Here’s something that may shock you…some of your favorite wines may have faults to them. Does that mean that your palate is so dull that you are drinking and enjoying awful wines? Not at all. Wine faults can come in all shapes and sizes, and in minimal or trace amounts they can even add favorable components to a wine.
Take Brettanomyces (commonly referred to as “Brett”) for example. This strain of bacteria has been known to infect certain barrels of wine and sometimes even entire wineries. At its worst it can impart an overwhelming barnyard or manure characteristic on a wine that provides the sensation of having just completed a 5 mile horse trot. Clearly, this is undesirable and a fault in said wine.
However, in small doses it has the ability to add subtle hints of earthiness and terroir that can enhance the complexity of a wine and come off quite pleasing to certain palates. But is it possible for a wine to technically have a fault, however slight it may be, and still be considered a high quality wine? The answer is yes it can. Which then raises another interesting question…where is the line that the wine crosses over from enjoyable to flawed?
The answer to this is one is a little more intricate. What may come off as a favorable aroma to one person could be disagreeable to another deeming the wine unsuitable for consumption. This doesn’t occur just with Brett either. Cork taint, technically known as 2,4,6-trichloranisole or TCA, occurs when the cork in a bottle has somehow been infected and is renowned for leaving wines with a musty or moldy smell. This is why a waiter will offer the host of the table a small sample of the wine to make sure it isn’t “corked” before pouring it for the guests.
Yet there are some wine drinkers that perceive the slight “corkiness” in a wine as an enticing secondary characteristic from the oak and find it pleasurable. Many are rather sensitive to this flaw and will deem a wine unacceptable at the first hint of TCA. But that doesn’t mean the end consumer will not enjoy the wine if the flaw is ever so faint.
So yes, there is certainly a line where a wine goes from slightly flawed to spoiled. But where it lies is supremely determined by the individual wine drinker that is tasting the wine.
If you missed out on this past weekend’s festivities at the Ritz Carlton in White Plains…shame on you! In its third year, Westchester Magazine hosted a fantastic weekend full of culinary events loaded with lots of great juice and some of Westchester’s best restaurants. If you were there, then you know exactly what I’m talking about. Check out my article from the Wine Enthusiast Magazine website for all the highlights and plenty of reasons to mark it on your calendar for next year!
Westchester Magazine Wine and Food Weekend Highlights
This is more of an informative update than a post… lots of great events happening this whole weekend starting tonight! Tickets are still available for some of the events….I’ll be there all weekend and hope to see some of you there! Check out the kick ass restaurants and wines to be featured:
Westchester Magazine Wine and Food Weekend
I think anyone with young children would agree that sometimes the best way to regain your post-tantrum sanity is with a glass (or even a bottle) of wine. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing that I love more in life than my children…but with a 3 and a 1 year old, I have found that tantrums can come in various forms. There are those which are somewhat mild and subdued and others that have you screaming “serenity now!” ala Frank Costanza by the time they’re done. Just as certain wines can enhance the enjoyment of particular foods, I like to pair different wines with these various types of tantrums to help make them a bit more bearable.
The Subdued Meltdown: These tantrums can start off as normal requests from your kids such as asking to watch a certain show or possibly making a case to eat a cookie for breakfast. You start off with the rational reasons why this simply can’t happen, and while most times they would accept the refusal and move on…sometimes they just don’t want to let it go. These tantrums can usually be resolved, however they tend to be drawn out and pretty exhausting. I like to pair these tantrums up with either a Pinot Noir or possibly even a white wine option like Chardonnay or a Sauvignon Blanc. These breakdowns stay on the lighter side, so staying with a lighter style wine just makes sense. Plus, the spicy side of Pinot Noir tends to remind me of the spiciness that most kids inherently have in their personality. If it’s a little warmer out I may lean towards a white as even though these are the most mild of tantrums, you can still work up a sweat by the time they come to a halt.
