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Wine is more popular than ever in the US. It recently overtook beer as the most consumed drink in the country and as a whole the US consumes more wine yearly than any other country…lushes that we are. For that reason, wine retailers are popping up all over the place, both on the internet and in your local neighborhoods. With all of the options out there, its hard to decipher where the best place to purchase your favorite wine selections may be.
The truth is that it comes down to the kind of person you are. If you are looking for that personal experience, where you can form a relationship with your local wine guy, then you probably want to find a good local shop. There are many throughout the county, Zachys in Scarsdale being the most well known. But you also have Grapes in White Plains, Dodd’s in Millwood, Suburban in Yorktown, and Mt. Kisco Wine & Spirits up here in Mt. Kisco among many others.
The problem is that many of these wine shops are no longer just shops. The massive beverage depots are more and more prevalent, like the Westchester Wine Warehouse, Stew Leonards and BevMax in Port Chester. You will find a ton of selection at these types of retailers, but you may not get the same one on one attention as the little wine shop around the corner. Of course those little shops will typically be more expensive because they don’t carry the selection or inventory of the larger places. So you can chalk up the premium you’re paying to the hand holding you receive in purchasing your wines.
If you are looking for the best deals out there, forget about the physical stores and hit the web. There are many wine retail sites and flash sites that are selling wines significantly lower than in stores, sometimes really close to cost! The reason is many times they don’t have to take inventory, or because they aren’t paying rent for a physical store front so they can work on tighter margins. Many websites will offer wonderful service as well where you can receive advice and recommendations… but others are as inexpensive as they are because they employ order takers rather than a staff with a working knowledge of wine.
You also need to remember to take shipping costs and delivery time into consideration when ordering online. So be sure when you find your favorite wines on a particular wine retail website to check on the shipping rates. Most will offer free shipping on certain bottle totals, but not all do. If not, it can really add to the per bottle cost when it’s all said and done.
So the moral of the story? You probably want to do both! If you know what you want and are looking for the best deal, then hit the web or one of those mega wine warehouses. But if you are looking for some coddling in your wine decision, then check out your local shop and see if your local wine guy or gal knows what he/she is talking about. Take a recommendation or two to test it out. If he can read your palate, score! If not… you can always email me here and I can see if I can help you make some well suited wine selections.
What’s your favorite wine shop in Westchester? Let us know!
Maybe it’s me, but it seems the thrill and excitement of HVRW has fizzled. There are certainly some great restaurants participating and I am sure I will probably even check one or two out, but the whole promotion has sort of lost its luster. I remember it being such a huge deal to be able to go and check out these fantastic restaurants for $30 per person for a 3 course meal! But now… I feel like I could take it or leave it. Is it just me? Could be, but in speaking with a few fellow food & wine peeps and restaurant insiders I think this is the general consensus. Here’s my take on why…
There is a noticeable lack of choices and smaller portions for the special Restaurant Week menu items. Yes, I know there are restaurants where this is not the case. But overall you are given an option of 1 or 2 apps, 2 entrees and 2 desserts. I can remember when it used to be 3 options for each course and the portions were just about the same size as the non Restaurant Week menu items. I was pretty disappointed in not only the portion size last year, but the selections offered. If you are going to offer something that is not on the regular menu, don’t serve sole or cod as your fish when you typically serve Chilean sea bass or tuna…not cool.
It also just doesn’t seem to be a great deal anymore. Over the last couple of years I have left the restaurants spending almost as much as I would with a non Restaurant Week meal. Of course there is wine involved which is not included… but there’s more to it than that. The Restaurant Week menu has all three courses included. Very rarely do I get both an app and a dessert, usually it would be one or the other. Or maybe the table would share a couple of apps and desserts. So unless it is a super expensive restaurant, that same $30 would cover an entree and a shared app or dessert. Plus, you get the full size entree when ordering off the standard menu which is really the focus of the meal when dining out.
