Some “Bubbly” ideas for what to drink this New Year’s Eve…

With Christmas come and gone, and the hangovers cleared up, it’s time to figure out what kind of sparkling wine to drink for New Year’s Eve. I don’t say Champagne as only sparkling wine from the Champagne region of France can use that name. Yes, they tend to be expensive. But there are lots of great value options coming out of Italy (Prosecco), Spain (Cava) and even here in the States.

If you’re looking to stay under $10, your best bet is to stay with a Cava. You can find the  Freixenet Cordon Negro almost everywhere (solid black bottle) and it is quite tasty. Cristalino Brut is also readily available and a nice Cava option.  If you would rather drink something from California, Korbel Brut and Rose are both excellent value options.

 In the world of Prosecco, I find there to be two clear standouts in the $10-15 price range. La Marca and Zardetto both make a very clean and fruit driven Prosecco, which is not always the case as sometimes Prosecco can be a little too sweet. Again, both are carried at most wine stores, but Rye Brook Wine and Spirit Shop seems to have best prices around for both. Check out the link…http://www.ryebrookwines.com/results?query=prosecco&mv_click_map=Go&mv_click_Go=

 If you are willing to jump up to the $15-25 price range, we start getting into some really high quality California Sparkling whites and roses. Remember, in red wines it is the skins that give it the color. Most of the time they will use Pinot Noir and/or Chardonnay for the sparkling wine (like they do in Champagne), so these can have a lot of body to them.

 My favorites have to be the Gloria Ferrer Brut or Rose, the Schramsberg Mirabelle Brut Rose and the Domaine Carneros Brut (which is partly owned by the Champagne veterans Taittinger).  All score in the high 80’s to low 90’s and are extremely well made wines, even if you wanted to drink them with a meal.

 Once you’re spending over $25, you can start getting into the real Champagnes….and it is very tough to find a bad one! Some are made in the crisp and dry style, such as the Piper Heidsieck or the Moet and Chandon White Star (these are ones that I prefer). Others have an older style to them, where you get a bit of a yeast element. Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label is a classic and made in this style as well as Pommery Brut Royal. Regardless of which you go with, all are delicious and festive options for New Year’s Eve.

 Lastly, if 2009 was a great year and you want to go all out, it’ll cost you but you will drink some of the best juice that comes out of France (including the Grand and Premier Cru Bordeaux and Burgundy wines). Vintage Louis Roederer Cristal and Veuve Clicquot La Grand Dame are a couple of the most popular (just ask Jay-Z ;)  These will have that classic Champagne yeast component. But for my tastes, I prefer a classic vintage Dom Perignon or Krug Brut. No matter what you decide to celebrate with, have a very Happy and SAFE New Year’s!

Get out and taste in Bronxville…..NOW!!!!!

Right now there are two wine shops in Bronxville doing some wonderful tastings. Station Plaza Wine and Spirits on Kraft Ave has their “3 Big Reds” tasting, and they are BIG!!! A couple of gems from California, including the Two Angels Petite Sirah and the Eponymos Cab, and a reserve Shiraz from Australia.

Not to be left out, The Wine and Spirits Emporium on Pondfield Road is pouring about five different tasting wines as well. Their stellar selection includes a Sauvignon Blanc from Orin Swift, the Frank Family Pinot Noir and an awesome Cabernet Franc from Revolver. They may not be cheap to buy, but FREE to taste ;)  Who knows, you may find something special for Christmas dinner. Get out there and sample some great wines!!!

‘Tis the season….to drink some kick ass wines!

With Christmas just a few days away, I’m sure everyone is planning their menus. It can be tough to narrow down which wines will go well with your families’ Christmas Eve or Day meal, as there are so many different meals that people like to prepare.

 My family, like most Italian families, does the traditional seafood Christmas Eve meal.  If you are cooking the fish in a marinara or Fra diavolo sauce, I would stick with the reds. I find the Italian wines from Tuscany to work the best. The fruit and spice in these wines really comes to life when drinking them with the shellfish and red sauce combo.

On the super value side the Vitiano Falesco and Banfi Centine are a couple of favorites. Both are Super Tuscan blends (Cab, Merlot and Sangiovese) and run from $7.50-11.

For around $15-20 you can move up to the Allegrini Palazzo della Torre.  It is a different style blend that includes some dried fruit (similar to how they make Amarone) which gives it a great texture. It consistently gets high ratings, and with good reason. The same goes for the Monsanto Chianti Classico. You really can’t go wrong with either of these for under $20.

If you really want to splurge, check out the Argiano Solengo IGT Super Tuscan blend or the Pio Cesare Barolo. Both will run $40-60, but are outstanding Italian wines that rival some of the cult wines that run 3-4 times their price. These are serious, yet fun, wines for this meal.

