Sunday, January 24, 2010

7 Women, Bin 14 - That's the kind of math I like

For those who actually read me regularly, you might remember that Bin 14 is my favorite wine bar/bistro in Hoboken. My friends and I are particularly fond of this spot and have shared many fantastic, hilarious and loud moments there.

Since my friend, Jeanette, decided to stop by for a visit (from Australia, no less), a dinner at Bin 14 was necessary. I circled the wagons, gathered the troops and this past Friday night, 7 of us enjoyed the culinary stylings of the Bin 14 kitchen.

As always, it was an absolute treat. As always, I was handed the wine list by my friends with the directive to "pick something good." And as always, this scared the crap out of me. I'm o.k. if I pick a crap wine for me, but I hate the thought of ruining someone else's dinner. To that end, I was going to go with an old standby, Stickleback, which my friend and Bin 14 regular, Rachel, assured us was on the menu "as of two weeks ago." Unfortunately two week old information -- not so good. Bin 14 no longer had the Stickleback. After trying a few other options, I took a flyer on Cimicky Grenache/Syrah from the Barossa Valley in Australia. Grenache/Syrah is the traditional French Rhone blend, but a lot of winemakers in other wine regions have adopted this wonderful blend. Grenache and Syrah are like the peanut butter and jelly of wine (with less nutty and jammy notes).

The Cimicky went over really well. It was light, yet full of bright fruit. Though Grenache made up 2/3 of the blend, the spice and fruit of the Syrah came through. Moreover, it was not overly alcoholic tasting as high percentage Grenache wines can be. Altogether a lovely complement to the melange of pizzas, salads, steak, bruschetta and risotto balls we devoured. This is easily one of the better Australian value wines I've had (at retail this is around $15).
More importantly, we didn't talk about octogenarian sex this time, which was also a refreshing change of pace. We all enjoyed Wendy's stories about her rave days, Genna's 1960s throwback attitude, Joanna's discussion of her husband's tennis addiction and Laurie's infectious laughter (best audience EVER) as Rachel tried to hide her "admiration" for a certain bartender.
But wait, there's more! When you have a friend in town, you get to do all the toursity stuff you've never actually done but often make fun of people for. Earlier today, Jeanette and I met up with Laurie and Wendy for some Central Park ice skating. Actually, we found out with Laurie's "mad blade skills," that she has logged some serious hours at the ice rink at Central Park. In any event, after a hard 45 minutes of skating, Laurie and Wendy ran off to catch a movie while Jeanette and I decided that all of the energy we expended called for an afternoon cocktail. We made our way to the Stone Rose at the Time Warner Center. It's one of my favorite lounges. Sure it's over-priced, but it's nice and quiet and the views and the service are terrific. On the other hand, their wine list leaves much to be desired. Jeanette had a lovely Malbec. I forget who makes it. I had a MacMurray Pinot Noir. It was o.k. Fairly average. Gets the job done, but isn't the most interesting Pinot, let alone red wine, out there.
Unfortunately, we were a bit wined out by the time we made it to dinner so we skipped the grape juice. We stopped in at a hole in the wall bar afterwards and I'm happy to report that my view on the quality of wine at hole in the wall bars still stands. It sucks.
Well, until the next tourist moment or sniff, sip or quaff,
Alli M.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Tasting in the Capital

As I mentioned in a previous post, I was in D.C. this weekend. I expected to have at least a few things to write, but I didn't take very good notes.

That said, here's the run down of the weekend:

-Arrived at the hotel to find that one of my brother's had left a bottle of wine for me at the front desk with a "Welcome to D.C." note. It was a bottle of 2001 Valhalla Cabernet/Shiraz from the great state of Virginia. I'd never had winefrom Virginia before so I was curious. It was o.k. Very dry with some nice fruit, but a bit over-oaked. I liked it, but I didn't love it. My friends really enjoyed it though.
-Headed out to Bistrot du Coin, one of my favorite places in D.C., to meet up with friends. Had some of the best mussels of my life (Mouless Bretonnes - steamed mussels with lobster bisque, lobster meat, shrimps, mushrooms, celery, diced tomatoes). Also enjoyed a bottle of 2001 Medoc. Unfortunately I do not remember the label. It was extremely dry and very tight, but it opened up throughout the course of the evening and we all really enjoyed it.

-Went to Cork wine bar, which I'd been looking forward to for quite some time. Underwhlemed by the Bordeaux flight, but loved the Domaine de Berane Cotes du Ventoux, "Les Blaques" 2006, a syrah/grenache blend from the Southern Rhone. It was quite good - peppery and spicy with some fragrant red fruit and a medium finish. We also had a cheese plate and the the Humboldt Fog soft cheese was one of the best cheeses I've ever had.
-Truth be told, I was a bit disappointed by Cork. They had a wonderful selection of French, Italian and some Spanish wines, but they didn't have any wines from South America, Portugal, the U.S., Australia or New Zealand. I can understand a limited wine list, but wine bars that limit themselves to that few countries just aren't as much fun!

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

4 Bottles and not a Sip

Last night was my first book club of the New Year and as usual the food was great, the conversation was better and the wine was, well, to be honest, I barely had a sip! No, I did not resolve to drink less wine in the New Year. I had a very early morning planned so I wanted to practice restraint. Plus, I was too busy scaring my friend, Robin's, baby with my Sesame Street impersonations.

