On Balance And Blends

August 20, 2013

The importance of balance in wine with reviews of the Yarden Sauvignon Blanc 2011 and two blended Scotch whiskies; Johnnie Walker Black and Whilte Horse.

One of the most widely sought after descriptions from the mouth, or pen, of a wine critic is the term “balanced.” The term is meant to convey a harmonious interplay between the different components in a wine, including tannins, alcohol, sweetness and acidity. Should any one of these components stand out from the others, that wine would be deemed out of balance, and so in some measure lacking or less than the ideal. Of particular importance in a balanced wine, especially one whose flavors are especially pronounced, are those elements that provide a counterpoint. So for example, fruity or tannic wines are thought to need an acidic balancing counterpoint, to bring the wine together. In the case of a dessert wine, such as a sauterne, acidity is desired to check the wine’s sweetness so that it does not become boringly unctuous like a jam or jelly. Likewise too much acidity would render a wine tart and unappealing. A wine with ideal acidity keeps these other elements in check, and is perceived as cleansing, refreshing and encouraging of another sip. Any wine that does not encourage the imbiber to take another sip, is probably not enjoyable enough to drink anyway.

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Neo-Prohibitionists: Hands Off Our Hooch

August 12, 2013

More governmental efforts to restrict access to our favorite spirits, wine and beer by blocking privatization.

We have written in the past about the byzantine-seeming regulatory patchwork of alcohol laws in this country. Every so often, folks seek to change this regulatory system in the name of freedom and consumer choice, and while progress of a sort has been made in this or that locale, there remains a very long way to go. Even though Prohibition ended with the passage of the 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution on Dec. 5, 1933, more than a dozen states today still maintain monopoly control over the sale and/or distribution of distilled spirits — and some still over beer and wine. Most states do not do so, and the idea that monopoly control of some aspect of booze is justifiably a core function of government is silly. Worse, however, is that they further limit product choice, increase costs and generally annoy us consumers.

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Still Time For Summer Wine Recommendations

August 7, 2013

Summer wine recommendations include whites from Alto Adige, some Sauvignon Blancs and a few American Gruner Veltliners.

This year’s summer wine recommendations begin with a visit to northeastern Italy along its border with Switzerland and Austria. In the Italian Alpine region of Alto Adige visitors can enjoy views of snow-capped mountains as well as lush vineyards which produce ideal wines for warm weather enjoyment. The climate is surprisingly mild with more than 300 sunny days annually and the vineyards are protected from most of the chilly northern winds by the Alps, yet remain open to the warmer southern Mediterranean maritime breezes. The resulting temperature variations ensure that their grapes characteristic flavors are well balanced with bright acidity. Nearly 60 percent of the Alto Adige vineyards produce white wines and their principle varietals include the familiar Pinot Grigio, Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc and Gewürztraminer along with some less well-known, but quite interesting grapes such as Müller-Thurgau, Sylvaner, and Kerner.

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Deep In Margaritaville

August 5, 2013

Solving the puzzle of pairing a wine with a summer soup with the Tishbi Gewurztraminer 2010 along with a look at the Margarita.

Among the many joys of summer is seasonal produce hitting the stalls of the numerous farmers’ markets scattered throughout the area. These fresh fruits and veggies typically inspire both professional chefs and adventurous home cooks to try novel recipes or pull out some old family favorites. Matching wines to these occasionally exotic combinations can be a difficult but not an entirely hopeless effort. It is a testimony to the versatility of wine that a pairing can nearly always be found. Among the trickier food-wine pairing challenges is a soup course. Rarely the central course of a meal, soup is often overlooked when selecting wines. Yet in summer, soups are often an opportunity, or even excuse, to showcase the freshness of the season. Some examples include a chunky, tangy gazpacho, a snazzy green pea soup or one made with corn and spicy peppers. Fruit-based soups are also popular in the summer, and equally complicated to pair with wine.

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How To Cool Off A Fried Brain

August 1, 2013

A review of the Tishbi Sauvignon Blanc 2012 and a look at the “Gimlet” cocktail.