The Shock and Awe: This is one of the most confusing and deceptive forms of tantrums as it has many different moving parts. During a Shock and Awe, you may not realize you are even in the middle of a tantrum until a bowl of cereal goes flying across the room, or there is a rebellious move such as the emptying of a bladder somewhere other than the toilet. I find these require a bit of a bigger wine to come down from…so I usually reach for a Cabernet Sauvginon or Zinfandel after these debacles. All that fruit, oak and spice (especially in Zin) seems to settle the nerves nicely and the higher alcohol levels are quite conducive as well.
The Game-Ender: For those who are in the midst of, or recall experiencing, the terrible twos…this tantrum needs no explanation. From start to finish this is just a complete unraveling of your child where there is no consoling except to let it run its course. These can either end with a well placed time out allowing it to finish in a somewhat calm manner, or with a complete redirect which is very difficult to pull off. Forget the wine and hit the Booze after one of these bad boys as they are both emotionally and physically draining. And since these Game-Enders tend to go down during the nighttime witching hours, there’s nothing wrong with knocking back a cocktail or two to end the day.
Just remember, these pairings are for after the tantrum has run its course…as trying to enjoy a glass of wine while one of these is going down can only make things worse.
If you’ve ever dined at the TapHouse in Tuckahoe, you know that the food is generally very good with flashes of brilliance. Well if you take all of those flashes of brilliance and offer them in one meal the end result ends up being one of their beer pairing dinners. This installment featured the brews of Lagunitas, a California craft brewery that is not afraid to get aggressive with their hops! Those that have had the pleasure of sampling their well known IPA know exactly what I mean.
For the first couple of pairings they served the Lagunitas Czech Pils which was the least hoppy beer of the night. First they paired it up with a sushi grade tuna wrapped around crabmeat roulade with a caramel soy sauce. The pairing worked pretty well but they immediately followed it up with a blood orange and hamachi ceviche that paired perfectly. The citrus zest in the dish brought out all the coriander and bright acidity in the beer, almost to a point of it feeling effervescent. Great way to start out the meal.
The MC for the night was Mark Sljukic from Lagunitas who was kind of a cross between Sam Adams and The Big Lebowski. He was super passionate about the brew and while he came across as a bit of a stoner, he was a salt of the earth kinda guy who knew his craft, and represented Lagunitas, very well. The next few pairings featured some seriously hoppy brews including their popular IPA, the Hop Stoopid (named for the ridiculous, or stupid, amount of hops used in the brew) and the Maximus which was like their Double IPA. The Hop Stoopid went a little over the top on the hops and didn’t maintain the balance whereas the sweet, malty character in the Maximus smoothed out the hops as to not leave you with that bitter beer face.
For these selections, Chef Kevin went right to the meats serving a spiced pork belly in a lo mein noodle bowl with the IPA, braised veal cheeks over a spiced waffle with vanilla parsnip puree and caramelized oninon syrup with the Hop Stoopid and a smoked lamb loin in a lacquer sauce with the Maximus. All pairings worked out well, with the latter being my personal favorite. However, I feel like the food was really the star of this event as by the third beer I could see some of the people at my table getting a little overhopped. But they didn’t stop there…
The desert course was maybe my favorite pairing of the night as they matched up a chocolate marquise (like a very rich chocolate mousse) and espresso ice cream with the Soco Stout. Both were dark, rich and creamy and really worked lovely together…amazingly even the stout had some noticeable hops but not as aggressive as the previous three brews.
So the moral of the story is this…if you like a hoppy brew, than Lagunitas beers are definitely something to look out for. If you like to eat some creative and really delicious dishes served by an excellent staff in a lovely restaurant setting, than the TapHouse beer dinners are not to be missed! And if you only like to pair your meals with wine, then check out some of my other posts as this would all be a complete waste of time
Nowadays when people throw the word “green” out there, they are usually referring to something being ecologically sound or environmentally beneficial. When it comes to wine, green means something entirely different. Sure, it can refer to a wine being made organically or bio-dynamically, but it is typically a way to refer to wines (usually reds) as being somewhat under-ripe. If you are a Napa Cab drinker and plan on drinking those wines from these two vintages, you should become familiar with this dynamic.