That said, the hostess with the mostest, Rachel, sent me the list of wines that we drank. Since I didn't try all of them and thus have no tasting notes, I thought it would be fun to include what I would have tried to pair these with based on what everyone brought:

Torlasco, Pinot Grigio 2007 (White) -- Chisa's tofu salad, Robin's green salad, Kathleen's pita and veggie dip, Wendy N.'s carrot cake cupcakes
Ardiche Louis Latour, Chardonnay 2006 (White) -- Joanna's asparagus, My fondue (in which I used this Chardonnay), the Taleggio from Katie's cheese plate
Clos du Mont Olivet, Font de Blanche 2007 (Red) -- Rachel's lasagne, Manchego and Cheddar from Katie's cheese plate
Marco Real, Tempranillo 2005 (Red) -- Rachel's lasagne, Laurie's brownies

As always, it was a terrific evening with a bunch of wonderful women and hilarious conversation (it's truly surprising how many of my friends know details about their grandparents' sex lives). In fact, several of the afore-mentioned women and I are heading to our favorite wine bar for dinner on Friday night so hopefully I'll have an actual tasting to write about this weekend.

Until the next sip, sniff, quaff or Cookie Monster imitation,


Alli M.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A New Year, a New Malbec.

Several months ago The Wine Library featured 2005 Clos Des Andes, an Argentinian Malbec. As I was planning a trip to Argentina (look forward to daily blogging from 2/13 - 2/19), I figured I should pick it up. The other night I decided to open it to go along with my spaghetti dinner.
It was good, but not great. I would have liked to have tasted a little more fruit to go with the smoke and wood. To be fair, it was fairly tight and could have used a few more years and a good 20-30 mins. to open up. For $20, it wasn't a bad deal and I'd likely pick it up again. Maybe next time I'll actually hold off on opening it for a little while!

I'm heading down to DC this weekend with plans to go to one of my favorite French restaurants - I'm also going to try to visit Cork, a D.C. wine bar that I have read about over the past few years but have never been able to visit.

Hopefully I'll have more good stuff to write.

Either way, until the next sniff, sip or quaff,


Alli M.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Good wine can come from a strip mall winery. Seriously.

Several years ago, I made my first trek out to the North Fork of Long Island. While on that trip I stumbled into the tasting room of Waters Crest which was located in a small strip mall off the main road. I was not only surprised at the quality of the wine, but I was also surprised, and delighted, by the 12 year old working the tasting room with her mother. This turned out to be the winemaker's daughter and I was envious that she knew so much about wine at her age (and quietly angry at my parents for never trying to start their own winery).

Four years later, I finally made my way back to the North Fork of Long Island and I stopped by Waters Crest again. Their whites and roses were as good as I remember, but they also had a red that I really liked. They called it Campania Rosso and it was a Bordeaux style blend (primarily Merlot with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and a bit of Petite Verdot). This was the first time I liked a red from the U.S. that was not made in California, Oregon or Washington. I was so excited so I picked up a bottle for later.

A few nights ago I opened the bottle and it was the nice, dry, yet juicy red I remembered. It went down very smoothly with the Italian food I was having.

If you can find Waters Crest Campania Rosso in your neck of the woods, check it out. I think you'll be pleased. Plus, I'm all for anything that can encourage North Fork producers to strive to make good red wines.

Until the next sniff, sip or quaff,


Alli M.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Happy Cinqo de January-o!

So I missed the boat on wishing everyone a Happy New Year and giving you the rundown on what my friends and I enjoyed at our New Year's Eve dinner. Suffice it to say, I do not recall many of the bottles we drank (and there were many). The hosts with the mostest, Tim and Joanna were gracious enough to cork a bottle of Opus One , which we all loved (who wouldn't enjoy one of the finer reds to come out of Napa?!?).

We also went through a few bottles of Rene Rostaing Les Lezardes that I discovered in my wine course. It didn't go over as well because after a hit of smooth, juicy Opus One, the funky, rustic notes of Les Lezardes are a bit tough for one's taste buds to handle. Luckily Gabe (of the Wendy and Gabe clan) and I were able to shift our palettes accordingly.

And after gawking and guffawing at J Lo's outfit, several of us toasted with Gatinois Brut Grand Cru (among other champagnes and sparklers). Gatinois is a new favorite of mine and those who know me won't be shocked to hear that it's made primarily from Pinot Noir. It's also a Grower's Champagne, which is a phrase you're likely to hear more frequently in the coming years. In fact, the Wall Street Journal wine columnists, John and Dottie, recently wrote an article about these champagnes. Gatinois is not mentioned in their article, but it's really nice. Good acid and structure with a creamy mouthful and tight bubbles.

As always, I had a lovely time. It was great to see the Hoboken girls - Rachel, Wendy (a.k.a Nielsen), Genna and Joanna - after such a long time. Moreover, as expected, Joanna, made a kickass dinner (traditional spinach salad, beef tenderloin, green beans, potatoes and chocolate fondue for dessert). The salad was so good that there was none left when I went to get seconds - since when is the salad the first thing to go?!?

The next morning I celebrated the first day of the New Year with a mimosa made with Mionetto Prosecco, one of the best value sparklers out there. Looks like it was the right choice because so far, so good (even if I am behind on my writing already).

Until the next sniff, sip or quaff,


Alli M.