$110,000 bottle of Champagne!

June 19th, 2011

I’m going through another of my writing slumps.  But as an NBA fan, when I read about the bottle of Champagne Mark Cuban bought to celebrate the Mavericks NBA title I found something to share ;-)

From the Wine Enthusiast Blog

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban spent a whopping $110,000 while celebrating at the trendy nightclub Liv at Miami’s Fontainebleau after winning the NBA Championship against the Heat on Sunday night. Cuban spent $90,000 on an oversized bottle of Armand de Brignac Champagne for teammates Dirk Nowitzki, Brian Cardinal, Jason Terry and Shawn Marion in celebration of their victory, which they finished in a mere four hours. But that’s not all. When the bill arrived, Cuban left an additional $20,000 tip for the wait staff. According to Forbes, he’s ranked 459th on the “World’s Richest People” list and has a net worth of $2.5 billion.

We should all be faced with such wine purchasing decisions…

Congrats Mavs!

Happy $5,000 a sip Champagne tasting!

WTG

Toast of the Town & am I becoming a wine snob?

May 12th, 2011

Once again I had the good fortune of attending the Wine Enthusiast Toast of the town.  This was my 4th year, but this was the first time I attended as a vendor as opposed to as a journalist (OK, blogger).

In a new location (Avery Fisher Hall instead of Koch Theater) within NYC’s glorious Lincoln Theater, Wine Enthusiast put on its annual Toast of the Town event this past Thursday May 5th.

It was bigger than its ever been before with a ton of wine and lots of great restaurants.  This year there were also spirits and beers being poured.

I attended this year on behalf of Israel’s Barkan Winery.  The Barkan lineup this year was a pretty cool one.

The 2007 Barkan Superieur Pinotage is a very cool & interesting wine.  Rich chocolate, toffee & ripe fruit… A great wine that really makes you go “hmmmm”.

Speaking of going hmmmm, we also poured the 3 wines in the “Altitude” series.  The altitude represents vineyards at different heights above sea level, representing different terroirs.  The wines also come from different regions, so the altitude isn’t the only difference.  But the 3 wines (a 412, 624 & 720) are basically all made the same way – so like an experiment with the winemaking as the control.  It was lots of fun to hear the people, most of whom had different favorites amongst the 3.

I did try to hit up a few other tables while I was there and I managed to taste about 30 wines.

In no particular order, I liked the following:

Perry Moore: A 2008 Napa Cab & 2008 Beckstoffers vineyard Oakville Cab that reminded me a lot of the wines I got to work with when I lived in Napa and worked in the lab.

Don Sebastiani & Sons 2007 Aquinas “Philosepher’s Blend”  had great acidity balancing out its ripe fruit.

A Greek wine, the 2004 Oenoforos Lanos Cabernet Sauvignon had dusty fruit & a good earthiness that reminded me of an aged Israeli wine (which makes some sense as they are both Eastern Mediterranean).

The 2004 Batasiolo Vigneto Cerequio Barolo was a WOW wine with great liveliness, subtle burgundian fruit and cola flavors.

Of the whites the one standout for me was a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (which when done well I find to be so refreshing…I can drink LOTS of NZ Sauv Blanc) the Matua Valley 2009 which had fresh pink grapefruit.

Sooooo….what do I mean by “Wine Snob”?  Sure I prefer good wine to mediocre wine, but the reality is that most wine these days (and surely almost all being poured at events such as this) is pretty good.  I guess I felt like a bit of a snob at this event more because I’m tough to impress.   I’ve come to expect most wine to be good these days.  But good isn’t good enough anymore, it needs to be interesting.  And in the end, very little of the wine that I had the opportunity to try was truly interesting.

Happy Interesting Wine Tasting

WTG

Expensive wine & upcoming TOTT & Riesling tastings

May 1st, 2011

I had a story forwarded by a reader I thought I’d share.  Also want to give a heads up about two of my favorite tastings of the year; first the annual TOTT (Wine Enthusiast’s Toast of the Town) & next week’s Riesling (Wines of Germany) tasting.  I expect to attend both and hope to write about each shortly thereafter…

In the meantime, enjoy!

