Saturday, 31. January 2009
For many people across the country, Super Bowl Sunday will be as much about family, friends and food as it is about football. Sure, everyone will cheer or boo each touchdown depending of their loyalty to “their” team but conversation and eating will also be part of the fun.
If you have procrastinated until the day before Super Bowl Sunday, it’s not too late to consider some recipes that may just be perfect for celebrating the day – no matter who wins.
While some consider serving food popular in Pittsburgh or Phoenix, Wine Trail Traveler has some recipes online for you to try. Each recipe has wine as an ingredient. Consider serving Crab Stuffed Mushroom Caps made with Chardonnay, Concordian Meatballs made with Concord wine or Barrington Cellars Cincinnati Chili with Baco Noir – a dry red wine.
With over 100 recipes on the Wine Trail Traveler website, you have many to choose between from several categories including Appetizers, Beverages, Entrées and Desserts. Check out all of the recipes at http://winetrailtraveler.com/recipes/food.php.
Friday, 30. January 2009
Interested in a fun Super Bowl activity for a pre-game or during the game party? Find some Tim Tams and a port wine. While visiting Cape May winery in Cape May, New Jersey we were treated to a Tim Tam slam with port. Tim Tam is a chocolate covered biscuit made by Arnott’s in Australia. The process is simple and delicious. Take the cookie and bite of a small piece at each end. Then use the cookie as a straw to suck up some port. As soon as the port reaches your mouth, remove the Tim Tam and eat. Many ports finish hot because of the alcohol. The Tim Tam pairs well with the port. The finish is tamed so you won’t notice the high alcohol and the flavor of the port flavors the cookie. This is a fun and delicious way of eating Tim Tams and would be a great party activity especially for the Super Bowl.
I wondered what American cookie could possibly be used in a slam. Kit Kat comes to mind. Follow the same directions. Bite off the ends and use as a straw to suck up port. Eat and enjoy!
Tim Tams are also made by Pepperidge Farm and are available at Target stores. Check out: http://www.ilovetimtamcookies.com/index.html
Thursday, 29. January 2009
After visiting more than 300 wineries and tasting rooms in a little over 24 months, we have seen wine awards displayed in a variety of ways. Perhaps the gold, silver or bronze medals are hung around the wine bottle neck, placed on bulletin boards or encased in glass displays. Some wineries are quick to point out the awards whereas others display the awards but don’t mention them.
What do wine awards mean to the consumer? I asked a winemaker that question one day and his response was, “It’s a little like school science fairs when you were in third grade.” Everyone gets some award to make them feel good for their effort.
This idea was reinforced when I came across an article in The Los Angeles Times. The article “Wine Judges are Rather Unsteady, Study Finds,” by Jerry Hirsch is about a study that was done to determine how reliable wine judges are when it comes to tasting wines. The study, by Robert Hodgson, showed that even with the same wine and the same judges, the wine could be judged differently. The study concluded that this was not a reflection on the judges as much as it was the process of judging. After all, after tasting 30 wines multiple times in the same day, one’s taste buds will not be as sensitive as they were with the first taste of the wine.
For wineries to enter their wines into competition, it is an expensive proposition. When submitting wines, they must submit several bottles of the wine and ship the wine to its destination. Is it worth it? In terms of sales, yes. Awards increase the number of sales.
Is there a better way for wineries to have their wines judged?
Wednesday, 28. January 2009
There are many who do not consider fermented fruit other than grapes to be a wine. While others consider any fermented fruit a wine. Some winemakers like to make wine from fruit because it only takes several weeks from fermentation to bottling. They can also make fruit wine at any time of the year giving them an option to use tank space rather than leaving it empty for a time. There are consumers who absolutely love fruit wines. Many wines made from fruit tend to be semi-sweet or sweet. Occasionally we’ve come across a dry fruit wine.
New Jersey is known for growing blueberries. We had an opportunity to taste a blueberry wine made by Natali Vineyards. Drinking a dry blueberry wine is a different experience. Rather than an afternoon sipping wine, you have options to pair the wine with foods. The wine had a blueberry nose and taste. At first there was a perceived sweetness to the taste but this was due to the intense fruit aroma and taste. The finish was complex. Although it finished dry, the long aftertaste of blueberries became drier. The wine paired well with shortbread which made the wine taste even drier.
If you like fruit wines try a dry fruit wine. If you rather not drink a sweet fruit wine, consider trying a dry fruit wine and pairing it with food.
Tuesday, 27. January 2009
Every wine enthusiast is aware of the big names in the wine industry whether it be wine regions, winemakers or labels. Even the new wine drinker will have heard of the names via news or advertisements. So what about the small, relatively unknown winery that makes quality wine?
Yesterday I heard from a small winery in Virginia that is currently producing 2500 cases of wine each year. In his email, Lew Parker owner and winemaker at Willowcroft Farm Vineyards emphasized that he appreciates any exposure for his winery, writing: “Definitely, would love any exposure we could get.”
This is the plight of the unknown winemaker. No matter how good his wines may be, there is always the difficulty of letting the public know about his wines and how to obtain them.
Wine trail organizations help to get the word out but not all wineries participate in wine trails. A number of states offer information about wineries in their states including Colorado, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina. You may want to do an Internet search for wineries in your state. Consider trying a new wine from a winery that you haven’t tried before.
Monday, 26. January 2009
As we travel from tasting room to tasting room, we discover many differences between each one. Upon leaving we ask ourselves several questions. Why were we allowed to pour our own tasting (this has only occurred at two wineries and under watchful eyes)? Why didn’t they have crackers at the tasting counter? Wasn’t it wonderful that they offered a cheese and cracker tray? Why don’t more wineries have restaurants? Why did they use an ISO wineglass, plastic cups, hand painted (only at one winery) or Riedel glassware for the tasting?
