It’s been an intense year of traveling (I visited Spain five times!), tasting, and learning. And with our various locations in other Eastern US cities, I’ve been given the chance to taste limited wines that are exclusively available in their respective states, which, if anything, has reminded me that understanding wine is a giant task for those who don’t work in this field. After spending so many years devoted to tasting and learning about wines, I can still be surprised, impressed, and sometimes completely blown away. There are always new (to me) grapes varieties, regions, farming and vinifying techniques, and I’m sure next year won’t disappoint me with a chance to discover something else unknown and worth it. Since I am closing up my 2014 tasting journals and looking forward to a new year of “explore-a-tasting,” I am sharing the 10 most striking wines I tasted for the first time in 2014.
Entries in Wine Chat (40)
It seems as though everyone loves a good Riesling for springtime and summer sipping. Last year, New York City was just one of the regions to participate in a “Summer of Rieslings” with a number of selections on the High Line and in restaurants. Germany is revered for its remarkable versions of the varietal.
However, a lesser-celebrated varietal promises to satisfy all of your desires as the warmer weather approaches. Gruner Veltliner, a national grape of Austria, shares Riesling characteristics, but has lighter, crisper, and fresher tones than its counterpart. On Friday March 28, Fairfield County hosted Christof Hopler, a respected winemaker and owner of Hopler vineyards in Austria. He presented a selection of his delicious wines to an eager room of wine enthusiasts at South End Restaurant in New Canaan.
Michael Keenan spent about half of our time together describing his wines. He spent the other half apologizing for his colorful language.
“Once in San Diego I participated in an elegant dinner- 10 wines with 10 courses. I found out later there was a secret contest to see how many times I would drop the f bomb during it,” he admitted with a look of mischief in his eye.
When our giggles subsided, someone asked, “So how many times were there?”
“I don’t know,” he shrugged. “At least 18.”
If a stereotypical winemaker is arty and even a touch pretentious, Keenan proved anything but. His spirited attitude and knack for lively storytelling won me over immediately. The story of his wines begins when his father, Robert Keenan, purchased 180 acres of abandoned land in 1974. The property on Spring Mountain in Napa used to be a well-established vineyard called the Conradi Winery. Unfortunately, it fell into disrepair during prohibition. Robert saw hope in it though and hired a contractor to begin the ambitious task of breathing new life into the land.
Did you know that October 25 was actually Champagne Day? So we don’t get the day off and the postal service still delivers, but it is, in fact, a holiday celebrated worldwide.
In honor of the occasion, Ruth Frantz of Henri’s Reserve hosted a champagne tasting at Southport Galleries in Southport, CT. She invited an assortment of clients, friends, foodies, wine enthusiasts, writers, and bloggers to try some of the beautiful champagnes she carries.
Henri’s Reserve is an interesting concept. While many of us are used to going to stores to pick up a bottle of wine, all of Ruth’s sales are done online. She represents small, family owned champagnes. Many of her offerings are relatively unknown; she advocates them because she believes in them.
Interestingly enough, Frantzgot her start dealing with larger champagne houses. One of her first restaurant jobs was with Eleven Madison Park.
How much can change in a year! Last year, I attended the Greenwich Wine & Food Festival as a CTBites contest winner. I was just a typical reader who had entered the website’s Facebook contest in the hopes of getting a ticket to the coveted annual event.
Now, just a year later, I was standing under the CTBites tent, which was prominently stationed right at the entrance to the festival. After attending Greenwich Wine & Food last fall, I went on to write for the website and ultimately become their wine correspondent. And at that moment I was preparing to interview some food and wine heavyweights including Gretchen Thomas of Barcelona and Laurie Forster, “The Wine Coach.”
2013 marks the third year for the Greenwich Wine & Food Festival. Serendipity sponsors the event and a portion of the proceeds go toward Paul Newman’s Hole in the Wall Gang Camp.