“Expensive Wine Indistinguishable from the Cheap Stuff”

The case for boxed wine just got stronger. In a blind taste test at the Edinburgh International Science Festival, 578 volunteers tasted wines ranging from 3.49 British pounds (or about $5.78 in American dollars) per bottle to £29.99 (just shy of $50). They were told that they were drinking one cheap wine, classified as being under £5 per bottle, and one expensive wine that cost £10 or more, and asked to identify which was which. Read on to see how they fared.

As reported in The Guardian, the volunteers managed to identify the more expensive wine only 53% of the time, and even less than that (47%) when the wines in question were red. Essentially, you’d have an equal chance of guessing an unborn baby’s gender or calling a flipped coin mid-air as you would of determining which wine is of higher value by taste alone. The wine with the highest accuracy rate was a pinot grigio, and that with the lowest was a claret, for which 61% of tasters thought the £3.49 bottle cost more than its £15.99 counterpart.

The moral here seems clear: If you want to drink free wine, sign up for more European science festivals. Also, if there is a costly wine you legitimately love, by all means, go ahead and splurge. But don’t venture down the wine aisle hoping to stumble on something tasty using price alone as your guideline, particularly with reds. Time to stock back up on that Two Buck Chuck.

great kosher tasting & Vodka uses

April 7th, 2011

For several years now I have attended the Gotham kosher wine extravaganza.  I was concerned this year when the tasting was moved from its traditional Sunday afternoon affair to a Wednesday night event.  I am happy to say that I got home a few hours ago and it was once again a very well organized and attended event.  A very impressive (and affordable) VIP tasting.  A huge lineup of kosher wines.  Close to 300 kosher wine lovers…all in all a very nice night.  Among my favorite wines of the night were the Barkan Superieur Pinotage and a 2000 Bordeaux, Chateau Branda.

I’m a bit sleep deprived these days and it is late, but I want to end this post with some cool info I got via a mass email…15 (other) uses for Vodka…

Happy alternative Vodka uses…

WTG

15 (other) uses for vodka…

1. To remove a bandage painlessly, saturate the bandage with vodka. The solvent dissolves adhesive.

2. To clean the caulking around bathtubs and showers, fill a trigger-spray bottle with vodka, spray the caulking, let set five minutes and wash clean. The alcohol in the vodka kills mold and mildew.

3. To clean your eyeglasses, simply wipe the lenses with a soft, clean cloth dampened with vodka. The alcohol in the vodka cleans the glass and kills germs.

4. Prolong the life of razors by filling a cup with vodka and letting your safety razor blade soak in the alcohol after shaving. The vodka disinfects the blade and prevents rusting.

5. Spray vodka on vomit stains, scrub with a brush, and then blot dry.

6. Using a cotton ball, apply vodka to your face as an astringent to cleanse the skin and tighten pores.

7. Add a jigger of vodka to a 12-ounce bottle of shampoo. The alcohol cleanses the scalp, removes toxins from hair, and stimulates the growth of healthy hair.

8. Fill a sixteen-ounce trigger-spray bottle, and spray bees or wasps to kill them.

9. Pour one-half cup vodka and one-half cup water in a Ziploc freezer bag and freeze for a slushy, refreshable ice pack for aches, pain or black eyes.

10. Fill a clean, used mayonnaise jar with freshly packed lavender flowers, fill the jar with vodka, seal the lid tightly and set in the sun for three days. Strain liquid through a coffee filter, then apply the tincture to aches and pains.

11. To relieve a fever, use a washcloth to rub vodka on your chest and back as a liniment.

12. To cure foot odor, wash your feet with vodka.

13. Vodka will disinfect and alleviate a jellyfish sting.

14. Pour vodka over an area affected with poison ivy to remove the Urushiol oil from your skin.

15. Swish a shot of vodka over an aching tooth. Allow your gums to absorb some of the alcohol to numb the pain.

Kosher food has surged…wine must now catch up

March 27th, 2011

I must be getting old.

