Archive for November, 2008

Turkey day wines (yes, another one)

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

Browsing the web one can find MANY articles & blog posts for suggestions for Turkey day wines.  I hate to be unoriginal, but how can I let this day meant for family & drinking (wine) pass without some kind of mention?  Based on this post, clearly I can’t.

But rather than suggest some good Reisling (try the Golan Sion Creek White which is a blend including Riesling), a hearty Pinot (The Yarden 2004 Pinot is big, fruity and quite robust – whatever that means), or an American (style) Zinfandel (the Dalton Zin is a great match for any meal) I want to take another approach (sans all the not-so-subtle suggestions).

I want to encourgae you to all DRINK A WINE YOU LIKE!

There are endless articles about pairing your turkey with Chardonnay or Viognier, and just as many that tell you that if your turkey has one kind of stuffing you need Syrah, another kind you should try Zin, etc.   I’ve also read suggestions for Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, and so on…

YES, THEY ARE ALL RIGHT.  These are all GREAT choices.  But if you like your Turkey with gravy instead of cranberry sauce are you wrong?  What if you like it with ketchup (heaven forbid)?  Or mustard?  While some say this is sacrilege, it still isn’t wrong.

We are all different folks with our own unique different strokes (does that make any sense?).  Although the experts may recommend pairings that are said to work, and can make helpful suggestions for those who are looking for new wine ideas, the best wine is now and always a wine that YOU LIKE!

If you have any general or specific Turkey day wine questions feel free to comment below or reach me through the contact form on the blog.

Happy Turkey day Wine Tasting!


Racking – CLK winery

Monday, November 24th, 2008

CLK winery is the name my friends gave to the house/garage “winery” we have.  It is really more of a place for three wine loving hobbyists to make a home made wine.  And yesterday was “racking” day # 1.

Racking is a process whereby the wine is siphoned away from its lees (lees are the dead yeast cells that SLOWLY fall to the bottom of the wine and form a bit of a sludge.  This is a process that must be done several times throughout the wine making process.  It is often done with pumps, and sometimes done using gravity – as we did (pictured above).  Just one of the many manual activities necessary for wine making – all activities that contribute to the cost of wine.

After many rackings and before bottling many “professional” wineries will put the wines through one or both of two other processes to remove any solids from the wines.

The first is known as “fining”.  Fining is a process whereby an additive is put into the wine that bonds with the solids and makes them heavier so that they sink rather than float around.  This minimizes the number of necessary rackings by getting these minuscule solids to drop (where they can then be racked) whereby they might otherwise be floating around in the wine.

The second process is called filtering.  This is generally done immediately before bottling.  Basically, a thin pad is inserted into a mechanism while the wine is being pumped towards the bottling machine.  This pad is supposed to catch the minuscule solids before the wine is pumped into the bottles.

Many wines these days advertise “unfiltered”.  There are those who believe that this filtration process strips wines of some of its flavors.  However, skipping this process may also lead tro a wine dropping sediment at a young age.  This sediment is not a flaw – but it is generally undesirable.

OK, been a bit all over the place in this post.  I guess all I’m trying to say is I was racking wines yesterday.  It was not too much fun, especially considering the COOOOLD temperatures.  But it was necessary, and I’m glad racking # 1is done.

Happy NO MANUAL LABOR FOR YOU wine tasting!


Wine in the news & Eric Asimov reads my blog??

Friday, November 21st, 2008

OK, maybe Asimov is not reading my blog, but we at least seem to be contemplating similar wine related phenomenons.  You may recall a post I wrote a few weeks ago called “Wine, Art & Music” discussing the connections between art (or the arts) and wine.  Well, sure enough Asimov writes about his conversation with a musician and some of the commonalities between wine and music in his latest writeup of “The Pour”.

