Archive for August, 2009

Take a BREAK this weekend & drink local

Friday, August 28th, 2009

OK, the “break” references will end soon.  I’ll get used to this broken wrist thing.  And all will be normal in BLOGLAND.

But I want to give a quick wrist update.  GOOD NEWS – It appears (X-ray & CT scan) that my break is non-displaced & in the part of the bone that should lead to normal healing.  SO, for now I get a cool cast & no immediate need for surgery (metal objects drilled into my bones).

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Healing time for this injury is still between 8-12 weeks, so no party.  But the preliminary diagnosis is good.  I follow up with the hand specialist in 2 weeks & will keep you updated.

Now my quick wine related part of this post is something I eluded to in my last post.   I recently met with the proprietor and original winemaker for a NY State (Long Island) winery.  Since I live in NY this is a local winery for  me.  The proprietor has since brought in a trained winemaker to take over, but I learned in my conversation with the gentleman that he is still very hands on.

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The winery is called “Red Fern”, and they make 4 types of wine, all single varietal. They make a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Merlot, a Syrah & a Chardonnay.  I’ll be writing an article about the winery & their wines for a local paper, but I want to tell you that these wines are GOOD.  Very modern in style, the winemaker gets nice extraction out of the fruit which produces fruity, full bodied wines.  I think this is of interest as NY state wines sometimes have a problem with ripeness.  And when the fruit does not fully ripen the wines tend to have a lean & green dynamic to them.  So making wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon & Syrah, varietals that needs lots of sun/heat to fully ripen can be considered a bit risky.  I’d like to see this winery experiment with some Cabernet Franc or Riesling, varietals more commonly associated with NY given their affection for the NY climate.  Nonetheless, these wines (I tasted the 2005′s) were very nice and get my recommendation.  And oh yeah, they just happen to be kosher.

Happy locally produced wine tasting!

Wine Tasting Gimp

Bad breaks – good times ahead!

Saturday, August 22nd, 2009

I’m not quite sure if I have ever posted an “other” post, but I think that is the category that best suits the following…

Couple of bad breaks to share.

First break:

The break from blogging that I am about to take.

Some might think this a good thing but to those of you out there who appreciate my ramblings, I apologize.  I will continue to blog, but for at least the next 8-12 weeks it will likely be much less frequent.

I’m moving, after 11 years in my existing place, into a new apartment.  It is sure to be a tedious move, but it is an exciting one as I’ll be moving into the apartment I am to ultimately share with my fiance’.

Second break:

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Yup, broke another stem yesterday.  It was a Reidel and I wasn’t too pleased.  Not a big deal, just kinda sucked.  And I figure this is a wine blog, so sorta relevant.

Third break:

ER cast

ER cast

Nope I’m not trying to do shadow animals, I broke my wrist.  “Navicular Fracture”.  Took a good fall while riding my bike.  The bone I broke apparently “heals slowly”.  Ummm did I mention I was moving this week…???  DAMN!

I find out more after seeing a hand specialist in a couple of days, but needless to say typing SUCKS and with all going on there will have to be less blogging.

But rest assured that I am optimistic of the GOOD things that lay ahead.  And I recognize that my broken wrist doesn’t mean the wine world will cease to exist.  The blogging will not end, but it may happen more like once a week (to the delight of some of my friends who have complained that I blog too frequently – how do you think they feel about twitter?).

I’ll blog more after my appointment with the hand specialist, and I’ll write a bit about the NY State winery whose wines I recently tried.  I’ll give you a hint…they are (to the best of my knowledge) the only commercially made NY KOSHER table wine – and it is pretty darn good stuff.

Happy wHining!

WTG

wine tidbits; PET & oxygen

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

I recently blogged about an article written by Jerry Hirsh commenting on “Chateau Plastique”, referring to wines bottled in PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) plastic bottles.  The idea being that plastic bottles weigh less, consequently have a smaller carbon footprint and have no effect on wine NOT intended for long term aging (though might not be suited for wines that are to be cellared for several years).

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I recently came across another article on the topic on “plasticsnews.com”, and found it of interest in that it quoted some numbers referencing how FEW bottles are actually laid down in a cellar and aged for future consumption.

Quoting Patrick Egan, brand manager for innovation at Boisset Family Estates, the article states that “There are 2.6 billion cases of wine sold in the world each year, of that, 70 percent costs less than $12 per bottle, and 70 percent is [consumed] within three hours of purchase.”  THREE HOURS!  WOW!

