May 31, 2009

Tasting Note Tuesday - 2006 Zenato Ripassa

Italian wine was my first love, which is rare. Usually people enjoy the fruitier, "New World" wines of the US, Australia, etc. Then once they "develop their tastes", they move on to the more complex "Old World" wines of France, Italy, etc.

Well, I've been enjoying a break from my first love and have really been digging the the fruity, oaky, "New World" stuff. But you know what they say... there's always that soft spot in you heart for your first love.

Italy is a huge wine producing country. With so many regions and varietals, it can be very confusing. Italian wine is very unique, and is relatively a good harvest every year. Pick up any vintage, and you won't go wrong.

Zenato is a very well respected Italian winery. In fact, their high-end wine (Amarone) is always stunning, but will set you back about $75. As the name suggests, Ripassa refers to how after the wine is made, they "pass" the wine over the grape skins one more time, which helps add further body and complexity and produces a "bigger" wine. Thus, it boast the same decadent properties as Amarone... but will only pinch your wallet about $25.

2006 Zenato Valpolicella Superiore Ripassa
Italy, Veneto, Valpolicella, Valpolicella Superiore

Purchased a 375ml off a restaurant list for $30. Opened, and not decanted. This wine is dark ruby in color and has an amazingly complex nose. There are hints of raisins, cherry, flowers, spice and black cherries. Its a big, almost "thick" wine. I don't want to say "syrupy" because I think that would turn a lot of people off. But it definitely is viscous and will coat the inside of your mouth when you drink it.

On the palate, there are flavors of plum, raisins and blueberry. The tannins are still firm, but not too much that you can't enjoy this after opening for about 30 minutes. What's nice about this is there is no hint of oak or any wine-maker interference. These notes are all from the grape. It really is an enjoyable experience. And this pairs excellent with all types of Italian food. If you're looking for a better bottle to enjoy this weekend, then look no further. If you can find this for $25, then don't think twice.

My Rating: Outstanding

May 29, 2009

Passport to Drinking... Sign Me Up!

With the economy still dominating the scoreboard against us, many will limit their social excursions this summer for sake of saving a few pennies. But it doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your fun. In fact, many (myself included) are adopting the new philosophy that "staying in is the new going out." So why not start a Wine Tasting Club in your neighborhood or among a group of co-workers? It's the perfect excuse to get something social on the calendar while limiting use of the wallet. 

That's where The Traveling Vineyard comes into play. Think of them as the TupperWare or Mary Kay of wine. They host private tastings at your home or can simply ship you all the materials you need to do it yourself.  They're currently offering a Passport Wine Club through June 5th which gives you and your friends the following each month: 
  • 2 glasses of wine per person at each gathering
  • An opportunity to learn about different wine regions and local cuisine (each month is a different place and theme!)
  • Ability to taste varietals from all over the world
Why not increase your appreciation and knowledge of fine wines with this simple, fun and an inexpensive food and wine occasion? 

Need me to put it in perspective for you? A 3-month passport subscription will cost you a total of $120. If you have just 4 people, that's $10 per person a month for a guaranteed night of fun. If you went out to dinner, you'd easily spend that... and some! Plus, it gives you the excuse to show of your sweet pad and brag about the new flatscreen you bought from so-and-so's liquidation sale! 

My friends and I recently implemented "Wine Down Wednesdays" when The Palm was offering 50% off bottles and now we're enrolling in this passport club to keep the momentum going. Everyone needs an escape from economic pressures, and wine is a great, affordable luxury to do so. Not to mention its a great excuse to get together, gossip, drink, gossip more... drink more, and some. No need to think... just the excuse to drink - that's my motto! 

Interested? Reach out to Eryn Cadoff by clicking here: 

Buzz Alert: St. Supery Welcomes New, Returning Winemaker

Emma Swain, president of St. Supéry Vineyards & Winery, announced today the appointment and return of Michael Scholz to winemaker for the the family-owned, estate winery. 

Scholz is not a newcomer to Napa Valley or St. Supéry. Next month, he returns to St. Supéry after serving as the winery's winemaker from 1996 to 2001. During his tenure, he created the distinctive style that made St. Supéry a benchmark producer of Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc (my fav!). The Cabernet Sauvignons he also helped create garnered acclaim with many securing 90 points and higher from Wine Spectator.

May 28, 2009

Get Your Summer Salsa On!

