I have been trying to decide how best to remember the gentleman and legend, Mr. Paul Newman. As it happens, I've had a few bottles of Newman's Own wine kicking around, just begging to be reviewed. So to honor the man, the philanthropist and the actor, I decided to throw a Newman's Own party. A little corny, I know, but what can I say?
I invited about twelve friends who were either Newman fans or just along for the free booze and grub. In lieu of background music, we fired up the DVD player and played a continuous loop of my four favorite Paul Newman films--The Sting, The Long Hot Summer, The Hustler and A New Kind of Love.
I tried to keep it simple and I wanted to use as many Newman's Own products as I could:
Chicken and shrimp skewers marinated in the Lemon Pepper Marinade
Beef skewers marinated in Steak Sauce
Potatoes, onions, peppers tossed in Balsamic Vinaigrette and roasted
Tossed salad with classic Italian dressing
Chips and Salsa for snacking
Bowls of Spelt and Honey Wheat pretzels
Lots of NO popcorn placed strategically near the TV
Newman's Own Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon
House cocktail - The Fast Eddie (vodka and NO Lemonade with perfect rounds of thinly sliced red chile peppers floating in it... a real kick in the pants!)
Assorted NO cookies and organic k-cup coffee for dessert
Before the eating and official boozing began, I decided to hold a quick, mini wine tasting to get everyone's thoughts on the wines. I'm always a little skeptical of celebrity wines, but I did my due diligence and found that Newman's Own wines are produced by Three Thieves.
Newman's Own Chardonnay - Very lush and fragrant with scents of ripe tropical fruits... mainly pineapple. Lush and full on the palate as well. More tropical fruit woven with bright pear, golden apple and a thread of creamy vanilla oak lending flavor to its viscosity, all tempered by enough acidity to provide a crisp finish. Chardonnay haters thought it was too fruity and too creamy, but otherwise it was well received and a true indication of its worth--there was not a drop left at the end of the evening.
Newman's Own Cabernet Sauvingon - Bold and berry filled, this cab suprised all of us with its layered intensity. Rich and warm with scents of macerated berry, spice and sweet tobacco. Dried berries, plums and cassis round out the flavor profile and add a certain chewiness to the texture. This wine begs for a fire in the fireplace and bowl of stew in hand. Like Mr. Newman, this cab was adored by all.
Both the Cab and the Chard are quintessentially California wines. All sunshine and smiles. Infinitely like-able. You can find them at many large grocery chains as well as Cost Plus World Market in the $10 - $13 range.
Read More in: Cabernet Sauvignon | Celebrity Wine | Chardonnay
October 24, 2008
We've had one of these Screwpull openers for about 2 years now, and have to say it's amazing. This 5 Piece Deluxe Corkscrew Set
includes the Lever Model, Foil Cutter, Wine Collar, Stopper, and Extra Screw. You won't have any trouble opening bottle after bottle with this corkscrew, and it's a simple as lifting the handle.
At Le Creuset Screwpull Professional Lever Corkscrew S1700-31
Read More in: Wine Openers
October 10, 2008
Christmas is just around the corner and if you're wondering what to give a wine lover who has everything--and if you have $1000 to play with--you might consider the Skybar Wine System.
Chill, pour and preserve wine all from a single system. Whether you are a wine connoisseur or frequently entertain, Skybar is the new and elegant way to serve and store wine. Individually controlled chambers let you keep up to three different wines ready to serve, each at its ideal varietal-specific temperature. Nine wine presets allow you to select the correct temperature, taking the guesswork out of chilling. When you're ready for a glass, Skybar pours the wine for you. With a press of the button, wine is dispensed into your glass. Guests may choose the wine they want and when they want it.
Patented vacuum technology preserves open bottles at peak flavor for up to ten days. Keeps wine fresh and protected from oxidization.
Available only online, but Sur la Table will cover free ground shipping. Be sure to check out the Skybar Video after the jump.
Read More in: Swanky Wine Fridays
October 2, 2008
Champagne and Sparkling
Read More in: Monthly Roundup
September 30, 2008
On day ten of our collective mourning we decided it might be prudent to clean out the wine cooler to make room for the home made malbec that will need to rest on its side for the next four months (at least) at a constant 70 degrees. Any straggling bottles--mostly forgotten dessert wines--were relocated and just as I was reaching in to check the temperature gauge, something way in the back caught my eye. I recognized the bottle instantly and held my breath. Fully expecting to find a more current vintage, I slid the bottle out and rotated it until my eyes beheld a wondrous surprise. I was holding a bottle of Dom Perignon Brut Vintage 1988. A great year in Champagne.
Another gasp. Could it possibly be good? Was it stored properly? Did he receive it as a gift? These were questions that could never be answered and so at my urging, we decided that this bottle, divine or vinegar, would be our celebration of life.
