04 May 2010
Guest blog post #3 from author @thevinofile
I’ve never truly understood when people talk about transitioning to their white wine porch sippers as the warm weather approaches in late spring. It’s not that I don’t like white wine, and certainly it gets hot early here in Southern California, it is just that I’ve never really had a porch. You see in L.A. where real estate averages over $300 a square foot a small porch can cost a guy $20,000 – so most of your “20-something” years are spent in a rental. In the natural So Cal rental progression one starts with a dirty balcony that overlooks a busy street, and then upgrades to a duplex in which your shared porch is completely overrun by the neighbor lady’s cactus collection. Both the lady and the cactuses are probably covered by rent-control so it is inevitable that you will be gone long before the succulents. The setting has the potential to kill the relaxation, thus I have in the past tended to skip the summer sippers.
This year is going to be different. This will be the first summer where I have my very own porch, and I do not intend to let it go to waste. I have realized that when calculated into my mortgage this porch costs me about $6.23 a day, so I need to find some wines that won’t break my budget. I went around town looking for a variety of wines at slightly different price points but all under $15 and put them each to the test:
Mezzacorona Chardonnay 2008 Vigneti delle Domlomiti – This wine from the Venice region in Italy offers green apple and yeasty bread on the nose. Across the palette there is some fresh citrus and tart apple. It finishes a little short with some subtle acid. The wine is refreshing, if not special, but retailing for between $5 and $10 it fits the bill. On my rating scale this wine gets a 2.5 out of 5.
Cono Sur Bicycle Viognier 2009 – Cono Sur is a large producer out of the Colchagua Valley in Chile. They offer wines at all different levels with the Bicycle brand representing their entry level wines. Cono Sur is known for offering good quality at a value-driven price. The 2009 Viognier is an orange tinged golden yellow in the glass. It offers a pretty nose of peaches and a touch of honeysuckle, with the palette offering lots of citrus, a touch of peach and mineral finish that shows some heat. The acid in this wine is a bit strange as the wine comes across a touch flabby when being drunk, but acidic afterwards (that kind of down the middle of the tongue acidity). The wine is a bit thin, a bit one-dimensional, and yet does offer some flavors that many will find tasty. There are many better examples of viognier available, but certainly on a hot day if this wine is chilled I think people will be refreshed. The wine retails for between $9 and $12, and also receives a score of 2.5 out of 5.
Cascina Castlet Moscato D’Asti 2009 – This wine borders on a dessert wine as it has a high amount of residual sugar, but at my house it disappeared very quickly with a little bit of cheese on a hot afternoon. A pale straw yellow with a bit of sparkle and foam (the term frizzante comes across as pretentious to me, sorry) the wine is only 5.5% alcohol by volume. The nose gives off some apple, citrus, and bread and ultimately reminds me of a lemon or lime Home-Run pie that at $0.25 a pop were still a HUGE treat to me when I was a kid. The mouth gives off a rather sweet and forward bit of pineapple, citrus, and a touch of melon. The sweetness is refreshingly offset by the bubbles and generous dose of acidity. The low alcohol content makes it utterly drinkable, and the website translated from Italian suggests that ‘even kids like it.’ This wine retails for around $13 and receives a score of 3 out of 5.
The porch trials are now over and I would drink any one of these three wines. The clear winner in terms of being interesting, different, delicious, and refreshing is the Cascina Castlet. There will be some who are averse to the sweet factor, and I understand this as I generally do not drink sweet wines either. But I encourage you to give it a chance, and hey if you don’t like it there are apparently some Italian kids who will finish it up for you!! Enjoy!
About the Author
The Vino File is written by Scott Wadlow in Pasadena, CA. Scott is an admittedly novice wine enthusiast who writes about what he is trying, learning, thinking, or laughing at in the world of wine. During the day Scott is a software consultant, a job that helps facilitate and occasionally perpetuate his interest in wine. Please visit The Vino File, comment, and interact with Scott and other readers.
