Thursday, April 29, 2010

Wine Tripping Rocks!

Flying out to California every year is ALWAYS a fun thing! This is my forth year in a row, third Women for WineSense Grand Event - yes, your math is correct, I attended the second one while I was 6 months pregnant with my daughter. Here are the things that make this trip so special every year:
1. Seeing my friends again that I rarely see or only get to see during this event - not only my Cali posse, but women from all over the country come through - my Dallas girls, my Oregon crew from Portland and Bend, ladies from Richmond.

2. Traveling with my northeast region girls, enjoying the growth of our friendships in a shared hotel room in St Helena and at the Grand Event luncheon at CIA.

3. Getting Chef Shehu some Charles Krug Rosé right from the source. (perhaps I’ll see my friend the little jackrabbit who hangs around the picnic area outside of the tasting room, too?)

4. Visiting a new vineyard or winery I haven’t been to before - last year, it was Spottswoode, to pick up my allocation of Sauvignon Blanc. This year, I will visit Ceja Vineyards on my Sunday morning Vineyard Tour (part of the Grand Event ticket package - WHAT A DEAL!!).

5. Dining at some of the countries most fabulous and beloved restaurants. This year, Mustard’s Grill!

6. Watching the Napa Valley Wine Train go by and waving at all the “happy” people on board while eating a burger at the Taylor’s Refresher, THE BEST burger joint I’ve ever been to! (Imagine great burgers, perfect fries and an AWARD WINNING WINE LIST! I KID YOU NOT!)

7. Amazing new experiences - in 2007, I met Mrs Margrit Mondavi, in 2008, I blended and bottled my own wine at St Supery, last year Samantha and I drove through Sonoma Valley and stayed with a new friend in Tiburon, where I had a fantastic morning run, this year - WHO KNOWS???

8. Beautiful weather, which we always seem to be blessed with.

9. A little time away from the concrete (and let’s face it, a little me time without hubby and baby) - at least enough time to miss it all and want to come back home!

Support your Nabe Retailer on Earth Day

There’s no doubt that doing what it takes to care for farm land in this way ensures a great future for the people who eat and drink from it - sparing their vines and soils from chemicals, letting nature take its course. The naturally farmed vineyard has been a wild and beautiful sight every time I’ve seen it around the world.

Some of my fave Biodynamic Organic Sustainable (BOS) wines:
Grove Mill Winery, Wairau Valley, Marlborough, NZ
Sokol Blosser, Willamette Valley, OR
Jean Luc Colombo, Cornas, (northern) Rhône Valley, France
Felton Road, Bannockburn, Central Otago NZ

My best advice: visit your good neighborhood wine retailer - an attractive store with knowledgeable staff who enjoy wine are indicators that they will a. Have a healthy selection of these wines to show you and b. Enjoy talking about the wines with you.

Shop small retailers on Earth Day

written on Thursday, April 22nd to commemorate the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day. Sorry for the delay!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Bringing Wine

So you've been invited over for dinner and you're not sure what wine to bring?  I got you!  There are several ways you can arrive at a decision of what to buy, and its a good idea to have a sense for what you want BEFORE heading down to the wine shop (in this case, wineLIFE, I'm sure) to make your purchase.  Just follow this easy wine buying strategy, and you'll be in and out of the store in no time with the perfect bottle for the event!

When thinking about what wine to buy, ask yourself the following questions:

1. Who will I be drinking this bottle of wine with?
If you're visiting good friends, and you're not particularly worried about what they will think when you pull the bottle out of the bag, then skip to question 3.
If this is your first time to someone's home and don't know what's for dinner, go red. Think Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah - these wines have wide appeal. 
If you want to impress - meeting the parents, going to the boss's holiday dinner, wowing a client - go with a wine that has a good reputation, whether red or white, still or sparkling.

2. What food will I be drinking this bottle of wine with? 
If you know what's for dinner, go with rules of thumb that work - whites and lighter reds for fish, pork and poultry, richer reds and bold whites for red meat and game.  If you know me, you’ll know that I abhor wine rules, but in cases when you’re not sure what’s being served, it helps to narrow down the choices.
3. How much should I spend?
In most cases, $15.00 can get you a great bottle of wine. 
If you are eager to impress, be prepared to spend at least $20.00
If you know what is being served, go with the tone of the menu. If your host is just having hors d'oeuvres or making guacamole, a bottle around the $10 mark should be fine, but if he's going to town with confit duck and wild mushroom risotto, your bottle should live up to his efforts. 

4. Should I gift wrap it?
Yes you should! Presentation makes all the difference - a fun wine bag or just wrapping the bottle in nice tissue paper shows you really appreciate being invited over and the wine purchase wasn't strictly obligatory. 

A Few More Tips...

Be open to the possibility that your host may have the wine for dinner taken care of and that they may put your bottle on the rack to enjoy another time - that's a great way to offer a wine gift!  

The wine, your experience buying the wine, even the bag you brought it in can all be great fodder for conversation. Consider this when making your buying decisions. 

Sparkling wine is always fun and is not necessarily just for celebrations - they go great with foods that call for crisp whites. Champagne is usually $30.00 or more per bottle. If you don't want to spend that much, Cava and Prosecco are other popular alternatives that cost a lot less. 

Happy shopping!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Albariño - From a Rainy Region for a Sunny Summer

Rías Baixas is an exciting wine region located in rainy northwestern Spain. Its local specialty is Albariño, a crisp white wine that has a character that changes seemingly with the changes in your own mood. I had my first Albariño of the season - Martin Códax Albariño 2008 ($13.00, easy to spot with a funky old school type of guitar on the label) - two days ago on the first of several much-hotter-than-usual days in New York City.

The retailer kept it in the fridge. At first, knowing this was more of a liquor store and that the people running probably had no clue, I was concerned about how long it had been in there - the 2008 has been on the market for at least 8 months now, and the label was beginning to warp. Nonetheless, I took a chance on it, and I’m glad I did. It was memorable, with stone fruit aromatics that reached up and caught my attention as I was still pouring my first glass. The wine had an herbal undertone - eucalyptus? or star anise? - it was hard to put my finger on, but easy across my palate with a mouthful of flavors, crisp acidity and a clean finish.

I strongly encourage that you espouse this grape this summer - well, have an open relationship, still try other wines, but make it your business to seek out Albariño all summer long, buy them, try them with your peoples, see what you think. Buy in the $10.00-$15.00 per 750ml bottle range - steer clear of Vinho Verde, its not the same thing! By summer’s end, you’ll be an Albariño connoisseur, and you’ll tell me which ones are best! I’d love that!