Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Carema "White Label" 2005

I bought this bottle from a charming Italian wine shop called Le Vigne on Greenwich Street. (The name I will find out) This particular producer has a reputation for turning out phenomenal Nebbiolo wines, and their "White Label" wine is a real guest pleaser- in fact it's really more than pleasing, it's something you break out when you want to impress without reaching for one of those 'gems' you'd been saving.

When I first tasted this, I immediately was drawn to the elegance in the long finish- suggestive of something worth cellaring... But if you are a fan of this, I would get the Black Labeled version as an investment.

Immediately upon decanting, aromas of java and dark fresh cherries filled my senses... possibly even toffee and roses. I wanted to say chocolate next but needed a more expressive flavour for bitter that wouldn't take away from it's complete smoothness- Raw Cacao Nibs. Anyone who has has smelled them, would immediately recognize this scent, and it's a really beautiful, natural, and earthy aroma. The color is divine, one you'd imagine could play ode to Dionysus himself- that of deep crushed blackberry; thick and alluring.

The tannins were smooth and inviting at first taste, and evolved with the temperature. This is a medium to full bodied wine, with a weight to match. The finish was so long that I advise waiting to take the next sip, (as if it were your first) when that finish fully recedes.

I longed to pair this with a really rare rack of lamb bedded atop sauteed kale, seasoned with a little Celtic sea salt and rosemary, or possibly a sweet chutney instead...

Friday, June 18, 2010

Craft Beer Crawl - Urban Oyster in Brooklyn

Yesterday I enjoyed a wonderful beer tour and tasting with Dave of Urban Oyster! The informative handout guide was so useful; I honestly recommend the Craft beer Crawl above all others. Dave is knowledgeable and passionate without being snobbish, and as far as beer aficionados go, that last one is a rare quality; he's not opposed to answering beginners questions or succeeding in answering an expert's trivia question with ease. Urban Oyster really provided an awesome experience for beginners and intermediate mongrels alike.
(*Note: stops and beer selections do change and are not subject to these particular tastings)

Stops included:

Mug's Ale House:
Mug's ale house has been around- and I mean AROUND- they've grown from 3 beers on tap to 30 rotating craft beers on tap and 2 casks. This bar is a gem in Williamsburg, NY. and holds a lot of brewing history within its walls.

Radeberger Pilsner- German: At first I mistook the Saaz hops for citrus, this definitely has a peppery aroma. Overall a light effervescent easy drinking beer.

Founder's Red Rye PA - Rye Beer from Michigan: Brewed with Amarillo hops, On the nose a defined rye and toasted bread, those malts I smelled were better described as caramel. I felt this one was spicy with a slight sweet taste yet not the common sugary sweet flavor. Great drinkability.

Harpoon ESB IPA- Extra Bitter Indian Pale Ale, an English IPA: Grassy tasting notes, really dark and malty, dry hops and bitterness.

Spuyten Duvyil Grocer: Though wine shops exist, stores that exclusively sell beer are illegal! But Spuyten Duvyil is a Grocery store, and selling some local gourmet grocery items on a few shelves is the detail that makes it legal, and allows owner Joe Carroll to share all these rare and delicious hard to find craft brews in a beer shop atmosphere with passionate sellers helping you find the beer for your unique tastes. Spiegelau Beer glasses and almost every type of bitter are available for purchase as well! I bought 4 craft beers (to be reviewed at a later time)
&Spuyten Duvyil Bar: A cult status bar for those lovers of craft beer. 6 craft beers on tap more than 100 bottled craft beers.
Peak Organic Wheat Ale: Light and completely delicious.
Coney Island Luna Lager: Surprisingly really great, slight bitterness, but again, drinkable by all means.

Fette Sau (owned by Spuyten Duvyil): BBQ at it's greatest. My mind completely latched on to the details of this place and I don't remember the nose or taste of these beers, only that I Really liked all three. I mean look at those tap handles! Butcher Knives. Nuff Said.
Captain Lawrence Liquid Gold, 
Blue Point Oatmeal Stout, 
6 point Righteous Rye

Barcade has 30 different vintage arcade games and 25 beers on tap that rotate as soon as they run dry. You can expect there to be 20 different beers on tap per week and always one Cask beer. Dave was gracious enough to provide the first 25 cent piece of the night : )

Ithaca Cascazilla: A NY American Style Red Ale, aroma was really hoppy and I got flavors of orange in there as well

Victory Whirlwind Wit: A Pennsylvanian Belgian style Whitbier, golden with wheat and citrus aroma
Southern Tier Backburner Barley Wine: Brewed in Lakewood, NY their descriptions of spicy fruit and dark malt aroma with caramel and fruity hops really intrigued me and I realized the sweetness/fruit was really well concealed and blended with the hops. Really Really Good.