Some folks do the seafood in a white wine, or olive oil, based sauce. In this case you really have a lot of options. I like Chardonnay with the hearty shellfish, Columbia Crest Grand Estates being my favorite on the value side.  I just had the Sterling Napa Chardonnay the other night with a shrimp dish and was very impressed. That should also run under $17. And of course the standard Italian whites, Pinot Grigio and Gavi, will pair extremely well with this style too.

One thing I want to mention about Pinot Grigio…everyone flocks to Santa Margherita. Granted, it is a delicious wine, but there are so many others out there in the same ballpark without the name and that don’t cost $20. A-Mano makes an excellent one for under $10, and so does Zenato. Are they as good? Depending on your palate and what you like, they may not be or they may be better! It just goes back to sometimes you are simply paying for the name.

As for the Christmas Day meal, that usually involves more meats, potatoes, veggies, etc….so you really can use a lot of the same pairings I mentioned in the Thanksgiving wines post. However, if you are going Ham or Pork, a nice Cab will do the trick as opposed to the Turkey where Zin is really the way to go.

 There are so many options with California Cabernet that it is hard to go through them all. I will say this; Sonoma and Paso Robles will give you the best values. Right now I am really digging the Louis Martini Sonoma Cab and the Castle Rock Paso Robles, both for under $12. The Justin Paso Robles Cab and the Beringer Knights Valley are a big step up and run $17-25.

As for the big dogs, when you are spending over $30 on a Napa Cab, it’s pretty tough to find a bad one. So ask the salesperson at your wine store to give you a hand as to what is on sale or a better value than others.

 As for where to get these wines in Westchester, Rye Brook Wine and Spirits  http://www.ryebrookwines.com  really has a great system for ordering online and being able to pick up your order at the store. They will even deliver for free if you are close enough and order enough wine. However, the online sale prices can be SIGNIFICANTLY lower than the in store prices, so be sure to place the order online.

Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas!! ….I’ll leave off the Happy New Year part as the New Year’s Bubbles post will be coming next week ;)

Wine Enthusiast’s Wine of the Year is Cambria’s Julia’s Vineyard Pinot Noir… one of my favorite value wines!!

That’s right….Wine Enthusiast has come out with it’s Top 100 Wines of the Year, and topping the list is this Pinot from the Santa Maria Valley. It is an amazing wine, and drinks like a Pinot 2-3 times it’s price! Their Chardonnay from Katherine’s Vineyard is also excellent, which I have mentioned in the past as well. (Check out my posts on what kind of wine to bring to a friend’s house and PF Changs).

You can find this Pinot for under $20 at a lot of wine shops. If you want to get it online, JJ Buckley has it at a very good price. Below is the link, and if you call and ask for Alex Shaw (a former Westchester wine guy as well) I am sure he can help you out. Tell him I sent ya…..

http://www.jjbuckley.com/2006-Cambria-Pinot-Noir-Non-Estate-Julias-Vineyard/p~2006~11095~750

….and here is the link to Wine Enthusiast’s Top 100 Wines of the Year

http://www.winemag.com/Media/PublicationsArticle/Top%20Wines%20of%202009.pdf

Check out this great deal on a classic Bordeaux wine. Chateau Greysac for under $10!

Below is the link to purchase this beauty at the Rye Brook Wine and Spirit Shop. This wine typically retails for about $14-20 anywhere else.  It’s a great way to taste a traditional style Medoc (region within Bordeaux) wine at a fraction of the price of others that are of the same quality.  Just be sure to purchase it online, even if you want to pick it up at the store. Their online sales are much cheaper than some of their in store prices. Enoy!

http://www.ryebrookwines.com/r/products/chateau-greysac-medoc-2004?id=YYbZ38tL

Some alternative options if Manischewitz is not your first choice this Hanukkah…

Put on your yamaca, it’s time for Hanukkah! Although I don’t celebrate Hanukkah, many of my friends do and I love to partake in the festive dinners that go along with this holiday. I do not, however, love Manischewitz. No offense to those who do.  As I always say everyone has different tastes. But if you are with me, and I gather many of you are, here are a few other Kosher alternatives.

 Two words….Baron Herzog. This winery makes quality value Kosher wine from all over California, and most of the wines are under $15 a bottle. The Cabernet and Old Vine Zinfandel (from Lodi) are the standouts, with the Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc being nice options on the white side.

 Bartenura makes an array of Italian wines that run around the same price. Like Baron Herzog, all of their varietal (grape) options are solid.  The Moscato, which is a sweet, desert style wine, is delicious and usually runs under $10.

 Teal Lake, a winery in Southeastern Australia, is also putting out some respectable Kosher options. True to the area, the Shiraz and Cabernets rise above their other wines. But the Chardonnay has a lot going for it as well, made in the cleaner, lean, fruit style. These wines also run anywhere from $10-15.

