5 Tips To Avoid Opening That Gifted Bottle Of Swill

We’ve all been there…. You’re hosting a small gathering at your pad and since your friends know how much you enjoy your vino, they figure ‘What better gift to bring over than a bottle of wine?!’ Unfortunately, some people’s taste in wine may greatly differ from yours, or the bottle they choose to bring just may not fit in with what you had planned to serve that evening. Or maybe that bottle is a surprisingly good one, but just not ready to drink. Or…you may  have some friends that are just friggin’ cheap.

So there you are with a bottle in hand that you are trying to get out of opening, but of course you don’t want to be a complete jackass and hurt anyone’s feelings either. This can be a sticky situation as people can be a little sensitive about wanting to taste the wine that they bring (however, technically it is acceptable etiquette to choose not to serve that gifted bottle). So how do you avoid having to open that potential ‘swill’ without coming off like a total wine snob while using a legitimate excuse? Check it out…

Feel The Heat – Most times people will stop off at a wine shop to pick up a bottle to bring. If so, there are very few stores that keep their wines at a cool enough temperature to serve right away, even reds. So if you have a white in the fridge, or a red from your wine cellar, at the perfect serving temperature… that is an easy out to open up something a bit more readily enjoyable.

Youth Gone Wild – Not many folks will bring quality older vintage wines over… and if they do then you should ignore this post and open anything they bring! More often the most recent vintages are what ends up coming through your door. So if you offer to open up a selection that has a bit more age and is ready to drink, your guests should be more than happy to forego their gifted bottle.

How About An Upgrade?– When family and friends come over that are known to enjoy some quality juice, I have no problem breaking out the big guns. So if someone brings over an average bottle of Napa Cab for example, I like to offer something slightly higher up on the food chain and preferably with some bottle age (most recently I cracked open a 2005 Far Niente Cab as an upgrade…sick juice!). Again, if the parties involved enjoy and appreciate wine as you do they will most likely be more than happy to oblige.

The Missing Swill – I’m not saying that I’ve done this… but sometimes in the confusion of a party things can go missing or end up misplaced. So if that $5 bottle of cheap-ass Chianti accidentally ends up in the bread basket or the dog’s crate, that may not be the worst tactic to avoid suffering through some brutal juice that can cause a lot of pain both going down as well as the next morning.

I De-cant Drink This –  If all else fails, the easiest route is just to open up the bottle and set it to the side to aerate a bit or possibly even throw it in a decanter. If it is a half way decent wine it just may improve, but in the meantime it allows you a chance to open some of your own juice. And let’s be honest, after a few choice bottles it probably won’t matter much what you’re drinking anyway ;)

 

Decanting Wine In A Blender… Really?!?

A couple of weeks ago my cousin told me about an article he read describing this whole decanting wine in a blender craze, and if I thought that it would actually work. I have seen a few different pieces on this ‘hyperdecanting’ fad where you can use handheld devices, or even blenders, to aerate a wine in a matter of seconds. It stems from the same premise as many of the aerators out there which expose wine to as much air as possible allowing them to open up in a flash.

So will putting wine in a blender work? Yeah…If you pour a bottle of wine into a blender that could use a good amount of aeration and hit the switch it probably will do the job. But is it worth it? Do you really want to take something as beautiful and delicate as a bottle of wine and toss it in the same device in which you make your smoothies and protein shakes? I know I don’t… here’s why.

First off, there’s certainly a chance it may damage the wine and minimally will give it some form of a froth. But more importantly, wine is a living and breathing thing…constantly evolving from the day it is made until the time it is consumed. It will also most likely gracefully improve as the wine sits in your glass. Personally, I love to experience how a wine changes in a matter of minutes from something tightly wound up and guarded to a fully expressive and complex treat for all the senses. By allowing it to whip around a blender like a kid on the Rotor,  you could miss one of the best transitional moments in the life of that wine thereby negating the overall enjoyment.

Wine Decanting

So I would say this… open a bottle, pour a little in a glass and give it a good sniff to take in all those delightful aromas. Then take a sip, swirl it around your mouth and let it linger on your palate before letting it go down. If it feels like there should be a little more to the wine then grab an aerator or decanter to help it open up a bit quicker. But if you have the time to wait, just pour yourself a glass and slowly enjoy it over time and you will notice how a really well made wine will slowly transform and mature to its fullest potential. As for the blender… probably best to leave that for the morning to make your favorite homemade hangover concoction.