I find those stats to be remarkable.  But not surprising.  What is in fact surprising to me (though it probably shouldn’t be) are the number of people buying expensive wine (say for example $30+) these days.  Though I’m sure there are MANY out there who would argue with me, I tend to think that these “expensive” wines are MADE for aging & when consumed young they are often LESS accessible than their more affordable little brothers (wines possibly made from second rate fruit & aged using a cheaper oak program – say American vs. French oak barrels).  So although the 70% number (wines costing less than $12) is high, I sometimes wonder if the number should be even higher considering how much of wine purchased is immediately consumed…??

This is a BIG can of worms that I’ll continue to elude to in the future, but it is something I have thought a lot about…

Also of interest was an article about the interaction of oxygen & wine.  These items are somewhat related as it has to do with the aging of wine in bottles.  Now “bottle aging” has always been a bit of a mystery to me.  But when asked about it I simply explained (as I learned) that the cork on a bottle of fine wine is porous and allows a microscopic amount of air into the bottle, thereby continuing the micro-oxygenation process started while the wine aged in the (porous) barrel, and leading to a properly bottle-aged wine.  When pushed about alternate closures or how the air gets in when the cork is intentionally kept wet (by storing the wine on its side) I simply shrugged.

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Well, I’m still a bit confused, but the article written by Jamie Goode for wines & vines did explain one aspect of bottle aging – that being the interaction of oxygen left in the “head-space” of a bottle of wine when it is first bottled.

Goode talks about oxygen levels in PPM (parts per million) as well as other wine science stuff.  The article is quite technical and definitely beyond my comprehension, but Alder Yarrow of Vinography.com explains it succinctly when he states; “The oxygen in the “headspace” ends up being absorbed by the wine in about 10 months of aging. And once in the wine, that dissolved oxygen goes about doing a lot of things that basically involve “aging” the wine. In particular, affecting its color”.  COOL!

Hope some of you found this to be of as much interest as I did…

Happy PET bottled & properly oxygenated wine tasting!

WTG

wine shields cancer patients from radiation side effects

Sunday, August 16th, 2009

It seems that just about everyone knows at least one person affected by breast cancer.  This serious form of cancer knows no boundaries and is the most common cancer among woman in the US aside from skin cancer.  According to the ACS (American cancer society) “The chance of a woman having invasive breast cancer some time during her life is about 1 in 8. The chance of dying from breast cancer is about 1 in 35″.

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So you can imagine how pleased I was to read the report published in the International Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics (yes, I read it every day ;)) that “a glass of wine a day cut the risk of treatment-linked skin toxicity by two-thirds in women undergoing radiation therapy for breast cancer”.

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Apparently, skin reactions are common among patients being treated for breast cancer and the anti oxidants in wine seem to be beneficial in that those who did drink a glass of wine a day had only a 13.6% rate of skin toxicity whereas those who did not imbibe had a skin toxicity rate of closer to 40%.

I recently celebrated a birthday and have found a new apartment to live in (following a LONG search).  I am also moving forward with my latest business idea.  So amidst all the difficult news of friends/relatives or those close to me in one way or another being stricken with cancer, we must do whatever is possible to live life to the fullest, enjoy every day we have with our loved ones, and maintain a positive outlook on life.  It isn’t always easy.

Have a great week everybody.  And happy cancer side effect fighting wine tasting!

WTG

James Beard: Zahav Israeli cuisine & wine tasting

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

I was thrilled to be invited to attend a lovely evening at the James Beard House this evening.  This evening’s guest chef was Michael Solomonov, who together with an army of his talented Zahav chefs all came up from Philly and prepared exquisite foods that were paired with wines from Israel.  I did not partake in many of the foods and ended up roaming the dining area, speaking with guests, in particular about the wines.  And I am proud to report that the response was tremendous.  People were loving the food & wine pairings and on several occasions I was told by guests how pleasantly surprised they were by the quality of the wines.

Though not kosher, the award winning Zahav restaurant prepares attention worthy Israeli/Middle Eastern cuisine in a kosher style; not sea food, pork products & the no dishes contain both meat & milk products.  You really should check the place out.  And don’t take my word for it, listen to Esquire Mag, Food & Wine, Bon Appetit or the James Beard awards who are much more credible sources who agree that this is not a place to to be missed.

With Israeli wine on my mind I’m sure you can imagine how happy I was to read this article in The NewSTAR online – a LOUISIANNA publication.  Very cool to see them speaking of the ancient wine making tradition of the Canaan region, now Southern Lebanon & Northern Israel.