 But if you’re willing to break the bank a bit, Hagafen, located in the heart of Napa Valley, is the way to go. Their Pinot Noir and Cabernet are both outstanding, but literally every wine they put out is a winner. The price tag will run anywhere from $15-40 on the whites and $30-50 on the reds, so you may need to skimp out on the Latkes a little if you want to serve these gems ;)

 Locally, The Westchester Wine Warehouse on Route 119 in White Plains seems to have the best Kosher wine inventory at pretty fair prices. However, if you purchase a case (mixed or the same bottle) at The Wine Warehouse they will give a 15% discount, which is well worth it since they have a very large selection of wines in general. Enjoy….and Happy Hanukkah!!

Wining and Dining that’s easy on the wallet at your local Asian Bistro….PF Chang’s!

 

Now that Thanksgiving is over, the Holiday season is in full bloom. Here in Westchester, the Westchester Mall is the place where everyone finds themselves shopping at some point. Located in the mall is a chain that most people are familiar with, PF Chang’s. While you may have eaten there before, they have a couple new value deals on the menu that are fully worth checking out. I did the other night with my wife and some friends and it was a really fun dining experience that still left us with a few bucks in our wallets.

Taking our current state of the economy into consideration, many restaurants are offering “recession deals”. Some places offer weeknight price fix specials, others may waive their wine corkage fee on certain occasions. Chang’s has put together a full 4 course dinner for 2 people for $39.95 and it is available all the time!! This nice, little package includes 2 soups (2 choices), an appetizer (6 choices), 2 entrees (14 choices), and 2 mini deserts (8 choices).

Not only do they offer a wide selection of choices from their menu, but they offer the most popular ones! That means you don’t have to give up having the Chicken Lettuce Wraps or Crab Wontons for apps to take advantage of the price fix. As far as the entrees go, with 14 selections it includes almost everything on the regular menu from the Chang’s Spicy Chicken, to Kung Pao Shrimp (or Chicken)…..even the Mongolian Beef (a personal favorite)! 

It’s very refreshing to see a restaurant not skimp out on selections, or portion size, when offering one of these price fix deals. Anyone who has gone to a restaurant for “Restaurant Week” in NYC knows what I mean. They may offer a $30 all inclusive meal per person, but with what they offer you either need to order a lot more food off the price fix or hit a McDonalds about 2 minutes after you leave the restaurant!

Now for the really fun part…Chang’s has always offered a wide selection of wines by the glass (with very healthy pours I might add), but now they have added a $10 Wine Flight option. You can choose ANY 3 wines that they offer by the glass, in which they pour 2.5 ounces of each  (also a very healthy pour) and serve them in their full size wine glasses. I know that sounds trivial but it makes a huge difference.

Most restaurants that offer wine flights serve them in smaller glasses which really doesn’t really allow the wine to open and it takes away from the bouquet and aroma factors. The server will also bring the glasses in this fancy wrought iron wine glass “tree”  (pictured above) which is very attractive and also efficient as it doesn’t take up too much space on the table.

Since the pours are fairly healthy, you can really have fun pairing the wines with the different courses. Try some of the light and crisp whites with the appetizers, like the Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc or the Albarino (white wine from Spain that is quite floral, with nice hints of lemon and melon).

If you are a Chardonnay fan, their selection is excellent with the Sonoma Cutrer Chardonnay being my favorite. It’s just a classic California Chardonnay with apple and pear flavors, good acidity but also has that buttery mouth feel for a very soft and smooth finish. It pairs very well with the Dumplings and the Almond and Cashew Chicken.

Even though some people consider PF Chang’s to be a “Chinese food restaurant”, it’s more of an Asian Fusion style, which means there will be lots of great spices and texture to the sauces. So for the reds, the Pinots work out with some of the lighter, spicier dishes. The Wild Horse and Cambria Pinots are a couple of winners. The heavier chicken and beef dishes certainly call for selections from the bigger red wine options. The Penfolds Thomas Hyland Shiraz is a real standout, as well as the Dry Creek Cabernet.

This is one of the few times where I would recommend to absolutely select the more expensive wine options for the flight. I’m all about finding the deal and value when it comes to wine prices. But the value here lies in the flight itself.  So if they are going to pour any 3 wines, even though they may vary from $7 -$13 when poured by the glass, get the good stuff! 

This wine flight and price fix scenario has made PF Chang’s a great spot to go out with a group of friends, as it can get a bit loud in there.  You can mix and match on the price fix for 2 dinners, and decide together what wines to get in the flights. It allows you to experiment with a wine that you might not want to order a whole glass of, and try different pairings that may agree with your palate. Remember, everyone’s taste buds allow them to taste things differently, so this is the time to try something you typically may not. You just may find your new favorite wine or pairing….and at these prices you can’t miss!