February 29, 2008

Crushpad's fusebox - Learn to blend wine at home!

fusebox.jpgIn our efforts to bring you the the latest buzz in the wine world, we have come across yet another swanky wine business that everyone can enjoy at home -- that is everyone willing to spend $120. Check out the Springwise article:

The busy vintners at Crushpad, an urban winery we've already discussed on two separate occasions, have given us reason to cover them yet again. Just before the holidays Crushpad introduced fusebox, a wine blending kit that lets users experience the wine-making process at home.

Crushpad's 15-pound fusebox was created to contain everything a group of four might need to explore how some of the world's greatest wines are blended: Six 375 mL bottles of blending wine from some of Napa's finest vineyards, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc; one 375 mL bottle of Mystery Wine; one graduated cylinder and 4 pipettes; four wine evaluation cards; four tasting place mats; recipe cards, a vinography aroma card and a corkscrew. Using the kit, wine enthusiasts can try to re-create classic Cabernet blends or invent their own; they can also test their discernment skills on the included Mystery Wine by playing the "Guess the Mystery Blend" online game at fusebox is priced at USD 120 and available for shipping only within the United States.

"Crushpad's mission is to turn consumers into creators," explains Michael Brill, CEO of San Francisco-based Crushpad. "Whether it's the multiyear experience of making a wine from vine to bottle or just spending a few hours with friends enjoying a blending session with fusebox, we want to give individuals the opportunity to experience the fun and sense of creative expression that comes from making wine."

Crushpad has always specialized in helping enthusiasts understand and make their own wines, providing desirable status skills along the way. Crushpad is in the very early phases of signing up fusebox retailers and distributors.


from: Springwise

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February 26, 2008

L. A. Cetto Petite Sirah 2005

Thumbnail image for LACetto_Petite_Sirah.jpgVARIETAL: Petite Sirah
REGION: Baja, California/Mexico
PRICE: $10

I must admit I was a bit intrigued by the origins of this wine. I had never tasted a wine from the Baja peninsula and after closer inspection of the label I was a bit confused about whether or not the wine is considered a Mexican or California wine. Research only led to more confusion so I just had to crack it open and see what it was all about.

At first whiff the L.A. Cetto Petite Sirah is quite appealing. Lots of jammy fruit on the nose and a hint of spice. But the romance stopped there. I don't know if this bottle was a little cooked, or just past its prime, but there was nothing appealing about the taste. I found the fruit to be a bit bitter on the palate and for a Petite Sirah, it lacked lushness and any sort of finish. No kidding, I mean there was NO finish, zero taste in your mouth after the first few bitter sips. Weird . . . and disappointing after reading so many glowing reviews of previous vintages. Perhaps I'll give it another shot down the road. . . way down the road.

Noël Wallace Permalink social bookmarking

February 25, 2008

Van Duzer 2006 Estate Pinot Gris

vanduzerpg.jpgVARIETAL: Pinot Gris
REGION: Willamette Valley, Oregon
PRICE: $17
For some reason the Van Duzer Estate Pinot Gris always awakens in me the hope of the spring and summer to come. Soft ripe summer fruits like melon, apricot and peach linger, liltingly on the palate. While the delicate floral aromas mingle with bursts of citrus, peach and pineapple. But do not be afraid, there is nothing syrupy about this wine. It is perfectly balanced with a crisp acidity and finishes clean with striking minerality. I highly recommend it with pan-seared scallops, but really it pairs well with most seafood dished and quite an array of Asian fare.

Noël Wallace Permalink social bookmarking

February 21, 2008

Chill out with the Ravi Instant Wine Chiller

Thumbnail image for P22067B.jpgIn our relentless pursuit of instant gratification, we have come across a nifty little accessory that we just have to share. For those of you who just can't wait for your wine to chill, there is a gadget that will chill it LITERALLY on the way from the bottle to your glass.

Wine goes from the shelf to the glass perfectly chilled in seconds! Simply remove the Ravi Instant Wine Chillerfrom the freezer, then fit it over your bottle and pour. Wine passes through the cold stainless steel interior tube into the glass, instantly chilling the wine to a tasty temperature. Instructions included. Size: 7-1/2"H x 2-1/4"W $49.95

It is a bit on the pricey side for something so low tech . . . but can you really put a price on instant gratification?

Check it out: Ravi Instant Wine Chiller

Noël Wallace Permalink social bookmarking

February 19, 2008

Block No. 45 Petite Sirah 2005

block_45.JPG In our pursuit of the economical, yet tasty domestic wine, we have begun to notice a number of interesting California selections of vague origin. A number of small California producers are not really "wineries" in the sense that they do not necessarily grow their own fruit on lush rolling vineyards. Rather they pick and choose from other local producers and either buy grapes with which to make their own juice, or they buy juice and blend their own wines. Fascinating stuff, the modern world of wine. And for those of you who are skeptics or purists, rest assured there are some fun wines out there from such unassuming beginnings.
Block No. 45 Petite Sirah is just such a wine. Perhaps not quite as rich as many petite sirahs, it is, for the money, quite full-flavored with distinct plummy notes enhanced with shots of crushed blueberry and spice. It begs for a fire in the fireplace and a savory beef stew. A pretty impressive pick for a meager $5.99.