Summer is here and it is time to turn up the heat! One of our favorite summer "snacks" is fresh salsa and we have a recipe that will have your guests (and your belly) beggin' for more. It's easy to make (we're talking 10 minutes), it's all natural with fresh summer ingredients beats the heck out of jarred salsa. Trust us!

  • 1 can Muir Glen Organic Fire Roasted tomatoes, drained (you can use any brand, but it MUST be fire roasted for the best flavors)
  • 1 jalapenos, minced
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Bunch of cilantro, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 large red onion, chopped
  • Lots of kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  • Bag of Tostitos Natural Blue Corn tortilla chips (if you are trying to go low-fat, swap the chips with cucumber chips!)
Mix it up: Once you've gathered your ingredients, use a Cuisinart to chop the onion, garlic and jalepenos. Once its mixed, add the cilantro and pulse. Lastly, add the can of tomatoes, lime juice salt and pepper and continue to pulse until your desired consistency. Some like it chunky, others really smooth...totally up to you.

Pairings: If you insist on sipping vino versus kicking back a frozen margarita while indulging in your salsa, go with something light and crisp, like a Chardonnay or a dry Riesling. Because our recipe uses fire roasted tomatoes which have a saltier/acidic taste, these choices will help counteract the flavor with something that has just a hint of sweetness -- just a preference only if we are opting not to throw back the Patron.
  • Chardonnay: If you have a few extra pennies in the piggy bank, try the 2006 Reserve Chardonnay from Cakebread Cellars ($55). If you need something a bit less pricey, the 2006 Anderson Valley Chardonnay is also yummers ($30)!!
  • Riesling: For the price, we like the award-winning V. Sattui 2003 Dry Johannisberg Riesling ($16). If you are looking for a bargain bottle under $10, try the gold-medal winning Kendall Jackson 2004 Vintner's Reserve Reisling, which is recommended to be paired with saltier dishes like fish and ethnic cuisines.

May 26, 2009

In Need of a "Really Goode" Job?

For the past few weeks, I've had friends, family and followers forwarding the below opportunity to me encouraging me to apply for a "Really Good Job." And though I haven't (hmmm, maybe I should?) I'd like to cue up the PR genius of Murphy Goode Winery  for each of you... afterall, a PR maven must give props where props are due! 
If you live under a rock, you're probably curious as to what I'm even referring to. Well, its simply this... Murphy Goode in Sonoma County is hiring a social media correspondent to spread the word about its wines through a very nontraditional interview process. The chosen individual will have the ability to learn, taste, tweet, taste more, blog, facebook, yada-yada-yada about all things Murphy Goode and all things wine. Did I mention they'll get $10k/month plus housing? Sign me up! Let's take a vote on who thinks I should apply - get your comments ready... set... GO! 

May 25, 2009

Tasting Note Tuesday - 2006 Chappellet Cabernet Sauvignon Signature

Sipping this red, red wine I can't help but sing out the lyrics of the infamous UB40 song in my head! !

Chappellet Winery has a long tradition of making superb Napa Valley Cabs. The Chappellet family began making wine in Napa from their Pritchard Hill winery in 1967... the second winery to be established in Napa since Prohibition!!!

When they started, the Chappellet vision was to create world class wines that would have the same depth and complexity as some of the finest Bordeaux wines. Instead of settling on the valley floor, they decided to plant vines on the rocky mountain slopes on the eastern face of the California valley. There, the family farms 34 distinct vineyard blocks - each with a different soil type, elevation, sun exposure and clone of grape. Most blocks are kept separate for the entire wine-making process and only combined at the end in the final blend.

But they're not only doing interesting things on their estate, they're doing it with the Earth in mind. Ninety percent (yeah, 90%) of the estate is certified organic!!! Instead of using pesticides and synthetic chemicals, the winery uses a variety of natural methods including cover crops, bird boxes and natural compost (which they produce about 400,000 pounds annually). Their farming equipment is retrofitted to run on 50% bio-diesel and the only water the winery uses is the runoff that's captured and held in the winery's own reservoir.

Want more? In 2008, the winery installed 960 solar panels that produce 280,000 kilo-watt hours of electricity (aka - enough to power the entire winery). Over a 30-year period, that's the equivalent of planting 40,000 trees!

So, when you open a bottle of Chappellet wines, not only are you opening a great tasting bottle, you're also opening a bottle that was sustainably produced. That's a win-win situation, if I do say so myself, and all the more reason to go buy a few bottles!

