May 23, 2011

What is Natural Wine?

Organic... sustainably farmed... biodynamic... all terms relating to a topic thats both incredibly hot and invariably misunderstood - natural wine!

Luckily for us, last week I had the opportunity to serve at another tasting event (hosted by NY Wine Salon) to put some of these common misunderstandings to rest - this go-around in a more educational format featuring both a tasting and panel discussion on natural wine.

Along for the ride that night were NY wine influentials including the likes of:
And on tap we had more than a dozen delicious natural-tagged wines from around the world, served with platters of artisan cheeses, charcuterie and bread. Sip, nibble, discuss, repeat.

Here's a snapshot of the flights for you to go out and try yourself:

Flight #1
  • Valli Unite 2009 “Il Brut and the Beast” Sparkling Cortese (Piemonte)
  • Domaine de la Haute Borne (Vincent Careme) 2006 Vouvray Sec (Loire Valley)
  • Three Trees 2009 Rosé (Roussillon)
Flight #2
  • Casa Lapostolle 2008 “Cuvee Alexandre” Chardonnay (Chile)
  • Pacific Rim 2008 “Wallula” Riesling (Columbia Valley)
  • Hajszan 2008 “Gemischter Satz Weissleiten” (Austria)
Flight #3

  • Shinn Estate NV Red (North Fork, LI)
  • Christophe Pacalet 2010 Beaujolais-Villages
  • Palacios Remondo 2009 “La Vendimia” Rioja (Spain)
Flight #4
  • Montesecondo (Silvio Messana) 2007 Chianti Classico (Toscana)
  • Guilhem 2009 Moulin de Gassac (Languedoc) from half bottle
  • Bucklin 2008 “Bambino” Zinfandel (Sonoma)
So what exactly makes wine “green?” Let's break down the basic levels and learn together:

Organic wine is made from grapes that have been grown without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides. Look to differentiate wines labeled with "organic" connotations by deciphering whats actually on the label. For instance, wines labeled "100% Organic" refers to those produced with grapes that are certified 100% organically grown and do not have any added sulfites. "Organic" wines refers to wines that have at least 95% of their ingredients from certified organic sources. These wines may have an additional 100 ppm of sulfur dioxide added to them. And "Made with Organic Grapes" labels implies that these wines that have at least 70% of their grapes from organic sources. These wines may have sulfur dioxide added as well.

Sustainably Farmed
This term refers to growers and vintners who have adopted sustainable winegrowing practices and to measure and demonstrate ongoing improvement. These practices could include steps to reduce source water use in cleaning and sanitation; minimize use of cleaning products and other chemicals; decrease the volume and strength of wastewater produced and associated energy required for treatment; minimize the water and energy needed for heating and cooling operations; and optimize the effectiveness of land application systems for wastewater treatment.

Biodynamic wines are wines made using the principles of biodynamic agriculture. Biodynamic refers to both the agricultural methods and the handling and processing of the fruit post-harvest.

May 16, 2011

Spin the Bottle with Six Springtime Reds

I remember middle school like the back of my hand. And I'm sure most of you will agree with me when I say that 7th and 8th grade were the peak of curiosity and start of relationship exploration.

Most of us went on our first dates during this time - likely to the mall or the rolling skating rink, where we could publicly display our affection through copious amounts of handholding and hair petting. And if you were "seriously" involved with someone, like mwah, you likely hit up the local movie theatre and got to split a slushee with your sweetie.

Ah, the days of innocence. Or were they? Truth is, way back when, dating was less than monogamous (as monogamous as dating at age thirteen can be, of course). In fact, it feels, now, that my girlfriends and I were all too eager to "swap" our significant others with one another.

I remember being thirteen and dating the hottest bad boy in school (some things never change - guess which ones we are below - wink, wink). I distinctly remember being approached by one of the "mean girls" during recess one day. She made a snarky remark to my friends and I, and its funny that nearly 15 years later (yes, I'm dating myself) I am recollecting her words verbatim. Whats even funnier, is how I'm finally relating to them...
"You share your men like you share a glass of wine," she said. Ha! Little did I know this girl was on to something I'm sure even she didn't know.