We popped the top rather unceremoniously and proceeded, in silence to take in the color, the aroma and the expectation we each had for this wine. In all honesty, I assumed it was probably cooked. In my mind, this find was too good to be true.
But what I experienced was intensely golden-hued, and at first, remarkably tropical. Lots of creamy pineapple and coconut, which mellowed after a few minutes into less fruity, more yeasty. The thread of minerality was still quite present as well as a very subtle hint of citrus. An altogether sublime experience, I had refilled my glass three times before I remembered I had to share.
My one great take-away from that evening was: if you've been holding on to a special bottle/vintage, or you come across one that you think might be past its prime but you're afraid to try, OPEN IT! Pour it. Share it with friends. Life is too short to keep it stashed away for the "right" time. The right time is now. Enjoy it.
Read More in: Champagne and Sparkling | Wine Tasting Notes
My apologies for going AWOL these past few weeks. I left town rather suddenly due to a death in my family and though I have been out of touch, and trapped in the cocoon that surrounds a grieving family, wine was on my mind quite a bit during this hiatus. So before we resume our Back-to-Wine-School lesson plan, I would like to share with you why.
You see, the person I lost was the first to introduce me (at the tender age of 12) to the world of wine and its unlimited fascinations. By all accounts he was rather snobbish and old fashioned with regard to wine, and until very recently maintained the opinion that a decent bottle could not be had for under $20. He relished the idea of wine as a luxury item and thinking of it as such increased his enjoyment. This was only one of many of our differing philosophies.
So I was surprised--no, shocked--to learn that earlier this year, he decided to make his own wine. And not at some hoity-toity wine estate, but at local place, a store-front, no less, where he made wine with a group of strangers over the course of a few months. And I was honored to have been asked to bottle and label his wine.
And that is how I came to find Vines to Wines, one of many micro-wineries cropping up in cities and towns across the country. This one is smaller than I imagined, but I think just the right size for the Village of Wellington, Florida. I only participated in the bottling part of the process, but I'll try to give you a brief run down of what you get for your money.
The first step, of course, is to choose your wine. They have an interesting list of regional varietals--Washington pinot gris, Stag's Leap merlot, Argentine malbec, South African pinotage, to name a few. The juice arrives, already pressed, in bags. Some of the reds, such as the malbec and pinotage, are bagged with the skins, which in theory adds more depth and interest to the finished wine.
After you choose your varietal, you are partnered with someone who chose the same. You collaborate through the fermentation stage and, depending on the varietal, you share a barrique for several weeks. In the meantime, you choose your desired bottle shape--or you bring your own recycled bottles if you're feeling green--and you decide on a label. They have pre-designed versions that you can customize, or if you prefer, you may create your own original art.
Much to my surprise and delight, I handled the malbec. After fermentation and a little time in the barrique, I arrived to work the bottling machine. The bottling process was pretty basic. You place six bottles on a machine (two at a time) that is pre-calibrated for your bottle type and the bottles are filled automatically. Once your wine is bottled, you are instructed on the finer points of the corking contraption.
A little elbow grease and a steady hand will see you through corking and then you choose a capsule color and style for your wine. After that, you affix your label and are sent home with 30 bottles and strict guidelines on how to store them and when to enjoy them.
Though my experience was limited, I can tell you that Vines to Wines does quite a bit of repeat business. They have a lot of corporate customers who brand the bottles and distribute them as gifts, as well as wine-loving families who keep coming back to try new varietals. Many of them say you just can't find anything better in the $8-$12/bottle range.
If you live in the West Palm Beach/Wellington area, you should check it out. Ask for Molly or Danny.
12020 Southshore Blvd
Wellington, FL 33414
Tues, Wed, Thurs Noon - 7pm
Fridays 3pm - 9pm
Sat. 11am - 6pm
Read More in: General News
September 19, 2008
If there is one thing that still stresses me out about buying wine, it is that great unknown: Has my bottle been cooked en route? Finally, the winemakers are covering their tushies and finding new ways to let you know if your wine experienced sub-optimal temps during its long journey to you. Check out this bit, courtesy of Gizmodo:
You may have paid $100 for that fancy Cab, but little did you know, its tannins have been seared crispy like hashbrowns in a semi left to sit in the sun. So just for you, dear learned consumer, wine makers are fighting back with a new digital thermometer that can tell buyers whether or not the bottle fell outside its ideal temperature after shipping from the vineyard.
The size of a sugar packet and sitting on the bottle's neck, if everything was OK, an embedded light (LED, we're sure) blinks green. If things went wrong, it'll blink yellow. The system even records the temperature for downloading to a computer spreadsheet by suppliers.