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Inca Cabernet Malbec 2005

Thumbnail image for inca.jpgI am a sucker for Argentine wines, malbec in particular. In fact, I had such a fantastic sojourn through the Mendoza Valley just after the harvest that I often choose malbec in hopes that it will trigger those now fading memories of the dusty terrain and sweeping views of the Andes. This wine just did not do it for me.
The Inca Cabernet (80%) Malbec (20%) blend is from quite a different region altogether: the Calchaqui Valley, nestled high in the mountains in the Salta Region of northern Argentina. But the climate isn't the problem. I think they just spent more time manipulating this wine rather than giving it the structure to come into its own. Had it been bagged or its label disguised, I might have described it as a fruit forward, smooth, round red with ripe berry flavors and a vegetal twist--green pepper and dill--quite reminiscent of a California Cabernet Franc. Were it not for the far-too-creamy mouth-feel I might have mistaken it for a merlot. It just wasn't what it purported to be. A perfectly decent wine for $10, but I probably won't buy it again.

Noël Wallace Permalink social bookmarking

February 17, 2008

Bargain Basement buys from Robert Parker

C_Bpostart.jpgI don't often rely on wine critics' lists when I'm in the mood to try new things. I'd rather wing it and have no one but myself to blame for my mistakes. That said, I do enjoy reading a good bit of what Robert Parker writes and in a recent Business Week article he focuses on an assortment of wines from Cartlidge & Browne which are, like a good pair of khakis, always reliable and in-style. It just goes to show, you don't always have to turn to obscure and funky imports to find value. There are some stellar cellar finds right here in the USA, even in California.

Here is the list of wines that Parker reviewed:

2005 Cabernet Sauvignon 85 points
2005 Rabid Red 86 points
2006 Pinot Noir 87 points
2006 Chardonnay 87 points
2006 Sauvingon Blanc Dancing Crow 89 points

For his detailed notes check out our excerpt or the complete article in Business Week.

ArrowContinue reading: "Bargain Basement buys from Robert Parker"

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February 14, 2008

Wine Enthusiast Perfect Pairing Wine Chocolates

P20151B.jpgThree glorious tins filled with elegant drops of dark chocolate - each formulated with an increasingly rich percentage of Cocoa to intensify the love affair between chocolate and wine. The 55% drops pair perfectly with Cabernet Sauvignon, the 61% drops match the smooth taste of Syrah and the rich 72% drops complement Zinfandel wines. Pure delight for guests, gifts and just the two of you. 3-tin chocolate set. Size: 3-1/2 oz.

What a fantastic idea . . . and though maybe a little too late for the Valentine's rush these are a great idea for any chocoholic wino, or anyone looking for seductive new tasting ideas. Less like drops and more like small communion wafers, these chocolates are a great way to end a meal or a tasting party.

At Wine Enthusiast Perfect Pairing Wine Chocolates

Noël Wallace Permalink social bookmarking

February 13, 2008

SpinWine pourer aerates wine on its way to your glass

spinwinepourer.jpgDecanting is such a pain. Do you really want to wait fifteen minutes to an hour for your tannin-filled red wine to aerate? It's one thing if you have a beautiful decanter, but most of us just want to get the cork out, pour the wine, and start drinking. The SpinWIne Pourer is for people who want to reap the benefits of decanting without waiting: it aerates your wine on its way to the glass.

In fact, this little wine spinner claims to do a lot more than that. Its description claims "SpinWine performs a set of complex actions as the wine circulates around the small open cup chamber and through the double helix into your glass. The improvement in flavor and scent occurs because of the structural changes brought about by the unique process."

There are a number of aerators available in various styles and prices ranging from about $30 to upwards of $400. The SpinWine Pourer costs $58.

Check out other aerators on Amazon

via SpinWine

Noël Wallace Permalink social bookmarking

February 8, 2008

Two from the boot - Epicuro Salice Salentino and Aglianico

Often, the easiest means of finding cheap and fun wines is to go for what the locals drink. If you decided to see Italy on a Vespa you would find tiny little enclaves in regions that produce hard-to-pronounce grapes you've never heard of. These simple wines stir the senses and leave you imagining you're sipping liquid happiness from a bistro glass while watching the sunset over the Adriatic Sea, even when you're peering out your kitchen window at a pile of snow. These are two great contenders that will transport you:

