Thursday, December 1, 2011

Give France a Chance...

Another great article by Matt Kramer of Wine SpectatorThis time Matt talks about the bargains wine consumers can achieve by shopping "France" at the wine store.  Read on and while you're at it, read my comments on his post, too. 



Here's an excerpt from the article - click at the bottom to read it in its entirety:

"Make no mistake: At this moment, some of the world's greatest wine dels come from France.  The truth is that even with a weak dollar, many French wines are downright cheap... I do believe that a new, younger generation of American wine drinkers is increasingly turning its back on French wines.  "...Whatever the reasons, I cannot shake this feeling that the beauty of French wine—in all of its variety, flavors and, yes, complications—is increasingly lost on the latest generation of American wine-lovers."

Read more here:  Give France a Chance...

Salud! KathyD

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wine Spectator ~ 2011 Vintage Report Washington

Last year WTF (Wine Traveling Friends) 2010 took to the vineyards of the Pacific Northwest in late October. Our travel dates were mostly determined by work schedules and we were originally concerned that there would be nothing to "see" out in the vineyards of Washington's Columbia Valley AVA and the surrounding sub-AVAs of Horse Heaven Hills, Yakima, Walla Walla and Red Mountain, et al.

Within a few hours of touching down in Seattle, and after a brief stop at Chateau Ste. Michelle in Woodinville, we began to head up over the mountains on our three-hour drive to the Columbia Valley.  We chatted about feeling "upsold" by the rental agency who had talked us out of our "value van" and into a higher priced SUV, which was great, but really - who needed it?  We drove along the winding highway and up into the mountains marveling at the beauty of the landscape (so very different than Texas!) with all the giant evergreen trees on the steep slopes around us. With the words about the car rental clerk upselling us barely out of our mouths it began to snow as we made our way through the pass.

As Texans we are always delighted to see snow in any form and laughed like children at the flurries that coated our windshield and began to cover the road and mountainside around us with a blanket of white. We continued our drive through the pass (enjoying the safety and steadiness of our SUV) and down into the valley where the snow had not yet appeared and the temperatures were considerably warmer.

Little did we realize that the weather being experienced at that time and in the coming two weeks would affect the vintage report for 2011 in Washington state.  To read more about WTF 2010 click here.


Below is the Wine Specator Vintage Report for Washington 2011:

Washington

The defining event of Washington's 2011 vintage occurred in 2010—a November freeze damaged vines across the state, particularly in the Horse Heaven Hills and Walla Walla appellations. A cool summer led to the latest harvest on record for many vintners. Despite alcohol levels slightly lower than normal, experienced vintners reported rich flavors.
Photo by Andrea Johnson
Careful grape sorting at Figgins Family Wines in Washington state.
"This was a very late harvest," said Chris Camarda of Andrew Will Wines, who was still waiting to finish picking his last vineyard (Two Blondes in Yakima Valley) Nov. 8. "The wines I have in barrel have good concentration and balance along with an almost muscular feel about them. They are certainly made from fully ripe fruit."
"It will be a year when consumers need to make decisions not just on [appellation], but on specific vineyards and specific wineries," said Bob Betz of Betz Family Wines. "The weather demanded precise steps by our growers: reducing yields, canopy management for light penetration and disease prevention, and even then we had [sugar] levels that were 1 to 2 degrees lower than typical. But the fruit was physiologically ripe."
"Warm years in many ways are more forgiving," Betz added. “A cool year like this one has made me appreciate even more who the really exceptional growers in the state are."
Vintners reported moderate acidity levels and low pHs, a measure of how tart the wines could be. This is an unusual combination, Betz noted. "Low total acid will give us a pleasurable balance while the low pH will provide stability and longevity. Flavors are full, complete and rich. So much pepper in Mourvèdre, smoke in Syrah, currants in Cabernet. No greenness."
One grower, Hugh Shiels of DuBrul Vineyard in Yakima Valley, described his Cabernet Sauvignon as his most ageworthy Washington Cabernet ever. He credited cool ripening conditions after the grapes changed color, promoting flavor development while sugar accumulation was slow.
—H.S.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

My First Italian Thanksgiving in New York

Thirty-five years ago I was a young (skinny) woman who went with her fiancé to meet his family in New York (Brooklyn, to be exact) for the first time - it was Thanksgiving Day. As a “guest” I wasn’t involved in any of the preparations. We just sauntered in said some hellos, then went to make the rounds of meeting his friends in the “neighborhood.” 