There is a saying that good wine is made in the vineyard, meaning that without great fruit there is not much you can do with the juice. A large factor leading to quality grapes being produced has to do with the weather that particular growing year which is early spring to fall in the Northern Hemisphere. Yes, vineyard location plays a pivotal role and so does vineyard management, but without the right temperatures, rainfall and climate… those vines can be in danger of producing a small amount of grapes and not very quality ones at that.
The last two years have been tough weather wise in Napa, and for a late ripening grape like Cabernet Sauvignon that can mean trouble. When grapes are not ripe enough at harvest they can be a bit green… but what does that mean? It could result in a stalky characteristic, possibly an herbaceous or grassy nature or even reminiscent of a rhubarb flavor. However it comes out, unless it is in minmal amounts it is not very desirable. In these last two vintages, that green effect is going to be tough to avoid in Napa Cabs. Of course the best vineyards and the best winemakers will still be making quality wine, but it may need some aging and there won’t be a lot of it so it will most likely be more expensive than the previous vintages.
So what can you do as a consumer? Taste some of these Napa Cabs from 2010 and see if they suit your palate. This under-ripening of grapes can also give wine a lot of acidity and low tannins which some people prefer. But if you like your Napa Cabs big and bold then you may want to check out some of the Paso Robles Cabs as they seemed to fair better. Or venture out to some of the Rhone wines from 2010. It was a fantastic vintage there and practically all the wines, from the everyday Cotes du Rhone to the single vineyard Chateuneuf du Papes, have been excellent thus far. Think of it as a good reason to expand your horizons or to buy some Napa Cab cellar selections instead of the everyday ones that are usually ready to drink.
Recently I was invited to attend a Napa Wine Pairing Dinner at the Tarrytown Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse hosted by Treasury Wine Estates. It was a five course meal where each course was paired and complemented by a wine in the Treasury Wine Estates portfolio (click on the link to see their brands). I had not been to one of these Ruth’s Chris wine dinners in a while and I forgot how well they pull this off. Upon arrival a glass of wine, usually the first one featured as part of the pairing, is offered to get the festivities under way…a nice touch indeed.
The dinner then started which included an appetizer, a soup, a pasta, the main entree (steak of course), 2 sides, and a desert all served with appropriately selected wines enhancing each dish. The steak offered was Filet Mignon (usually not my favorite cut but it was cooked perfectly) and it was paired with the 2009 Stag’s Leap Winery Napa Cab, a big gun just screaming for this bloody, charred red beef! Some other wine highlights included the 2010 Etude Carneros Pinot Noir, the 2010 St. Clement Napa Chardonnay and with desert they served the Beringer Nightingale Dessert wine (a Sauternes blend that was more Tokaji in style) which was a perfect way to end the meal. Pretty impressive arsenal of juice all around.
I asked someone what they had paid for this wine dinner, as it was a work function for me so I had no idea (I know…it’s a tough job but someone’s gotta do it!). When they told me it was $90 a head, I cringed a bit thinking that was pretty steep! But after the sticker shock I started breaking it down. A meal for 2 at a high end steakhouse can easily run $300 a couple factoring in 2 apps, 2 entrees, sides, dessert, coffee, a good bottle of red and maybe a glass of white or a cocktail before dinner. So while you didn’t have the choice of selecting your own dishes, for about $100 less per couple you were offered an additional course, a wide array of different wines (and plenty of it) and a nice presentation on some of the wines you were drinking and why they worked well with each dish. Not to mention the food was surprisingly very impressive.
Moreover, the atmosphere was warm and friendly as I met some folks at my table who were really enjoying their experience. One couple frequented these wine dinners quite often while the other couple were first timers. It can be fun to meet people who you know are interested in food and wine (otherwise they wouldn’t pay to be there) if you are a bit of a social person. If not… this may not be the format for you. But at the end of the day, these Ruth’s Chris wine dinners are a serious bang for the buck and they have the formula down pat so you are almost guaranteed both a delicious meal as well as a top quality dining experience.