Neilson put together an interesting piece on how the economic slowdown is affecting alcoholic beverage sales during the current economic slowdown and upcoming holiday season.  My favorite expression when discussing consumers spending on alcoholic beverages was their terming such purchases as an “affordable indulgence”.  Affordable is a relative term folks…  Also included in the article is something I have been hearing and seeing around the industry here in NY – off premise (wine shops/liquor stores) is picking up while on premise (bars/restaurants) is slowing down.

Finally, PRNewswire picked up a piece about and how they are offering several new (and unusual) delivery options such as “Evening, Saturday, Date-Specific and by Appointment Delivery”.  Definitely a unique approach to draw in customers…one that I think shows a company that understands the meaning of going the extra mile for their customers.  A crazy idea…but one that just might work!

Happy Wine Tasting Weekend!


Good times for Israel wines

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

Having followed Israel wines for many years I knew this day would come.  Having worked at Israeli wineries I was sure that others would eventually acknowledge the high quality of up-and-coming Israeli wines.  Having chosen a career in Israeli wines I have PRAYED for universal acceptance of Israeli wines.  Ladies and gentlemen, Israeli wines have arrived!

In all seriousness I know that it will take a while, but the past 12 months have brought a barrage of recognition for Israeli wines.  First it was the extensive tasting of Israeli wines by Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate (“Israeli wine isn’t an oddity any more, and it is certainly not just for those who keep kosher”).  Then it was Wine Spectator’s Kim Marcus traveling the holy land (“I came away impressed by the leaps in quality, especially of the red wines, and by the dedication of the vintners”).

And more recently Israel earned its own chapter in the latest release (7th Edition) of ” Parker’s Wine Buyer’s Guide” – a whole NINE pages – as many as New Zealand and more than South Africa!

But I chose to write about my beloved Israeli wines today as there was more news yesterday.

Top 100

Top 100

Wine Spectator’s “annual roundup of the years most exciting wines”, AKA the top 100 wines of the year included an Israeli wine for the first time.  The Golan Heights winery’s Yarden 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon came in at 91.  How cool is that!  Also pretty cool are the messages of congratulations I received from several industry contacts.  Although I had NOTHING to do with the making of this wine I feel like a proud parent.

Now go out and buy some great Israeli wine…you’ll love it!

Happy Israeli wine tasting!


Wine and Pregnancy

Sunday, November 16th, 2008

I spent the afternoon today with some guys I have been friendly with for about 20 years (damn I’m getting old).  We went out to the suburbs and enjoyed a football Sunday.  But this was not your typical “guys, beer & football” afternoon.  Today included wives & kids (of which I have neither…yet).  (Of import of course my beloved Giants CRUSHED the Baltimore Ravens (30-10) and improved to 9-1.  Looking good G-men!)

Of the women in attendance today 2 were pregnant and 3 others have had babies within the last few months.  Although I am not a medical doctor, and not even a Wine doctor (maybe one day), I do encourage pregnant women to drink wine (in moderation!) when pregnant (I believe a half a glass or so 2-3 times a week). While I don’t think my encouragement has changed anyone’s previously made up mind, it has not prevented me from throwing my two cents into the equation.

pregnant wine drinker

There have been countless studies supporting both both moderate drinking and abstaining during pregnancy, but I recently read one posted a couple of weeks ago on Wine Spectator online.  Researched at the University College of London and published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, the study proudly states:

“…not only can pregnant women safely drink a glass or two of wine per week, but  their children performed better three years after birth when compared to children of women who did not drink at all.”

For more information please read the rest of the article.  If you are pregnant (or intend to become pregnant) and want to drink alcohol during your pregnancy PLEASE consult your physician, conduct your own research, and DO NOT use this one study to make your decision.  And if you do decide to drink (pregnant or not) PLEASE do so in moderation.

Happy (pregnant or not) Wine Tasting!