A few hours later it was time to eat so we returned to his mother’s home and  met another 15 or so more relatives. I took a seat next to my sweetie at the table and settled in to enjoy my first Thanksgiving meal with my new family…

It started out like this:


 
ANTIPASTO


Now, in my own (admittedly WASPY) turkey day experience the “holiday” meal began with perhaps, nuts and butter mints in a little dish, a tray with some olives and sweet pickles and carrots – perhaps some deviled eggs. But, these people are Italian, so I went with the flow. I loved salami anyway, and there were my familiar olives on the platter, too (although brown, not green.) I indulged and enjoyed.

Afterward, the women cleared away the first course and the men and children went into the living room to watch the game – I accompanied them since I was a guest.



 
About 20 minutes later, it was time to sit down again – we were called to the table and my future mother-in law brought out what I believed would be the turkey.    As the platter was set down, I discovered it was not turkey, but




LASAGNA 



 With a side dish of

MEAT and a bowl of“GRAVY”


  OMGosh, I’m thinking to myself, no TURKEY? But, it’s Thanksgiving! I looked around and everyone else was digging in and eating like there was no tomorrow, so I resigned myself to a turkey-less Thanksgiving and began to eat my (FULL) plate of lasagna, after all – they worked hard on it and I didn’t want to offend anyone since it was my first close encounter with the future mother and sister-in-laws.  I ate everything in front of me and hoped that they had some pie for dessert. 

Once again the women of the family got up, removed everyone’s dishes, headed into the kitchen to clean up the aftermath of the holiday dinner. The men, children (and I) returned to the living room and football.  15 minutes later out came the women calling us back to the table. Ahhh, a familiar dessert I hoped! We settled back into our places around the table and out came



SOUP


Hmmm, now I was definitely confused. Soup. At the END of the meal instead of dessert. I’d never heard of such a thing. These New York Italians, had they never heard of the Pilgrims, Squanto and the corn? Pocahontas and Pumpkin Pie? Talk about backwards… This was crazy. No turkey, and now soup for dessert.

Not wanting to make waves I proceeded to slurp to the bottom of the bowl. Aha, I discovered what happened to the turkey… These crazy Italians didn’t roast it, they put it into the SOUP! Unbelievable. But, I was a polite guest and said not a word. Perhaps, I could get a slice of pie somewhere at the airport.
Once again, the women cleared the table, the men, children and I returned to the living room and to the game on TV.



 
I was so stuffed – How could I get this stuffed without the turkey?


Suddenly the ladies returned to the dining room, calling us back to the table. Thinking to myself, “What now?” I retook my now familiar seat at the table.  The women came in bearing more platters, dishes, and bowls. No! How could this be???

TURKEY


 
STUFFING


MASHED POTATOES



 
YAMS




GREEN BEANS





OMGosh, once again…. How could this be happening? I had already eaten enough food to feed a family of four, and now THIS??? An entire, traditional, GIGANTIC Thanksgiving turkey dinner – after all of that?

I looked around, everyone was settling in for the long run and dishing out a LOT of everything just placed on the table. I thought to myself, “When in Rome…” So, I too, dug in.

 Once again, the ladies cleared the table, we returned to the football game.  Uh-oh. We were called back to the table.  I didn’t even bother to wonder, by this time I was overly full, bloated and just wanted somewhere to lie down and rest.  The bowls being placed on the table now contained


SALAD…


 One more time, I wondered to myself – SALAD? At the END of the meal?? Too confusing for my little WASPY pea-brain to contemplate – again, I just ate what was on my plate.


