Monday, December 27, 2010

A Very Merry Christmas Indeed

A few weeks ago, Colangelo and Partners PR, an agency that represents several Italian wineries, offered to send me a few bottles of "Umbrian wine, a Holiday alternative to Tuscan Sangiovese."

I received 2 bottles from the Arnaldo-Caprai winery a few days before Christmas so I decided to bring the bottles with me to Christmas Eve dinner at my friends' house.
We started the meal with a plate of cured meats - pepperoni, salami, prosciutto and coppa - providing the perfect opportunity to open the first bottle: Montefalco Rosso 2007 made primarily from Sangiovese with a bit of Merlot and Sagrantino (a grape found only in Umbria, as far as I know).

The Montefalco Rosso was a beautiful deep ruby color with a pleasing nose of red berries and a little earth. Before I dipped into the meats, I decided to try the wine on its own. It was slightly thin, farily dry and a little acidic, but the red berry fruit came through. The wine really began to shine once I indulged in some of the prosciutto and salami. The oil and fat from the meat cut through some of the acid showcasing the ripe fruit. This is exactly what this wine was made for and at $23 per bottle, I'd gladly bring this to a gathering or a dinner where I knew some hearty food would be served.
Before we finished the first bottle, I decided I needed to open the second bottle under the guise of wanting to taste it before my palate was shot. Truth be told, I was just curious and eager!

The second bottle was a Sagrantino di Montefalco Collepiano DOCG 2004 made from 100% Sagrantino. Other than the small amount of Sagrantino in the previous bottle, this was my first experience with the grape so I didn't quite know what to expect. I generally assume Italian wines will be slightly more acidic and earthy than other wines as they are made to be drunk with food. I also knew from the "DOCG" designation, that this wine had achieved certain standards in cultivation and processing in order to receive a top ranking from the powers that be within the Italian wine world. It didn't necessarily mean it would be better, but in general, wines with a DOC or DOCG designation have had to pass stricter regulations and have generally had a bit more care put into them. Simply put, I expected the wine to be good and I expected it to make the grilled filet mignon sing.

The Sagrantino was a deep ruby, almost purple color and had a beautiful nose of bright red fruit with a hint of oak. I also sense some gamey notes. This nose was right up my alley! As with the previous bottle, I decided to taste the wine by itself first. The Sagrantino held up a bit better on it's own. It had more balance than the Montefalco and the acid seemed to creep up slowly. Moreover, though it had 1% more alcohol than the Montefalco, it was well muted. Now you know why older wines and wines with DOC and DOCG designation cost more - generally they're better. And it only got better once I paired it with the filet. The red berry fruit absolutely shined and the spicey nutmeg notes just popped. Moreover, the gamey flavors that I detected on the nose came out on the finish and for those who've been following, you know I dig the game. Like the Montefalco, the body was a little thinner than I like, but all in all, this was a terrific wine. Frankly, I'm not sure I'd pay $60 for this, BUT if I had, I wouldn't have been disappointed.

Ultimately, I was impressed by Caprai's Umbrian wines and I was so glad I had the opportunity to taste them. I could see the Montefalco Rosso being a good "go to" wine for a party - especially if you need to drink a good amount to put up with with certain other partygoers (as i did on Christmas Eve). This is definitely a winery and a region I will look for in the future.

Until the next sniff, sip, quaff or the need to share my thoughts on Sparkling wines and Champagne,


Alli M.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

To Each His Own (and if the each is me, we're talking lower acidity and alcohol)

The other night I enjoyed a lovely dinner with a couple of my friends who I affectionately think of as the "Queens of the 'Boken." We went to one of our favorite Hoboken restaurants, Bin 14. I've written about dinners and wine flights there before. I really like the food, but I've found the wine list a bit hit and miss. Last night, it became clear to me why I don't love their wine list.

Over the course of dinner, we ordered two bottles of wine: Quinta Nova "Pomares" 2008, a Portuguese wine made from the Touriga Nacional grape, and Ala Nero 2009, an Italian wine made from Nero D'Avola. I've had both grape varietals before and I'm a particular fan of Touriga Nacional (which many feel is truly the national grape of Portugal), but this one had a "little too much heat on it," or as a non-wine snob would say, "I tasted way too much alcohol." In fact, that was the first sensation on my tongue. When I looked at the alcohol content, 13.5%, it was high, but typical for what you'd see from a hotter climate like Portugal. To me, it was "unbalanced," meaning that one of the key elements; in this case alcohol, over powered the acid, tannins and sugars of the wine. The Nero D'Avola was a little better balanced, but was a bit too acidic (Italian wines are supposed to be acidic, but it felt like my tongue was growing hair).

The sommelier and/or owner seems to have a penchant for wines that pack an alcoholoic and/or acidic bite to them. Though I joke about being a snob, I truly believe that "to each his own." If the sommelier likes these wines and as long as I'm aware, I can better navigate the wine list.

The point is that it's o.k. to disagree with someone else's palate. My friend, Tom, and I almost came to blows over a Sauvignon Blanc earlier tonight (o.k., more like a fake butter knife duel, but still, it got heated). That doesn't mean you or the other person is wrong or has a faulty palate. Wine is as subjective as most other foods. My palate seems to have a narrow point of view when it comes to alcohol and acid, but you may find you love them. This doesn't mean you should stop reading my blog, of course. It just means that you should avoid what love and drink what I don't.

On Christmas Eve I'm going to be trying some Italian wines with my friend, Anne, and her family. So until that sniff, sip and quaff,


Alli M.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Domaine Nebout St. Pourcain Rouge Tradition 2008: Another GREAT Crowd Pleaser

While shopping for a party the other day, my friend, Will, who is also the manager of Amanti Vino and my sometime wine instructor, recommended Domaine Nebout St. Pourcain Rouge Tradition 2008, a blend of (primarily) Gamay and Pinot Noir. He described it as bright and full of berry fruit - just the type of wine that's perfect for a party because it can go with many foods or be enjoyed by itself.

The wine was delicious and a big hit. At $14.99 a bottle, I found a new favorite "every day" red. True to Will's words, the wine was a tasty, bright red with lots of red berries on the nose and palate. That said, I wouldn't call this a fruity wine. It had just the right amount of restraint and enough acid to hold up to many types of foods.

If you're looking for something for an upcoming holiday party or to enjoy at home over the holidays, look no further than Domaine Nebout St. Pourcain Rouge Tradition 2008.
And if you're looking for a fun holiday activity, I have one suggestion: Accordian Sing-A-Long. Nick, Liz, Maria and Moray really know how to host a rockin' party.

Until the next sniff, sip, quaff or holiday get together,


Alli M.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Last weekend I made my way to Bar Veloce, an Italian wine bar in Manhattan that I've wanted to try for some time. I'm happy to report it did not disappoint. As always, I tried a few different varietals but my absolute favorite of the evening was a Primitivo called Orion made by Li Veli.

Primitivo is an Italian grape that many believe to be a close relative of the Zinfandel grape. Primitivo can be juicy with notes of cherries and red berries. Li Veli's Orion was absolutely delightful. With the first sip I enjoyed a chewy mouthful of bright red cherry follwed by some subtle nutmeg notes. It was a joy to drink from the first sip to the last (and the first glass to the third!).

I've been thinking about it ever since so I recently looked it up on and found a store in Jersey City that carries it. Even better, it retails for $12.
For those of you looking for something a little different for an upcoming holiday party, Primitivo, and if you can find Li Veli, this particular wine, is for you. 'Tis the season to drink juicy red wines with berry and spice notes.
Until the next sniff, sip or quaff,
-Alli M.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Get to Know Eric Orange, Founder of Local Wine

Look to the right of this article. Hopefully, you noticed the list of my favorite wine websites. Among that list is, a site I've been telling friends about for years. It's a wonderful resource where you can find food and wine events as well as wine educators in your country, your state and your town. This past Thursday, I had the opportunity to speak with the founder of Local Wine Events, Eric Orange.

