Sunday, November 22, 2009

Busy few weeks

Unlike my last lapse in posting, I've had plenty of wine experiences over the past few weeks. I just haven't had the time to write about them. So, without further preamble, here are my last few weeks of wining, dining and whining.....

Last weekend, a few friends and I went down to Philadelphia for a "foodie tour." Our first stop was 10 Arts by Eric Ripert. SO disappointing. Terrible ambience and so-so food (would be a "good," but for these prices, you shouldn't consider this food good). The worst part was the wine list. Plenty to choose from, but at 300-400% markups, why bother? This has changed my perception of Eric Ripert as one of the "genius" chefs of today.

The next day we stopped at Tria for lunch. Tria is a local Philly wine bar with two locations. I've now been to both and they're wonderful. Plus, any place that has Torrontes on the menu is a winner! Torrontes is a lovely white grape out of Argentina that you're going to be seeing a lot more of over the next few years.

The following Sunday I had dinner at Raymond's with a friend of mine. For those keeping track, I've mentioned Raymond's a few times because it is one of my favorite local BYOs. I brought a bottle of Chateau Tour Prignac 2005 from the Medoc region of the Bordeaux. From my wine course I now know that Bordeaux blends from Medoc are more Cabernet dominated. It was a lovly bottle with a lot more fruit on the palette than I expected and it surprisingly went really well with the trout I ordered. If you can find it, definitely worth the $22 I paid for it!

This past Thursday was one of my book club meetings. We read "My Life in France," Julia Child's account of her years developing "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" with her good friends Simca and Louisette. Guess who picked the book? We ate a local French BYO, mais oui (or as we'd say, "but of course"). I brought a bottle of Domaine De La Pertuisane Le Nain Violet 2004 from the Languedoc region (Grenache, Carignan, Syrah). Though you can usually drink wines from the Languedoc young, this felt a little too young. Good thing I have a few more bottles laid down!

And my wine drinking of the past few weekends was capped off with a tasting class of Spanish and Portuguese wines at Amanti Vino. We tried 7 differet wines and of those, my favorites were the Lavradores "Tres Bagos" 2005 and the Infantado Vintage Character Port NV. Both are from Portgual. "Tres Bagos" is a red table wine that has grapes from 15 different growers in the Douro region of Portgual. It has a gamey nose with lots of black fruit (blackberries, black currant). It drinks like it smells - earthy and dry with a nice hit of fruit. And for $16, you'd be crazy not to give it a shot if you find it. The Infantado is a wonderful port with all of the silky, sweet textures and flavors you'd hope to find. Made me crave a little water cracker, brie and fig jam sandwich.
Before I leave, I have one request of my faithful readers (all 5-6 of you). Please help me pick which pie to make for Thanksgiving. I'm making two pies - one will be apple and I don't know what to make for the second pie. My mom doesn't like pumpkin and my dad doesn't like "anything with that many calories." I'm open to suggestions. Ideas?
Until the next sniff, sip or quaff (or several daysof sipping),

Alli M.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

WSET Intermediate Final

I already miss my wine class! Last night I took the final for the Intermediate Certificate of the Wine and Spirits Education Trust. In 4-6 weeks I'll have my results and if all goes well (meaning if I answered at least 55% of the questions right), I will receive my Intermediate Certificate. Apparently, this means I could call myself a sommelier. Scary when I think about how much more I have to learn. But let's not get ahead of ourselves...T minus 42 days until I know.

And T minus 2-3 months until I start the Advanced Class. 5 Months. Loads more blind tastings. Exponentially more difficult. Looking forward to it.

Until the next sniff, sip or quaff,

Alli M.

Monday, November 9, 2009

A Tasteful Experience indeed

Hey all! I know it's been a little while, but I just came from one of the best wine events and I can't wait to share it with you.

A few weeks ago, one of the instructors of my wine class, Sharon, was promoting A Tasteful Experience, a charity event that her wine store was sponsoring along with several ofthe best restaurants in New Jersey. After reading the list of restaurants participating (most notably CulinAriane whose chef, Ariane, appeared on Top Chef Season 5 and Passionne whose chef, Michael, was a winner on Food Network's Chopped), I knew I was in. Plus, my favorite wine store was hosting AND it was for a local charity. The only way there could be more reasons for me to buy a ticket was if they were giving away massages at the door - though the swag bag I received with my upgraded VIP ticket came pretty close.

I could write a short novel on the 3 hours I spent tasting and drinking, but I'll keep it to the highlights so as not to bore you (or make you jealous).
Favorite Foods:
-Pork loin with apple and walnut chutney from CulinAriane. Thanks to some sound advice from Will, the other instructor of my wine class, I paired it with a 1987 Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia Gran Reserva Rioja. It was like a celebration in my mouth.
-Butternut squash soup with hazlenut creme fraiche from Table 8. Table 8 is one of my favorite places in Montclair and unfortunately I don't get there often enough. This soup was like eating silk made of squash with a touch of nutmeg. Most people ignore the soups at tasting events like think I steered at least 10 people to the Table 8 booth.