29 Apr 2010
Guest blog post #2 from author Dustin Cann @dustincann
I’m a big fan of wine, I really am. I love the way it can be so complex, yet so simple. I love the way it smells and the way it can make great food even better. But when I’m on the road, there’s absolutely nothing that centers me after a long day better than a well-made Manhattan. See, I spend a great deal of my time bouncing between my home in Memphis and client sites in cities like San Francisco, DC, Detroit, as far away as India. And in the world of a road warrior, you have to accept a certain degree of mediocrity. Yes, my status with airlines, car rental companies, and hotels means I get upgraded more often than not. Yeah, I get to hit restaurants and bars that would be a bit pricey for me to frequent on my own dime. But I spend a lot of time on planes, breathing re-circulated air and drinking Skyy+Coke Zeroes with filthy ice next to some schmuck who thinks I’d rather talk about his sailboat than just close my eyes and rest only to spend my days navigating client politics and compromising the ideal for the realistic. Any more insight and we’re running the risk of therapy, and my therapist wouldn’t appreciate that. Back to that Manhattan.
A properly made Manhattan is apparently a tough thing to accomplish. It’s the balls-out quality of one of these beauties that often makes me appreciate them even more than the finest of wines. In recent years, bartenders all over the world seem to have either forgotten how to make them right, or become timid in a world where vodka is the preferred cocktail base and sweet beats bitter.
The process itself is rather simple. Start with a chilled martini glass. A tumbler or a highball won’t encourage the right circulation or allow it to open up right. So you splash a bit of sweet red vermouth in your glass and spin it around a few times. Now dump it out. That’s right, dump it out. I’m indulgent like that. I like the RUMOUR of vermouth, not vermouth itself. Next, add a dash of bitters, preferably Angostura. This is the part that a lot of modern bartenders are afraid of. “Bitter is bad, right?” Wrong. Bitter is character. Bitter is tangible. Bitter is the magic. Skimp on this, and you’ve just got some sweet whiskey. A Manhattan you do not have. So, bitters to about the 1/6th mark. We’re doing this by feel, not by measure.
Now for the whiskey. Rye whiskey. Not bourbon, please. I’m not snobby here, so Jim Beam is fine. I’ll take finer, but in a Manhattan, I’d prefer Jim Beam to a Kentucky bourbon or *gasp* scotch. New Yorkers had access to rye whiskey when this drink was born, and that’s the way I like it. I want it slightly cool, but not cold. Add your whiskey to your glass that’s already flirted with vermouth and felt a bit of bitterness. Fill it to just over the ¾ mark. Any more and you’re being greedy (and you’ll probably commit the sin of spillage), any less and I feel ripped off.
Now add two little ice cubes, one if it’s large, and stir. Gently. We’re not tumbling this sucker, lads and lasses. We’re being soft. You don’t want to bruise the spirits, just to mix them and cool it down a bit. Pull out the ice cube(s) with a slotted spoon and add a lemon twist. Prepare to be impressed.
A few common misconceptions (some may call them preferences, but my way is the right way, I assure you):
- Some bartenders make this in a mixing glass and strain into your martini glass. But a gentle mix in the glass is sufficient and clean and requires a level of class and patience not found in the mixing glass. Remember, I’m talking about the perfect Manhattan, the one that lets me clear my head and simply appreciate it. So make it in the glass, and take your time. It’s sexier that way.
- Traditional Manhattans are garnished with cherries, not lemon twists. Okay, true. But if you walk into the average bar, a cherry in your Manhattan is all but guaranteed to bring with it a heavy vermouth hand and a light bitters hand. A bartender who gives you a twist knows how to balance properly. Or they’re out of cherries, which is a different story altogether.
- There are theories that a lime rim is okay. It is not. Not at all.
Manhattans aren’t for everyone. They’re not meant to be a fast drink, so take your time to enjoy them. And a lot of barkeeps don’t get them right. But there’s nothing more opposite of dry dirty air and a bad airline cocktail. And there’s no glass of wine that can make me appreciate an artistic bartender or a timeless recipe the same way.
About the Author
Dustin Cann is a traveling business consultant (39 trips in the 52 weeks of 2009) who loves his work, but would rather be a rock star. He’s a foodie and an appreciator of both haute cuisine and pub food. When he’s home, he plays around in recording studios and relaxes on the lake with a blind pug called Honey. He lives in Memphis, Tennessee with his partner of eight years and almost surely needs to drink fewer Manhattans.