As we discuss the whys and what if questions, only occasionally do we reflect on whether some obscure law is in effect. In Maryland, counties have different laws regarding wineries and tasting rooms. Richard Seibert from Knob Hall Winery (opening soon) in Maryland would like to see Maryland consider a Class W license. According to Erin Cunningham in The Herald-Mail, “The Class W license would allow the sampling and selling of winery wines at the winery for on- or off-premise consumption, allow the business to hold events and allow the winery to operate seven days a week, among other things.” Each jurisdiction has its own laws. We visited a winery/vineyard in the United Kingdom that if the winery is closed, consumers can pick up their wine in a local post office. I don’t know of any wineries in the United States that can do that.
Friday, 23. January 2009
The Northern Neck Wine Trail has been renamed as the Chesapeake Bay Wine Trail. While many people are familiar with the Chesapeake Bay, others question where Virginia’s Northern Neck region is located.
We had the opportunity to visit several of the wineries located in this region last week. Varying in size and style, they all offered a different experience for visitors. If you are looking for a rustic experience with camping, fishing and picnic grounds stop at Belle Mount Winery. Perhaps you would enjoy the elegant style wineries at New Kent Winery or Potomac Point Vineyard & Winery.
Do you want to view a unique piece of sculpture? Check out the entrance at White Fences Vineyard and Winery. The tasting room at Vault Field Vineyards is decorated with lights, flowers and candles. Athena Vineyards & Winery offers a delightful ambience featuring Athena, the goddess of wisdom. All of these wineries have lovely views of vineyards. The Oak Crest Vineyard & Winery tasting room offers artist quality selections created by area artists. Ingleside Plantation Winery is the oldest established winery on the wine trail. The Hague Winery located in Hague, Virginia will open in May of 2009. Each winery offers a unique facility to visit and enjoy conversation and wine.
Thursday, 22. January 2009
Yesterday I commented on racking the mead that finished fermentation. Of course we tasted it. Currently it has a yellow opaque color. The wonderful aroma is honey and floral. The taste is honey. The finish is dry, although there is a slight sweetness that may be perceived. The mead is 12 percent alcohol. There was quite a bit of carbonization in the mead. One taster asked if it was a sparkling mead. For now, it just has to sit and age. I’d like it to become translucent, so I’ll continue to rack it over the next several months. I am surprised at how easy it was to make the mead. The most time consuming part is cleaning and sanitizing the equipment. Perhaps I’m a bit paranoid about sanitizing the equipment, however, I’d rather not come this far and ruin the mead.
Last week I wrote about Paradocx Vineyards Barn Red, a red blend sealed in an air-tight bag and placed in a paint can. Manufacturers of the bag claim that it can keep wine good for up to six weeks. So how is the wine one week after opening it? The Sangiovese and Cabernet Franc blend still had a nice red cherry aroma and taste. It was still crisp and had light tannins. Thus far this is the best opened one-week old wine that I have tasted. Wine stored in an air-tight bag, whether in a box or paint can, may be a great option for a casual wine drinker who doesn’t finish a bottle for a dinner. I’ll report next week on how the wine is after two weeks.
Wednesday, 21. January 2009
My mead has stopped its fermentation so I decided to rack it off the lees. I had to decide what size container to rack it into. The current three-gallon carboy had too much headspace. For aging, the mead should be filled into the neck of the container. Less oxygen will come in contact with the mead. I had this issue with a previous Cabernet Sauvignon that I made. Several winemakers suggested going to the wine store and purchasing a bottle of wine to top off the wine in the carboy. Mead isn’t the easiest thing to find so I took a different approach.
Knowing that I had less than three gallons and that I would not rack off all the mead, I decided to rack into two one-gallon jugs. I filled each into the neck and inserted the air lock. I had less than a gallon left over so I put this in a half-gallon container and inserted an air lock. My plan is to use the mead in the half-gallon container to top off the mead in the gallon jugs. However it occurred to me that if I take mead out of the half-gallon container, then the mead in that container would come in contact with more oxygen. So how do you solve that challenge? Fortunately I have the opportunity to interview many winemakers. Two solutions were presented, one common sense and the other rather unique. The common sense solution is to pour the remaining mead from the half-gallon container into a smaller container. You can always drink anything left over. The more unique solution, which is the one I’ll use, is to place marbles in the half-gallon jug until the level of the mead rises into the neck. I never would have thought of that.
Most winemakers are eager to talk about their craft. They have a wealth of knowledge, some learned from textbooks, some passed down from multiple generations and some learned from trial and error.
Home winemaking is an interesting hobby, one that is filled with trial and error, and much learning as well as the potential enjoyable results to drink. Enjoy a trip into the world of home winemaking.
Tuesday, 20. January 2009
When you are celebrating today’s Inauguration, will you be enjoying wine? What kind of wine will you choose? Today an important day in American history should be celebrated with an American wine. This is one day that only occurs every four years in the United States and I believe that we should show our support of our country and wine industry and celebrate with wine from the United States. With more than 6,000 wineries throughout the United States, coast to coast, there are many great wines to choose. Do you favor red, white or rosé wines? Sweet or Dry? Vitis vinifera or vitis labrusca? Concord, Muscadine, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, Chardonnay or others?Sparkling wines? They are all produced in the United States and available either in winery tasting rooms or local stores. Choose a locally produced wine for today’s celebration and enjoy.