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Jan 28

Fourteen Hands Merlot, Washington State

By Louise | Uncategorized

14 Hands MerlotWho knew JFK airport would offer wines from so many different regions.  First, I had the white zin from California, and then I had this merlot from Washington State ($11 for a 6oz glass).

It’s probably difficult to tell from that photo, but the wine has quite a dark red color to it.  The smell reminded me of a variety of things; there were hints of dark chocolate, leather, berries, and oak.  The taste didn’t produce quite so diverse a range of flavors, but it was pretty smooth with medium tannin levels and a good fruity flavor.  And it also had a nice aftertaste of bitter sweet berries, which I enjoyed. 

If you’re interested, this wine contains 82% merlot grapes, 9% cabernet sauvignon, 4% syrah, and 5% other red varieties.  The alcohol content is 13.5%.  This wine sells for $12 from 14hands.com but is closer to $10 at various other stores.

Jan 27

Canyon Road White Zinfandel, California, NV

By Louise | Uncategorized

Canyon Road White Zinfandel NV

What can I say?  I selected a glass of a no-vintage (i.e., they use a blend of grapes from different years) while zinfandel (which are pink) at an airport restaurant for $8.  It couldn’t possibly be all that great!  Well, different people like different wines.  I definitely know some people that enjoy their white zins!  In fact, I rather enjoyed the sweetness of the wine – it was much more preferable to a bitter or sour glass of wine! 

The wine smells like strawberries – it was a bit faint, but you could smell it enough to be pleasant.  The taste…well, it was like sugar water with a splash of alcohol – it’s the sort of wine that’s more juice than alcohol.  If you’ve ever had any cheap white zinfandels, then you’ll know exactly how this one tastes!

Jan 12

Can Wines be Vegan?

By Louise | Uncategorized

wine storeI recently saw a wine labeled as vegan, which seriously confused me because I was positive that grapes did not come from animals!  Well, biology hasn’t gone crazy – it’s not the grapes that are from animals but some of the substances that wines are often filtered through (often to remove certain flavors, sediment and dead yeast cells left over from the fermentation process).  These filtering agents (often known as “fining agents”) typically consist of non-vegan items e.g., blood, bone marrow, fish oil, gelatin, egg albumen (from egg whites), casein (from milk).  Yeah, reading that list makes me want to only drink vegan wines!  If only vegan wines were more readily available and had a larger selection of great-tasting ones!

So, how are vegan wines made?  Some vegan wines are made by skipping this filtering process altogether.  Others use vegan fining agents such as carbon, limestone, silica gel, kaolin clay, and plant casein.  Vegan wines are not always clearly labeled, unlike organic wines, which are getting much more popular.  However, they can be very delicious wines.  I enjoyed a lovely Columbia Valley Riesling that was both organic and vegan.  If you want to make sure that you’re drinking a vegan wine, then check out these websites, which have very comprehensive listings of wines that are and aren’t vegan friendly:  http://www.barnivore.com/wine# and http://www.vegans.frommars.org/wine/

Let me know if you try any good vegan wines!

Jan 12

Organic Wines at Garden Café in Woodstock

By Louise | Organic , Riesling , Rose , Washington State , White Wine , Wines I Like

photo(36)I had a lovely relaxing weekend in Woodstock, NY this past weekend.  While I was there, I had dinner at a vegan restaurant called Garden Café (I’m not even vegetarian, but the restaurant got great reviews and the food, especially the cabbage soup was fantastic).  As you might be able to see from the rather shoddy photo I took of their wine list, all their wines are made from 100% organic grapes.  (Some of the wines are also vegan, which I will explain in my next post!)

Onto the wines I tried there….

photo(35)1)  Snoqualmie Naked Riesling from Columbia Valley, Washington, USA, which was $7 a glass and $26 a bottle at the restaurant, but which retails for $9-13 in wine stores and online.  This was also a vegan wine.