The catch is that these thermometers run about $1.60 apiece. Obviously intended for better wines, it's still tough to swallow that all that many vineyards will adopt the technology in an era when traditional corks are dying to cheaper screw tops and rubber stoppers. But hey, who are we to question progress? [AP] By Mark Wilson
Read More in: Wine Accessories
Literally translated, entre-deux-mers means between two oceans or seas. And in lovely, scenic Bordeaux this identifies the appellation situated between the Dordogne and Garonne rivers. There are 37 appellations in Bordeaux, all of which are situated along the Dordogne, the Garonne and the Gironde which flows from the Atlantic ocean and splits to form the other two. On the map above, entre-deux-mers is represented by the large green area in the middle of Bordeaux.
I'm not sure I could clearly explain Bordeaux in one little post so I'm going to send you on a jump, to Wiki land. The Wiki page offers the clearest, most thorough condensation (I've found) of the region as well as a handy numbered map for reference. It also clearly defines terminology associated with Bordeaux wines (ie. Left bank, Right Bank, Graves etc).
Back to the task at hand... Wine from the entre-deux mers appellation can be red, however the reds are fairly nondescript compared to its haughty left bank/right bank kin. Most often when you see entre-deux-mers on a label, it is on a white. Typically, they are sauvignon blanc based and blended with semillon, muscadelle and occasionally, ugni blanc. Vivacious and dry, they can run the gamut from stark and simple to lovely and layered, depending on on the blend, of course.
Start investigating the wines available in your area and buy 2007 vintages whenever possible... Or if you need a few suggestions, check these out:
Chateau Bonnet Entre-Deux-Mers 2006
50% Sauvignon Blanc, 40% Semillon, 10% Muscadelle
The higher proportion of sauvignon blanc in this blend provides a crisp, acidic backbone. While the sturdy dose of semillon softens the edges with ripe tropical fruit notes.
La Foret Blanc Entre-Deux-Mers 2006 $12
40% Sauvignon Blanc, 40% Muscadelle, 20% Sémillon
Much softer than the Bonnet, the La Foret benefits from an equal split of sauvignon blanc and muscadelle. The latter providing lovely aromatics and playful, almost floral notes. Not to be forgotten, the semillon provides a little depth and richness.
Bordeaux map via Great Wine Capitals
Read More in: White Wine | Wine Advice
September 15, 2008
Or maybe it is a lovely piece of art. I think it might be a bit of all three. Another great gift idea from MoMA:
A unique gift for the wine enthusiast, this bottle with a wine glass inside is meticulously hand crafted and mouth blown from a single piece of glass, making no two identical. $125
Read More in: Wine Accessories
To decant... or not to decant...
That is often the question:
Whether 'tis nobler to suffer the woes
Of aged wines so rife with sentiment; or
To pour the crusty juice from its vessel, its home
Into another to clear the wine of sediment...
Well it isn't exactly Shakespeare, but it does present two interesting topics for exploration: What is the difference between DECANTING and AERATING? And why are they important?
The decision to decant a wine is purely personal, of course. But if you've ever opened an aged wine, say an old cabernet cauvignon that you've been saving... Well, when you remove it from the cellar - or from the back of a closet if you're a city dweller - you may notice a proliferation of what looks like dark crust on the inside of the bottle. That is sediment. Bits of particles that have separated over time. So if you don't want those bits to end up between your teeth or stuck to your tongue when you taste, you can ever-so-gently pour the juice into a decanter for serving and temporary storage.
Aerating, on the other hand, is the process of adding air to an otherwise "tight" wine to allow it to soften and open up a bit. Particularly useful for softening structured, tannic, big wines such as cabernet sauvignon, syrah, merlot and most big Italian reds, it is not a recommended practice for delicate older wines such as aged Burgundian pinot noir.
There are a number of methods and tools for aerating wine. If you are enjoying a glass alone, you may not want to aerate the entire bottle. In that case, I would grab the best tasting glass you own and pour an ounce or two into the glass and let it sit for a few minutes. If you're sharing with a large group, you have a number of options. You can gently pour the entire bottle into a decanter made especially for aerating or you can use a bottle top aerator which is just a tool that affixes to the top of a wine bottle (or sometimes into the neck of a decanter) that provides more air exposure for the wine.
Of course these two terms are not mutually exclusive. You may need to remove sediment and aerate. Rest assured, there are accessories that cover all the bases. Here are some of our favorites:
Selection Decanting Pourer and Aerator $20
Attaches to bottle, oxygenates wine during pouring
Magnifico Decanter with Punt $25
Inexpensive, elegant design and diswasher safe
Bormioli Esperienze Decanter $35
Made from lead-free crystal, decanter with concentric rings that provide aeration
Vivid Wine Decanter & Aerating Funnel Set $70
Lead-free crystal, easy to pour, includes funnel to filter sediment
Read More in: Wine Accessories | Wine Advice
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