 

What to pair with your Easter Dinner

WestchesterWineGuy:

Wow… a blast from the past! I posted this for Easter 5 years ago… and while some of the actual wines may no longer be available, the pairings still hold true. Take a look if you are in need of some Easter Wine Pairing help… Cheers!

Originally posted on Westchester Wine Guy:

As Good Friday has arrived, it’s time to start thinking about a lot of things for Easter Weekend….. where to hide the Easter eggs, which masses to hit (preferably the ones that aren’t like 3 hours) and what wines to buy that will complement the Easter feast you have planned. Not to fear…WWG has a few easy recommendations to help make your meal a hit! I should mention that even though I am Westchester based, I am always happy to have new followers that live in other areas too (yes, even out in Massapequa, LI… you know who you are!)

The two most popular meats that people cook on Easter are ham and lamb. So let’s start with a ham pairing. As far as meats go, ham is a little light and usually has some form of a sweet glaze on it. Even though I almost always prefer a red…

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Is Your Favorite Wine…Toxic?!?!

The simplest, yet most confusing, answer is…possibly. However let me start by saying that this arsenic controversy only seems to pertain to the least expensive, most highly produced California wines and if you are drinking a good amount of it. I’m not going to dive into all the details regarding the actual lawsuit, but if you are interested Forbes has an article with a run down of the situation…see below.

Arsenic And California Wine…Do You Need To Worry?

But the basics of the lawsuit (remember, it is still just an allegation) state that many inexpensive wines in California have higher than acceptable levels of arsenic. You can check the link below to see if any of your favorite wines are on that list:

Full List of Wines Named is Arsenic Lawsuit

What is arsenic? It is basically a metal that is found in various natural resources, namely soil and water, but can also be a result of certain forms of manufacturing. So if proper care is not taken during wine production, or the soil or water used is not the best quality, then it seems reasonable that elevated levels of arsenic could be found in cheaply made wines that don’t utilize the most thorough production methods.

So then the question comes down to how toxic, if at all, are the wines you enjoy on a daily/weekly/monthly basis? If you find that your favorites include some of California’s most frugal selections, then it is possible that there are increased amounts of arsenic in that juice (we won’t know for sure until the lawsuit lends definitive results). But no need to panic until this is all resolved by the powers that be. In the meantime, there is an old saying which states “Life is too short to drink cheap wine”… I think that is fairly applicable to ALL wine drinkers right about now.

How To Do A Steakhouse On A Budget

There are few culinary delights that can surpass that of a top tier steakhouse dining experience. From the seductive aromas of grilled beef and butter that are taken in at first entry to the last sip of port enjoyed with that decadent chocolate lava cake, they offer something  utterly satisfying that few other restaurants are able to do. But all of this hedonistic enjoyment can cost a pretty penny. The better steakhouses will charge $45+ for a cut of beef, and that normally does not come with any sides…just a piece of meat on a plate. Once you factor in all the starters, the trimmings to accompany the steak, not to mention that big Napa Cab, a few desserts, espressos and after dinner drinks, the bill can end up totaling the same as your monthly mortgage.

But does a steakhouse meal have to be that exorbitant? In a word…Nope!There are some very simple ways to cut a few corners in order to still enjoy all that a quality steakhouse has to offer while keeping the expenditures down. It’s all about efficiency.

The first pitfall for many is the allure of the seafood tower…as it clearly rocks. However they really are over the top when you consider all the crustaceans they load them up with.  You may be better off just ordering your favorite shellfish for yourself. Whether it is a half dozen oysters or a shrimp cocktail platter, the amount it will cost for the individual appetizer will be significantly less than the per person cost of an overindulgent seafood platter tower. The ever popular bacon appetizer can also suck you in as they are fantastically delicious, but super pricey for what is usually a single strip serving. And let’s be honest, you are about to dive into a giant, juicy piece of meat… do you really need more meat as an app?

The biggest unnecessary expense in most steakhouses is that of Napa Cabernet Sauvignons on the wine list. Why you may ask? Because they are effing delicious and make for a perfect pairing with grilled meat…plus they are sort of a status symbol to some, particularly those trying to impress clients or first dates. These establishments are well aware of this and will mark up those wines more than others. I find that CA Merlot and Zin, as well as the Cotes du Rhone and Spanish selections offer the greatest pairing value without skimping on quality, depending on the producer and year of course. But without question they almost always carry significantly lower markups. A good rule of thumb is to go with the second least expensive wine in any given section of the wine list, although even if you get the cheapest bottle they are typically not pouring swill at any of these fancy joints.