What am I getting at? Well, with wine, fooling around is sometimes better than marriage. Yes, you can pair a nice Cabernet with a hefty steak or a oaky Chardonnay with a white fish -- they are complimentary. But just like relationships, drinking wine doesn't always have to be about abiding by the standards that life lays out for us. In fact, discovery can be way more exciting and you might find things out along the way that spark a new passion in you.

So now, I set the challenge...

I recently had the opportunity to pour (and sippy) some tasteful, tantalizing springtime reds at an event for @NYWineSalon. These wines are stylish for any occasion or pairing, so what I want you to do is grab one and make your own discovery with it. Perhaps its interpreting the aromas or tasting notes, maybe its using one as a base for a delicious new red wine cocktail. Hell, maybe for you it is about finding the perfect food pairing, or even using it to set the ambiance for a hot first date. Its time for you to be your own wine "relationship" tour guide and make your own discoveries.

  • '07 Cedrus Malbec -- a delightful red that combines dark cherry, raspberry and cassis with earthful undertones ($11, 67Wines)
  • '09 Yellow & Black Malbec -- a straightforward 1L boxed wine with youthful black fruit aromas and dark cherry and chocolate notes ($11.99, FranklyWines)
  • '08 Zvy-Gelt Zweigelt -- a super light, fruit-forward Austrian wine with a light spice at the finish ($10.99, 67Wines)
  • '09 Roger Perrin Cotes du Rhone -- a 3L boxed wine thats offers an earthy nose and light tannins on the palate ($35.99, FranklyWines)
  • '09 Charles Smith Velvet Devil Merlot -- a medium wine that combines blackberry, chocolate and light spice ($14.99, FranklyWines)
  • '09 Kanonkop Kadette Pinotage --a unique wine that blends notes of dark fruits, espresso and a hint of smoke ($13.99, FranklyWines)
Now go on, spin the bottle and pucker your lips to something new!

May 11, 2011

Sip for Service, please!

I'm all about doing good and empowering other self-philanthropists to make big changes in their communities, so when I heard about Markham Vineyards "Sips of Service" sweepstakes, which rewards those that promote positive changes in their communities, I had to share with you guys!

Now for the past few years, Markham has implemented their own Mark of Distinction, which awards two $25,000 grants to community-based initiatives. For example, last year’s Mark of Distinction grants were awarded to a crime-prevention alert system in Erie, PA and a business district affected by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, LA. Love it!

This year, Markham is extending its program and celebrating individuals, like us, who believe that even small changes can make a huge impact (I mean, don't they)? They are awarding do-gooders with weekly $200 gift cards. Submissions will be accepted on Markham Vineyard’s Facebook page, and one weekly winner will be chosen now through October 2nd. Go on, do something good... and drink something good in the process!

PS - A little birdie also told me that to further honor grant recipients, Markham will be producing two single-vineyard, limited production Estate Cabernet Sauvignon wines appropriately named "The Philanthropist" and "The Altruist." The 2009 vintage wines will be released in Fall/Winter 2012 and will detail the 2011 recipients’ causes on the wine labels. Markham Vineyards will donate an additional $1 from each bottle sold to the respective initiatives (up to $3,600 for each of the two grant recipients). Hoozah!

May 10, 2011

Cocktail Corner: My Sherry Amore

As mentioned yesterday, I was able to indulge in the James Beard signature cocktail during Friday's activities and I couldn't resist sharing with each of you. Enjoy!!


In a martini glass, add 1 part gin, 1/5 part Sherry, 1/2 part Aperol. Fill with grapefruit and add bitters and twist at garnish. Adjust to taste.

Recipe compliments of Nick Ban Tiel (on behalf of Beefeater Gin)

May 9, 2011

2011 James Beard Foundation Awards

One of the most amazing things about living in New York City is the accessibility you have to some of the most magnificent experiences in the world. Its the epicenter of all-things-cultural and on Friday night I had the opportunity to extend my portfolio with a moment-in-time that blended two of my greatest passions -- journalism and being a foodie!

Now, I work in an industry where I'm surrounded by fancy things and celebrity, but even to this day, I remain awestruck when presented with these scenarios.