Kelso Recessinator: Brewed in Greenpoint and one of my new favorites. It was a German style doppelbock with a deep woodsy color and "flavors of toffee and nuts" I found it more malty and slightly sweeter than the Barleywine, but both were really phenomenal.

Cask: Founders Centennial IPA: Their description relays smooth citrus, hop, malt, and grapefruit flavors, so I was a bit weary since my taste buds do not cozy up to grapefruit, but I found it to be particularly mild and frothing forth that grapefruit only mildly in aftertaste.


One more beer I really feel should be highlighted from the phenomenally informative class with Tom Briggs at Astor Center is:

Belgian Whiebier - Brewed by Brouwerij St. Bernardus in Watou: Brewed from an original recipe, there are incredible tang simultaneous softness about this wheat beer. The pucker from the yeast is of a 100% Belgian yeast strand. Orange peel and crushed corriander mixed into the recipe, which gives way to a zesty acidic effervescence that bubbles on your tongue.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Albariño Tasting of the Rias Baixas

City Winery held a special tasting to highlight the Albariño grape last night. This particular white varietal comes from the Rias Baixas (pronounced Rias Baishas), a lush seafood village along the northwestern coast of Spain. Interestingly, Albariño is produced without wood barrels but with stainless steel tanks, and because these wines are light and not created with complex tannins, they are meant to be drunk young.

The three most common characteristics of Albariño are: distinguished acidity, lush aromatics, and stone/orchard fruits; Each vary in intensity and expression, but the commonalities are undeniable.

Top Chef Harold Dieterle (of Perilla nyc) created an interesting and exceptional menu for the pairing.

Of the 21 different producers of Albariño in this region, WR Tish (our dashing and comical host and coordinator) selected 6 for the tasting:

Laxas Albariño 2009
Laxas (pronounced Lashas) began with generous aromas of mild honeysuckle, wildflowers, and ripe pear. I found it a bit creamier (yet more slender) than the other Albariños and possessed a durable acidity that rounded into a supple nature when paired with the dainty Montauk Fluke Tartar with spiced toro chip. The lithe buoyancy of this wine gave it a lighthearted lusciousness, and because it moved so delicately upon my palette I found it to be my favorite sipping wine of the night.

Condes de Albarei Albariño 2009
Albarei had more of a citrus fruit zest locked in its aroma, the acidity was refined yet a bit more fierce, and needed food pairing to tame and soften it up a bit. The chilled curry corn soup with rock shrimp and pickled ramps was creamy and enveloped the acidity with ease.

Paco & Lola Albariño 2009
I found this Albariño to be the most aromatic of all, lots of orchard fruits and quite a nectarous nose. Definitely the most full-bodied of the six, Paco & Lola is voluptuous with a concealed acidity. Chef Dieterle chose a very rich dish: Serrano Ham Wrapped Dates with blue cheese. This was a daring pairing; the safest bet when pairing an Albariño is seafood, but here, we enjoyed richness with richness. This Albariño is simply sensuous.

 Brandal Albariño 2008
The nose on this wine is Beautiful. I picked up the succulence of melon, particularly honeydew. The overall aroma is simply ambrosial, and brings forth the sentiment of a comforting innocent love. On the palette, its acidity is full of attitude and moxie. The particular dish chosen for the Brandal was Grilled Chicken Satay with a spicy chili jam sauce. The spicy effectively humbled the acidity without assaulting it. I wouldn't drink this alone, it needs a lemon and spice based dish to really bring it home.
Pazo de Senorans Albariño 2009
Right away I picked up a hint of banana on the nose along with ripe stone fruit and a scent that alluded to a possible creaminess. The acidity readily flaunts its presence at first coating and salivating my tongue, then cozied up a few seconds later. I found it quite pleasing by itself. Upon introducing the Edamame Falafel (with lemon tahini sauce) to my palette, the stone fruit retracted a bit, while the acidity stood its ground without being combative to the flavors. The back and forthness had the likeness of a tango.. on my tongue.

