The world of wine storage can get pretty confusing…part of my job is to help wine lovers figure out the best method of storage for their individual needs. Much has to with what is in their actual collection, the bottle capacity and of course budget. But there is certainly much more to it than that. Below are a couple of recent articles I worked on that can help distinguish if a single or dual zone wine refrigerator is best for you, and some pretty stunning cellars that we created over the years. Check it out!
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😉
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
Just thought I would share a couple of pieces I co-wrote along with some of the talented writers here at Wine Enthusiast. Some great information on how to decipher if you need a wine cellar/refrigerator, as well as what kind may be right for you, and how to serve all your wines like a pro!
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.
With more and more consumers reluctant to pay the high markups that are inherent to many wine lists, BYO has become more prevalent than ever. Restaurants tend to mark up wines anywhere from 2-4 times the retail price that you will find at your local wine shop, not to mention the mark up from their cost. While the convenience and selection is well worth the price to some, others prefer to select from their own collection then the restaurant’s wine cellar. Below are 5 simple rules to help determine the appropriate scenario to bring your own bottle and some guidelines for restaurant etiquette if you choose to do so.
- Free is for me! – If there is no corkage fee, than there is no reason NOT to bring your own bottle. Even if restaurants charge a nominal (under $10) corkage fee it still makes all the sense in the world. You could choose to bring a moderately priced bottle and it will still be a lot less at your local wine shop then at the restaurant.
- Big names = Big Corkage Fees – If you are going to a top tier steakhouse or a popular French bistro, you are probably looking at a corkage fee of $35-75. For these eateries you’re probably better off sticking with their wine list.
- Make it worthwhile – You certainly could bring an inexpensive bottle, but that would defeat the purpose. Mark ups are typically higher on the reserve selection wines, especially from older vintages, so the better bottle you bring the more you are saving.
- Tip on the service – The server should provide the same service on the bottle of wine whether it is purchased from the restaurant or not, so be sure to include something in the tip for that bottle. A good rule of thumb is to multiply the retail cost of the wine times 2 or 3 and add that to the total bill before calculating the tip.
- Buy an additional bottle from the wine list – If you’re dining with a large group, doing this shows you appreciate their hospitality and would like to thank them for it…that is of course if you are enjoying the meal and the experience!