27 Apr 2010
Guest blog #1 from Coryn Briggs @bstar2009
Are you bored with your girls’ night out cocktails? Has that Cosmopolitan lost its luster? Look no further than your local wine shop for wine selections and food pairing ideas. I’ve included my current list of top five favorite wines along with ideas for food pairings and girls’ night out activities. Wines listed below are not in any kind of order– all are wonderful and need to be enjoyed in the company of good friends.
2008 Erath Vineyard Pinot Gris – How do I love this wine let me count the ways…
First, I love this winery as they consistently produce wonderful quality affordable wines. I also had the great opportunity to visit the tasting room and was so pleased with the level of customer service. The second reason I love this wine is for the bright fruit aromas and flavors—it is a wonderful combination of citrus and tropical fruit. The third reason is that this wine pairs well with many different dishes, including seafood, pasta salads, roasted game birds and mild to medium flavored cheeses. An easy and fun idea to incorporate this wine into the next girls’ night out is to have someone host a tapas party because the versatility of this pinot gris makes it great for a mix of ethnic foods and flavors.
Black Star Farms Sirius Raspberry Dessert Wine – Anyone for dessert and a movie? This is a perfect wine for a girls’ night party themed around chocolate. This port like wine has flavors of ripe sweet raspberries, combined with the warmth of brandy. Try this wine with anything chocolate. Ideas include: fudge brownies and chocolate fondue. I instantly think of a night in with the girls and one of my favorite movies, Chocolat (staring Johnny Depp and Juliette Binoche). Or, try your hand at a flourless chocolate cake, host a contest and serve this wine alongside the decadent dark chocolate creations. In the end you will all be winners!
2007 Babich Unoaked Chardonnay – Not your typical housewife’s chardonnay…this unwooded Chardonnay is bursting with flavors of citrus, fresh apple, pineapple and a crisp dry finish. I first discovered this wine because I was on a mission to try unoaked Chardonnays from around the world. The winery I work for produces a lovely unwooded Sur Lie Chardonnay and I was looking to expand my knowledge and palate on this style. This chardonnay is perfect with creamy sauces and cheese. Fondue party ladies? Or perhaps a pasta cooking party complete with homemade noodles, sauce and all…
Cristalino Brut Rosé Cava– Rosé is the new Pinot Grigio, that being said, I tend to associate Rosé wines with summer and in Northern Michigan we will take anything that evokes thoughts of summer. Spring or summer this bubbly Rosé brings versatility to the table anytime of the year. Think flavors of ripe red berries followed by a refreshingly bright finish. Not too sweet or too dry this has become my favorite new bubbly. Move over cosmopolitans…a new pink is in the house. Try it with appetizers, white meats, salmon, and mild cheeses. For girls’ night out think pink and do something fun that will benefit breast cancer awareness.
Shady Lane Cellars Sparkling Riesling – The party ideas are endless when it comes to this wine. It is truly a fun wine and a favorite in my house. With aromas of fresh peach and green apple followed by a touch of sweetness and a dry finish this wine is crisp and refreshing. Pair this bubbly with appetizers or add a little apricot nectar for a quick Bellini. Sip on a glass of this bubbly and let the girls’ night out begin! Or pour a glass at the spa where you can release your inner diva in the company of good friends.
Celebrate the joys of friendship, take quality time with your friends, relax and unwind. Whether you want to stay in or go out, the wines and ideas presented give you a good start for your next night with the girls. So go ahead, wine a little and feel good about it!
About the Author
Coryn Briggs moved to Traverse City 6 years ago and quickly immersed herself into the Michigan wine industry. She is currently the Winery Promotions Coordinator for Black Star Farms. In this role she manage the many pieces of the marketing mix including, off-site events, website content, advertising, social media, as well as graphic design. She enjoy local food, wine and the downtown Traverse City area where shes live with her husband and two young daughters.
Black Star Farms is a unique agricultural entity that features two winery production facilities, their adjacent tasting rooms, a distillery, Inn, and equestrian facility. The winery just celebrated its 10th year anniversary and is proud to represent the viticultural diversity of the Northwest Michigan region, and its proximity to the 45th parallel.
- Twitter: @bstar2009
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- Web: www.blackstarfarms.com
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