Favorite Wines:
-The afore-mentioned 1987 Rioja. Bright fruit, but not jammy with some subtle oak and dust. I went back for 5 pours.
-2006 Groffier Chambolle-Musigny "Les Sentiers." 1er Cru Burgundy. Yum. Perfectly balanced earth and fruit.
-30 year Casa de Santa Eufemia Reserve Especial Blanco Port. White port. Elegant, nutty, oaky. I think I introduced at least 15 people to this port.

Of course the least expensive of these is $90 per bottle. Figures.

Favorite Moments:
-Sharon acting as a personal sommelier for a few other members of the class and me. I think I figured out who I want to be if/when I grow up!
-Slipping my favorite wines to Chef Michael of Passionne. I hope he remembers me the next time I stop in for a meal!!!!

All in all it was a great night and I learned even more about wine. Slowly but surely, my palette is developing - though that means I'm appreciating less fruit forward and more restrained and old world (e.g. dusty, gamey, earthy) styles. Hopefully you can learn to enjoy these wines with me.

This Friday I'm heading down to 10 Arts by Eric Ripert in Philadelphia to have dinner with 4 fun women and I'm sure I'll have some good wine moments to share.
Unil the next sniff, sip or quaff,


Alli M.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

WSET, Class 7 (Final Class)

Tonight was my final class in the Intermediate series for the Wine and Spirits Trust. I've really enjoyed the class and I have learned a great deal. I'm sad to see it come to a close, though I'm not necessarily looking forward to next week's final exam!

So what did we do in our final class? We ended with the spirits portion of the class. Suffice it to say, I prefer the wine portion. Luckily we also did sherries and ports and I love good port.

To give you the highlights would mean trying to explain the difference between the Pot Still process of distillation and the Continuous Still process of distillation. Unfortunately I haven't studied enough to go through that. Other highlights included the look on my classmates and my face as we tasted vodka, gin, scotch and whisky in the same way we've been tasting wines. We had sniff vigorously and roll it around our tongues as we would a wine to try to pull out the flavors. I'm sure this would have been lovely for whisky connoisseurs, but this was a room of wine fans!

One other thing I learned tonight - gin is essentially vodka infused with juniper berries and often other botanicals.

This weekend I'm off to another wedding and hopefully I'll have some good wine to write about. If not, I'm sure I'll be drinking something good in the near future!

Until the next sniff, sip or quaff,


Alli M.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Pairing, shmairing. At least the dinner was fun.

This past Friday I attended a 7 course tasting dinner (I know I said 5 in my previous post, but with the Amuse and the "Surprise" Amuse, it turned into 7). My friend, Laura, was the sous chef to her boyfriend, Joshua, the head chef. They provided the menu a few days beforehand and I was going to pair each course with wine. Well that was the plan at least.

The menu was on the light side - oysters, peppers, fish - so I decided that I'd go with a lot of white varietals. This can be daring because people tend to have a red bias when pairing wine with food.

This was the plan:
Course 1, "Surprise" Amuse: Sweet white wine
Course 2, Oyster Amuse: Sparkling white wine (Parigot)
Course 3, Spinach and Leek Frittata with Black Truffle: Sparkling white wine (Parigot)
Course 4, Beet Salad: Sparkling white wine (still Parigot)
Course 5, Stuffed Pepper: Pinot Noir (Four Graces, good, simple classically jammy)
Course 6, Red Snapper with Miso Glaze and Heirloom Quinoa and Black Sea Bass with Cilantro and Celery Root puree: Pinot Noir (Four Graces)
Course 7, Chocolate Pot de Creme with Pumpkin Gelatto and Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream: 10 Year Old Tawny Port (Taylor's)

Here's what happened:

Due to traffic, it took me over 1 1/2 hours to get to Joshua's. By the time I got there, they'd already opened a bottle of Champagne. Unfortunately a sweet white does not do well after something as acidic as a sparkling white (or most still whites). My strategy to prime the taste buds and wow with the delicate sweet white was out the window. Hopefully Joshua and Laura can enjoy the extra bottle I left them in the fridge (ideally with some good cheese). So we ended up drinking a lot of sparkling and really, what's wrong with that? Of course the upside is that we all reached for the sweet white to cool our palettes when we bit into the habanero topping the beet salad.....

Then, when we got to the red, another guest wanted to open the red table wine he'd just picked up in Napa so we went with it. The only problem is that red table wines from Napa are usually much bigger and oakier than Pinot Noir so it basically kills the flavor of the Pinot. At least the port worked out well with the Pot de Creme!

Well, I learned my lesson. Next time I pair I'll send out the list ahead of time and explain the pairings. I'll also leave more time to get to my destination. Friggin' tunnel traffic.
That said, it was still a really fun night with some excllent food and even better company. When you have that, does it really matter what you're drinking?

Joshua, Laura, Pam, Micah and Jeff - Thanks for being great dinner companions. I hope you all had a wonderful Halloween weekend.

Until the next sniff, sip or quaff,


Alli M.