Sauvignon blanc is one of our favorite warm weather wines. It is produced around the winemaking world in a number of different styles ranging from dry to very sweet dessert wines. The bright flavors and balanced acidity typical of well-made dry, nonsweet versions of sauvignon blancs pair well with lighter summer fare, including cheeses, salads and even sushi; It makes for delightful backyard deck or picnic sipping. The varietal is thought to have originated in France’s Bordeaux region, and it is widely supposed that it gets its name from the word “sauvage” (wild) and blanc (white) from its early life as an indigenous varietal in the southwest of France. More recently, the grape has flourished and gained a great deal of popularity in New Zealand. Sauvignon blanc’s profile ranges from grassy and herbaceous when grown in warmer climates to gooseberry, melon, citrus and tropical fruits when the vines are in cooler locations.

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Cool, Classic Cocktails

July 31, 2013

A review of the Carmel Kayoumi Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 and some summer cocktail suggestions.

It may seem counterintuitive to discuss Cabernet Sauvignon during the warm summer months. An ideal wine for cooler weather, the tannins in cabernet make it a poor match to the customary summer fare and an unlikely candidate to consider sipping poolside. But summer may actually be an ideal time to think about buying some Cabernet, especially if you have a location to keep it cool and undisturbed until the inevitable arrival of autumn and winter. The Cabernet Sauvignon grape is the result of an inadvertent, but very fortuitous, cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc that occurred in southwestern France in the 17th century. Thick skinned, relatively disease resistant and easy to cultivate, Cabernet Sauvignon has become one of the world’s most popular red wine varietals. Indeed, globally it was the most planted premium red grape varietal until Merlot edged it out in the 1990s. As it is still widely planted the world over, quality varies with the terroir and the skill of the winemaker — harvesting too early or late will result in off-flavors such as green peppers or over jammy black fruit. When well-produced, appropriately aged and treated gently, Cabernet Sauvignon becomes a true vinous treasure.

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Martinis — And Earl Grey MarTEAnis

July 29, 2013

Suggestions on how to store wine along with a review of the Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 and a look at the Martini.

Last week we encouraged purchasing wines not meant for immediate consumption, but with a caveat: You need to be able to store your wines in a fashion that will preserve their flavors and allow them to reach their potential. Seeking out and then buying a great bottle of wine is a waste of time and money if it ends up sitting on a rack nestled in the space between the top of the refrigerator and a kitchen cabinet. After all, heat rises — and kitchens get very hot indeed. Even less expensive wines can be ruined if improperly stored.

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Between Red And White

July 11, 2013

A review of the Agur Rosa 2012 and 2 Speyburn Single Malt Scotch Whiskies.

Rosé wines have become increasingly popular. The best embody the brightness of a white wine combined with the complexity usually only found in a red. They range in style from light and bone-dry to fruity and fuller-bodied. Well-crafted rosés are very food-friendly, particularly the graceful lighter ones that match perfectly with such summer fare as salads, grilled fish and the more subtle cheeses. Rosés are most often created by allowing the pressed juice to have only minimal contact with the skins, usually only one to three days. The longer the contact between the juice and the skins, the deeper the color. Another method is known as “saignee” (French for bleeding). Saignee is the term used for when a winemaker, in their endeavor to produce greater intensity in their red wines, will bleed off only a small portion of the (red grape) juice from the crushed grape skins, while the remaining juice stays in contact with the skins. By bleeding off some of this juice from the vat, there will be a greater surface area ratio of skins to juice in the vat, so that more color and possibly even complexity can be extracted from the skins into their future red wine. The lighter juice that was bled off, can then be turned into rosé.

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In A Rye Mood

July 9, 2013

Reviews of the Hagafen Napa Valley Syrah 2009, the Russell’s Reserve 6 Year Old Small Batch Rye, and the Angel’s Envy Rye Whiskey.

It seems most appropriate to select an American-made wine when celebrating Independence Day. The holiday also gives us another opportunity to acknowledge one of the country’s finest winemakers, who also happens to limit his production to kosher wines. Ernie Weir, the founder and winemaker of Napa’s Hagafen Cellars, has for years created notable wines that have won numerous awards, including competitions against nonkosher contenders. His wines are another compelling argument against a “kosher wine” shelf since consumers deserve to be exposed to wines of this quality. They should sit next to similar varietals and not be relegated to an unused corner of the store. And observant customers will either be shopping at a store that only has kosher wines or will look for a hechsher no matter where the bottle is displayed. Having again made our case to liberate kosher wines from the tyranny of display prejudice, we can focus on a wine for the summer holiday.

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