2006 Chappellet Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Signature
USA, California, Napa Valley

It was a long week... a very long week. I was initially excited when I purchased this wine, so decided to pull the trigger even though I knew it was young. Yeah... mistake. The wine itself is very nice once it opens up. Since it didn't quote blossom the first night, I threw the entire wine-filled decanter in the fridge and sampled the second night... it was still tannic and closed.

However, it did show a lot of promise as I could experience its notes of blueberry, plum, coffee (espresso), cola and a hint of menthol. Needless to say there's definitley a lot going on here. Its tough to get past the tannins, but the plum and blueberry really shine. The tannins are harsh so this needs to sit. But once it does, this wine will really come around. This will easily become an excellent bottle of Napa Cab if you're patient enough to wait for it (unlike I - hey, everyone has a rough week here and there!) So if you have some space to lay a bottle or two down for 2 or more years, your patience will be greatly rewarded!!!

My take: Outstanding
Price: $33/bottle

May 15, 2009

On Vacation (and drinking lots!)

Fellow WinoBees - I'll be on vacation through May 26th so pardon the hiatus on posts. Don't fret... I'm sure I'll be drinking lots and have many recommendations on my return! :)

Huber (Hugo) Gruner Veltliner 2007

I had the opportunity to serve (and sip) last night with @TishWine and a few others for an event hosted at a law firm here in NYC. It was a progressive tasting beginning with me, well not really me, but the light, crisp, perfect-for-summer wines I was tasting.

Among the options were a dry rose, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, and this... Hugo Gruner Veltliner - a pure tasting Austrian wine. Yes, I said Austria (not Australia). Who knew they even made wines, let alone wines that could be so delicious? Fact of the matter is that although you may have never even heard of it, Gruner is the widest grown grape in Austria and the Czech Republic and is intended to be drank relativley young.

This Gruner tasted like it was infused with pear, apple and citrus. But it also offered a slight mineral feel with some peppery notes which gave it a great balance. Definitley a food-friendly choice and refreshing as we lead into the summer months ahead. Drink now (like I would) through 2011.
Where To Buy: Union Square Wines
Cost: $12/bottle
Suggested Pairing: Lemon Riccotta Crostini w/ Mint

May 11, 2009

Tasting Note Tuesday - Paint the Town Red (with Portugese & Spanish wines!)

2007 Dão Sul Company Douro Vinha da Palestra - Portugal, Douro

Portugal is rich in wine making history. It produces one of the greatest wines made, and possibly the longest lived... Port.

Port is a sweet wine that can be drank as an apperitif, though most Winos perfer it for dessert. Port has always been the premier wine of Portugal, but recently, the country has been making some great strides with its table wine.

The main grape varieties of the Douro region include Tinta Roriz, Touriga Francesa and Touriga Nacional. And usually, the wines are blends of these (and other lesser known grapes). The table wines, such as the wine I tasted this past weekend, are not sweet. In fact, they're typical red wines with paletable tannins and strong acidity. Take a look for yourself...

It's beautiful dark, opaque purple color makes you think it'll be a big, rich wine. The nose shows blackberry, licorice, smoke and cherry scents, and the palate really shines with cherry flavoring. The fruit is a tad thin, though very juicy, but it turns sour on the finish, which sort of ruins the overall experience. Short of finish, short on overall delivery.

Rating: Average
Cost: $7/bottle

2003 Mähler-Besse Jumilla Taja Reserva - Spain, Murcia, Jumilla
Spain is a hotbed of value priced wines. Pick up any Wine Spectator or Wine Advocate and you'll find a boatload of pretty good stuff for under $15 and even a lot for under the $10-$12 range.

What is difficult about Spain is its size... it's the third largest wine producing country in the world, and first with total amount of acres under vines. There are over 60 distinct regions, and it seems like each day a new one is grabbing the attention of wine critics. A popular region for value-priced reds is Jumilla, where this red is from.

Now this is the type of wine that really makes me smile. Only $12, but drinks like something twice as much. I didn't decant it, but it was definitely better with some air. The nose reminded me of chocolate covered raspberries - dark chocolate, raspberry, oak and some cranberry flavoring. More dark fruit on the palate with black cherry, plum, a sweet cream note... probably from the oak. I made a "fancier" dinner to pair with it... filet mignon with grilled asparagus, and the wine was a perfect match. Much impressive and highly reccomended!

My Review: Very Good

Cost: $9/bottle

May 5, 2009

FOOD BUZZ: Put Some South in Yo' Mouth

Who says cocktail party food always has to be fancy-shmancy? We're firm believers in keeping things simple and affordable…well, most of the time! That's why we're bringing you a fun lil' hors devours recipe that mixes down home flavor with uptown flair – we call em’ BBQ Bites.