Did you know that you can find some of the oldest documented ancient wine presses in the world in Israel – some over 3,000 years old!

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Happy Israeli FOOD and wine tasting!

WTG

“The Winemakers”, “Green Wine” & Wine & Sex

Monday, August 10th, 2009

Lots of wine related stuff to be discussed tonight.  But lets begin with the upcoming reality show; “The Winemakers”. Promoted as “Twelve men and women compete for a chance to create and launch their own wine label nationwide. In each episode they will face challenges on every aspect of wine making from viticulture and enology to sales and marketing, but in the end only one contestant will win the title of Wine Maker.”

The first season was filmed 2 years ago (I think) and is to air this fall on PBS.  I read a press release last week that they were holding an open call for contestants for season 2, to be filmed this September – harvest season.  Not having a clue what I was getting myself into,  I canceled an appointment and went down to the call.

WHOA.  I walked into the location at about 3PM wearing shorts & a t-shirt (it was a HOT & HUMID summer day in NYC) and having not shaved for several days (not uncommon for me).  People were all dressed up, scoping out the competition, and dressed to impress.  The producers had us sign release forms and the audition was taped, possibly to be used for the show.  They called us up in groups of 4, situated in front of the show’s judges, and fired away with personality and wine related questions.

Well, unfortunately this story does not end with me writing about how I was picked to be on the show.  The nice (read FOOLISH) producers passed on humble ole’ Wine Tasting Guy, but they did pick 3 people I got friendly with on this hot summer afternoon.  And I was really happy for my new friends.  Can’t wait to watch them on the show.  And who knows, maybe I’ll be mocked either on their site or possibly even on an episode where they show the contestants being chosen.

Getting back to WTG stuff, I read a bunch of articles about “green wine” over the weekend.

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OK, not that green wine.  Rather wine produced with the environment taken into consideration.  With my recent series about bag-in-box & bag-in-barrel wines, I covered a little about “green wine”.  Among the articles I read over the weekend was one by Jerry Hirsh of the LA Times who wrote about wine bottles in plastic bottles, calling the winery “Chateau Plastique”.

Some of what makes wine in plastic bottles “green wine” is its smaller carbon footprint.  Hirsh, quoting Patrick Field of EnVino, a plastic wine bottle venture in Burlingame, CA explains that “plastic wine containers weigh about one-eighth of regular glass bottles and take up 20% less space.  Thereby saving on shipping costs by allowing 30% more wine to be delivered by the trucks that typically carry the wine.”

Also of interest is that the “bottles have a special layer designed to keep oxygen from permeating the container and destroying the wine. But it’s not the iron-tight seal that glass provides, so bottles will come with “use by” dates.”

People might wonder about these “use by” dates, as all wine should be aged, right?  Well actually, most wines are made to be consumed young (within the first few years after their production).  I read that the number was close to 95% of wines that are intended for early consumption.  I would take this a step further and say that of the wines that are not necessarily intended for early consumption, somewhere in the area of 50% are consumed young anyway.  So what we are saying here is that about 2-3% of all wines are BOTH intended to be aged and actually are aged.  So for those wines we really want to bottle and protect them in glass bottles.  As to the rest…alternative packaging baby!!

And finally, sex sells.  So I thought I’d finish up this longer than usual blog with a bit on red wine improving people’s sex lives – or at least those of Tuscan women.  In a report written about on Wine Spectator online, a study in the October issue of the Journal of Sexual medicine,  “Women who drank one or two glasses of red wine a day scored higher on a questionnaire focused on sexual health and enjoyment.”  While I advocate for wine drinking, I found the study seemed to be reaching, as it noted that “adherence to the Mediterranean diet improves cardiovascular health, and this is likely due to the inclusion of a glass or two of red wine per day. Cardiovascular health has long been linked to sexual health.”  I’m not sure that I am a believer, but hey, what the heck…just drink wine!

Happy reality winemaking, environmentally conscience & sexually improving wine tasting!

WTG

The life of wine (Andes Peaks Chard at 6 weeks)

Friday, August 7th, 2009

Most wine people, myself included, suggest drinking wine the day the bottle is opened.  Some wines can be enjoyed the next day, and others still can theoretically last, especially if refrigerated, for several days.  But eventually, and depending upon one’s tolerance for oxidation, the wine will become virtually undrinkable.