Eric grew up in Wichita, Kansas and after a stint in the Navy, he started working for a wine distributor in Colorado. That led to a position with, a start-up that had $35 Million dollars in funding from, but "failed miserably" according to Eric. However, from that experience, Eric came up with the idea for Local Wine Events and on July 1, 2000, he launched the site. The restaurant industry drove its initial success, but it has gained a large following over the past 10 years and now boasts 130,000 subscribers and a widely read e-newsletter called "The Juice."

For those who have never used the site, it's a great tool for finding all sorts of food and beverage events in your town and neighboring towns. You'll see listings for wine dinners, beer making courses, chocolate tastings, cheese classes, coffee events and pretty much any type of food or gourmet gathering you can imagine.

As good as the site is now, Eric keeps working to improve it. He will be adding geo location software and utilizing newer display and pop-up technology. Additionally, he hopes to expand the listing of non-wine food and beverage events.

So if you're looking for a great wine resource or just something to do on a Tuesday night, check out Local Wine Events. And keep your eyes out for their ongoing improvements. Personally, I think the site is already excellent, but I appreciate Eric's passion for continuous improvement.

Until the next sniff, sip or quaff,
Alli M.

Monday, December 6, 2010

And on the 4th night of Hannukah, I enjoyed a split at a bar

This past Saturday I celebrated the 4th night of Hannukah at a good local bar, Egan & Sons which has good food, very good beer and a really good wine list for a pub. I hadn't been to Egan's in quite some time and I was excited to find that they'd added splits to their menu. A split is the fancy, wine snob way of saying half bottle.

Splits are great for many reasons:

-Splits are cheaper than buying by the glass. At a bar or restaurant, a split usually costs about 2x that of a glass of the same wine. You get about 2 1/2 glasses of wine in each split.

-Splits are fresher than ordering by the glass. When you order a split, a fresh new bottle is opened for you. This rarely happens when you're ordering by the glass.

-Splits allow for variety. If you can't decided between two wines or two varietals and the wine is offered in half bottles, order both and see which one you prfer.

-Splits save you from yourself. How many times have you been at restaurant and though you were full and finished drinking, you sucked down another 1/2 glass or glass of wine because you didn't want the rest of bottle to go to waste?

Of course some nights call for a full bottle (or three). Plus, some friends may look at you funny (as mine did this weekend) when you belly up to the bar with your own mini bottle and a fileld glass to boot. However, for all the reasons listed above, it's worth it to order a split now and again.

As for what split I ordered? King's Estate Pinot Noir. Medium bodied, fruite forward, easy drinking pinot noir. Always a good standby.

Until the next sniff, sip, quaff or split,


Alli M.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

7 Eleven Sommelier

I saw this in one of the many product newsletters I read:

"C-store giant 7-Eleven has announced that it is broadening its private brand wine selection, introducing a new label - Cherrywood Cellars - a mid-tier-priced wine ($7.99 - $8.99 per bottle) that is available in three varietals - chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon and merlot. Cherrywood Cellars, according to the company, is designed to appeal to millennials, and is positioned between its Yosemite Road label, priced at an entry-level $3.99 per bottle, and Sonoma Crest, a premium wine comparable to a $15 bottle, but value-priced at $9.99."
Until I try this, I can't make a judgement, but I am happy to pre-judge. This doesn't sound so appetizing to me. Then again, I guess if it hits the fan, I can always find work as a 7 Eleven sommelier!
And if you run out of wine on Thanksgiving day, 7 Eleven will likely be open. To that end, I guess it has a purpose.
I'm hoping that whatever you drink at Thanksgiving, it is enjoyable.
Until the next sniff, sip or quaff,
Alli M.

Friday, November 19, 2010

CIA, Day 3 through 5

The week flew by and though I didn't get to post each day, I'm hoping you got a sense of my week. I also thought that you might want to see some pictures of my classmates and some of the food we cooked this week.

To sum it up, I awoke each day at 5:30am to attend lectures on cooking methods and knife skills and to discuss why various techniques work or do not work. This was followed by several hours of slaving over cutting boards, stove tops and ovens while making several mistakes along the way. I loved almost every minute!

On Day 3 I was supposed to make ice cream, but the lecture ran long so I made the base (which was actually super easy) and then helped various teammates. Since we had the "night off" from an official dinner, a few of us went out to a restaurant in Rhinebeck that was widely recommended by various members of the school community. In one of the weirder restaurant moments I've ever had, a classmate found what we determined to be an animal tooth in her dish. Sadly, finding the tooth wasn't the worst experience at the restaurant. The staff's response to our "discovery" was non-chalant at best. Suffice it to say, if you find yourself in the Rhinebeck, NY area, stear clear of Gigi's.

The next day, I went into class looking forward to completing my ice cream and poaching a fish for the first time in my life. Lecture ran long again so I found myself running up an down between our kitchen and a kitchen in a different building that had an ice cream churn. Unfortunately all of the running around pushed me back a good hour. Despite the lack of cooking time, I still managed to slightly overpoach the fish! If it weren't for my teammates, Laura and John, I'm pretty sure I would have ended up with fish mush.

After the day's lunch, we each shared our thoughts on what we felt we did right and what we felt we did wrong. It was a great way to learn and share kitchen tips. We wrapped up with a lecture on plating technique and then it was off to our 3 minutes of free time before our final dinner at Escoffier, the French restaurant on CIA's campus. The food was terrific and the wines they chose for our dinner - a classic, dry, acidic and citrus-y Bordeaux white and a round, full bodied and balanced Cabernet driven red Bordeaux - were quite good. However, the real treat was the 30 year old white port I brought to dinner with me. I was introduced to the Casa de Santa Eufemia white port at an event I attended last year: Deep golden nutty, honey goodness with lovley oak notes to balance the sweetness. Almost everyone in the class enjoyed a little and it was a wonderful way to end our final dinner together.
Today we arrived for our final class consisting of "Culinary Jeopardy" and then our Team Market Basket Project. Earlier in the week each team was given a list of ingredients to put into a meal made up of an appetizer, a protein, a starch and a vegetable side. John, Laura, Wendy and I planned our menu earlier this week but unfortunately due to a family emergency John had to leave early. We should have scaled back our menu, but we were a little cocky after our "Culinary Jeopardy" win (thanks to knowledgable teammates with quick reflexes, I am now the proud owner of a set of beautiful measuring spoons). With some help from the culinary students sent in to aid us each day (long live Super James) and our chef instructor (we heart Chef Ski), we managed to produce: Prosciutto, Asparagus & Mozarella Roulades, Roasted Sirloin with a Red Wine Reduction, Roasted Potatoes and Leeks, Ravioli Stuffed with an Egg and topped with Pesto, Eggplant Gratin made with a scratch Marinara, Sauteed Cipollini Onions and Sauteed or Stewed Artichokes (all of a sudden Laura rolled them out - I have no idea when and how she made them). Some dishes were better than others and I was truly impressed with the dishes our other classmates turned out (I must get the recipe for the White bean hummus and the Waldorf wheatberry salad among other things).

After our final spread (to which I brought an incredible 9 year old Cote Rotie), we took some final pictures, we vowed not to eat any butter, bacon or heavy cream for the next several days and we said our goodbyes. I made one last trip to the book store and the local cafe and then hit the road with Wendy as well as our newfound local foodie friend, Rachel.

This was an incredible vacation. If you are interested in becoming a more confident home cook or just learning some new skills, I highly recommended a CIA Boot Camp. I also recommend you stay at a local hotel that has a workout facility. Though I did not even work off 1/8th of one daily meal, I worked out almost every day of boot camp which helped with some of the guilt!

Until after my food detox is done,


Alli M.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

CIA, Day 2

I just completed Day 3, but between classes, dinner and bedtime, I've barely had any free time. And the few stretches I've had have been spent paying back some of my butter consumption on the treadmill at the hotel. As I was joking when they took our class picture yesterday, they must take the picture earlier in the week so we can all fit in the same shot.

48 crazy hours ago (that would be Monday night), was our first dinner at one of the 3 CIA restaurants we'll be visiting this week - Caterina de'Medici. I originally wrote up a nice description of our entrance through the wines we drank, but with all I have to get through, I've decided to condense it:

Glass 1: Nebbiolo d'Alba "Sontuoso" Valdinera. It was a tasty, classic Nebbiolo - dry and structured, with a nice bit of black cherry and some earth.