Epicuro Salice Salentino Riserva 2003
Normally I would steer clear of $4.99 wines if they have a vintage from 5 years ago (scary!) but I couldn't resist giving this one a shot. Epicuro wines are generally great value wines and this one is no exception. Crafted from 80% Negroamaro and 20% Malvasia Nera, this rich, ripe, lush wine gets its intensity from the hot and dry climate of Apuglia, the region that runs from the spur to the heel of the boot. Salice Salentino is always a great go-to wine if you are a red lover and just looking for a glass to unwind, but it will be a great match for rustic meat dishes like osso bucco, roast venison or any kind of stewed beef.
Epicuro Aglianico 2004
Aglianico is a fascinating and historical grape varietal found mostly in Basilicata, that area of the boot between the heel and the toe that, for lack of a better term, makes up the arch. Much like Apuglia, it is hot and dry and the resulting wine is intense and spicy with distinct notes of blackberry and a cracked black pepper finish. It also has a punch of acidity that makes it a natural complement to any Italian dish smothered in red sauce (including pizza) and most red meat dishes. It is a great buy for $5.99, but stay away from the 2004 vintage. It is past its prime . . . look for 2005 or later and you won't be disappointed.

Noël Wallace Permalink social bookmarking

February 7, 2008

Crios de Susana Balbo Rose of Malbec

Crios_Rose_2006.jpg Don't cry for me . . . ok, so I can't really sing but if I could this is one wine I would sing about. This stunner hails from the scenic Mendoza valley and was carefully crafted from Malbec grapes by one of the first female winemakers in Argentina. Think ripe strawberries and cherries--fruity without the sweetness. For those of you who fear the pinks because you grew up with the words "white zinfandel" ringing in your ears, fear not! This rose is dry and full bodied enough to stand up to a gaucho's diet of grilled meat, but flexible enough to pair with fish and chicken dishes as well. This is a standard in our fridge year-round. Look for 2006 or 2007 vintages. Anything older might still be okay, but definitely not as reliable.

Noël Wallace Permalink social bookmarking

Vacu Vin Wine Gift Set - Save Your Wine for Another Day


We're big fans of saving a little of that wine for another day, and we think rounding out any household wine bar is a good thing. The set includes a corkscrew, wine server, wine saver, and two vacuum stoppers. Teflon-coated Twister corkscrew pulls corks out with minimal resistance, and a plastic and rubber Concerto wine saver preserves wine quality for up to two weeks after opening with a tight seal from one of two matching rubber stoppers. The wine server ensures pouring ease while reducing drips and spillage.

At Screwpull Table Model Corkscrew

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February 5, 2008

High-Tech Tasting--Adour's Interactive Wine Bar in NYC

adour.jpgNot for the budget-minded wine consumer, we just came across a stunning new wine venue in the big apple that marries technology with vino-culture. Adour at the St. Regis Hotel is a bit of a splurge for everyday wine folk, but I suspect we'll be seeing low-tech variations of this as other wine bars and restaurants recognize the value in educating--and entertaining--their consumers. 

Check out this bit from Springwise

Ubiquitous computing is a trend that's oft discussed and less frequently seen, but a shining new example just opened in New York City's luxurious St. Regis Hotel. A restaurant called Adour now features a technology-driven, interactive wine bar that lets guests explore for themselves the wide variety of wines available. 

While the decor of the 72-seat restaurant features hues reminiscent of burgundy and chardonnay, Adour's 4-seat wine bar is constructed from gold and bronze and covered in luxurious goat skin. Built-in interactive technology from Potion Designs helps patrons choose a wine by allowing them to browse Adour's complete wine list by wine type, country and varietal. Computer menus are projected from the ceiling onto the bar, and patrons make their choices by pressing on the bar's surface. 

The first menu, for example, prompts guests to choose from a list of selections including By the Glass, By the Decanter, Sparkling Wines, Red Wines, White Wines, etc. Additional choices follow from there, including lists of countries, regions and wines. When a guest selects a particular wine, a rosette-shaped image is projected with information about the wine on each of its five petals, including details about the producer and the grapes. Adour's Wine Director manages the wine list using a custom-designed content management system and can update the interactive bar daily or for special occasions. Adding a personal touch to its high-end experience, Adour also offers temperature-controlled, private wine vaults in its 12-seat private dining room to give guests a way to store their very own wine collection. 

Besides being an upscale novelty, Adour's interactive bar feeds modern consumers' apparently insatiable infolust with relevant information, and it incorporates that information into the real-world dining experience. It also educates consumers about wines, providing them with key status skills that (they hope) will elevate them above the rest of the crowd. All that and a highly engaging experience too! Mark our words: There's more of this to come... 

Noël Wallace Permalink social bookmarking

February 4, 2008

Windows on the World Complete Wine Course: 2008 Edition

Windows on the World Complete Wine Course is simply the bestselling wine book in North America--it's a classic. The 2007 edition alone has sold over 100,000 copies and reorders continue to pour in. Along with the expanded text that has made last year's update so successful, the 2008 revision will include a special 16-page supplement on "How to Taste Wine," taken directly from Kevin's world-famous class. This new material will include more than 100 wines that Zraly selects for his students to taste, along with the tasting sheet they use for their evaluations. 

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