Wednesday, December 31, 2008

To Share or Not To Share

Happy New Year! As the holiday season winds down and New Years resolutions kick in, many wine lovers are closing their cellar doors (temporarily), drinking less or at least less of the good stuff. Which brings me to an age-old question, asked by wine lovers young and old...Do you share your good bottles with your non-wine-geeky friends? And for an esoteric twist on the question...Should you?
I've asked several wine-loving friends this question, and have gotten varied answers. Many say, no, save the good stuff for those who will really appreciate it. Some say, yes, if wine is your passion, share it with those you love; they may never again have the chance to taste Perrier-Jouet Fleur Rose or ZD Abacus. You may even have a budding aficionado in your group, and it could be that special glass that he or she gets from you, that starts a life-long love of wine!
My favorite answer came from one of my favorite people. I asked my friend Tammy for her opinion on Christmas eve. She responded by asking what time our party started. Then she went on to suggest that we open that bottle of Domaine Carneros Le Reve fifteen minutes before the start of the party. "If anyone happens to arrive on time, they'll get a wonderful treat, if not..."

Thanks to everyone for reading my blog in 2008! Look for more in '09!

Monday, December 15, 2008

What to do about Cork Taint?

Nobody likes a "corked wine." Even if you don't know what a corked wine is, I can pretty much guarantee that you wouldn't want one. A wine that is corked, is a wine that has been tainted by a bacteria called 2,4,6-trichloranisole, or TCA, that has infected the cork. TCA gives wine an off-putting smell that has been described as wet cardboard, smelly socks and damp basement. It is estimated that between 3% and 10% of all wines are corked. So, if you drink wine fairly regularly, you've probably been exposed to cork taint. There are many different discussions surrounding the problem of corkiness; there's the cork vs. screw cap debate, the issue of having better sanitation at cork-producing facilities, and the biggest question for the consumer...what does one do when one gets a corked wine at a restaurant? The answer in every case is SEND IT BACK. Do not be shy, nervous or self-conscious about it. It is what you are supposed to do.
What I want to address today is wines-by-the-glass. In a perfect wine world, when you order a glass of wine in a restaurant, it should never be corked. Every bottle of wine opened in a restaurant that is to be poured by the glass should be checked by the person who opens it. I started to wonder how often this simple one-second operation is not performed after being served two glasses of corked wine the other day. We were having brunch at what is definitely considered a nice restaurant in Denver on Saturday and the menu offered unlimited Prosecco for $12. Sounded good to me with my Eggs Benedict. And the first glass was. But, before I could finish it, the server came around with a bottle and refilled my glass with corked wine! When I brought this to his attention, he took my glass without argument and promptly came back with one that was fine. Halfway through that glass, back came the bottle, and, you guessed it - the corked refill. We were paying our tab and leaving at that point, and I was taking my daughter to the Nutcracker and not really in the mood to wear my wine-police hat, so I didn't say anything. But it did get me wondering - did the staff just dismiss my complaint and keep pouring from that bottle? Or, did they just continue to open and pour bottles without checking for cork taint? Either is inexcusable. Restaurants that do not check bottles as they open them are doing a disservice to both their patrons and to the wineries they represent. Since the average diner does not recognize cork taint, here's what happens - Joe Diner gets wine, doesn't like wine, either drinks it or leaves it, but his dining experience is less than what he had hoped for, and he decides that he will not order that wine ever again. Or, worse, he decides never to order any wine made by that winery again. Distributors will always pick up and credit restaurants for corked bottles, so there is no reason to pass off corked wines on customers. Do restaurateurs not realize the far-reaching consequence of this small act of neglect?

Saturday, December 6, 2008

What Are You Making For Christmas Dinner?

We usually start the discussion shortly after Halloween. Beef Wellington is always a favorite, as is the standing rib roast. We're leaning towards Cassoulet this year. Cassoulet is a dish that originated somewhere in the south of France. There are many variations, from the gourmet to the canned. Yes, you can buy canned Cassoulet in France! I think you'd be hard-pressed to find it canned in the US. It's a stew/casserole consisting of white beans, sausage and duck or goose confit. We made it once before; we bought the duck confit. We're thinking about making the confit ourselves this year. That, however, is a job requiring over a quart of duck fat! Hmmm...
The Bob Cratchit in me has always wanted to make Christmas goose. My sister sent me a recipe. Does anyone else have one? Please share it with us if you do.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Nice Wine Surprise & A Book Review

Seasons Greetings! I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving.
The weather this past weekend was atrocious. Cold, snowing, windy & dark. So, Sunday evening found my daughter and me watching football and snacking on salami, olives, Sonoma Jack cheese and pate'. What? Don't all 5-year-olds snack that way? OK, she has foodie parents, she's been chowing on salmon roe at the sushi bar since she was one-year-old. Maybe she's a little different. A glass of wine was in order, but I didn't want to open one of those special bottles I'd recently pulled from the cellar without my husband. And I was not about to brave the elements for a glass of wine. I looked in my meager wine rack that still held a few bottles from my distributor days. There was a bottle of Chateau Le Prieur, St. Emilion Grand Cru, 2002. I'd sold a few cases of it, but never tried it. So, I pulled the cork, and what a lovely surprise! Currents and a bit of leather on the nose, followed by a lovely, silky wine on the palate, with well-integrated tannins and plenty of fruit. Sorry, but you probably will have a difficult time finding this wine; the current release is the 2005 vintage. You can find it for about $42. And with '05 being hailed as the Vintage of the Century by some, it's surely a great value. (I haven't actually tasted the 2005, so buy at your own risk!)
I just finished a fun wine book. Red, White & Drunk All Over, by Natalie McLean. Natalie is what I hope to be. She's a wine writer with a well-read website, and a free monthly e-newsletter, Nat Decants. Check her out; she's funny, entertaining & knowledgeable. And tell her about me! A quote from Entertainment Weekly, on the front cover says "McLean's engaging and practical, and perfect for the novice." I don't really agree with that statement. First of all, I wouldn't call the book a guide, although there is a chapter on food & wine pairing which is very approachable, and helpful for novices. The rest of the book, however, is for those interested in wine and wine people. It's a compilation of stories about McLean's experiences and conversations with people in all aspects of the wine world, from vintners to merchants to critics. I really enjoyed the book. She's informative without being dry and funny without being silly. What I love most about her is her unabashed admission that she likes to catch a buzz drinking wine! That's a subject that most wine writers completely ignore. As if that has nothing to do with their reasons for drinking wine! It's a fun, fast read. I recommend it.