From there, we moved on to the wines they had pre-selected for our dinner - Feudi di San Gregoria Falanghina from Campania and Tenuta le Querce Aglianico del Vulture "Il Viola" from Basilicata.

Glass 2: Falanghina is a lovely Italian white varietal that you see more and more in good Italian places. This Falanghina had notes of green apple and citrus and was enjoyed by all.

Glass 3: Aglianico - yum. Though it was more fruit forward than the Nebbiolo, it complemented it nicely as it had similar dark cherry notes. Paired very well with the mushroom sauce that seemed to be used in both the pasta dish our table shared and the trout dish I ordered. Odd they used the same sauce in two completely different dishes, but it worked. Shoulder shrug.

Glass 4: Moscato D'Asti - OF COURSE! At the end of the meal, I had to introduce our table to one of my personal favorites and a consistent crowd pleaser - Moscato D'Asti. By this time we'd began calling ourselves "Table Debacle" as we were the most raucous group amongst our classmates, as well as in the restaurant so everyone was up for something fizzy and tasty.

Suffice it to say I slept very well on Monday night.

Day 2: We split into the teams we'll be working with for the rest of the week. I'm on a team with my friend, Wendy, Laura K. (a.k.a. LK, Laura #1, LauRock, Lola, Lo) and John. The focus of day 2 was frying and sauteeing and after some time discussing the assigned menu, we went about preparing our various components. We also convinced the instructor to let us deep fry our main entree - fried chicken (as opposed to pan frying as the assignment called for).

I also worked on a bacon topped salad and learned an important lesson about cooking in a convection oven. The air moves fast and the suction is great and once the fat gets cooked down, bacon becomes really light and can easily get sucked up in the fan of a convection oven. Despite this very funny looking lesson, I salvaged the bacon which turned out to be perfectly crispy. Of course the dressing was way too liquid-y which brings me to another lesson of the day - when making a dressing that includes a solid, start with the solid (in this case mayonnaise) and THEN add the liquid (in this case buttermilk). It helps control for soupiness.

The real crowning achievement, though, was deep frying some chicken with my new foodie friend who also enjoys some sick kitchen humor, Laura K. Actually, it wasn't so much an achievement as a ton of fun. I gotta get me one of those! Of course even I'm dubious of arming myself with something that involves a few gallons of hot oil.

For those who know Wendy and are wondering, her mac and cheese with the bechamel was AWESOME. The instructor had all of these notes but it might have been helpful had he given us the tip about adding nutmeg to the bechamel BEFORE we cooked it. Oh well, now we know. Though we still don't know why Connecticut is the nutmeg state, but I digress.

After lunch we started planning today's menu. I ended up with ice cream. due to today's meandering lecture which took an extra 2 HOURS, I was not able to freeze the ice cream in time. So I ended up helping some other classmates out and making the whipped cream for the fruit crisp. The upside is that we already have tomorrow's dessery - vanilla bean ice cream with a hint of English lavendar. Boo yah. Hopefully I'll have time to spin out the ice cream while my fish poaches....we shall see.

Oh, and today was wine class. Was a good refresher, but nothing new. Then again, when the wine was delivered late and the instructor got behind opening the wine, I jumped up and started corking bottles with own wine key. It was a truly proud moment for me.
Until the next 5 minutes breather,


Alli M.
p.s. American Bounty was o.k., not great. Their wine list is shockingly bad - limited and completely overpriced. Our featured wines at last night's dinner - Columbia Crest Merlot, Bonterra Chardonnay. Seriously?!? We're talking $8 bottles you can find at any generic wine store across the country! And American Bounty charges $28 per bottle for them. For shame.

Monday, November 15, 2010

CIA, Day 1

I have not "gone rogue." I'm currently in Hyde Park, NY for a weeklong boot camp at the Culinary Institute of America. Or for a foodie like me, Nirvana.

At 5 this morning, my friend and fellow foodie, Wendy, and I awoke to make our way to our 6am orientation and breakfast. Ouch. Unfortunately, the coffee in the dining hall is not as good as one would hope. That said, it was caffeinated and hot which worked for me!

Class began at 7am and we went right into stocks - white vs. brown and how to make one. We also covered temperatures at which meat should be prepared. Though this sounds boring to some, I was happily taking notes and looking forward to slipping into my chef's jacket, pants and toque (a.k.a. that tall, columnar hat you see in pretentious French restaurants and old movies).

After introducing ourselves and changing into our snazzy new duds, we made our way into the kitchen. Once in the kitchen, the class switched between lessons on knife skills and us trying our knife skills on various vegetables, proteins and fruit. At this time I'd like to formally apologize to the lovely chicken I struggled with and the flounder I, uh, floundered. The upside is that the pieces were still usable. And delicious!

We just did the prep today, but our onions and garlic went into an incredible French onion soup and the flounder was sauteed and dressed with a Meuniere sauce (the movie "Julie & Julia" did not do it justice) and the chicken was dredged and baked. If only we had wine with lunch. Of course dinner is at Caterina de'Medici, the renowned Italian restaurant on campus and you know the wine will be flowing. Then again, we have another 5am wake up call tomorrow and we're working in teams tomorrow so we can't let our fellow foodie friends down....well, maybe we can sleep in until 5:15am.

Hopefully by then the smell of flounder will have warn off of our hands. If not, I may be writing about a full on citrus bath tomorrow.
Until tomorrow's class (in which I hope to recap the next sniff, sip AND quaff),

Alli M.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Too Much Cheese with my W(h)ine?!?

As many people equate wine with cheese, I feel it makes sense for me to highlight a recent article about the cheese industry in the U.S. Plus, for those that know me best, politics, particularly as it relates to food, is another interest of mine (like the name of my blog didn't tip you off?). Consider this my public service announcement/heads up for this week.

There was an article in the New York Times this past weekend entitled "While Warning About Fat, U.S. Pushes Cheese Sales" that absolutely infuriated me. It describes the actions of Dairy Management, a government funded dairy marketing agency with a $140 million annual budget. Though increased cheese consumption is thought to be one of the leading contributors to our obesity epidemic, the government continues to promote cheese.

When you have some time, check out the full article:

It takes a good 15 minutes to read, but it is very interesting and helps explain why people are so confused about what constitutes good nutrition. It also makes me wonder why my tax dollars are subsidizing Dominos pizza. I find this company hateful enough, but do they really need the government's money when they can afford to advertise during every possible sporting event on t.v.?!? Moreover, did they really need a study showing that people would be happy with more cheese on their pizza?!?

Unfortunately, this is the way of things and I'm sure if we looked into every industry, we'd find similar types of wasteful expenditures. It's just maddening that we've gotten to a point where everyone is so busy pointing fingers and covering their asses that no one wants to take a look at this stuff and ask, "what the....?!?"

It's just infuriating so I thought I'd share (there are only so many voicemails once can leave for the offices of her Congressman and her Senators).

Until the next sniff, sip, quaff or actual wine event,


Alli M.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Several States believe in a Wineocracy as well

My friend and loyal reader, Shawna M., sent the following article to me:

"States Pour Government Money into Wine"

Interestingly Shawna and I tend to look at things from opposite ends of the political spectrum. When she sent me this article, she did not say whether she agreed or disagreed, but I wonder if we might actually agree on this one....I'll let her tell me in private.

As far as where I stand? I wholeheartedly agree. Many of you have often heard me complain about the taxes in my wonderful home state of New Jersey (I'm not being facetious - outside of the taxes and traffic, Jersey is a great place to live). However, I have to believe that the couple of thousands being allocated to winemakers amounts to a few pennies of my annual tax bill. Though the payout on the actual wine might take awhile, this is a relatively inexpensive investment for states. Plus, the return will be realized a lot sooner on local hotels, restaurants, and shops.

If you read to the end of the article, you'll also see that some farmers decide to grow grapes to bolster the farms financial stability so that they can continue to grow other crops. I also firmly believe in and when possible, support, local farms and if planting grape vines means more locally grown apples, I'm all for it. In my world, that is one of the ultimate "win-win" scenarios!

The article is relatively short and should take about 5-10 minutes to read. Take a look and let me know your thoughts.