One place you don’t want to skimp out is on the steak. The main reason you are probably dining at a highly rated and expensive steakhouse is to enjoy that perfectly cooked piece of dry aged beef… so go for it! However there is no need to add that lobster tail for the surf and turf effect, or even those few grilled shrimp on the side. Remember, shellfish ain’t cheap. If you choose to order side dishes, you want to stick with two sides for every four people. So an order of creamed/grilled spinach and hash browns is more than enough for a table of four. Again, the steak is the star of the show so let that bad boy shine!

If you have ever actually looked at what jacks up the bill at the end of the night, more often than not it ends up being beverages of all kind. Of course the wine and booze are the biggest culprits, but the fancy coffees and all the accoutrements are no slouch. I love a double espresso with Sambuca as much as anyone, but in a steakhouse that one little luxury can run up to $20. Stick with the regular coffee and split a dessert or two instead of going overboard with the port, cognac and oversized dessert platter. Or skip the dessert and coffee altogether and enjoy the last course in the luxury of your own home.

Bonus Wine Tip: Ask the server if they have any by the bottle wine specials. Many times these steakhouses have an older bottle they may need to move out in order to make room for a new vintage. If they have a few loose bottles that are no longer on the menu and don’t have a listed price, you may get lucky and score one of those older Napa Cabs or Bordeauxs at a bargain price.

So get out there and enjoy some of those fantastic steakhouses that Westchester has to offer, as there are certainly many to choose from.

Salute!

 

Break out the Bubbles! Top 5 Options for New Year’s Eve

As unfathomable as it may seem, this year is already over! The Christmas season just flew by and now the pre-New Year’s Eve jitters set in. You know that last minute frenzy leading up to New Year’s Eve… Should we go out or stay in? Will it be too crowded? Who is going to drive? What should we drink? While I can’t help you with the driving that night, I can lend a hand in selecting some tasty Sparkling selections for your festivities. Below are my 5 Favorite Bubbly options from $15-50.

Wallpaper holiday, new year, wine glasses, a bottle of champagne, 2014, bokeh

La Marca Prosecco – For around $15 I don’t think it gets much better than this Italian sparkler. Dry and zesty, the sweet honeysuckle notes enhance the core fruit of apple and peach while the crisp acidity runs straight through to the finish.

Domaine Carneros 2009 Ultra Brut – This Taittinger owned winery makes some of the best sparkling juice in all of Cali, and at $25 this is easily their greatest value. Aromas of lime zest, lemongrass and lovely floral notes lead to a dry and complex palate of apple, marzipan and almost flinty minerality.

Sparkling Pointe Brut – Keep it local and drink some tasty Long Island sparkling this New Year’s! Delicate, yet not simple, on the palate with lemon citrus and green apple fruit. Those classic yeasty and biscuit flavors find their way towards the finish leaving you looking for your next sip. Not a steal at $30, but Long Island real estate ain’t cheap.

Charles de Monrency Brut Reserve – A ‘grower’ Champagne that has all the quintessential qualities of top vintage offerings that are twice the price. Fine and lengthy bubbles lead to nutty, honied and toasty aromas and flavors. The biscuit and melon notes on the finish hang around long after the juice is gone. A lucious, mouthfilling mousse on this one as well.

Piper-Heidsieck Cuvée Brut – Without question my favorite Champagne for around $40+. It has that dry and crisp minerality that balances harmoniously with the citrus, green apple and subtly yeasty notes. For my palate this is as good as it gets under $50.

Whatever you choose to sip on this New Year’s Eve be sure to enjoy with family and friends, as that is sure to enhance any Sparkling experience.

Have a Happy and Healthy Y’all, catch ya in 2015!

Wine Serving Temps and Tips

Not sure if you are serving your wine at the right temperature or how to get it to the perfect serving temp? Confused on what stemware to use? Check out the Wine Enthusiast piece below (by WWG) that has all the info you need to ensure that the lovely juice you are pouring at your holiday party is being enjoyed to its full potential.

Your Cheat Sheet to Serving Wine

 

How to serve wine