I remember wine from 30 years ago (Manishewitz), wine from 20 years ago (Baron Herzog White Zinfandel) and wine from 10 years ago (Herzog Reserve Alexander Valley Cabernet – still a consistently great wine btw).

And while I have not written too much about cooking/food over the years (damn, I’ve been blogging since 2007) I am very much a foodie and remember restaurants from 30 years ago (Shmulke Bernstein’s), from 20 years ago (Noah’s Ark) and from 10 years ago (Le Marais).

Seeing where kosher wine & food has come from makes me nostalgic.

SO you ask, where are kosher wine & restaurants these days…???

Well, there are many Cabernet Sauvignon, cabernet based blends or similar big-bodied wines that have been rewarded with high-scores – and deservedly so.  The best of these complex, elegant, full-bodied wines are excellent.

As to restaurants, there are some good ones on the scene now and over the past decade.  Places such as Va Bene, Tevere, Le Marais and the Prime Group.  Old world Italian,  French or American Bistros…places where kosher consumers can bring non-kosher guests & feel proud (kosher isn’t just knishes, hot dogs or deli sandwiches).

Well, the point of this whole personal kosher history is a prelude to my observation that kosher food has surged ahead of wine.

I had dinner the other night at Pardes.  This 5 month old restaurant is at the cutting edge of molecular gastronomy with its unique & creative menu, its unpretentious hipster decor & artistic presentation – all at very fair prices.  This follows a recent dinner at Basil (whose menu was constructed by the owner/chef of Pardes) as well as quality time out West in Oxnard California where I was treated to the delectable creations at Tierra Sur.  My experience at each of these three has me confident that we are seeing a new generation of chefs stepping up the quality level of kosher food/restaurants to yet a new height.

But I fear wine is lagging.  Sure there are some great wines to accompany a good steak or roast, but what about dishes such as Pardes’ Salmon Tartare wrapped in Socca & topped with a poached egg, Basil’s Parmesan & white asparagus, wood burning oven pizza or Tierra Sur’s Fennel and orange zest encrusted Ahi tuna???  Sure there is a decent Chablis, a good New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and an expensive but nice Laurent Perrier Brut rose’ & champagne.  But the selection of good quality kosher wines OTHER THAN big Cab, merlot, zin or Syrah based wines is limited.

While at Pardes the other night I found myself lacking a quality wine pairing for many of the gourmet courses.

In general, there are few if any good Pinot Noirs (will there ever be a top-line Grand or Premier Cru kosher Burgundy?), no decent German Rieslings, French Sancerre or other well-priced high-quality food-friendly wines.  Is there even a demand for these kinds of wines??

While the kosher world should be proud of the upward trend of high quality kosher offerings for both food & wine, I hope kosher wine offerings will broaden to include wines that will allow kosher foodies to accompany their non red meat meals with subtle wines and not just big Cabernet style wines.

Happy kosher food & wine pairing!

WTG

Surging kosher (and more)

March 5th, 2011

It has been MANY weeks since my last post.  Producing an event with 2,000 guests is all consuming.  And though the event is now behind us, blogging is much like going to the gym – once you lose momentum it is hard to get back in the groove.  But I’ll try…

I have a lot on my mind these days.  The event I worked on was the Kosher Food & Wine Experience (www.kfwe2011.com).  As I walked the hall at Pier 60 on event night I was truly struck by the quality of offerings.  There were a huge (0ver 300) number of wines on offer, from wine producing countries such as Italy, Spain, France, Australia, New Zealand and the country possibly producing the best kosher wine, Israel.  But I have been fortunate enough to witness the high level of wines being made the past 5-10 years.  What really struck me was what is going on in the kosher food industry.  Joining the ranks of high quality restaurants Prime Grill, Le Marais & Tevere, are new cutting edge culinary establishments Basil, Pardes, Pomegranate & the team behind Got Cholent? & Gemstone Catering, amongst others.  Lamb Meatballs with Turnip & Olive.  Seared Tuna Loin over Mango & Jicama salad.  Brandy Frangelico chocolate mousse topped with sugar coated toasted hazelnut.  These were just some of the dishes offered at KFWE2011.  Overall, I think the kosher industry has really turned a corner, and the best is yet to come.