Unil the next sniff, sip, quaff or interesting article,


Alli M.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Mama Wine-O-Crat's trip to South Africa

Though it feels like I've become a teetotaler, thanks to my mother's recent trip to South Africa, I still have content to share! Here's what Mama Wine-O-Crat had to say:

"When you travel to South Africa and you have a daughter who is an oenophile, you have to visit wine country. Which I did. I took a half-day's jaunt to Seidelberg Winery in Stellenbosch, outside of Cape Town. Of course, Alli would have visited a dozen wineries, not just one.
Seidelberg Winery was established in 1692 -- yes, that's a "16", not an inverted "19"! The wine industry in South Africa was begun by Dutch settlers in the 1680s, but when the Huguenots (originally from France) arrived in South Africa, they took over the fledgling wine industry, much to the relief of anyone who loves wine. Seidelberg was started by the French, so from its inception it was considered an important winery. Today it exports 80% of its wine and 100% of its estate wine. Charles Dickens and Thomas Jefferson (a true oenophile) were fans of South African wine.
Seidelberg has two labels: Seidelberg and DeLeuWenJagt, its premier wine. We only sampled the Seidelberg wine. Before we arrived at Seidelberg Winery, we were told to be sure to sample Pinotage, a South African red grape. We were told that we would either love or hate it. I hated it. We tasted a 2008 Pinotage, described to us as "coffee with subtle banana undertones backed with cherry and spice on the palate with smooth tannins and a long finish." To me it tasted thin and watery. I emailed "Oenophile Alli" that perhaps the wine had to be "laid down" for a spell, as it was too young. She advised me that most South African wine is likely not meant to be aged and that she too is no fan of Pinotage.
The other reds we tasted were "Un Deux Trois," which to me tasted bitter, and "Roland's Reserve Syrah," which I liked best of the reds. The whites we tasted were a Chardonnay, a Mouvedre Blanc de Noir and a Chenin Blanc, a varietal recommended on this blog a while back. The Chardonnay was too subtle for me. Of the whites, my favorite was the Chenin Blanc (guess it's genetic!)
At Seidelberg, the vines are allowed to produce wine for 25-30 years, then pulled up and replanted. We were told that 80% of Seidelberg's grapes are hand-picked, and 20% are picked by machine. We also learned that in red wine, the skin is left in the juice for one or two weeks after being picked. In white wine the skin is not left in the juice (Alli's note: This is generally the rule of thumb everywhere). In rose (which we never tasted) the skin in the combination of red and white grapes is left in the juice for 10-24 hours. Reserve wines are stored in oak barrels for 18-20 months. The lighter wines are kept in stainless steel tanks. Ironically, before I had visited Seidelberg Winery, I thought highly of South African wines. After my visit there, I found so many of the wines disappointing that my once favorable opinion of South African wine has diminished."
Alli M.'s thoughts: Remember when you were younger and said you would never be like your parents? Well, it turns out our palates have other ideas as my mom and I seem to have similar tastes (dislike Pinotage, like Chenin Blanc, generally dislike South African wines). I'm really glad my mom took the opportunity to visit a vineyard so that she could report back. Like my mom, my experience with South African wines has not been great. I do not foresee visiting their wine region in the near future so it's nice to have a proxy to my work for me! Plus, I love hearing about other regions and learning about a new winery.
Until the next sniff, sip or quaff (by me or a "contributing writer"),
Alli M.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Eataly, Take I: Maybe next time I'll actually be able to eat there

Though this is the second column in a row that is not about wine, food and foodie type of things are very much related to my love of wine. To that end, I feel compelled to share my initial thoughts on Eataly, the 2 month old Italian market/eatery/wine store/gelateria/fish monger/butcher shop/chocolate counter/cafe and pizzeria in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York. It was founded by "culinary bigwigs" Mario Batali, Joe Bastianich, Lidia Matticchio Bastianich along with the founder of Eataly in Turin, Italy, Oscar Farinetti.

Yesterday my friend, Pam, and I stopped by hoping to get a light bite and perhaps a nice glass of wine. Due to New York law, the wine store is next to, but not inside the market. Since I can't walk past a wine store without going in, we decided to stop in the store first. It was a bit smaller than I expected, but it featured a wide variety of wines at a variety of good price points.

We then ventured inside and like most new "it" places in New york, it was an absolute zoo. It took us all of 2 minutes to realize we wouldn't be getting a snack at Eataly, but we still wanted to walk around and check it out. Braving the crowds and the maze-like configuration, we wandered around for about 20 minutes. At the coffee counter, I had to stop and grab an espresso because it not only smelled wonderful, but the espresso machine just looked cool. It was big, shiny and silver with a Willy Wonka-esque look and a few different spouts that doled out thick streams of rich, nutty, espresso. While I sipped my coffee, Pam turned to look at the chocolate counter where she was excited to find Venchi, a high end chocolate brand that is a favorite of hers.

After the brief coffee break, we continued our tour. I loved seeing all of the European treats and the beautiful packaging. Unfortunately it was just too packed so we found our way back to the front door and made our way out.

I sincerely hope to get back to enjoy a glass of wine and perhaps some salumi and/or cheese. Once I do, you know I'll be reporting on it in full.

Until then, or until the next sniff, sip or quaff,


Alli M.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


I need to come clean. I don't drink every day. In fact, I don't drink a lot of days and for the past three weeks I have barely had any wine. Moreover, the products that finally brought me back to the blog aren't even wines (o.k., one is made from grapes but is generally not considered a wine)

Yesterday I attended Expo East, a Natural and Organic products trade show. While walking the show floor, a few spirited gentlemen at an Organic Tequila booth encouraged me to try their product.

My response, "It's 10:30am."

Theirs, "C'mon. It's Organic and you're gonna love it."

Me again,"Uh. No I really shouldn't."

Theirs, "Just try it."

Me, "Sure. Why not."

Clearly I didn't learn my lesson from ABC's after-school specials. I'm glad I didn't because that was the smoothest, cleanest tequila I'd ever tried. Unfortunately I was focusing on Natural and Organics food trends so I didn't write down the name. I don't drink or seek out a lot of tequila but hopefully I'll get the chance to try this brand again. After that, I stuck to the gluten free products and coconut water that dominated the show. And yes, there are too many brands of coconut water.

So, it shouldn't surprise you that the first thing I did after getting home today was to stop by my local wine store, Amanti Vino, for their weekly tasting. I enjoyed the line-up, as I always do, but the highlight was when the proprietor, Sharon, took me aside to try some Pisco she'd recently picked up in Chile. Pisco, a brandy made from the muscat grape, is considered the national bdrink of both Chile and Peru. I'd heard of it, but I'd never tried it before. Mistral, the brand that Sharon shared with me, is not available locally, though Sharon is now working on bringing it into her store -- and with good reason. I tend not to like brandy, but this was absolutely lovely with a deep golden color and notes of apricot and peach. It just slid down the back of my throat.

Next Saturday I'll be attending an Oktoberfest celebration featuring some excellent German and Austrian wines and beers and I expect to have a lot to write. Perhaps I'll even have somethine else between now and then - even if it's a shot of organic tequila.

Until the next sniff, sip or quaff,


Alli M.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Martinelli Moves to New Jersey! O.k., not really, but for one night, I can pretend....

Earlier this week I attended a wine pairing dinner featuring wines from Martinelli, a boutique Sonoma winery. I had been looking forward to this dinner because it was to take place at CulinAriane, one of my favorite restaurants in town. As some of my foodie friends might know, the head chef and owner of CulinAriane, Ariane Duarte, was a contestant on Season 5 of Top Chef. I'm completely biased, but I still believe she should have won!

As always, her food did not disappoint, and neither did the wine. Without going through the wine line-up and menu because it will just make me sad that I can't eat like that every night (for both my wallet and wasitline), I'll highlight my favorite pairings.

The pairing that made the dinner for me was the 2008 Vellutini Ranch Zinfandel served with seared Australian venison in a savory cherry sauce. I do not eat venison often because it can be very gamey and though I like this note in wine, I don't like gamey tasting meat. However, this venison tasted like lean, succulent beef that was perfectly cooked and sauced. The notes in the cherry sauce worked perfectly with the blackberry notes and spice in the Zinfandel. The wine was silky and smooth and the full body of the wine was an excellent complement the heft of the meat.