Palate training with 1990 Grand Cru Burgundy

Friday, November 14th, 2008

As many of you already know, I got my start in wine when I went to Israel during the 2006 harvest and worked at a winery & in this winery’s vineyards.  From there I went to Napa and worked at a large custom crush facility.  Before returning to NYC I asked the winemaker whom I most respected and admired how I could speed up the training of my palate.  Feeling a well rounded and critical palate was essential for me to succeed in the wine industry, yet recognizing that I was an inexperienced taster, I was seeking the secret to palate training.  What I learned was that sadly there is no shortcut to palate training.  With a shrug of the shoulder this world class winemaker told me “I’m sorry, there are no shortcuts, you must taste, taste, taste”.  And with that, I embarked on a mission to taste as much wine as humanly (and financially) possible.

Which led me to “Meetup”.  Meetup is a website that “makes it easy for anyone to organize a local group or find one of the thousands already meeting up face-to-face”.  And through Meetup I became a member of a wine tasting group. It has now been a year and a half, and the core of the group is going strong.  We have all learned A LOT together, and several of us have since transitioned into the wine industry.

I bring this all up as I recently attended the first of a series of Burgundy tastings.  These tastings are with several of the original members of the wine tasting “meetup” club, and have become good friends.

On this night, we tasted Burgundy from Gevrey-Chambertin, a classified Burgundy region.  We tasted 7 wines, although 1 of the 7 seemed to have been “off”.  They ranged in price from about $50-$350 (although given our industry connections we did not pay full price).  The $350 wine was a 1990 Domaine Jean-Claude Fourrier Griotte-Chambertin Grand Cru.

1990 Burgundy

Amazingly, this 18 year old wine had a firm acidity, indicating many more years of life.  It was a clear lite orange color, becoming almost peachy-pink at the rim.  It had aromas of tart raspberry and mint and tasted of earth, mineral and berry. This gem had a nice long finish.

But my favorite of the night was the 1999 Dominique Laurent Mazis-Chambertin.  This clear garnet wine with a slightly brick colored rim was fabulous.  A very pretty nose of berries, perfume, flowers and limestoney minerals led to elegant berry and earth flavors on a beautifully round and subtle palate with a very long finish.

Happy Burgundy tasting palate training!


Bottle Shock

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

I bet you thought the title was referring to the recently released movie that retells the story of the great 1976 wine standoff between France & Napa.  Although the story is a very interesting one and I hear the movie was entertaining as well, that is not what I am writing about tonight.  Sadly I have not seen it yet, but I do hope to catch it at some point.

What I am writing about is a phenomena that happens to wine.  I enjoyed the description from the David Girard Vineyards website:

“Bottle shock is real. It is also a fairly simple concept.  Wines, like people do not necessarily travel well.  That’s true even if the trip is only for the short distance from barrel to bottle.  You might think of it as analogous to travelers who get out of their car after a drive from Sacramento to Los Angeles.  All of their parts are still there when they arrive.  Nevertheless, they may need a while to stop feeling the vibration of the road.  They may need to straighten out their clothes.  They may need to look in a mirror to attend to the finer details.”

bottle shock

So as I understand it there are two variations on bottle shock.  The first is the shock the wine goes into when first bottled (or as referred to above when transferred from barrel to bottle).  And the second is the shock wine experiences when it goes on long journeys – especially those taken via plane across continents.

Those of you who read my post from last night know I attended the “Kosherfest” food & wine convention today.  I am writing about “bottle shock” as I tried a few wines from a very well regarded purveyor of Israeli wines today with some wine aficionados.  I am quite familiar with most of this winery’s wines, and smelled a wine that one of the aforementioned aficionados said was corked.  I was sure that the wine was not corked, but he was right, it was definitely OFF.   The three of us then tried yet another wine and sure enough this too was “off”.  I am proud to say that yours truly theorized that the wines were not corked but actually suffering from travel sickness AKA bottle shock.  I spoke with a winery rep who confirmed that the wines were all flown in from Israel and arrived just a day or two prior to the event.  We all then agreed that many of the wines that seemed off must have been suffering from bottle shock.