A quick example of the treats kosher foodies have at their disposal is the 5 course whiskey & kosher food pairing taking place tomorrow.

I want to end this post on a somber note.  The world lost an amazing man the other day.  Good friend, and kosher food & wine lover Ilan Tokayer passed away in Northern California.  Since hearing the tragic news yesterday morning I have cried more than I have in many, many years.  Ilan was a bright, optimistic, warm, open, giving, Zionistic young man training to be a winemaker.  He and I talked about a winery we would open in Israel one day.  Details of Ilan’s passing are still unknown to me.  What I do know is that I am absolutely heart-broken.  To say that Ilan will be missed is an understatement.  My heart goes out to his family and friends.

Every day is precious folks…treasure life.

WTG

The end of decanting?

January 16th, 2011

There is something magical about decanting a wine, whether or not it really needs it.

Pouring from a standard bottle into a fancy oddly-shaped glass receptacle makes the drinking experience more ceremonious.

But is this extravagance necessary?  More often than not it is simply unnecessary.

For practical purposes, we decant for two reasons.

  1. To aid in the breathing of a wine – generally a young wine.
  2. To remove the good wine from its sediment or the particles that begin to form & “drop out” of an aged wine.

There is some benefit to the first, but as readers of this blog know, I am an advocate of both the vinturi aerator for young wines as well as rigorous glass swirling for aid in breathing with a young wine.

And as for the second, careful pouring can prevent sediment from reaching the glass and as such makes the idea of decanting somewhat frivolous.

But it is this second reason that has the inventors of this new bottle claiming that the decanter will soon become  extinct.

It seems the shape of this new bottle cleverly enables the sediment to get trapped in the bottom “compartment” preventing the escape of sediment from the bottle to the glass.

What will they come up with next…???

Happy sediment free Wine Tasting!

WTG

Wine allergies & sulfites

January 6th, 2011

Another quickie…

Just about every time I do a wine tasting I’m told by at least one person that they are “allergic to red wine & must be allergic to sulfites. Well, I’m no expert, but I did just read one of the best responses to such an inquiry (on Wine Spectator online).

Here it is…

A: Sulfites get the lion’s share of blame when people have an allergic reaction to wine (or have a next-day reaction from overindulging), but according to allergist Neil Kao, a spokesperson for the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, only 1 percent of the general population has a true allergy to sulfites. That goes up to about 4 to 5 percent among people who have asthma. Kao says that an allergic reaction to sulfites would begin with tingling, redness, itching and a swollen tongue, and then depending on the severity, progress to hives or an asthma attack. For more information on other potential allergens read our previous Q&A on  and the .

But none of this is particularly helpful to know if your guests want to avoid sulfites in wine and you need to serve them something fitting that bill. Here’s the deal: the fermentation process for wine produces very low levels of sulfites naturally, so there are few wines with no detectable sulfites. Many winemakers also add sulfites to wine after fermentation to increase the wine’s shelf-stability and prevent undesirable bacteria and yeast growth, but some don’t and they (or their importer) occasionally advertise themselves as such. One shortcut if you don’t want to do your own research: in the U.S., the certified organic label indicates that the wines were made without added sulfites (but note that that is different than wines with the “made with organic grapes” label, which can contain added sulfites). U.S. law requires that all wines with sulfites in excess of 10 parts per million be labeled with the disclaimer “contains sulfites,” but some people with sulfite allergies may be sensitive to wines with less than that amount.

Have a question about wine and healthy living? .
Browse our archive of previous .

Hope this clears things up for some of you.

Happy allergic-LESS reaction red wine tasting!