I didn't think I could fit any more wine, let alone food, in my system, but I soldiered on. I recognize the sacrifice it takes to deliver a good entry to you! I paced myself through the cheese course (paired with a syrah) because two of my favorite things were on the menu for dessert.

Dessert consisted of the 2008 Jackass Hill Muscat Alexandria served with a nectarine tarte tatin. The tarte was excellent, but I could barely manage a few bites. The muscat, with its honeysuckle and fleshy stone fruit notes was the prefect complement to the dessert but it was also easy to sip on its own. After the dinner, I ordered a few bottles and I'm looking forward to sharing this muscat with friends.

This was the first pairing dinner Martinelli has done in the tri-state area. If you should get the opportunity to attend a Martinelli pairing dinner and/or see a bottle of theirs on the shelf, grab it. You will not be disappointed.

Until the next sniff, sip, quaff or tasting dinner,

Alli M.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Snob No More (I'm Trying)

Though I often call myself a wine snob, I've never actually considered myself a snob, but I was recently exposed. At a wine tasting a few weeks ago, I was picking on a popular brand of mass market wine (that may be named after a color and a part of an animal).

A few of my fellow tasters responded that I was looking at it all wrong. One explained that he used to feel the same way but that he now looks at mass market wines as "gateway wines." He believes that mass market wine drinkers will eventually start seeking out product with more complexity and refinement. While that remains to be seen, the other tasters were right to call me out.

This point was reinforced last night at Joanna's (of Joanna and Tim - the ultimate hosts). Our friend Rachel brought a red blend that she proudly described as a "fruit bomb." It was a little too much for me, especially after the dry, spicy Zinfandel I'd just had, BUT, it seemed to be a real crowd pleaser. Plus, it was a little better than most mass market blends I've had so maybe there is something to the "gateway wine" argument. Either way, it's a good reminder that when it comes to something as subjective as wine, "to each his own."
I'm hoping to introduce you to some new grapes and new wines, but when it comes to wine, there's only one rule - if it tastes good to you, drink it.

Until the next sniff, sip, quaff or discussion of my snobbiness,


Alli M.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Why settle for cheap beer at your tailgate?

For those keeping track, yesterday I went to Gary's Wine and Marketplace in Wayne, NJ to try the just released Jets Uncorked, a Cabernet Sauvignon made specifically for the Jets organization.

The verdict: like the 2009 Jets themselves, it was surprisingly good (and for my J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets friends - this is no knock - I know that few of you expected to do as well as you did last year). The wine was made at Girard winery in Yountville, CA. Girard has a good reputation for making solid, mid range wines. I actually find Girard's Cabernet Sauvignon way too oaky for my taste, but the Jets Uncorked Cabernet Sauvignon had a lot less oak, allowing the currant and cherry notes to come out. It had a nice finish; a bit too spicy for my taste, otherwise pretty good. I could see enjoying this with a nice, juicy burger at a tailgate.
At $34.99, I think it's about $10-$15 more than you should spend for a comparable Cabernet. However, if you're a wine fan and a Jets fine, or even just a wine fan, it's not a bad choice. Actually, it's kind of like Mark Sanchez (the Jets quarterback) himself -- a little young, not a ton of complexity, perhaps a bit pricey, but enjoyable and good. Plus, right now it's on sale for $27.99.

Unfortunately I can't say the same about my beloved Eagles starting quarterback. I'm just hoping he can get past something resembling a $2 Buck Chuck White Zinfandel (yes, Charles Shaw makes a White Zinfandel).

Until the next sniff, sip, quaff or need to crawl deep into a bottle to get past some serious emotional damage due to football,


Alli M.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

L'Shana Tovah, Italian Style

Earlier tonight, my friend, Wendy and I, celebrated the Jewish New Year at a new neighborhood favorite of hers: Accademia di Vino on Broadway on the Upper West Side.

Since it was a New Year's celebration, the occasion called for a bottle of wine. I considered ordering a Nebbiolo from the Langhe region, which is always a safe bet for me. However, they can be a bit big and since we were planning to start with salad and vegetables, I wanted something a little lighter.

Truth be told, Italian wine lists usually intimidate me. I've worked hard to get better educated about Italian wines over the past few years, but even then, there are just so many varietals and regions, good lists tend to be overwhelming. So I did what anyone should do in this situation -- I asked our waitress who seemed to be extremely well versed on the wine list. She recommended the 2006 Giacosa Fratelli Barbera D'Alba and it was a great suggestion. Like a solid Barbera D'Alba should be, this had a lot of berry notes on the nose and in the palate. It had some nice acid and a medium body and wasn't as dry or tannic as Italian wines can be. It went down nice and easy.

More importantly, I was really happy that my "wine pride" didn't get in the way of me asking for some advice. Ultimately, I was directed to a better bottle than I would have picked on my own. All in all, that's what it's all about. Whether you find a new favorite or someone finds it for you, the result is the same. So no matter how much your learn or know about wine, never be afraid to ask someone who might know more or have a better perspective.

Until the next sniff, sip or quaff,


Alli M.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Good wine. Great news. What a nice start to the school year.

Good evening Wineocrats! We're already 7 days into September and this is my first post for the month. I could claim some sort of Labor Day Weekend break, but that doesn't excuse September 1st or 2nd. What a complacent wine snob I've been....

The good news is that I more than made up for it this evening and this past weekend. In fact, I have so much to share that I'm going to break up the past few days of tasting into two different posts.

Earlier tonight I attended a tasting of three of Marchesi de Frescobaldi's wines. We began with the 2005 Castel Giocondo Brunello de Montalcino. As I've mentioned in previous blogs, I tend to think of Italian wines as having a dusty, earthy quality. This characterization is not always fair, but for some reason it's what first comes to mind when I think of Italian wines. Luckily, I'm often pleasantly surprised (and often very wrong). As soon as I sniffed the Castel Giocondo Brunello de Montalcino, I got a nice nose full of blackberries with some secondary herbal and slightly oak-y notes. One taster felt the wine was too oak-y, but I believe it was well balanced. On the palate, I tasted a good bit of the black fruit, some sweet spices and a little bit of the oak. The wine was very dry with a good deal of acid and tannins which indicates it could age nicely. Yet there was something missing. As I eyed the salumi plate, the immortal words of Jenna Maroney from the show 30 Rock kept running through my brain, "Me want food!"

However, I wanted to get a sense of the other two wines without food so I restrained myself from wrestling the meat and cheese plate and moved on to the 2007 Lucente and the 2007 Luce. These wines come from Marchesi de Frescobaldi's Luce vineyard, which initially started as a partnership with the Mondavi family in 1985. These wines seem to be made for a more American palate. The 2007 Lucente is a blend of Merlot, Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon. I initially loved the nose. It seemed to have a nice blend of fruit, oak and a hint of the gamey quality I love. However, on subsequent sniffs, I couldn't get anything but oak. Once I took a sip, I found the wine to be nice enough, but nothing special. A bit jammy with too much oak. And as much as I like Cabernet Sauvignon, I felt it overpowered the rest of the blend.

I found the Luce, a Sangiovese and Merlot blend, a lot more enjoyable. The nose and palate were full of dried cherries with some herbs and some oak on the finish. This wine was a bit smoother than the previous one, though not as substantial or seemingly as complex as the initial wine we tried.

Plus, I was eager to get back to the Brunello while introducing myself to the various dry cured meats on the table. I tried a piece of prosciutto and it was good, but a little too delicate for the wine. I then went for a piece of Genoa. Bingo. The acid and fruit of the Brunello perfectly cut through the oily saltiness of the Genoa. After adding a few pieces of Paremsan to the mix, it was time for me to take one last sip, make my final comments and find my way to the elevator.

As good as the wine was, I think the best part was when someone from The Wine Spectator told me I seemed to know what I was talking about. Or maybe it was when I came out of the tasting to find an e-mail from my instructor, Will, telling me that I'd passed my Advanced Wine and Spirits Education Trust Exam - WITH MERIT!