Hopefully, for the last time, the men, children and I left the table while the women cleared the dishes to the kitchen.  Would this day  - this MEAL – ever end??? 

Nope, back to the table once again.  Only now it was filled with dishes of


MIXED NUTS



FRESH FRUIT




FINOCCHIO (don’t ask)




There was no more leaving the table now… Things were moving along at the speed of light and dishes kept coming from the kitchen in a blur.


“BLACK COFFEE” with LEMON?



 
ITALIAN COOKIES




CANNOLIS’



ITALIAN PASTRY and CAKE



It’s such a blur, I don’t remember, but perhaps we had a pumpkin pie…


There were also some after dinner drinks

  

ANISETTE



ROMANA SAMBUCA



It was at that time that I learned the meaning of two more Italian words –

AGITA




and



 
With much love and good humor, I wish a Happy Thanksgiving to all of my Italian relatives who took me in as one of their own and showed me the good life!  Kathy





              

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

What do you want from your wine experience?


Matt Kramer advises wine novices to seek out more than just those wines that offer simple pleasure.



A new post by Matt Kramer of Wine Spectator on "getting into wine."  Follow the link below to read it in its entirety.  http://www.winespectator.com/webfeature/show/id/45819 

Here's the opener, followed by my own comment on his article. My question to you wine afficionados is, "What are YOU looking for in your wine-drinking experience?" Salud! KathyD

An Open Letter to Wine Newbies

To get a grip on wine, you need an edge

Matt Kramer  Posted: October 18, 2011

While perusing Wine Spectator's online forums I came across a thread titled "How To Get Into Wine." As a topic, it's hardly new, of course. Wine can be daunting in its complexity, to say nothing of expensive. Who can blame anyone for seeking advice on how to approach the subject without feeling like you're engaged in the Western Civ version of walking barefoot over hot coals?  But you may be sure of this: If you really want to "get into" wine, you'll never do it if mere pleasure is the measure.   (more

Kathy Dipietro — Dallas — October 25, 2011 10:37am ET


Matt, I loved (as always!) your post to the wine rookie and as someone in retail wine sales it makes perfect sense to me - "What are you really looking for?" is the question I try to put out there to my wine customers. I always ask them to tell me what they're drinking that they are loving, then I ask them are they looking for something similar, or something in a different direction (edgy perhaps?). I love it when a customer wants to "break out of their bottle" and try something new; it always excites me to take a customer down a less-traveled road (Picpoul de Pinet!) to experience something new. I usually have great success with these suggestions and often have those same customers return to tell me that they loved it because it was different and enlightening - sometimes followed by, "What else can you show me?" Exciting for both of us, this world of wine and the joy of discovering and exploring our new wines and their places in our wine lives.



Looking forward to your next post ~ Salud! KathyD

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Bubbles Anyone?

Bubbles Anyone?


By Kathy DiPietro, CSW – Certified Specialist of Wine – Society of Wine Educators, Washington, D.C.



Tis the season! For parties, dinners, corporate events and family gatherings – not to mention ringing in the New Year – whatever the cause for celebration your event deserves some bubbly to get everyone in the mood.


What's that you say? You're not a fan of the bubs? Be still my heart! You have simply not found the one that suits your palate. Believe me, there are as many different styles of sparkling wine as there are countries that produce it.

Allow me to be your guide through the world of bubbly.

Let's start with the most famous bubbles in the world - Champagne.




All Champagne is sparkling wine – but all sparkling wine is not Champagne. Champagne is a wine producing region in France that is famous for its sparkling wines that are classic blends of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier - so, a blend of two red grapes and one white. Typically, a non-vintage Champagne, one that is made with a blend of wine from grapes harvested in different years, is aged in oak barrels on the lees (yeast) for one and a half years before bottling, creating a crisp, fresh flavor with aromas of apples, pears and a hint of lemon cream. A vintage Champagne, one that is produced only with grapes harvested in the same year, is aged in oak for three years before bottling; these are often more toasty and vanilla-creamy with notes of baked apples, fresh-baked brioche with a touch of smoke.

