It starts off well...going in a direction I happen to agree with:
"Valentine's Day. While flowers are never a bad option, wine and wine-related gifts can be even more romantic and put a real exclamation point on your affection."
I agree 100%. Flowers may be a solid option, but they are just sooo easy. Does it take any real thought to buy flowers on V-day? I don't think so...and I typically don't buy Nena flowers on this, the most Hallmark of all holidays.
But, after this initial paragraph... I agree with very little of what the author has to say.
Sure, white wine is a decent option, but pushing over-the-top buttered oak Chardonnay, with a brief mention of Sauvignon Blanc misses the mark I think. Does sucking on sawdust with a stick of butter in your mouth sound romantic?
How about some nice, zesty Gewurtz from Alsace? Maybe an elegant California Viognier? It obviously depends on what you're serving with these wines...but a heavy, flabby Chardonnay is about as un-sexy a wine as I can think of.
Turning to his suggestions of Cabernet Sauvignon or a meritage blend for reds...again, I don't agree. For romance...is there anything better than a silky, seductive Pinot Noir either from the Pacific Northwest or Burgundy?
Wine can absolutely set the stage for a supremely romantic evening...but I can't condone turning to burly, muscular wines like these. And don't get me wrong...I love Cabernet.
Dissapointingly, the only mention of sparkling wine is:
"And, before you ask, here's my take on bubbly as a gift: It's nice, it's meaningful and it is sure to make your mate smile, but it is also overdone."
Strike three in my book. I don't think bubbly is overdone at all. In fact, I think we should all drink sparklers more often. Maybe it's a bit too common on Valentine's Day...but if we're not talking Korbel, go for it.
Talk about overdone...picking Chardonnay as your white wine of choice and Cabernet as your red selection?
Personally, as you'll see in my newest column (hitting news stands tomorrow morning) I think Rosé should at least be mentioned. Pink bubbly gets mentioned on V-day every year...why not still Rosé? I know. I know...but it's not all white Zin.
I can appreciate the fact that this author's audience is quite different from mine....but I'm never for reinforcing the Chard and Cab-only view of wine. I see it too often.
Well folks, LENNDEVOURS' first wine tasting event went off pretty much without a hitch. We ended up with 14 wines from 12 Long Island wineries and one Finger Lakes winery, and 12 tasters.
It was interesting to see how different people reacted to different wines. For the most part, Nena and I tended to like similar wines (not a surprise) but there were only a few that everyone liked. Similarly, there was only one (maybe two) that everyone disliked.
Easily the most entertaining part of the evening (and the next morning) was reading everyone's comments. One friend in particular, we'll call her Jenn for our purposes (and becuase it's her name), had some extremely funny notes, which will be shared later in the post.
Everyone was asked to give each wine a letter grade (A through F) and after I "crunched the numbers" I can proudly say that the average grade for all wines overall was a C...which is...well...average. Nicely done people.
I'm not going to devote an entire post to each wine...but here's at least a little something on each:
I'll write a run-down of the Rosé tasting we hosted Saturday night soon...hopefully tonight or tomorrow morning. But, I like this picture...and it's a great example of the wide range of colors possible.
I'll admit it. I'm a wine nerd and an Internet nerd. So, it should come as no surprise that I surf winery websites just about every day. I focus largely on New York State most of the time, but I do branch out into California, Virgina and even South America.
I should also mention that I'm a word nerd. I have a graduate degree in writing, so I may notice things like this moreso than someone else would... but:
Does the phrase "award-winning wines" mean a damn thing to anyone anymore?
I'm willing to bet that at least 99% of winery websites I visit include this phrase in some prominent way.
It's really starting to drive me crazy.
It means absolutely nothing at this point. It does not set you apart. There is no differentiation gained. Just because the Southeast-West Coast Chapter of the Mediocre Wine Guild Assocation Board has given you a bronze metal for your syrupy-sweet Chardonnay doesn't mean that it matters.
Maybe I'm being too tough on these people. It's not their fault that there are thousands of "awards" handed out to pretty much anyone who ferments grape juice. Maybe they do need to include "award-winning" in their collateral just so it's not noticeably absent amongst the pages of marketing fluff most wineries subject us to.
But we, as wine consumers have got to be so desensitized to this phrase by now. Don't we?
The question remains: Should I be ranting against the onslaught of awards or the recipients for thinking we'll be impressed?
I mean...do the best wines even enter many competitions?
Tomorrow is the first specifically wine-related event that Nena and I have ever hosted -- Long Island Pink Wines for Valentine's Day. A week early you say? That's because my Dan's Papers column for Valentine's Day weekend is due Monday. Yes, the day after the Super Bowl, which is why I'll be writing it Sunday morning.
We'll be tasting 14 wines from 12 Long Island wineries and one winery from the Finger Lakes wine region (with ties to Long Island). Wineries represented include:
I'm very interested to see what everyone says about this wide range of wines. Some I know are completely dry...but there are others that I know are off-dry and semi-sweet as well. Grapes used include Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Catawba, Caguya, Pinot Noir and even Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc.
I think I'm going the wines up into those that I know/expect to be dry versus those that I know/expect to have some sweetness so that we're comparing like wines. Given the motley crew of people coming...I think it will be a lot of fun to see what people enjoy.