Lastly, I can’t stand when restaurants participate in Restaurant Week but give you the disapproving nod when you ask to see the Restaurant Week menu. If you are participating, keep that menu in plain sight so everyone can see it. Let’s be honest, it’s the only reason many patrons are coming to your restaurant over the next two weeks, so don’t make them feel cheap by forcing them to ask for the less expensive menu! Again, not cool…
With this said, I have had some very enjoyable Restaurant Week meals over the last couple of years… namely at Hudson House in Nyack, 42 in White Plains and The TapHouse in Tuckahoe . If you are looking to try out a place that would normally be out of your price range to sample some of their food, then this is a great opportunity to do so. But if you are thinking that you are going to be able to go out for an inexpensive night out just because it’s Restaurant Week, you may want to rethink that plan.
Halloween wine… what does that even mean? It’s not like Thanksgiving or Easter where you are pairing the wine with a specific meal. Although with all the candy the best Halloween wine is probably a really sweet dessert wine like a Sauternes or Port. In the past I have pointed out some Halloween themed wines (like the PoiZin or the Vampire), but this year I have a different thought process. Allow me to share…
I am thinking about what Halloween will entail this year, which is walking around the block with the kids and our neighbors trick or treating. I figure since we will be hauling a wagon around to hold the goodies and some of the kid’s extra gear, why not put a small cooler bag on there as well and fill it with some adult goodies. So the Halloween wines must be appropriate for walking around on a cool, fall night while possibly indulging in a mini Snickers or two (and by that I mean 10).
The first thing that comes to mind is Zinfandel. The brambly berry, blueberry pie, residual sugar and high alcohol content screams Halloween! These are wines that can warm you up as it goes down and keep you light on your feet with its lofty alcohol levels. They also tend to have a little sweetness to them making them a lovely pairing with your child’s Kit Kat or Twix. Some of my favorites right now are the 2009 Terra d’Oro, Amador ($14-18) 2009 Brazin, Lodi ($15-20) and for the big spenders the 2008 Rosenblum Monte Rosso Zin is one of the best around, and not terribly expensive at around $30 a bottle.
There are two big areas of Spain producing new world wines with big fruit, dry tannins, high alc and lots of spice… Ribera del Duero and Priorat. Both use the traditional Tempranillo and Garnacha grapes of Spain, but the Priorats add in some of the international grape varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. So while the Ribera del Duero wines are more like a new world version of Rioja, the Priorat wines can be a little more aggressive in terms of concentrated fruit, tannins and alc. Both are perfect for keeping warm while strolling around your block and harassing your neighbors for candy. A couple of my favorites right now are the 2009 Torres Celeste Crianza ($16-20) and the 2005 Roureda Llicorella Priorat from Cellers Unio ($20-25).
Not a fan of reds? Then you need a big, oaky, buttery white to keep you moving on a cold and windy evening in late October. You guessed it, California Chardonnay. These wines are full of all that fall goodness and have the backbone to stand up to those nutty, chocolatey treats. I’m really digging the 2009 Kunde Chardonnay, Sonoma Valley right now…especially for $10-15. A couple of other favorites are the 2010 Cambria Katherine’s Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley and the 2009 Kendall Jackson Grand Reserve, Central Coast (both around $20-25).
So pack up your cooler with some good juice and load it on to the wagon. Sure you may get a few disapproving nods from your more conservative neighbors. But it’s probably just because they’re jealous of your wine wagon, so be sure to offer them a glass too!
Chefs Rick Tramonto and John Folse’s latest venture Restaurant R’evolution is located inside the Royal Sonesta Hotel in the heart of N’awlins. They selected Wine Enthusiast to handle the design of their 10,000 bottle climate controlled wine cellar. I had the pleasure of working with Chef Tramonto and his staff in creating this elaborate showcase cellar. I have yet to see it in person, but it looks pretty impressive here. Check out the link below!