Other areas of France produce sparkling wines, but by law they cannot be called Champagne since their origin is outside the confines of that region. These wines are labeled Crémant, usually followed by the area from which they hail - like, Crémant d'Alsace, Crémant de Bourgogne, or Crémant de Loire. These bubblies are made from grapes that would be native to those regions - for instance Crémant de Loire can be made from Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc or a blend of both.

True Champagne will set you back a minimum of $35-$40, with America's most popular sparkler - Veuve Clicquot (vuhv [rhymes with love] clee KOH) - yellow label starting at $45. A Crémant on the other hand can find its way into your glass for a modest $10-$15. We carry the La Jolie, a fun French sparkler in a frosted bottle with purple bubbles painted on it, just $12 – Viva la France!


Leaving France and heading south you'll find an abundance of bubbly being produced just across the border in the region of Catalunya, Spain.

Cava Vineyards in the Penedes region of Spain

When the vineyards of Champagne were devastated by a pesky little bug named Phyloxera, the French took their winemaking equipment and talent and headed across the Pyrenees Mountains into Spain where they encountered native grapes perfect for use in making sparkling wine. Although hard to pronounce (Parellada, Xarello and Macabeo) the resulting blend, called Cava, is both easy to drink and easy on your wallet - two of our most popular Cavas, Rene Barbier and Segura Viudas, sell for $7.99 and $8.99 respectively. Speaking on a personal note, I have a refrigerator in my garage filled with the Rene Barbier. Crisp and refreshing, I just love having a glass of this Spanish sparkler to celebrate the end of a hectic day at work!
Spanish Cava Caves

Heading to the north of France prepare to be delighted by Germany's contribution to the world of bubbly - Sekt. Most Sekt is a sweeter style, with the secondary fermentation (bubbles) typically produced in tanks instead of the bottle (which is the traditional Champagne method). Sekt is made with anything from Riesling to Sylvaner - an obscure white varietal. There are other sparkling wines made in Germany, often referred to as "foam" wine, but Sekt is the term for quality sparkling wine in the Rhine-land, of which World Market carries one - Silberies "silver ice." Try it... You might like it!


Just across Germany’s southernmost border your search for Italian bubbly will manifest itself as either Prosecco, produced in the Veneto, Asti from Piedmont, or Lambrusco from Emilia, all in the north of Italy. Let’s take each one by itself, shall we?


Vineyards in the Alto Adige region of Northern Italy
 Prosecco is both the name of the grape, and the style of the wine. It’s crisp and light, with fresh fruit flavors of lemon, pear, peach and apple. Decades ago Prosecco was a sweeter style of bubbly, but in recent years a drier style has evolved with just a hint of a sweet finish. This sparkler is not produced using the traditional Champagne method with its bubbles being developed in the bottle– it’s made en Charmat using large steel tanks which help to keep the cost down and the wine fresh and fruit-driven. More than half of all Italian sparklers are produced by the Charmat method. Prosecco has experienced a surge in popularity with 70 million bottles produced. World Market carries a good assortment, ranging in price from $10 to $16 – my favorite right now is the La Marca, you’ll recognize it by the beautiful bottle shape and its Tiffany-blue label.



Asti is the name of the wine-producing region and the style of the wine and can be found in two different forms – Moscato d’Asti or Asti Spumante. Moscato d’ Asti is produced in a frizzante style (fizzy), and Asti Spumante is produced in a fully sparkling (spumante) style; you can tell them apart easily by their corks – Spumante uses a typical Champagne-style cork and wire cage, whereas Moscato d’Asti is closed with a slightly wider, regular wine cork. There is no need for the wire cage because it contains less carbonation, less bubbles and less pressure in the bottle. Both of the Asti wines are made from the Muscat/Moscato grape, and are sweeter than Prosecco, with flavors of peaches and apricots and can be found in most stores. We carry many different labels ranging in price from $5 to $15; my favorite is the Opera Prima Sparkling Moscato for $5 – I love to make Moscato floats with it! Spoon a bit of peach sherbet or sorbet into a Champagne flute, add the Opera Prima, and watch as a sweet volcano of Moscato overflows – Yummy!