It's a yummy, juicy recipe for traditional Southern pulled pork (no, the swine flu ain't got us down!) that we stole from our mama’s kitchen. It takes about 10 minutes to prepare and 4-6 hours to cook in the Crock-Pot (yes, the 1980's slow cooking style is back in trend!) before it’s ready for the grubbin’.

Though its meant to be overstuffed on a sesame seed bun (oh my!), the below recipe has been given a touch of Big City-flare that we assure will keep your guests wanting more. So, what are we waiting for, let's get to cookin'...

  • 2-2.5lb pork tenderloin (I like Smithfield because they keep well and can be frozen)
  • Crock-Pot
  • Medium Sauce Pan


  • 1 Cup Coca-Cola (no diet, no Pepsi!)
  • 1 Cup Canola Oil
  • 1 Cup Beef broth
  • 2 T yellow mustard
  • 2 T worchestershire sauce
  • 1 T ketchup
  • 1 T soy sauce
  • 1 T minced garlic
  • 1 Tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 Tsp salt
  • 1/2 Tsp cayenne pepper (if desired)

1) Place pork loin in Crock-Pot.

2) Combine all of the above sauce ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk and stir until ingredients are well dissolved.

3) Let cool, then pour over your pork loin in the slow cooker.

4) Cook on lowheat for 6-8 hours (if time is of the essence, set on high and cook for at least 4 hours...lower heat will provide juicer meat, though).

5) Once finished, use two forks to gently "pull" the pork into strands.

6) About 20 minutes before your guests arrive, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Then, take a standard sourdough baguette (or two) and cut it into half-inch thick slices. Lay the bread slices flat on a baking sheet, brush with a tiny bit of olive oil and bake for about 5-7 minutes until lightly toasted. Once your bread bites are ready, place them on a platter and put a biteful of pulled pork on top. Finish it with a small dollop of fresh cole slaw and some fresh ground pepper to taste. If you desire, you can add a dot or two of BBQ sauce, but I prefer it without.

Suggested Wine Pairing? Yes, please!
Because our bites have a bite of BBQ, it may be best to pair with a spicier red wine (just my two cents - afterall wine is subjective!) One of my all-time favs is the Darioush Signature Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley – but it will certainly make up where your cheapy appetizer left off. A bottle will set you back about $80, but is well worth it for a special occasion. If you are looking for something that won’t break the bank, go for a Chianti Classico like Ruffino Riserva Ducale ($24).

May 4, 2009

BeeHind the Vine: St. Supéry

Since 1999, Josh Anstey has been the vineyard manager at St. Supéry, a family-owned estate winery located in the heart of Napa Valley. He is responsible for growing and harvesting grapes at two unique locations – the 35-acre Rutherford property which surrounds the winery, and Dollarhide, a sprawling ranch with roughly 480 acres planted.

Last week, Josh took some time out of his busy schedule to discuss the land he works, the grapes it produces, and the final product we all enjoy.

St. Supery produces a wide variety of wines – what’s planted at each vineyard?
Down in Rutherford is mostly red Bordeaux varietals, so we have a fair amount of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc.

Dollarhide is heavily weighted toward both Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc, and then we have a smattering of all the other stuff we make. For the whites we have a little bit of Chardonnay, a little bit of Sémillon that goes in our Virtú wine, and a little bit of Muscat Canelli, which makes up the Moscato. For the reds, we have Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec.

How does the size difference between the vineyards affect your management style? Do you take more of a personal approach at Rutherford?
Yeah, I think so. Down in Rutherford we have maybe 15 different blocks, so despite being 35 acres it’s broken up into a bunch of small parcels that are either different from clones or varieties, and are treated separately. Dollarhide is a little bit more management intensive because of its size, but also because of its diversity. There are a lot of different soils up here, a lot of different topographies – anything from hillsides to the flat alluvial soils. It really depends what parcel you’re in, but there’s maybe a little bit more complexity at Dollarhide.

…for our “green” readers, check out St. Supéry’s sustainability practices

What’s each vineyard’s best attribute?
I think it depends on what kind of wine drinker you are. At Rutherford, the tannins are a tiny bit dusty (“Rutherford Dust”) but very well integrated, so it’s much more of a supple, kind of feminine, really well rounded wine. The wines from Dollarhide tend to be a little bit maybe bigger and bolder.