I loved the way this wine smelled – of sweet honey (not flowery or sickly sweet, but of almost a fruity honey).  The taste was bitter-sweet.  There was the bitterness of grapefruit mixed with the sweetness of apples and pears.  The sweetness level was probably that of an off-dry wine i.e., sweet-tasting but not much actual sugar in the wine.  It’s not my favorite Riesling, but I am definitely partial to off-dry Rieslings, and so this was definitely a “Like” for me.  I have to say, I was quite surprised that I liked the wine because I rarely like any non-German Rieslings and was a bit scared of trying a cheap organic one.  It was a very pleasant surprise!

photo(34)

2) Gerard Bertrand Grenache from Languedoc, France, which was $9 a glass and $34 a bottle at the restaurant, but which retails for around $12-15 in stores (although it seems to be only carried in a few NY and CA stores and some online stores).

I don’t know if you can tell from the photo on the left, but this was a rose.  There was a fruity smell, which was faintly reminiscent of strawberries.  Despite this alluring smell, the taste was awfully bland.  It was definitely a light wine.  In fact, the wine tasted so watery, I wondered if it contained any alcohol in it at all!  It was very disappointing, especially since I had tried the Riesling first.

Dec 25

Mulled Wine and Christmas Pudding – The British Christmas

By Louise | Recipes , Red Wine , Sweet , Uncategorized , Wines I Like

ingredientsformulledwineLast year I reviewed some Gluhwein, which is a traditional spiced red wine drunk all over Europe and known by that name in Germany.  In other countries, it is called various other names.  In England, where I grew up, it’s known as mulled wine, and this Holiday season, I’m putting up a recipe for making your own delicious mulled wine (the British name for Gluhwein).  This is best enjoyed warm…imagine yourself next to a log fire with snow falling outside.  It’s the perfect winter drink!

Luckily, the recipe for this delicious alcoholic drink is simple to make and will spread the scent of Christmas spices throughout your home!

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 bottle of 750ml cheap red wine (I chose a merlot, but pretty much any cheap red will do)
  • 1/4 cup of brandy (again, any cheap brandy will do)
  • 3 star anise
  • 2 cinnamon sticks (or 1 tablespoon of powdered cinnamon)
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 1/2 tablespoon of orange peel (fresh or dried)
  • 1/4 cup of honey (can be adjusted to taste – I left the honey out of the photo)

Directions:

  1. Pour the wine into a saucepan and add the brandy, star anise, cinnamon, cloves, and orange peel.  (If you have some cheesecloth, then you can put all the spices into the cheesecloth so that it’s easy to take it out of the wine once the flavors have been cooked in.  If you don’t have cheesecloth, then don’t worry, we’ll use a sieve.)
  2. Heat on medium heat so that it starts simmering but not boiling (i.e., little bubbles on side of saucepan and not violent bubbles throughout).pot
  3. Simmer for 30 minutes.  Then add the honey (you can add as much or as little as you want).  Alternatively, you can serve the wine without honey and leave it to your guests to add it themselves.
  4. Using a sieve, remove all the bits of spices from your wine.
  5. Pour into cups and serve.

cupmulledwine

For a more authentic English Christmas feel, serve the drink with some traditional English Christmas Pudding, which is a dense fruitcake-like dessert (served with brandy on top and then lit on fire) enjoyed at Christmas dinner!

ChristmaspudChristmaspud

Dec 23

Carl Graff Riesling Kabinett 2010 from Mosel, Germany

By Louise | 2010 , Germany , Riesling , Uncategorized , White Wine , Wines I Like

Graff Reisling Kabinett 2010 from Mosel

I needed to buy a bottle of wine to meet the minimum for a credit card transaction at my local wine store, and so I fell back on some German riesling.  I felt like the chances were that it’d taste ok. 

I knew that it was going to be a sweet wine (the low alcohol percentage of 8% gave it away pretty quickly), but I didn’t realize it was going to be literally sugar water with some alcoholic buzz. 