As I entered the eSpace venue on Friday, I was greeted with a flute of Perrier-Jouet Grand Brut NV Champagne (a WinoBee fav!) and even rubbed elbows after check-in with Ace of Cakes' Duff Goldman! As I grabbed my signature cocktail, "My Sherry Amore" (recipe coming tomorrow), the night continued and I was sharing a room with some of my favorite foodie personalities including hosts Gail Simmons of Top Chef and Food Network's Ted Allen, and even had a distant sighting of Bizarre Foods' Andrew Zimmern.

But despite the glitz and glam (and even heartfelt acceptance speeches) the night was taken over by the delectable multi-course tasting menu, which combined plates from some of the most famous chefs around the world, including:

by Michael Psilakis of Kefi, NYC (an UWS fav!)
  • White asparagus and morel salad with Marcona Almonds and Pecorino
  • Pickled White Sardine Sashimi with Cucumber Plan, Black Olive Puree, Sour Greek Yogurt, Dried Tomato and Bronze Fennel
  • Head Cheese Trotter with Three Fennel Salad, Dried Thassos Olives, Coriander and Pickled Radish
  • Paired with Stella Artois

by Ana Sortun of Oleana, Cambridge, MA
  • Salmon in Vine Leaf with Turkis Spices, Pine Nuts, Currants, and Sorrel Butter
  • Paired with Jacob's Creek Steingarten Reisling 2006 - Barossa, Australia
Cost: $24/bottle
Where to Buy: Southern Wines
Tasting Notes: Very clear, almost water-like clarity. Earth and mineral accents on nose. Grassy notes on palate with a tart bite at the finish.

by Mourad Lahlou of Aziza, San Fransisco, CA
  • Certified Angus Beed Tenderloin with Green Farro, Ras el Hanout, Ramps, and Vegetable Escabeche
  • Paired with Campo Viejo Rioja Gran Reserva 1998 - Rioja, Spain
Cost: $20/bottle
Where to Buy:
Tasting Notes: Dark ruby color. Light viscosity. Dark berry and cocoa on the nose. Raisin, plum cocoa and light espresso notes on palate. Moderate tannins.

by Pichet Ong of Spot Dessert Bar, NYC
  • Green & Black's Organic Chocolate Marquis with Tapioca, Melon, Coconut and Aleppo
  • Paired with Sandeman Armada Rich Cream Oloroso Sherry - Spain
  • Served with Lavazza Coffee
Congrats again to all of the winners. Who knows? Maybe in forthcoming years, it'll be me making my acceptance speech!

May 6, 2011

Cocktail Corner: Mother's Day Mom-osa

On Sunday, make sure your momma rises n' shines with something special. Express your thanks for all her support over the years through the universal language of food and drink by creating a homemade brunch made with love and a classic staple with the twist... the Mom-osa!!

Whether you prepare buttermilk pancakes glistening with warm maple syrup or if you’ve perfected eggs benedict, adding a sparkling cocktail proves to momma that she's the sparkle in your eye.

  • 2 parts chilled MARTINI Asti
  • 1 part Orange Juice
  • Pour orange juice into a flute glass. Top with MARTINI Asti and garnish with strawberry.

May 2, 2011

Celeb Sippy Cup: Cointreau MargaDita

Looking for a tantalizing haute-cocktail with a spicy twist? Then look no further, as international burlesque star, Dita Von Teese has officially lent her latest namesake to a cocktail.. the Cointreau MargaDita.

Just in time for Cinco De Mayo and the summer soirée season, this bold and seductive reinvention of the classic Margarita includes Cointreau, tequila, fresh lime juice, aromatic Monin Rose Syrup for a hint of floral, feminine perfume, and a dash of chipotle powder for an unexpected smack.

Cointreau MargaDita
  • 1.5 oz Cointreau
  • 1.5 oz Silver Tequila
  • 1 oz Fresh Lime Juice
  • 1/2 oz Monin Rose Syrup
  • 1 pinch Chipotle Spice
Mix all ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously and pour into a chilled coup glass. Garnish with floating organic yellow rose petals. For an added kick, add a chipotle and salt rim.