I was tempted to run back up and grab the rest of the Brunello to celebrate. Instead I decided to come back hear to share the moment with you. Yes, I'm pretty sure I made a poor choice on this one.....

Well, until tomorrow when I continue my tales of sniffing, sipping and quaffing,


Alli M.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

For some people, the perfect match is chocolate and peanut butter, for me it's wine and football

As a wine lover who also happens to be a football fanatic, this happened to catch my eye:

"PRESENTING THE NEW YORK JETS RED WINE 'JETS UNCORKED CABERNET SAUVIGNON.' Stop in to any one of the three Gary's Wine & Marketplace locations between the hours of 1 and 5pm on Saturday, September 11th to taste this exciting new "fan favorite" wine, meet Jets Legends and Flight Crew, and have your CHANCE TO WIN premium tickets and Jets memorabilia."

For someone who is the commissioner of a Fantasy Football league, a member of a second Fantasy Football league and a certified wine snob, how can I resist? Do I expect the wine to be good? No. Am I even a Jets fan? No. But this sounds like a great time. Plus, any opportunity that allows me to drink wine and possibly win football tickets, I'm there!

So look around your respective towns. You may just find an event that mixes wine with another one of your passions.

Until the next sniff, sip, quaff or the release of McNabbernet Sauvignon,


Alli M.

Monday, August 30, 2010

As Summer Winds Down, One More White to Add to Your Repertoire

This past weekend I celebrated my annual "Girl's Weekend" with several good friends. There's something about good friends and beautiful weather that can elevate any bottle of wine.

On Saturday night I picked up one of my favorite summer whites, Burgans Albarino, to share with my friends. Between the weather, the company and the fun that is a never ending game of Bananagams, the wine seemed to be even better than I remembered. Light gold with floral and citrus notes, Albarino has a good amount of acid and a medium, well rounded body that pairs perfectly with a summer night and almost any food you'd enjoy on a summer night (particularly seafood or salad). Burgans is a particular favorite of mine because it's a wine that has great distribution and is a great value for the quality of the wine. Moreover, it's a terrific alternative for your friends who are burnt out on Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and/or Pinot Grigio.

As summer starts to wind down and there are fewer nights to get in some good porch sitting, grab a bottle of Albarino and extend the good times for just a few more hours.
Until the next sniff, sip or quaff,
Alli M.
Until the next

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Still not sold on store brand wine

Earlier today I read an interesting article from The London Observer about Tesco's push into their own branded wines. As I understand it, this is a growing trend throughout the UK as both Sainsbury and Asda (owned by WalMart), two other regional chains, also have their own branded wine.
As a food marketer, I'm well versed in the battle of the store brand vs. the manufaturer's brand. Though I should be staunchly "pro-brand," I believe that for some products, the store brand is no different and in some cases, better. However, when it comes to wines, I firmly believe that the fewer layers there are between the winemaker and the consumer, the better. This trend makes me a little sad and I sincerely hope it does not "cross the pond."
I know I'm being a bit harsh. The Observer wine critic, David Williams, found some bright spots in his tasting. However, Tesco, Sainsbury and Asda are not winemakers themselves and when you have non-winemakers weighing in on the product because of cost or stocking needs, it will ultimately have an adverse effect on the wine. It's the same reason why we don't let our retail customers into our product development meetings in my line of business!

One day I sincerely hope to have a tasting note for you on a Tesco, Sainsbury and/or Asda wine (especially because this means I will be traveling) because I think it's only fair for me to give them a shot. But I'm skeptical.

Until the next sniff, sip or quaff of non-store brand wine,

Alli M.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

It's Even in the Treaty of Versailles

In my ongoing mission to spread the good word that not all sparkling wine is Champagne, I found the following tidbit of information really interesting:

"Though people often refer to all sparkling wines as Champagne, only sparkling wines produced in the Champagne region of France are the real deal. Indeed, in 1891, the Madrid Agreement, which dealt with the international registration of trademarks, declared that only wines originating from the Champagne region could use the name "Champagne" on their labels, and this was reiterated in the Versailles Treaty of 1919, after World War 1."

I had never heard this before though it figures that the French would work something like this into a major treaty. Though, the fact that they take their wine as seriously as they take their wars shouldn't really surprise any of us!

Until the next sniff, sip, quaff or pop of the cork,


Alli M.

Excuses, excuses

This summer is flying by and I apologize I haven't been as diligent as I should be given all the lovely, refreshing white wines I've been enjoying. My excuse is that it helps me get through the heat wave but to be honest, do you really need an excuse to drink great, white wine?

This past Sunday night I enjoyed a glass of crisp, Viognier with dinner. The Viognier grape originates from the Northern Rhone region, but it's currently being made in several different regions and the one I enjoyed on Sunday was a surprisingly dry, crisp and restrained one from Argentina. I say surprisingly because it was from the Mendoza region, which gets quite hot which can make it very difficult to make a dry, crisp white wine! In typical "summer weekend and thus brain dead" fashion, I didn't write down the info. That said, the wine was good, not great and the best thing about Sunday was the meal, not the wine.

My friend, Shawna, and I were braving the wilds of Baltimore to enjoy a few of my other loves - baseball and football. Yes, it seems like a major contrast, but it is possible to spout the stats of Joe Flacco while explaining what you would pair with a Stadium Dog (a red Zin, naturally). But a girl can't live on (crappy) stadium food alone and as a self-professed wine snob, I also love a good meal. We certainly enjoyed one Sunday night. Shawna and I visited Woodberry Kitchen, a farm to table restaurant in the Northern part of the city. Since this is not a food blog, I won't go into too much detail, but the corn soup was one of the best things I've ever eaten - savory and silky, yet light and refreshing. Moreover, I don't have much of a sweet tooth (except when it comes to Sauternes, Ports or Moscato D'Asti), but the peach pie with basil ice cream was incredible - the perfect mix of sweet, salty and creamy. If you live in the area or nearby and/or find yourself in Baltimore, you must "go to there" ("30 Rock" is yet another passion).

Until the next sniff, sip, quaff or sports weekend,


Alli M.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

A Flight that Requires no Security Check In

This past Wednesday, my friend, Rachel, and I met up at Bin 14, an afore-mentioned favorite place in Hoboken, to indulge in Rachel's somewhat regular "Wine Wednesday" celebration.

One of the things I really like about Bin 14 is that they offer 3 "sizes" for each of their wines - a 2oz pour, a 6oz pour or a bottle. Rather than have a few 6oz glasses, I decided to create my own wine flight.
As it was a hot evening, it made sense to start with a light, crisp white.

1) For those who've been keeping track this summer, this meant I started with a Luc Choblet Muscadet from 2008. It was light in color and light in body with a nice crispness and some pineapple notes. Perfect thirst quencher to start off my evening!

2) From there I moved on to another of my "whites of the moment," Torrontes. I had a 2008 Laborum Torrontes and it contrasted quite nicely with the Muscadet. It was also very dry and crisp, but it had a little more body and it had a lovely nose with a ton of honeysuckle and some tropical notes. Went down a little too quick!

3) As my word of the summer has been Loire, I couldn't just leave it at Muscadet so my next wine was a Chenin Blanc: Domaine du Closel Savennieres from 2007. It was very dry with a lot of acid and though it is a very young wine, it had a lot of nutty notes mixed in with some pear. It also had some yeast notes and I have to believe it's spent some time fermenting "sur lees" or "on the yeast." Definitely a wine I plan to get back in the near future. Of the 3 whites, this was had the most depth and was easily my favorite.

As the night wore on and as our thin crust pizza came out, I decided to switch over to red and I wanted something that would hold up to the robust sauce and the fresh mozzarella.

4) Rather than go with an Italian red, though, I went with something from the Southern Rhone, a 2007 Chapoutier Belleruche. 2007 is supposed to be a blockbuster year for the Southern Rhone, but this wine was either a bit young still or the Grenache was overpowering the Syrah. The nose was beautiful - lots of spice, pepper and jammy currant on the nose - exactly what you'd expect from a young Southern Rhone. However, on the palate, the wine was out of balance and "throwing a lot of heat" as they say, which means you taste a lot of alcohol in the wine. Hopefully some age will help this wine come into balance. I probably could have let the glass breathe a little more as well, but with only 2oz, it's hard to be that patient!