Santiago Ruiz Albariño 2009
The Santiago Ruiz was a blended Albariño (70%Albariño, 15% Loureiro, 10% Treixadura, 5% White Caiño and Godello) I really had to agree with Tish in that this was the most elegant of the six. The nose had a slight spritz of vanilla and honey creme effervescence, while I tasted a subtle Dulce de Leche alongside the soothing acidity. Chilled Calamari Salad atop grilled bread was the chosen match, and I found the chewiness, crisp, and salt to be most enriching aspects for this wine.

Below; WR Tish (top), Top Chef Harold Dieterle (bottom)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Kamoizumi "kome kome" (Happy-Bride) Junmai Sake

Kome Kome is one of my longtime favorite unique sakes. It's lush, while the thick fruit and silky butter texture makes you feel as though you're sipping on a complex dessert wine or even a full bodied German white. I wouldn't consider it sweet as there are notes of citrus to balance the small syrup textures. I've ordered this at Sushi Samba, Pure Food and Wine, and WD-50 in nyc.

Campania: Falanghina Nuschese 07'

Alongside my father and fiance, I tasted the Falanghina Nuschese 07' through an Enomatic Systerm at Nora's Wine Bar in Las Vegas. Their description was: "Aromas of lemon and rhubarb turn to mineral, melon and honey, medium-full bodied, level acidity, and a long ripe fruit after taste"

This wine opened my eyes to the Falanghina (pronounced Fal-an-gi-nyuh) white wine varietal. Originating in Campania of Italy, Falanghina is considered to be extremely similar to the Falernian wine of the Ancient Romans. The Nuschese Falanghina was phenomenal. I recommend this wine for everyone to try. Full of weight and luscious mineral notes with a fresh lemon density, I couldn't help but take extra notice of it; I have yet to buy this in bottle form, but I assure you I shall.

But not all Falanghina wines are this intense and remarkable; today, during a Naples/ Campania wine/food class at Astor Wines, I tasted: Falanghina del Taburno, Ocone 2009, which though unmistakably bone dry and refreshing- was more on the light side exposing an off citrus zing and very soft tart notes. Not as impressive, but great with cold appetizers.


Recently, I went to Pata Negra as it has been on my list for must experience Spanish wine bars for over a year. Originally I thought I was in the mood for a red, but in the end went with a white wine- which opened a door to a grape I had not yet been familiar with:

X'armant Arabako Txakoli 2008, Pais Vasco

I can honestly say I was more satisfied/impressed with this wine than a Tocai I had tried just a few days prior. Surprising is the adjective I would associate most with this white. The citrus is a tartaric citrus immediately prominent followed by subtle notes of apricot and grapefruit. Most notable was it's exquisite dryness and perfectly harmonious acidity; light and smooth yet lively; it's a perfect summer wine, quite drinkable by itself or alongside a variety of raw fish/meat dishes. Delicious!

The 08' X'armant (which means "charming" in Basque) is a popular Txakolina; you can find it it at both Astor Spirits and Tinto Fino in New York City.

Txakoli (Pronounced like Jacque-O-Li-(na) or Chalk-O-Li-(na)), is a dry acidic apertif wine, meant to be drunk young and most commonly produced as a white wine, though red and rose varieties do exist. At Tinto Fino I came across one of the less common Red varieties, whose Hondarrabi Beltza vines date back to the 19th century:

Bentalde Gorrondona Txakoli, 2008, Bizkaiko 
This red is a true Gem. Utterly Unique and Infinitely Carnal.
My first impression was Woodsy. Woodsy as in naked women dancing around a ritualistic bonfire woodsy. You see, this wine is dry and spicy; but that of a peppered spice- so the notes of hot and sweet pepper alongside a bit of smoke make their presence known, while maintaining their fiery dignity. A few hours after decanting, I noticed how beautifully the tannins melted onto my palette. You can't help but want food with this, and I really began to feel guilty for not pairing it with Idiazabal cheese or some other type of Basque Cuisine, which consists of grilled meats and fish with peppers, tomatoes, and/or paprika. I had to stop myself (and my guest) from finishing it and cork it for tomorrow when I plan to make Piperade: (recipe below)

The Piperade pairing was a perfect choice, simple and traditional. Instead of the Basque pepper d’Espelette I used 1.5 tablespoons of Paprika and .5 of Cayenne. It needs a bit of spicy to match up. I also found Bayonne Ham at Despanaa, a Spanish Grocer, but it was $159 a lb. $40 for 4oz. So I passed on that for now- and unfortunately they didn't carry the Basque Espelette.

