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Archive for April, 2011

She Put de Lime in de Coconut, She Drank ‘em bot’ up…

If it’s gloomy…ok.  If it’s gloomy and stormy…alright.  If it’s gloomy, stormy and unusually bitter cold for a mid-April spring day…well that’s just turrible!  I am so ready for spring weather to finally arrive!  But, where is it?!  If you’re taking in some beautiful weather right about now – I’m just plain old jealous!!  The overall Spring weather conditions in my neck of the woods have been cold and gloomy with a 99.9% chance of ice-cold stinging rain.

Befitting this year’s version of Spring, it was certainly cold, dark, windy and rainy this past Saturday.  I felt Mother Nature’s pain at opening day little league baseball, then again at opening day soccer, and once more for an early-evening kiddie birthday party.  By the time that Pump It Up kid’s party was through, I wanted nothing more than to be lying on the beach of a warm deserted island, drinking piña coladas and listening to Bob Marley.  When I finally got home, I was greeted by the delicious aromas of finely chopped onions, minced garlic, ginger, coriander and fresh cilantro floating in the air.  My wife was preparing a special meal just for the two of us:  Shrimp in Coconut Milk over basmati rice.

I decided to partner this Thai-inspired meal with the 2009 Leth Reserve Hofweingarten Roter Veltliner from Austria (Sample, MSRP: $19 US).  Leth is a family winery located in Fels, directly on the terraces of the Wagram River.  This Austrian white exudes confidence and finesse much like a fine white Burgundy.

The 2009 Leth Reserve Hofweingarten Roter Veltliner dazzled our taste buds with its flashy-sweet apple and pear flavors that brilliantly intermingled with subtle spices to produce a long, refreshing and elegant finish. 

4 Stars out of 4 for the 2009 Leth Reserve Hofweingarten Roter Veltliner.  This Roter Veltliner was spectacular all by itself, but with this special dish, my dining room was transformed into a three-star Michelin restaurant. 

Since we were enjoying this Austrian wine and food pairing so much, we decided to hit up Austria for one last visit.  We ended the evening with the 2009 IBY Horitschon Blaufränkisch Classic (Sample, MSRP: $20 US)Blaufränkisch is a red varietal commonly associated with Austria, though it is also grown with much success throughout Eastern Europe and in parts of the Pacific Northwest in the US.

The 2009 IBY Horitschon Blaufränkisch Classic lulled us into submission with its soft, yet energetic, juicy raspberry flavor, and delighted us with its very approachable velvety-smooth tannins.  If you’re a fan of Old-World Pinot Noir and have never tried an Austrian Blaufränkisch before, this ‘Classic’ should sing a sweet tune for you!

3 Stars out of 4 for the 2009 IBY Horitschon Blaufränkisch Classic.  The back label suggests decanting this wine for 0-3 hours.  We drank less than half the bottle on the first night and put a piece of Saran wrap and aluminum foil over the decanter opening.  On day #2, it was even better!

To learn more about these and many other delicious Austrian wines be sure to check out http://www.austrianwineusa.com/.

What’s Up, Doc? It’s Wabbit Season!

When it comes to hitting the bull’s-eye in the wine world, you’ve got to have the precision of a marksman.  In the box wine segment, few can compete with Octavin’s locked and loaded lineup:  they’ve been hitting the mark time and time again.  I’ve had the pleasure of trying many of the Octavin wines, and recently sampled the company’s newest addition:  the 2009 Rudolf Müller Riesling, a.k.a. “The Bunny Wine,” from Germany.

The 2009 Rudolf Müller Riesling, produced from grapes grown in the Landwein Rhine region of Germany, showcases a refreshing peachy-apricot flavor with a hint of minerality on its soft, fruity finish. For what works out to be about $5.00 per 750ml, this slightly sweet Riesling should hit the mark with wine drinkers who prefer sweeter wines over traditional drier-style white wines.

3 Stars out of 4 for the 2009 Rudolf Müller ‘Medium Sweet’ Riesling.  For me, it was a tad too sweet to drink in the evening, but as a low-alcohol afternoon sipper, I’d spare Bugs and Daffy and happily pair it with a Caesar salad or curry chicken salad.