I love the color pink. Just over a month ago, I bounded into the Kuwaiti restaurant with the tips of my hair dyed a vibrant hue of “funky flamingo,” the result of a renegade mission with a friend earlier that morning. Yet when it comes to wine, I frequently find myself forsaking my favorite color. I tend to prefer a rich red to a rose- even in the summer months.
Recently, though, roses that satisfy my taste for reds have garnered attention. Shelves are slowly filling with roses made from robust, red varietals. They manage to incorporate the robust notes while keeping the light nature of the rose. They prove perfect for summer cuisine. People can still enjoy a cold drink and the more delicate body will not overwhelm poultry or fish straight off the grill. At the same time, the subtle smoke and black fruit from the red grapes can hold up to spicy dishes, red meats, or even a burger.
One of the most exciting bottles in this genre goes by the name of “Nigl.” It heralds from Austria and is comprised of 100% Zweigelt, a red grape indigenous to the country.
Ridgefield's best source for artisinal cheese and wine, 109 Cheese & Wine has recently expanded its footprint and education offerings. The shop, located at Ridgefield's Marketplace, has posted an impressive and fun line-up of events throughout the summer. Classes include: Red Bee Honey Pairing, Home Brewing and a Bar B Cue, The Champagne Diet, East Coast Craft Brews and Artisan Cheese & A BBQ Throw Down Wine vs. Beer. See complete listings below. Advance reservations are recommended as class size is limited, call 203-438-5757.
There are moments in the career of a wine sales rep that will forever last in ones' memory. One of those moments happened this past Friday night when I had the privilege of dining and tasting through some of the most remarkable and enigmatic wines of the world – Chateau Musar. To my delight, I had the rare opportunity to dine next to Serge Hochar, wine maker of Musar in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, at L'Escale in Greenwich, CT. The event was sponsored by Nicholas Roberts Fine Wine in Darien, CT by Peter Troilo.
Serge came to speak with his son, Marc Hochar. In the lineup, we had six wines; three red and three white wines; all individually spellbinding and curious. But before I even start to tap into the amazing-ness that is Ch. Musar, I want to talk about Serge.
Serge Hochar, in of himself, is an enigma. But he's the kind of puzzle that you can't stop playing with, like a rubix Cube or those metal trick toys that are so simple, yet hard to find the right notch. Serge has been an engineer, a doctor, a lawyer and in his lifetime and the only thing that has held his attention so long is wine. Talk about a man that has found his calling in life! His wines are right in line with his own personality.
It seems that Wednesdays are officially becoming synonymous with wine! In addition to our “Winesday” column, you can now enjoy an array of vino-based festivities at Mohegan Sun’s latest weekly event, “Wine Wednesdays.” The evenings embrace the acclaimed restaurants and lounges already present within the casino, but present them with an emphasis on wine. Four course pairing dinners unfold every Wednesday at both Bobby Flay’s Bar American and Todd English’s Tuscany. Casino guests can also relax with a glass of champagne and smooth jazz rifts at the Vista Lounge starting at 8pm. The first Wednesday of every month, though, has a special offering: “Tasting and Tapas” at Todd English’s Tuscany. I had the pleasure of experiencing the affair (which has an impressively alliterate title, I might add) earlier this month.
Tasting and Tapas unfolded on the beautiful “patio” in the front of Tuscany. Tuscany has an indoor restaurant with the kitchen, bar, and tables, as well as a front portion looking out on the casino. Mohegan adopted the motif of a night sky, so guests sitting in that area feel the illusion of eating dinner under twinkling stars on a summer’s evening.
“Are you here for the wine dinner?” asked a smiling gentleman as I entered Elm Restaurant in New Canaan, shaking snow flurries from my coat. Before I knew it, he was whisking us away behind the bar, past a few tables, and into a smaller dining room tucked away in the back. The area felt cozy and intimate. Four glossy walls framed the small space and a table set for eight sat in the center. Nearby stood a countertop, where a few more guests could perch while looking into the bustling kitchen.
“We want people to feel like they are at our homes,” explained Chef Brian Lewis. “It’s like the feeling of having close friends over for dinner.”