Lambrusco, like Prosecco, is both the name of the grape and the style of wine and can be produced as a red, white or rosé, all made from the same red grape. It’s full of tangy flavor, fresh dark fruit and is made to be enjoyed while young and fresh.

Generally Lambrusco can find its way into your shopping cart for less than $8. At that price you can grab a white and a red to have your own little Lambrusco tasting – try the Solato at World Market, just $6.99!

Let’s hop the pond and come back to the United States and experience some home-grown bubbly. Most domestic sparkling wine is produced in the Champagne method with the bubbles being produced in the bottle; some are even aged like fine Champagnes in oak barrels and then racked into bottles for that secondary fermentation that produces the bubbles. The oak gives the wine a toasty flavor with added layers of complexity. American sparkling wine producers make their bubbly in all the typical French styles of vintage and non-vintage, and in Brut – a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes, Blanc de Blanc – white from white, made only from Chardonnay grapes, and Blanc de Noir – white from black, made from only red grapes. The latter is my favorite style of French or American bubbles because it gives you a richness and complexity from the use of Pinot Noir grapes with a touch of strawberry and raspberry.


Did you know that only American wines are served at White House formal events? And guess which bubbly is served at every reception? Domaine Chandon, their Blanc de Noir, of course! Bottles of American bubbly run the gamut in price – from $5 for a Charmat-made bottle to $125 for a vintage, traditional method, oak-aged, limited production bottle – but the Domain Chandon Blanc de Noir can be had for less than $20...


Thanks for allowing me to be your guide on a virtual tour of the world of bubbly.

If you’re not a bubblehead like me, I hope that I have convinced you to break out of your bottle and try something new. After all, sparkling wine is the wine that goes with everything! With its combination of both red and white grapes, it’s a great match for all types of foods – from salad to steak, calamari to French fries, appetizers to desserts – whatever you’re eating will go well with bubbles!
Find it ~ Buy it ~ Try it ~ Love it!

Salud! KathyD



Salud!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Best of both worlds - Brownies and Bubbly!

At least in my mind they are! In the world of sweet finishes you have cakes, cookies, ice cream, cheesecakes, ad infinitum. In the world of wine you have different styles as well - dry wines, sweet wines, dessert wines, crisp wines, sparkling wines, also ad infinitum.

To me brownies are the bomb of the sweet world - they are rich, moist, chewy and cross the borders of many other desserts. For instance, they are sort of cake-like, but more dense like a cheesecake, but more moist like a pudding or a stiff mousse. And, of course, they are CHOCOLATE - which is the king of the world of sweets!


Also, to me, sparkling wine is the bomb of the wine world - by nature it's a cuvee or blend and brings so many different nuances, flavors and aromas to the glass. In addition it has such zesty acidity that it can stand up against most types of food and hold its own.

So, stands to reason that they are a perfect pairing! For Valentine's Day in my house I love to make Espresso Iced Chocolate Brownies and serve them with Cristalino Brut Rose` Cava. The lucious chocolate with notes of espresso and creamy icing balance out the crisp and zingy cava with hints of berries - it's 60% Pinot Nior, 40% Trepat.

Try it for yourself and see what I mean - a match made in heaven!



Wine Spectator Wine of the Week for January 17, 2011


Posted: January 17, 2011

Jaume Serra Brut Rosé Cava Cristalino NV (85 points, $10)

"Here's a juicy rosé Cava, loaded with ripe cherry, blackberry and currant fruit, all framed by lively acidity. A good aperitif. Drink now. 50,000 cases made. From Spain."

-Alison Napjus

(Don't despair... World Market sells this wine for $7.99 - NOT the $10 listed above!)
 
Find it ~ Try it ~ Buy it ~ Love it!
Salud! KathyD

In Texas we say Ven-YAY...