Describe your relationship with St. Supery’s winemakers – how much collaboration is there?
There’s definitely a lot of input going both ways. I think St. Supery’s in a very unique position in that we are all estate grown…it does give you a lot more collaboration with the winemaker. Off and on during the year, obviously, there’s normal contact – we’ll do different tastings and go through all the different treatments and lots and such. We’ll sit down a couple times a year and go through all the reds from the year before and also two years before. During harvest, it’s really a daily thing; the winemaker is up here at least five or six days out of the week, and during peak harvest usually everyday.

St. Supery is owned by the Skalli family of France – what kind of input, if any, do they have on what you’re growing and how you’re growing it?
Directionally, they definitely have a vision – they’ve been involved in the wine industry for a long, long time…and definitely strive to achieve the best and become better with every vintage.

What year was your best harvest?
That’s always a tough question…every harvest is really different. Because of all of our different varieties and also different parcels… some years some stuff will shine, and some stuff won’t, despite what the critics might say. You have these major wine critics saying one thing, where our wines could or could not follow that pattern. Our 2004 reds, for example, were really nice wines, but the 2004 vintage in general got kind of slaughtered by wine writers…I still think 2001 was probably my personal favorite vintage.

What are some of your favorite St. Supéry wines?
That’s another tough one. I think Virtú, which is the white Sauvignon Blanc blend, is a very unique, versatile wine that is fantastically sweet friendly. As far as the red goes, my two favorite wines to drink right now are the Malbec and the Cabernet Franc, which are winery only – they’re for the wine club and direct sales from the visitors center.

What advice would you give to someone looking to plant their first rows?
It really depends on location. You have to be cognizant of what’s going on – the main thing is weather; I mean, grape vines are pretty adaptable, but they’re definitely susceptible to really cold winters. Below 20 or 15 degrees Fahrenheit can be problematic. In the spring and summertime, you can’t get below freezing. So those are the only two limiting factors of grapes – you can still grow them there; you’re just going to have more problems.

What’s the most challenging part of the grape growing process?
There are a lot of variables. It’s just like winemaking, in that there are a couple hundred layers of variables that make the job challenging but also interesting. Everything from weather, to water, to soil and all kinds of stuff affect what that final product is. It’s kind of the puzzle of putting that all together and trying to optimize what you’ve got going.

And the most rewarding part?
Seeing that whole dynamic picture come together.

The fruits of Josh’s labor (pun intended) are available nationwide – for our New York City readers, a recent Sherry Lehmann search turned up five different options. You can also order directly from the St. Supéry website, which is incredibly user-friendly and contains a wealth of information. On that note, St. Supery is one of a growing number of wineries that have embraced social media, as evidenced by their blog, Facebook page, Twitter feed and YouTube channel.

St. Supéry is located at 8440 St. Helena Highway, Rutherford, California. They are open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (excluding major holidays) for tours, tastings and retail sales. If you’re looking for a more unique winery experience, check out the second floor gallery, which oversees each step of the winemaking process and features monthly art exhibits.

May 3, 2009

The BUZZ: Half a glass of wine a day may boost life expectancy by five years

Long-term wine consumption is related to cardiovascular mortality and life expectancy independently of moderate alcohol intake

Drinking up to half a glass of wine a day may boost life expectancy by five years—at least in men—suggests research published ahead of print in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

The Dutch authors base their findings on a total of 1,373 randomly selected men whose cardiovascular health and life expectancy at age 50 were repeatedly monitored between 1960 and 2000.

The researchers looked into how much alcohol the men drank, what type it was, and over what period, in a bid to assess whether this had any impact on the risks of their dying from cardiovascular disease, cerebrovascular disease, and from all causes.

They also tracked weight and diet, whether the men smoked, and for how long, and checked for the presence of serious illness.

During the 40 years of monitoring, 1,130 of the men died. Over half the deaths were caused by cardiovascular disease.

The proportion of men who drank alcohol almost doubled from 45% in 1960 to 86% in 2000, with the proportion of those drinking wine soaring from 2% to 44% during that period.

The researchers found that light long term alcohol consumption of all types—up to 20 g a day— extended life by around two extra years compared with no alcohol at all. Extended life expectancy was slightly less for those who drank more than 20 g.

And men who drank only wine, and less than half a glass of it a day, lived around 2.5 years longer than those who drank beer and spirits, and almost five years longer than those who drank no alcohol at all.

Drinking wine was strongly associated with a lower risk of dying from coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, and death from all causes.

These results held true, irrespective of socioeconomic status, dietary and other lifestyle habits, factors long thought to influence the association between wine drinking and better health.