While I thought you might enjoy hearing that this phenomena actually does exist and is real I must admit that I am a bit embarrassed to be writing about it given how highly I speak of Israeli wines.  That said, the wines are all excellent, it is the judgement of those who decided to fly the wines in the night before that should be brought into question.

Happy SHOCKLESS wine tasting!


kosher restaurant & kosherfest

Tuesday, November 11th, 2008

I went out with some colleagues tonight to an upscale kosher restaurant.  This restaurant is very well regarded.  Sadly, kosher restaurants (whose certifying organization holds to the highest standards) in the US only allow kosher “mevushal” wines.  Without getting into the whats, whys, and hows of “mevushal”, simply put – mevushal wines are those that are put through a flash pasteurization process which then allows them to be handled by everyone (rather than just observant jews).

(A quick aside, most Israeli wines, considered by some [myself included] to be the best kosher wines in the world, are NOT put through this process.)

In any event, this fancy restaurant and its kosher certification meant that if we were to order wine it would have to be a mevushal wine.  Although I would never choose a mevushal wine over wine that had not gone through the flash pasteurization, when not given a choice I’d rather have wine with my dinner.  Especially since this restaurant is known for their steaks and I wanted to order a steak.  Can you imagine, a steak without some nice red wine.  Seemed sacrilege to me, but that is exactly what happened.  My colleagues felt strongly about not ordering a wine that was mevushal.  And not wanting to be the only one at the table with wine, I too had my steak with…a glass of water.


“A meal without wine is like a day without sunshine”.  It was a dark dreary day today.

I’m off to kosherfest for the next two days.  I’ll be working in the wine area, but i will do my best to walk around a bit and see if there are some standout items worth reporting back about.

Happy steak and WINE tasting!


Wine, art & music

Saturday, November 8th, 2008

Why do art and music always seem to go hand in hand?  This question was posed to me by a musician at an event I attended last week.  The musician is a harp player, and he was playing with a jazz musician at the art exhibition.  I thought the question was a good one.  And my response was an obvious one, but I wonder if there is more to it?

wine art

I responded that art, music and wine are all cultural STUFF.  Things that can be pondered.  Things we wonder about, are curious about, and want to learn about.

And what I find most interesting is that these are all things people either like or don’t like and can’t be wrong about – at least their preference.  You can love or hate a wine, a picture, or a song.  And nobody can tell you otherwise.  They can have the exact opposite feeling about that wine, art or music.  But they would be right also.  We are all individuals and have personal likes and dislikes.

What do you think about the link between art, music & wine?

Happy culturally enhanced wine tasting!


Wine gadgets

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008

Well US residents, we have a new president.  I must admit that I was not enthused by either of my options yesterday, but Obama won and I am cautiously optimistic that a change is comin’ and better times are ahead!

Back to wine, I received an email from a friend this morning.  She forwarded an article about a gadget that you freeze, and then attach to any wine bottle to chill the wine as it is poured.

ravi wine chiller

Seems kind of cool and I must admit that drinking wines that are too hot is never pleasant, but I gotta tell ya that I am a bit skeptical when it comes to wine gadgets.

There are others.  I have had friends rave about this wine aerator…


And there are other items such as the bottle chiller…

cooper chiller

And of course the handy dandy battery powered corkscrew…

battery corkscrew

I’m sure there are tens if not hundreds of other “useful” gadgets.   Being a relative youngster when it comes to my wine life I am far from a purist.  And as such these items don’t so much offend me…as they do make me think SCAM!  The wine chiller is probably a very useful item for quickly chilling a bottle of white.  Who knows how many times I have rushed a bottle of wine into the freezer hoping it would chill it more rapidly than could the fridge.

But as for the others, I will reserve judgement for now.   I’m content chilling my wine in the fridge, aerating my wine in the glass (with vigorous swirling) and opening my bottles with a good old waiters corkscrew.  But who knows.  Change is in the air and I like to think of myself as an open minded dude.  Maybe I’ll be taken by one of these wine gadgets and begin to sing its praises on this here blog…

Happy gadget wine tasting!