5) I couldn't end my flight on that note so I decided to revisit an old friend: a 2008 Felino Malbec. For those that followed my blog during my trip to Argentina, you may recall my writing about Felino, one of the labels from Vina Cobos, a winery in the Mendoza region of Argentina that is a partnership between Paul Hobbs, one of my favorite California winemakers and a few Argentinian winemakers. For me, the Felino Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the best Cabs available in the $20-$25 range and the Felino Malbec is also wonderful. It also has a lot of "heat," but it's in much better balance than the previous wine allowing the plum and berry notes to burst through. Juicy, but dry and structured - a classic example of what a good Malbec should be.

Although you may be thinking, "Wow, Alli, you really tied one on," keep in mind each pour was approximately 2oz. A wine flight - whether you DIY or rely on an already created one - is a great way to taste a lot of different wines without putting your liver or your ability to walk upright at risk. When you try one, I encourage you to seek out a flight that has a wine that you've never heard of or know little to nothing about because it's the easiest and one of the least expensive ways to discover a new favorite or find that you don't like a certain style and should steer clear. Or you could just keep reading my blog to find out about new varietals! Of course I recommend both.

Until the next sniff, sip, quaff or "Wine Wednesday" (or "Tasting Tuesday" or whenever),


Alli M.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Le Jolie Fleuri(e)

Earlier today I stopped by my favorite wine store/classroom, Amanti Vino, for their weekly free tasting. I'm supposedly on a "wine buying break" due to overcrowding in my wine fridge, but after trying Wes' terrific lineup from this week, I couldn't help but leave the store with a few bottles. Guess I'll just have to try to drink something tonight or tomorrow to make space....

The tasting featured an excellent Rose (Mas Champart St Chinian 2009), a fruit forward and juicy red from Campania in Italy (Cantina del Taburno Torlicosco 2007), a classicly light and off-dry Gewurztraminer (unfortunately forgot to note the winery) and my favorite, a spicy, peppery, berry-filled Gamay from Beaujolais. Gamays from Beaujolais tend to be juicy and simple to me - perfectly nice to drink, but nothing to write about. But this Beaujolais was excellent. Lots of fruit, but with enough acid and tannins to be age-worthy. Moreover, it's a wine I'd actually enjoy during the summer because it's not heavy.

And then Wes went on to recommend the Haut Bourg Muscadet Cote de Grand Lieu from 2000. Though I didn't get the chance to try a fresh sample, I trust Wes' tastes and I love Muscadet so I also took home a bottle of this. I'm sure I'll post something on this in the not too distant future.
So, to all my local friends, let me know when you can get together for a meal at a local BYO because I have plenty of wine for us to try.
Until the next sniff, sip, quaff,
Alli M.
p.s. Unlike overcrowding in the California jail system, the overcrowding in my wine fridge does not entail the most famous of my bottles an early release - even if the words "f*** you" were to magically appear in nail polish on the side of the bottle.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Les Pins, boss, Les Pins (if you pronounce it like you're French, you can kind of sound like Herve Villechaize)

A few weeks ago I wrote about a wine called Les Pins that I had enjoyed at Tria in Philadelphia. It's a lovely white dessert wine with notes of honey and apricot made like a classic Sautneres from Bordeaux (to refresh, Sauternes is famous for having some of the best dessert wines in the world).

Shortly after writing my blog entry, I looked for Les Pins in New Jersey on I never found a store nearby that carried the wine and I forgot about it. Lo and behold, this past weekend while dragging my friend, Stacy, into various wine stores on the Upper West Side "just to see" what they carried, I was elated to find a bottle of Les Pins at the Whole Foods on Columbus at 97th. I immediately picked it up and while checking out, the cashier commented, "not enough people buy this wine." Nothing like being validated by, and then sharing a giddy moment with, the woman who works the register frequented by those who think they know a lot more about wine than they do! In all seriousness, it was fun to share the love for an overlooked dessert wine.

It makes sense that I found a bottle of Les Pins now since my past few entries have been about some of the more unique whites available. As always, I urge you to get outside your "I don't drink dessert wine" or "I don't like white wine" comfort zone and try something completely different every once in awhile. You'll either get to tell me, "I told you so," or you'll find something new that you like. Either way you win.
Until the next sniff, sip, quaff or new discovery,
Alli M.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A white that is not Chenin Blanc!

Earlier tonight my friend, Stacey, had me over for dinner. On the way over, I ran to a local wine store and decided to take a flyer on an Italian Falanghina (white varietal) that I'd never heard of.
My theory is that when it comes to varietals like Falanghina, they're not well known and thus not overplanted and overproduced. I believe there is a much better chance that a random Falanghina is going to have more character and taste better than many of the Chardonnays or Sauvignon Blancs that a typical wine store would have. Plus, the few times I had tried Falanghina, I'd really enjoyed it.

Falanghina is a dry, acidic, white Italian varietal that can be very aromatic with notes ranging from apple to citrus to pineapple. Usually I don't do well with acidic whites, but there's enough fruit in Falanghina that the acid is muted which is one of the reason I think it's such a great summer white!

The bottle I picked up was the Terredora Dipaolo 2009 Falaghina. It wasn't complex and it didn't have a lot going on, BUT for $14, I didn't expect it to. Plus, it was light and crisp with some lovely pear and pineapple notes. It paired almost perfectly with the hot, humid weather as well as Stacey's awesome homemade pesto sauce! It went down almost too easy. For $14, you'd be hard pressed to find a good Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc that delivered half as much.

As always, I urge you to look beyond the obvious because there's so many wonderful varietals to choose from and wine stores are taking a lot more chances now. Next time you're looking for a an alternative to the overdone "value" Chardonnays and Sauvignon Blancs, look no further than Falanghina. I doubt you'll be disappointed.

Until the next sniff, sip or quaff,


Alli M.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Another year, another 8 bottles

Last night several of my friends and I went to dinner at SD26 in New York for my "official" birthday dinner. I had picked this place because it not only came highly recommended but because they also had a handheld wine list with supposedly almost 1,000 labels on it.

They definitely came through on the food and the service (the human service, that is - the air conditioning situation could have used a little help). However, I was disappointed by the wine list. For starters, I went through almost every varietal and I do not see how they could have close to 1,000 labels on the list. Secondly, their price points tended to the expensive and very expensive and they didn't offer enough in the value or mid price ranges. Moreover, for an Italian restaurant to only have one Prosecco option?!? Seriously. And though this is an Italian restaurant, they could have done a lot more with their French and American offerings - especially if they're offering 1,000 labels.

Despite the list letdown, I worked with the sommelier to put together a nice selection for the table and as far as I could tell, every wine delivered. Unfortunately, I didn't write down the names of the Prosecco, Rose, Primitivo or Moscato D'Asti. However, we had another red, Colle Picchioni, that I made note of because it is an Italian wine made in the Bordeaux style (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Syrah). It had a nose and palate of earth and black fruit, but it had a light body and went down very easy at our 75+ degree table! Our bottle was a 2007, not the 2002 label pictured above, but if you can find any year of this, I recommend it.

After dinner, a few of us made our way to 11 Madison Park restaurant around the corner for one final bottle of wine. The moment I opened their wine list, a part of me wished I had chosen them for my birthday dinner. I'm pretty sure their sommelier was tapping into my subconscious when she designed the list. Moreover, when she came by to help me decide between two Chenin Blancs (my wine of the moment), she listened to me and then directed me to a great choice that wasn't on the list but was within my price range. That is the definition of a good sommelier. We had the Joguet Clos de la Plante 2007. It was excellent - light golden color with notes of honey and pear. For those who find whites too citrus-y or chalky or minerally, step away from the Sauvignon Blanc and step up to Chenin Blanc and Muscadet from the Eastern Region of the Loire.

Thanks to Wendy G., Kelly, Laura, Joshua, Liz, Nick and the Girls of the 'Boken, for coming out and celebrating with me. It was a memorable night - sweat and all.

Until the next sniff, sip or quaff,


Alli M.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Chiller, chiller, near the wall, whose the most age-worthy of them all?