Since Authenticity was my goal for this pairing, I decided to skip the substitute for the Bayonne Ham and instead add more Celtic Sea Salt in place of the salty ingredient. It worked out really well. When I travel the Wine Countries of Spain and France I will make a point to get a taste of Real Basque Cuisine, but for now, I had to settle for a New York City influenced recipe on the classic.

I also came across a phenomenal Basque Sheep's Milk cheese, a bit pricey ($35/ lb @ Whole Foods) but completely worth it, which had a really impressive creamy texture to it. I'm no cheese expert, but I felt it complemented this wine with sublime unison.

Julia Child's Piperade (for 6)
  • 6 medium tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 4 ounces thinly sliced Bayonne or prosciutto di parma
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, finely minced 
  • 2 medium yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced 
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped thyme leaves
  • 1 medium bay leaf
  • 2 medium red bell peppers, cleaned and sliced lengthwise into 1/4-inch strips 
  • 2 medium green bell peppers, cleaned and sliced lengthwise into 1/4-inch strips 
  • 2 teaspoons piment d’Espelette (or paprika/ cayenne)

How to make it

  • Bring a small pot of water to a boil over high heat. Prepare an ice water bath by filling a medium bowl halfway with ice and water. Using the tip of a knife, remove the stem and cut a shallow X-shape into the bottom of each tomato. Place tomatoes in boiling water and blanch until the skin just starts to pucker and loosen, about 10 seconds. Drain tomatoes and immediately immerse them in ice water bath. Using a small knife, peel loosened skin and cut each tomato in half. With a small spoon, scrape out any seeds and core and coarsely chop the remaining flesh. Set aside.
  • Place a large frying pan over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon oil. Once oil shimmers, add Bayonne ham (or prosciutto) and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Remove to a plate with a slotted spoon and reserve.
  • Return pan to heat, add 2 teaspoons oil, and, once heated, add garlic and onion. Cook, stirring rarely, until soft and beginning to color, about 8 minutes. Stir in herbs and pepper slices and season well with salt. Cover and cook, stirring rarely, until peppers are slightly softened, about 10 minutes.
  • Stir in diced tomatoes, browned ham, and piment d’Espelette (or paprika or cayenne pepper) and season well with salt. Cook uncovered until mixture melds together and juices have slightly thickened. Serve

    Friday, May 21, 2010


    I am turning 21. Though it will definitely not be the first time I've tasted wine, I intend to mark the day with my new found dedication and passion for viticulture- Over the next decade I will be working towards becoming a certified Sommelier of the highest degree (not so much for career purposes, more as a life accomplishment). As a result, I'm assured my impressions of different wines will evolve along with my Palate.

    I have had my heart set on traveling to Spain for the last four years, and exploring the wine regions of the country would be the most exhilarating of adventures.... this might tell you- I have an unbridled weakness for Spanish Reds, and a most recent enamor with Sherry...

    In celebration of my birthday, I'm leaving New York City and flying to Las vegas. There, My fiance and I will be cooking in regard to a Spanish wine from The Levant region, purchased from Tinto Fino: Casa Castillo's Las Gravas 2006. A blend of Monastrell (55%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (45%). To pair, I have decided to make Seared Duck Breast with a Cherry Glaze... should be quite the Aphrodisiac...

    Las Gravas 2006
    Ultimately I was a bit disappointed with this wine; possibly due to the buildup I had surrounded it in. I found there to be ripe cherry notes, a bit of spice, and full of dominant tannins. Some smoke and and tobacco became more noticeable about an hour after decanting, but in the end I was wishing I could have experienced the 2005 vintage instead. Maybe a bit too young to drink right now, in hindsight, I'd have stored it a few years longer.