It’s definitely not a great riesling – it’s not fruity and has no real “taste” except for sweetness, but that’s actually appealing to some drinkers (I used to be one of those drinkers!).  Personally, although I like my sweet rieslings, I’ve grown to enjoy a greater variety of flavors, especially delicate fruity flavors.  But, for $12.99 from the wine store on 9th Ave between 36th and 37th in New York, it’s not bad (I couldn’t have expected too much more to be fair!).

Note:  the price is lower in many other stores ($8.45 at Empirewine.com and $10.99 at Astor Wines), which makes this a pretty cheap German riesling.

Dec 11

Why Are There White Crystals in My Wine?

By Louise | Info about Wines , Uncategorized

winecrystalsI was happily sipping my wine one evening when I choked slightly and sputtered.  There was something in my wine!  I was horrified when I spit out a small transparent crystal – did I nearly swallow a diamond?  Did the bottle shatter?  Or was this a grain of non-dissolving sea salt?  Or was someone trying to poison me???  Needless to say, I panicked!  Luckily, in this day and age, we don’t go calling up the police with fears of being poisoned – instead, we turn to good ol’ Google. 

A quick search reassured me that what I just had was “normal” or at least wasn’t any of the many horrific possibilities that had gone through my head (somehow the safe possibilities didn’t really occur to me).  In fact, one website told me that those crystals signified that the wine was of good quality (I was slightly dubious as I was pretty sure that wine had cost less than $20).

sediment in wine

So why are there crystals?

Wine contains tartaric acid, which comes from grapes.  Unfortunately, tartaric acid doesn’t completely dissolve in wine, especially when the wine is chilled.  I had kept my wine chilled in the fridge for several weeks, and so some of the tartaric acid had precipitated out and formed crystals.  Apparently, these crystals can afflict both red and white wines but are completely harmless and do not alter the flavor of your wine in anyway.

Why aren’t there crystals in all wines?

Apparently, wineries got so tired of people asking why there were crystals in their wine that they now put wines through a process that basically involves refrigerating the wines  until the tartaric acid forms crystals  and then filtering the crystals out.  So the only wines that you’ll still find crystals in are old wines and wines from boutique wineries who don’t bother going through the filtration process.  Of course, if you’re drinking one of those “special” wines, you can easily avoid drinking the crystals yourself by pouring the wine out gently or using a tea strainer for the last glass. 

So, don’t worry – it’s not glass, stones, or poisons.  It’s safe to go back to enjoying your wine now.

wineglassesclinking

Dec 04

Lunacy 2007 Chardonnay from Monterey County, California

By Louise | 2007 , California , Monterey County , White Wine , Wines I Dislike

photo(15)Not sure when I picked up this bottle of wine, but it’s from very close to where my parents live (lucky them!).  The bottle label design is also rather interesting along with its name.  On to the liquid in the bottle:

The wine definitely smells like a buttery California chardonnay, although it has a slightly minerally and metallic tinge to it.  I’ve liked a few California chardonnays before but this one just doesn’t do it for me.  It tastes very minerally and almost a little bitter.  It also tastes quite acidic to me.  A thumbs down unfortunately.

Aug 06

Domaine Raymond Usseglio et Fils 2007 Rouge from Chateauneuf-du-Pape, France

By Louise | 2007 , Chateauneuf-du-Pape , France , GSM , Red Wine , Uncategorized , Wines I Like

Apologies for the shoddy picture, but it was taken in a BYOB restaurant with poor lighting (I was sat in front of a picture that was lit with alternating blue and red lights). The BYOB restaurant was a great French place called La Sirene in Soho, New York. The food was excellent, and good French cooking always pairs well with a great bottle of French wine! The French sure did a great job of making sure their wines went with food! This bottle was fairly fruity with some bright cherry notes. Chateauneuf-du-Pape is probably one of the most famous wine producing regions in the world, and I’ve often heard people talking about a bottle of Chateauneuf-du-Paper in tv dramas and movies! The wine is produced from a blend of 3 different grapes, around 75% grenache, 5% syrah, and 10% mourvedre (often referred to as a “GSM” blend). You can buy this bottle online or at Astor Wines for around $50 (it’s $47.99 at Astor).