UNTIL NOW…

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OK, so it is not THAT SIMPLE.  But modern technology, a little ingenuity and TADA…

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What can I say?  I just re-tasted the wine that I initially popped the cork…..uhhh….snapped the spout on over SIX WEEKS AGO and the darned resilient thing just won’t die!  Not only is this wine still drinkable, it is showing some lovely Chardonnay characteristics.  Melon, honey & subtle citrus aromas; crisp, pleasant & easily drinkable.

Now I am not suggesting that the next time you whip out the fancy crystal for a special dinner party that you pair your meal with a boxed wine.  But if you like to have a glass or two a night, worry about finishing up bottles, appreciate a good deal & have room for a nicely packaged box of wine with a cool spout in your fridge; GO PICK UP SOME BOXED WINE TODAY.! There ain’t nothing wrong with it.  As a matter of fact, it might be one of the best wine buys you will ever make!

Happy alternatively packaged wine tasting!

WTG

Clos de Gat – Israel wine tasting

Sunday, August 2nd, 2009

I recently attended an Israeli wine tasting consisting exclusively of the wines of “Clos de Gat”.  This clever name, was derived from the French word Clos, meaning a walled vineyard, and Gat which in Hebrew is an ancient wine press.  The winery, located at the foothills of the Judean Mountains (where David slay Goliath), is actually in an enclosed winery property that contains an ancient wine press  dating back over 3,000 years (talk about “old world” wine region!).

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I am pretty familiar with the wines of Clos de Gat as I sold these wines throughout NYC when they were first imported into the country several years back.  I have also had the good fortune of meeting with the winemaker at the winery and hearing some of his winemaking philosophies.  Of particular interest are his dry farming, use of wild yeasts and open vat fermenting practices.  Regardless of HOW he is doing it, what he is doing seems to be working!  Consistently ranked among the best Israel has to offer CDG also attains high scores from critics in Europe as well as Stateside.

As to the wines themselves, they are very much in the modern mode; big, extracted and quite robust.  Terrific beef/game steaks! While some of the older wines (from the 2003 & 2004 vintages) showed very nice elegance.

I must admit that I did have a favorite, and it was a wine that is new to me.  It is also probably the least expensive of all the CDG wines.  It was the white wine blend known as “Chanson”.

The 2007 Chanson, a complex blend of 75% Chardonnay, 15% semillon, 7% Viognier & 3% Chenin Blanc seems to be a hodgepodge wine made from experimental fruit.  Which it may well be.  Nonetheless, this clear deep yellow-light gold wine has a bready/yeasty nose, with notes of honey & lime.  On the palette flavors of yeast (lees stirring?), honey & white flowers.  There was also what seemed like a hint of intentional oxidation.  It was not the slightest bit off-putting and actually reminded me a tad of some old Lopez Heredia whites (but not quite).  This crisp unoaked wine was refreshing and had a nice long finish.

From the Chanson we moved on to the 2006 CDG Chardonnay.  A full bodied oaked Chard that was a favorite for some.  This wine excellently mimics white Burgundy.

Moving right along to the reds, the 2006 “Harel” Syrah, blended with 15% Cabernet Sauvignon was inky, extracted with a burst of berries that seriously coated the mouth.  Though CDG does well with various varietals, and I am always amazed at the Merlot from CDG, Syrah might be the varietal that does best in the Judean Hill region.

At this point we moved on to the 2005 “Harel” Merlot which could stand up to the best new world merlots.  And then on to the 2006 “Harel” Cabernet Sauvignon which I found to be a bit jammy and seemed to have a good deal of residual sugar.

Moving beyond the (anything but simple) entry level “Harel” series, we tried the 2004 CDG “Ayalon Valley”, Bordeaux blend.  Though the highly regarded “Sycra” series was still ahead, I think this Bordeaux blend was showing best this evening.  The blend of 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot & 7% Petit Verdot was clear and deep red with a garnet, almost brick rim.  Aromas of black cherry, jasmine, spices & herbs with a mouthfeel that was soft & silky I would say that this wine is comfortably at its peak.  A long elegant finish had me craving a good rare steak (though I am sure the 9 days [with no meat] played a supporting role in that craving).

The final two wines came from the aforementioned “Sycra” series.  First was the 2003 Sycra merlot that had aromas of berries, herbs & cola and while extracted it was not overpowering and had a long finish.  While the 2004 Sycra Syrah was inky with blueberry, black berry & charcoal aromas, silky tannins and a long finish.

In all this tasting, while not timed best for some of us (aforementioned 9 days), CDG once again proved that the best wines from Israel can comfortably hold their own with the best from other new world wine producing regions and will undoubtedly be a force in the ever expanding world class wine category.

Happy Israeli wine tasting!

WTG