 

 

 

BYOB: Shea Brings Organic Wines to the Party

What do you get when you mix together the freshest local, organic, and sustainable ingredients and accompany them with a guide to help you create delicious, creative and super simple recipes?  The answer:  Shea Hess and her website Hungry in Brooklyn.  The goal of Hungry in Brooklyn and its host, Shea Hess, is to create, explore and document the local, organic, and sustainable food movement in Brooklyn and beyond.
 
I stumbled across Hungry in Brooklyn earlier this year, while trying to come up with a post about poached eggs and sparkling wine.  Shea’s “Simple in Sixty” YouTube video on “How to poach an egg” immediately grabbed my attention while I was putting the final touches on my post:  it was eye-catching, concise and super easy to follow.
 
I recently caught up with Shea after she wrapped up filming for Season One of Hungry in Brooklyn, and asked if she would kindly share a wine-related story with WineLife365 readers.  With much enthusiasm she agreed to write a BYOB about a recent trip she took with her family:  they were Sideways in Sonoma:)

Photo courtesy of Raphael Rodriguez

 
I fancy myself a foodie, and I do quite enjoy a glass or four of wine each night.  As a host of a cooking show focusing on local and sustainable ingredients, I’ve been so inspired by visiting the places where our food comes from, whether it’s a heritage breed turkey farm in New Jersey or an oyster farm in Montauk. And while people these days are placing a lot of emphasis on organic FOOD, many of us don’t think twice about our libations. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that wine can seem a bit intimidating in the first place – then you start swirling words around like organic and biodynamic, and it seems more complicated than using a fancy corkscrew.

But the good news is that there are plenty of small growers and winemakers out there dedicated to making beautiful wines in a sustainable way.  Perhaps the most interesting thing to note is that you don’t necessarily need to see an organic seal of approval for wine to actually be organic.  Many family and small-scale winemakers have been using organic practices for decades, maybe even centuries, and aren’t interested in paying the premium price for the organic label. The best rule of thumb is to trust your wine shop and just ask. 

Seems like a little bit more work to out these wines, right?  So why bother?  Well, consider this: large-scale wine makers are in the business of consistency. Stabilizers, sulfites, and chemicals are added to the wines to ensure that each vintage tastes the same. In addition, grapes are not an easy crop to grow. Many large wine-makers use fertilizers and pesticides that I wouldn’t want in my food, so I certainly don’t need it in my wine.

This past winter, my family and I did a tour of small-vineyard and organic wineries in Sonoma County, California. We hired a chauffeur to take us around from vineyard to vineyard – which I would 100 percent recommend.  No one has to worry about being the designated driver, AND the chauffeur will know more than you could ever imagine about the regions, the vineyards, and even the wines. (Not to mention, they’ll give you a complimentary bottle of champagne to enjoy as you gaze at out the window at the rolling hills). 

Because the vineyards we visited were so small – we’re talking a production of less than 5,000 cases a year—the winemakers were often right there in the tasting rooms.  As a result, we were able to have a deeper connection with and understanding of the wine because we met its maker. It’s easy to appreciate every sip when you understand the craft, the artistry, and the labor that goes into each barrel. I’ll never look at a bottle of wine the same way again, and I’ll cherish the memories I have with my family on that beautiful day in December.
 
SONOMA COUNTY SMALL-VINEYARD SUGGESTIONS:
Quivira (Dry Creek Valley) – This wine is absolutely delicious.  It’s organic and biodynamic, and even has garden plots where local chefs can farm produce for their restaurants.  The vineyard is gorgeous with a comfortable tasting room.  $5 waived with the purchase of a bottle.

Stryker (Alexander Valley) -  My favorite bottle was the Malbec; they also had delicious Zinfandels, which is what the Dry Creek Valley is renowned for. 

Porter Creek (Russian River Valley) – This region is known for their pinot noirs, and Porter Creek makes some of the best.  They are not available in stores, but you can order online and through their wine club.

Hawley (Healdsburg) – Hawley is a father/son operation with a vineyard in the Dry Creek Valley and a tasting room in downtown Healdsburg.  They take their organic wines very seriously, and even employ the use of hawks for pest control through the art of falconry. 
 

Photo courtesy of Raphael Rodriguez

Photo courtesy of Raphael Rodriguez

Thanks Shea!  Great information and I liked your means of transport!  :) All the best to Hungry in Brooklyn, and “Cheers!” to another great season!
 
For more great tips in the kitchen and ideas for preparing delicious meals using local, organic, and sustainable ingredients, please visit Hungry in Brooklyn.

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