WTG

Best Wine Club EVER

December 26th, 2010

A quick holiday weekend post.

I enjoy drinking wine with friends & colleagues, but my favorite wine tasting are BYOB “wine club” style tastings.

Simply put, gather anywhere from 4 to 12 (or however many you have room for) people and have everyone bring in comparable wines (same varietal, vintage, country of origin, etc).  I’m a fan of the blind tasting, but this can be done blind or not.  The wines are opened and moving through a wine at a time, the group gets to taste multiple wines for the cost of a bottle, and discuss said wines with the group.

In general these discussion are compelling & educational.  When done blind, they are also generally pretty funny…and humbling!

About 10 of us gathered last week for a kosher BYOB tasting – our only theme being cost – that the wine should retail for >$40.  There were 6 wines from Israel including a Castel Grand Vin, Yatir Forest, Single Vineyard Kayoumi Shiraz from Carmel, Bustan Merlot (that seemed to be corked) and two single vineyard Merlot’s from Yarden.  We also had a French Wine (’99 Giscours) and a Cali Cab (City Winery Obsidian Ridge).

The tasting seemed to be enjoyed by all.  Though we tasted blind, we knew ahead of time what the 8 wines to be tasted were.  And by process of elimination, some of us successfully guessed which wine we were tasting.  A feat not typically easily achieved – we decided that there are too few kosher wines if we were able to successfully guess the wines.

Overall it was an enjoyable experience and I’m already looking forward to the next club meeting.

Happy Wine Club blind wine tasting.

WTG

Drinking mature wine…

December 6th, 2010

I had one of my most enjoyable tastings a few days ago.  I got to taste about 20 wines ranging in age from 7-11 years old, all stored in optimal conditions.  I knew which wines I would be tasting ahead of time and was concerned that many would be past their prime and possibly even dead.  Lo & behold, the wines were all alive and quite spectacular.

It is said that 95% (or thereabout) of wine in consumed within 24 hours of its being purchased.  Which leads me to believe that most people have not had the extreme pleasure of drinking a wine that has had time to mature in the bottle, a bottle aged wine.

From “The Billionaire’s Vinegar”: “Crudely, the molecular changes known to unfold in a sealed wine bottle that has been laid down for years involve the gradual interaction of oxygen and wine.  Simple chemical compounds break down and recombine into more and more complex forms called polymeric phenols.  Acidity and alcohol soften.  The largest compounds – the harsh, astringent tannins – drift down into a carpet of sediment, taking with them the saturated, inky pigments.  They leave behind a mellowed, unfathomably subtle flavor and a brick-red hue.  Everything knits together, resolving into an ever finer complexity expressed fragrantly in the wine’s bouquet.”

The chapter gets into more detail about mature wine (while discussing Bordeaux purported to be from Thomas Jefferson’s cache dating back to the late 1700′s, and declares that “a wine is considered mature when it has maximized its flavor possibilities but has not yet begun to deteriorate”.

I still believe that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  Some people prefer the primary aromas and flavors of a young wine, while others prefer the tertiary characteristics.  Of the wines I tried at the tasting I was shocked to discover that not only were most of the wines alive, but they were still displaying youthful fruit.  Their color was almost across the board still ruby, not showing very much (if any) of the brick color that is indicative of an aged wine (as it goes from purple to ruby to brick and ultimately towards brown as it reaches the end of its life).

I tried 5 Bordeaux, 3 Spanish wines, 2 wines from California and 9 wines from Israel.

The Bordeaux was all quite nice and I wish I had time with each bottle to enjoy it as it evolved.  Sadly this was a bit of a speed tasting for me as my job on this evening was simply to verify that the wines were still alive.  They were alive yet I couldn’t help but think they all seemed a bit lite.  They were definitely light in body.  I wonder what types of characteristics would have been revealed had I had more time with these wines.

Next were the Spanish wines from Capcanes; A 2000, 2001 & 2003.  These were probably my Read the rest of this entry »