Another year older, another excuse to have multiple birthday meals and enjoy several bottles of wine over the next few weeks. Tannins aren't the only thing that makes ageing worthwhile!

Last night a few of my "oldest" friends and I went to DBGB for a good meal and of course a nice bottle of wine. With the 100 degree heat and dense humidity, it was clear that we would be going with a white wine. Lately I've been on a Chenin Blanc kick so I picked out a 2007 Chenin Blanc from Savennieres (a classic Loire region known for good, acidic, sometimes off dry Chenin Blancs, though the one I picked was dry). Unfortunately I did not write down the vineyard, which is unfortunate because it was a lovely wine. Crisp and dry with a nose and palate of citrus with notes of honey. It went down very easy and was very refreshing on such a ridiculously hot day.

As nice as the wine was, the company was even better. Thank you, Anne and Kelly for putting up with me for all of these years. And thank you, Pam, for sneakily picking up the wine.

The next dinner is this Saturday at SD26 where they have a handheld computerized wine list with almost 1,000 bottles in it. Check back on Sunday to see what we enjoyed.

Until the next sniff, sip or quaff,


Alli M.

p.s. I can't write something about Chenin Blanc without sharing one of my favorite things about this grape. Within a bunch, the grapes can ripen at different times so you can have a bunch of grapes where some are practically shriveled and some are completely ripe and juicy. You can get a sense of this in the picture above.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Reemeraged Again

One again I disappeared for a few weeks, but it was for a very good reason. I've been hitting the books -hard. Last night I took my exam for my Advanced Certificate from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust. I'll find out in 6-8 weeks if I passed. I'm feeling good about it, but it may also just be the post-test relief!
If I do pass, I'm not sure it really qualifies me to be anything more than an even bigger wine snob. Though my new favorite hobby is messing with faux wine snobs when they start giving the wrong information because they don't know half as much as they think they know. Then again, I used to be one of them.

And as for any wine notes, well, we did have a blind tasting during the test. It was a Muscadet Sur Lie from the Loire region in France, but I guessed New Zealand Chardonnay. That's because there were no real discernible notes of yeast (which is what "lie" means) and it seemed to have some tropical notes along with citrus notes which is why I picked a warm weather Chardonnay. The worst part is that the picking of the wine was multiple choice. Guess I'm not that good of a wine snob after all!

Well, until the next snif, sip, or quaff when I think I'm drinking Pino Noir and it turns out to be a Nebbiolo,


Alli M.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Earlier today I went to the Loire Valley in France. Not really, but that is how the e-mail inviting me to a class on the wines and cheeses of the Loire was posed. I was a bit bummed when I opened the e-mail to find that my wine heros, Sharon and Will, were NOT offering a field trip to the Loire.

However, with my Advanced WSET exam less than two weeks away, I figured a brush up class on the Loire couldn't help - especially since it's the (geographically) largest wine area in France spanning the Northwestern through the North Central parts of the country. Plus, when it comes to the cheeses, goat is it in The Loire. I always love a good goat - and not just because they look like a wise old Sensei or Shaolin master.

As for the wines, The Loire's most well known regions (from West to Central) are: Muscadet, Vouvray, Sancerre and Pouilly Fume. These regions are all most known for their whites - Sauvignon Blanc in Sancerre and Pouilly Fume, Chenin Blanc in Vouvray and Muscadet in well, Muscadet. In general, the closer to the Central region you get, the more minerality and crispness you get in the wines.

Though Sancerre and Pouilly Fume are among the classic wine regions and I can appreciate the Sauvignon Blanc from these regions, these tend to be a bit too acidic and citrus-y for my taste. But, if you like this style of wine, and many true wine experts do, you will love Claude Riffault "Les Boucards" Sancerre 2008.

On the other hand, Chenin Blanc is one of my favorite whites and we had a terrific one today! Domaine Huet "Clos du Bourg" 2008 had some nice body (though nothing like an oaked Chardonnay) and inviting notes of honeysuckle and melon. I will definitely be drinking more of this over the summer.

Gamay, Cabernet France and Pinot Noir are the main reds you'll find in The Loire and in this tasting we had both a Gamay and a Cabernet Franc. They were good, but truth be told, I think the very best wines The Loire has to offer are their whites and roses (and since they make up 50% and 30% of the sales in The Loire, I think many agree with me). Of the two, I'd recommend the Gamay, Domaine Sauvete "Les Gravouilles" 2008. It was nice - light and peppery with some sweet spice and raspberry. Would be good chilled at around 45 - 55 degrees.
If all goes well, one day I will get to The Loire and perhaps I'll be able to share some great wine tasting stories as well as some fun stories about finding, or not finding, my way around the French countryside. Maybe I'll find a red up there that I love. Until then, a classroom in Montclair, NJ will have to suffice.

Until the next sniff, sip or quaff (or I take my Advanced final),

Alli M.

Friday, June 18, 2010

She's Back....and Busier Than Ever

Hello wineocratics! Seems that I've been under the impression that since Congress takes the summer off, so could Wineocracy. But a few of my friends and the infamous "EllieJ" kept asking me why I wasn't writing and I was spending too much time justifying why I didn't have any time!

I have some good reasons - New Job, Travel, and (supposedly) Studying for the Advanced Final for the Wine and Spirits Education Trust - but you don't want to hear about that. As you could have figured, a lot of wine drinking figured into my travel. In typical "I've been too busy to write" fashion, I'll give you the highlights:

Philadelphia: Took a quick trip a few weeks ago and I had to make a stop at Tria, a fantastic wine bar I wrote about last November. I remember enjoying the first glass of wine I had, but apparently it wasn't that good because I don't remember the name. On the other hand, the second glass, Chateau Tirecul la Graviere Monbazillac "Les Pins" 2003, was quite memorable. "Les Pins" is a lovely, golden Sauternes style dessert wine. Sauternes, which are made in the Graves section of Bordeaux, are are often thought of as the best dessert wines in the world. Made from the Semillon grape, they tend to be sweet and exhibit a variety of flavors - apricots, honey, peaches, and sometimes nuts. If "Les Pins" were an actual Sauternes, I likely wouldn't have sprung for a glass but for $9.50, "Les Pins" was a terrific "fauxternes." And that's a restaurant marked-up price! Unfortunately that was the highlight of the weekend as the Holiday Inn sent my overnight bag to Pittsburgh and my beloved Phillies began their slide. If it weren't for Laurie DP laughing at all of my jokes, indulging my wine snobbery and splitting Crab Fries with me at the ball game, I might have "Gone Jersey" on the bell hop at the hotel! It's a good thing there's this stress reliever called wine that is readily available.

Memorial Day Weekend: Opened up a bottle of Finca Decero Malbec. Just as yummy as remembered. Bright raspberry and spice but not overly fruity. So glad I bought a 1/2 case after returning from Argentina.

Connecticut: Made my annual trip to Abbot's Lobster in the rough with a Hendry Pinot Gris, a Hendry Rose (one of my FAVORITE Roses), a Hendry Zinfandel and my two friends, Pam and Laura in tow. Those five ingredients added up to one fantastic weekend. On our way back home, we stopped at a few wineries and the greatest shock was that I really liked some of the Connecticut wines! Who new they actually grew quality grapes in the nutmeg state?!? O.k., to be fair, some of the best wines we tried were made from California grapes. That said, a good winery is a good winery and we were particularly impressed with the Jonathan Edwards winery. My favorite white was the Connecticut Gewurztraminer (crisp and grapefruit-y; dry with a hint of sweetness) and my favorite red was the Napa Petite Sirah (game-y with some nice spice and black fruit and just a touch of smoke). I was also pleasantly surprised to find I preferred the Connecticut Chardonnay to the Napa Chardonnay. I found the Connecticut Chardonnay to be more similar to a classic French Chardonnay - citrus-y and acidic with just a hint of oak.

It's too bad we didn't enjoy any Sparkling wine together because 4 days after our Connecticut winery visits, my dear friend, Laura, got engaged. A big Wineocracy Cheers to Laura and her fiancee, Joshua.

Until the next (month of) sniff, sip or quaff,


Alli M.