticipation has built up, the wine ends up tasting like moldy cardboard and wet newspapers.

The term "corked" or "cork taint" has nothing to do with bits of cork floating in the wine. If a wine is corked then it refers to the fact that there is presence of TCA or 2,4,6-trichloroanisole(TCA) if you wanted to get technical. Humans can detect TCA in very tiny amounts and wine containing TCA has a characteristic odor, variously described as resembling a moldy newspaper, wet dog, damp cloth, or damp basement. Mmmm...delicious, right? Industry standards put the amount of wine with detectable amounts of TCA at anywhere between 3-5%. The chief cause of cork taint is up to debate and far too complex for me to go into detail but you can check out a discussion on it here . I will tell you that price does not seem to be an indicator whether or not the wine will end up spoiled as I have had corked wine that cost anywhere between $5 to $500. One of the main ways wineries are dealing with this problem is by switching to screw caps or synthetic corks.

Now I could have taken the wine back to the wine store for a refund just as you can send a wine back in a restaurant if it smells like wet socks to you, but by the time I'm sitting nice and cozy in my jammies at home and I'm left without a wine for the night - the damage has been done. So...for the rest of the evening you will see me moaning and complaining like a 12 year old girl.

P.S. - The girl with the Aero Surf shirt totally wanted David Cook to win.

Friday
Nov212008

Beaujolais Nouveau 2008 Has Arrived!

I know - it's the moment we have all been waiting for all year! As the clock struck midnight on the third Thursday of November, the new vintage of Beaujolais Nouveau was officially released yesterday, and I just happened to be at Brasserie JO to taste it. According to French law passed in 1985, Beaujolais Nouveau may not be released earlier than the third Thursday of November. I was always tempted to open the wine like on a Tuesday just to see what would happen but I feared the Gendarmerie would hunt me down and make me do hard labor in some remote vineyard in the Languedoc. The wine is made from Gamay grapes that are harvested in September, fermented and then released a mere six weeks later making it the first taste of the vintage. The wine is light like a Pinot Noir, very fresh and fruity and tastes freakishly similar to bananas and gum drops. Now here's the thing about Beaujolais Nouveau, you either like the flavor or you don't but the taste is not the point as it is more about what the wine represents. The winemaker has spent the last nine months working the vineyard, pruning, worrying and waiting and then the moment finally comes when he/she and the world gets to taste the fruits of his/her labor. I also think Beaujolais reminds us that the year is slowly coming to a close and it is a nice way to usher in the holidays as Thanksgiving falls one week after the official release. This is probably the main reason why Nouveau ends up sitting next to the Turkey. The wine also features a different label every year. I know some folks who collect posters of the labels. Wine companies often employ elaborate and show stopping methods of getting the wines out to eagerly waiting thirsty patrons in time for the official release. I have heard stories of them using jets, elephants, speed boats, hot air balloons and in one case even a rickshaw.


Here's a particularly clever promotion: one spa resort in Hakone, Japan filled a hot spring with Beaujolais Nouveau for patrons to soak in. I bet this does wonders for your skin.

Even our favorite boy bander and Dancing with the Stars contestant- Lance Bass was on hand last night to light the Eiffel Tower red in Las Vegas to commemorate the launch.

As you can see, the whole thing has turned into a great reason to party and I imagine there was a ton of hoop-la-ing taking place in bars and bistros around the world last night. So yes - cue Kool and the Gang - because there's a party goin' on right here a celebration to last throughout the years so bring your good times, and your laughter too, we gonna celebrate your party with you, celebrate good times, come on!

You can grab your bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau at your local wine store for around $10 a bottle or you visit Brasserie JO for the complete French experience.

Thursday
Nov202008

Book Report - Wine and War


I read this book several years ago and it still remains at the top of the list of my favorite wine books ever. After reading it, I had a new found appreciation for French wine and a greater understanding of how important wine is to the French soul. This book is a must read for fans of wine and or history. It would also make a great gift!

From the the Library Journal:
Husband-and-wife journalists and contributors to Wine Spectator, the Kladstrups recount the dangerous and daring exploits of those who fought to keep France's greatest treasure out of the hands of the Nazis. Whether they were fobbing off inferior wines on the Germans, hiding precious vintages behind hastily constructed walls, sabotaging shipments being sent out of France, or even sneaking people out of the country in wine barrels, the French proved to be remarkably versatile when it came to protecting their beloved wine. The authors craft a compelling read that shifts back and forth between individual tales of bravery, including those of five prominent wine-making families, and the bigger story of how World War II affected the French wine industry.


Thursday
Nov202008

Inspector Gadget - Wine Label Removers

During my time as sommelier for Everest, we frequently received requests from our diners to save the wine label from the bottle of wine they ordered for dinner. I always got really excited by this as it was a sure sign they enjoyed the wine and wanted to keep the label as a memento of the evening. Removing the label was quite simple since we used these specially designed label removers. The post card sized clear stickers featured a backing that you would paste on to the label. After some vigorous rubbing back and forth (this was key) you removed the sticker and then voila - the wine label came along with it. We then placed the sticker onto a similarly sized Everest card and presented the now forever preserved label to the guest. Without the stickers we would need to soak the entire bottle in hot water in order to loosen the glue from the label and then with surgeon like precision, try to separate the label from the glass without reducing it to a pulpy mess.

If you are the type of person who likes to collect wine labels, then I would suggest investing in these removers. They are a bit pricey at around $1 per label therefore a more economical alternative would be to take a cell phone photo of the bottle. Not as romantic but definitely more convenient than carrying around an album of wine experiences past.

You can purchase the removers from IWA (International Wine Accessories) - a fantastic site that reminds me a bit of the Sky Mall magazine you find on the seat back pocket in airplanes. I'm just amazed by the different contraptions that Sky Mall offers- especially the pet products. The faces on those poor pooches are just priceless!