When ordering a glass of wine at a restaurant that does not specify the winery or producer, see if you can take a look at the actual bottles. For example, if the server says they have a Cabernet, a Chianti, a Chardonnay and a Sauvignon Blanc by the glass, you want to find out which winery they are from as typically they won’t all be from the same producer. This way if you recognize (or know that you like) one of the specific wineries offered, it makes your decision of what to order that much easier.
This happened to me last night at Eduardo’s in Mount Kisco, which was surprisingly delicious! I ordered the Chicken Scarpiello and was planning on getting a red wine by the glass. I didn’t really care for the reds they had, but their Sauvignon Blanc was the Villa Maria from Marlborough, New Zealand which I really enjoy. And since I had a chicken dish the white wine ended up complementing the meal beautifully.
Just some food for thought… figuratively
Just click on the link below to read my latest post from the Wine Enthusiast Blog:
By drinking some Cabernet of course! In my last post I attempted to “classify” some of the bigger Cabernet Sauvignon wines of California, as well as some of the best values. Many internet retailers will offer some great deals on Cabs today in order to promote the day, so keep your eyes open! I will post a few as I see them that stand out as well, but mainly these “wine holidays” are a way to bring attention to a specific grape variety or region in the social media world. Below is a link to an interesting article from the founder of #CabernetDay that goes into it a little deeper.
To follow up on my Father’s Day post, this week my wife gave birth to a healthy and beautiful baby girl and we couldn’t be more thrilled. It’s one of those surreal events that changes your life forever and is deserving of a proper bottle to celebrate the occasion. While it may seem like a trivial afterthought considering what a blessing it is just to have a healthy child enter the world, it’s those small yet meaningful celebrations that can stick with you for years to come. I still remember my epiphany wine (the bottle that first sparked my passion), the bottle I opened when I proposed to my wife (and she miraculously accepted), the over-sized bottle we had everyone sign at our wedding, the bottle we opened to celebrate my son’s birth and the bottle we served at his Baptism (coincidentally the same bottle from our wedding). So deciding what to open with my wife to celebrate this joyous occasion is not so trivial in my book.
Over the past day or two I have had some internal debate about the subject. My first instinct was to go with a high end Napa Cab that we acquired from one of our trips to wine country. While it would clearly be delicious and memorable, without the right meal it may be a bit overpowering. I’m not sure we are quite ready to fire up the grill and cook up some big boy steaks to pair with such a wine just yet. So I thought about a Pinot Noir from the same trip, something that may not need the meal alongside it to enjoy. But Pinot is not really my wife’s favorite and I want it to be as enjoyable for her as it is for me.
So this led me to the somewhat obvious answer… bubbles! I was thinking it really should be a Champagne for an event such as this, but at the end of the day I know my wife prefers the California sparklers which tend to be a little less yeasty. And then it dawned on me…we picked up a couple of bottles of Domaine Carneros (owned by famed French Champagne producer Taittinger) Brut Rosé Cuvée de la Pompadour on our last trip to Napa. While at the vineyard we sipped it on their outdoor veranda on a beautiful day overlooking the Carneros vineyards with two of our closest friends and of course our son running and playing around the garden. Yeah, that was a pretty good day. The idea of bringing back some of those memories and starting some new ones with that particular bottle sounds pretty good to me! Oh, and of course… it’s pink
The purpose of saving those special bottles, and opening the right ones at the right time, is all about creating long lasting and meaningful memories. I am sure I’m not the only one that associates certain wines with monumental events that are relived when that same bottle is opened at a future time. Wine can encompass so much nostalgia and emotion which is one of the main reasons people (including myself) are so passionate about it. It’s not just about drinking, it’s about embracing and celebrating life with those that are closest to you.
So the next time you are in the midst of an occasion that is deserving of opening a special bottle, take some time to think about what you select. After all, it may be something you hold with you for many years to come.