(This column originally appeared in the 2/4 edition of Dan's Papers)
When Juice Goes Un-Fermented
Do you know what verjus is? Probably not, but don’t be embarrassed, not many people do.
Verjus, literally translated as “green juice” and pronounced “vair-ZHOO,” is the fresh, unfermented juice of half-ripe fruit, most often grapes.
Quite common in Old World wine regions, particularly France, this versatile juice has as many culinary uses as there are grapes in a vineyard. Want a bright, fresh wine alternative without the alcohol? Drink verjus. It’s crisp, fruity and refreshing on its own or mixed with sparkling water and fruit slices to create virgin sangria.
Would you rather drink wine? No problem… just use verjus like you would vinegar. It can be used as a poaching liquid for chicken or fish, added to marinades for some acidic zing or make a great ceviche with local bay scallops. You can even make a verjus sorbet.
My favorite, everyday use for verjus is in vinaigrette. Because it doesn’t have all the mouth-puckering acidity of vinegar, you don’t need to use as much oil, leading to lighter, healthier dressing for fresh field greens.
Combine the verjus, shallot, garlic and mustard in a bowl. Add the canola and olive oils in a slow, steady stream, whisking until smooth. Stir in fresh herbs, season with salt and pepper to taste, and toss with greens.
Jamesport Vineyards’ verjus ($10) is made entirely from half-ripe Chardonnay grapes. Pale yellow with a definite greenish tint, it’s filled with lime flavors and hints of honeydew melon. Subtle acidity and a gentle sweetness make it perfect for sipping or as a mixer.
Delivering much brighter acidity and lively tartness, the Wolffer Estate bottling ($10) offers lemongrass and light herbal notes that frame refined green apple flavors. Made from Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, this is my hands-down choice if I’m using verjus in my cooking.
Try verjus, especially if you’re visiting the vineyards with kids and want them to feel a part of the day!
To order verjus or for more recipes, contact Wolffer Estate at 537-5106 or Jamesport Vineyards at 722-5256.
Chardonnay is the most-planted grape on Long Island...despite the fact that it's not as popular as it once was (thanks California!).
As you would probably expect, there's a wide range of wines made from all those grapes. A good portion of them go into white table blends (often with Riesling or other varietals) that have their place, but aren't my favorite. There are some California-style Chards too...with lots of butter and oak. Again, those usually aren't my favorite, but a couple do make their way into my glass on occasion.
If you read LENNDEVOURS, you've probably heard me refer to "Long Island-style Chardonnay" on occasion, but I don't always do a great job of defining it.
The best LI-style Chardonnays do see a little oak in their time, but only enough to impart light vanilla and/or butterscotch notes..or maybe hints of cream. The vibrant fruitiness of the grape in it's rawest form isn't muted or dulled. They are fruit-driven with lots of citrus and apples and usually medim-bodied. Clean is a great way to describe them...but they usually don't quite have the mineral character of a white Burgundy.
They are Chardonnays for people who don't like Chardonnay.
This Chardonnay in particular, a new release from Wolffer Estates, is a nice example.
Chilean wines are hot right now both because of their quality and their value. Personally, I think that on the bottom end of the price scale (under $10) Chilean wine is often the way to go.
Laurel Lake Vineyards, in Laurel, New York, has brought Chilean winemaking talent and experience to our Bordeaux-esque microclimate...and the results are quite good.
Purchased by Chilean investors in 1999, Laurel Lakes is delievering well-crafted and resonably priced wines to a New York market often filled with over-priced bottles.
While not as well known as some of the over-hyped, marketing-crazed Long Island wineries, Laurel Lakes' owners definitely know their wine.
Francisco Gillmore is the proprietor of Vina Gillmore Estate in the Maule region of Chile. Juan Esteban Sepulveda is the director of Vinos del Sur (another Maule winery) and Alejandro Parot is a wine producer as well.
Laurel Lakes also features some of the oldest vines on the Island, planted in 1980 (remember that the first vines were planted here in 1973). These older vines definitely add to the character of the wine.
I'm scheduling a tour and tasting with winemaker Claudio Zamorano for early this spring...and it's certainly something I look forward to. His ice wine is absolutely succulent and this Chardonnay was a nice find too.
Many of us have lived fairly charmed lives...lives where we more-or-less have never wanted for anything. Sure, we may not have had foie gras on our plates or Petrus in our glasses every night, but we always had a roof over our heads and food in our stomachs. We never had to worry about the basics of survival...and we should be grateful.
Today, food and wine bloggers from the world over are taking the time to help those that are battling for the survival we too often take for granted...those so devastated by the tsunami in Sout East Asia and East Africa.
The always wonderful Pim of ChezPim has organized what can only be described as a motley crew of food lovers from around the world...a crew formed to create a tasting menu, with wine pairings -- A Menu for Hope.
Please do check it out and by all means, try some of the dishes. There are some supremely talented culinary minds involved.
Frankly, it was an honor just to be involved. Visit all the contributing blogs by clicking on the various menu items. As you can see, I was asked to suggest a couple wines to go with the entrees.
Most importantly, if you read LENNDEVOURS regularly or even if you don't, click on the donation button at the bottom of the menu and give money to those living less charmed lives than yourself. Any dollar amount helps. The wines I picked out are both under $20, so donate the extra you could have spent on vino.