Pronouncing the names of wine grapes can be a challenge for some people. I always love it when a customer at the store asks for a Viognier, everyone pronounces it differently. I'll get WHAN-yay if they think the "V" is pronounced "W". Then there's VEE-og-ner, or VOHG-ner. But my personal favorite is the very, very, Texas pronounciation of Ven-YAY... Always puts a smile on my face!

However you pronounce it, it's a great wine for pairing with a heavier fish dish, or even a cream sauce.

I've been catching up on Wine Spectator and really loving their picks for Wine of the Week. Most of them are wines I've tried and loved and are my customer's favorites. Great to know that Wine Spectator and I are in sync these days! I also just LOVE Harvey Steiman, his reviews, tasting notes and articles are always fun to read; he writes with a bit of wry humour that adds to your reading pleasure.


Wine of the Week for July 25, 2011



Posted: July 25, 2011

Yalumba Viognier South Australia The Y Series 2010 (89 points, $12)

"Fresh and juicy, delivering an exuberant mouthful of lemon peel–accented pear, almond and apricot flavors that linger beautifully. Drink now through 2013. 16,200 cases imported. From From Australia."  

-Harvey Steiman

What I love about this wine is its BIG-NESS (is that a word? Probably not, but you get what I mean.) - it is definitely a mouthfull of mouthfeel. So delicious and round in the mouth - flavor and finish that lasts and lasts, like the Energizer Bunny

Find it ~ Buy it ~ Try it ~ Love it!
Salud! KathyD

Got Gott?

Reading through some old emails today and discovered that Wine Spectator chose the Joel Gott 2010 Sauvignon Blanc as their Wine of the Week last week. Here's their blurb:

Wine of the Week for August 15, 2011


Posted: August 15, 2011

Joel Gott Sauvignon Blanc California 2010 (89 points, $12) 


"Wonderfully focused and fresh, with terrific lime zest, lemongrass, passion fruit, and lemon notes that show laserlike focus. Long, juicy finish. Drink now. 29,294 cases made. From California."

-MaryAnn Worobiec

I've enjoyed more than a few glasses of this wine and think it's terrific - I love the zesty acidity and the freshness that it brings to the palate, especially in this hot Texas weather!

Find it ~ Buy it ~ Try it ~ Love it!
Salud! Kathyd

Thursday, May 12, 2011

If loving you is wrong...


Then I don't want to be right. 

Yep, I'm talking about "Cru` a Wine Bar" at Watter's Creek.

Cru in general is a great place if you're into wine, but Watter's Creek Cru is simply the best.

I just LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this place. If you are into wine, even to the slightest, you gotta check this place out. Cru` is the Disney World of the wine world - seriously!

Offering a menu of flights that encompasses whites, reds, desserts, bubbles - with food to match, I might add - this place is my home-away-from-home. It's very cozy and perfect for a night of wine exploration.



I have never had a bad glass of wine there. The flight menus are changed out every week, switching it up and allowing you to try (for instance) the bubbly flight three weeks in a row and rarely have a repeat of a wine from the flight before.



And, talk about obscure varietals by the glass... If that floats your boat you will definitely dig this place, I mean, who doesn't want a little Agiorgitiko now and then just to keep your palate fresh?


The food is amazing - always. Period. Further comment is not necessary.


The service is solicitous - yet not hovering, helpful - yet not know-it-all. Friendly and welcoming would be the catch-phrase for Cru`at Watter's Creek. Mostly, IMHO, due to the general manager - Steve Orozco.

Steve is a Master Sommelier and has been in the wine business all of his life - literally. Steve's father, Victor,  is also a MS and is well-known in various wine-producing regions of Europe. The apple didn't fall far from the tree - or in this case, the grape didn't fall far from the vine. If Steve is on-premise at Cru` Watter's Creek, you're in for a spectacular wine experience. Trust me.

So, if you have a free afternoon, or evening, stop by and prepare to be dazzled. I was.



 Find it ~ Try it ~ Love it!
Salud! KathyD

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