Sunday, July 30, 2017

Sensational Summer Cocktails

San Diego is having an exceptionally hot and humid summer season.  (Yes, we are spoiled….anything in the 80’s or above is a deal breaker for locals who find it difficult to comprehend humidity or anything other than idyllic mid-70’s).  Here are some absolute stunners to wet-your-whistle...

Rosé Lillet with Bubbles:

Lillet is a delightful aperitif from Bordeaux.  Made from Bordeaux grapes and herbs (the recipe is a carefully guarded secret), Lillet comes in 3 types:  red, white & rosé.  I was recently in Provence at a Julia Child cooking week and one of the chefs prepared a killer drink from the rosé version.  It’s simple:  equal parts of  rosé Lillet and bubbles (the French version I had used Champagne, however, prosecco or any California dry bubbly would work).  Serve it topped with a strawberry and voila!   

Aperol Spritz:

This is one of my fave cocktails….summer or winter.  Made from Italy’s Aperol (a neon orange colored aperitif made from bitter oranges, rhubarb and a some herbs), the spritz is currently one of the most beloved cocktails in all of Italy.  The cocktails is easy to assemble:  equal parts of Aperol and Prosecco, with a splash of soda water (or to keep it authentically Italian, San Pellegrino).  Add ice and top with a slice of orange.   Ciao, a dolce vita!

White Port and Tonic:

White Port is not easy to find in local liquor stores but totally worth the search!  (Hint:  you can buy it easily on the Internet.)   White Port (make sure it’s the bone dry version) makes a perfect thirst-quenching aperitif.  If you want to score some major points with foodies-in-the-know, serve it.   Everyone will love it, and no one will have ever had it.  The recipe is easy:  equal parts of white dry port and tonic…add plenty of ice and a slice of lemon (sprig of mint optional).   Cheers!

Limoncello with Club Soda:

I’ll never forget my first sip of the cocktail, and that’s something as it’s been about 15 years ago.  I was handed this colorful libation by the hostess at a 4th of July party in San Francisco, and I’ve been a fan ever since.   It’s easy-peasy:  fill a glass with ice, add 2/3 club soda, 1/3 limoncello.  Top with a slice of lemon, or even a strawberry is a nice color contrast.   Sante!

Stay cool wherever you are summering.

Friday, July 21, 2017

The Tasting of a Lifetime

                                               20 wines with an average age of 60 years each!

I’ve been a member of several serious, professional-level wine groups for >35 years.  Over the decades, I’ve attended some “Holy Grail” tastings, including a fabulous one at the American Embassy in Paris, another rock-star event in London with the International Society of Wine Educators, and finally a “Cult Cabernet” tasting in San Francisco (the average price per bottle was $700, the highest $1,600….and that was >10 years).  But, recently I had the privilege to organize a tasting in the Madeira Islands that just may top all of the others.

Wine-Knows took a group to Madeira last month.  I knew it was going to be a serious tasting when a 7 page portfolio solely for tasting notes was placed at each table setting.   Quickly leafing through the papers I simply couldn’t believe my eyes.  Surely there had been a mistake.  How was it possible that such a tasting could even be assembled?

I must applaud Oliveiras Wine Company for putting together this totally mind-boggling array of 20 wines, the oldest of which was the 1900 vintage (yes, 117 years old!).  The wines were divided into 4 segments:  dry, medium-dry, medium-sweet, and sweet.  

For those who don’t know Madeira, let me say a few words.  Madeira is in no way comparable to a table wine.   Madeira’s oxidative process and long aging can result in a rainbow of colors that range from brilliant terracotta to deep mahogany.  Madeira also offers a symphony of flavors including carmelized fruits, honey, a variety of nuts, coffee-toffee profiles, candied citrus, and even cigar box and leather nuances.  These are serious wines for a serious wine lover.

In short, we tasted 20 wines---five of which were over 100 years old and ten of the wines were over 50 years in age.  Most everyone was surprised at how well they liked the sweeter Madeiras----which didn’t appear sweet due their great balance with the wine’s acidity.  From my point of view, the stars of the show were the following (listed in order of age):
  • 1932 Verdelho             
  • 1908 Boal
  • 1907 Malvazia
  • 1900 Moscatel
Kudos to Oliveiras Wine Company and to Mr Oliveiras who personally received our group of Wine-Knows for this tasting of a lifetime.  Bravo!

Friday, July 14, 2017

England Wins World's Best Wine!

                           The Brits are knocking it out of the park with some killer wines.

England and wine?  That's an oxymoron for many wine lovers. However, for serious oenophiles, English wines have been appearing in the last few years on the world’s radar screen with increasing frequency.  In 2016, for example, an English bubbly beat out several French Champagnes in a blind tasting that shocked the wine world.  Now, a white wine from England just won “Best in Show” among > 17,000 wines in a tasting judged by a panel of international experts.

This riveting wine-tasting was sponsored by Decanter Magazine (Europe’s version of Wine Spectator).  Winners were recently announced at the 2017 World Wide Wine Awards.   Winbirri Vineyards 2015 Bacchus was the victor with judges describing it as the "perfect aperitif wine."  Comments included "complex, oily nose with spice, elderflower and citrus."   It was also deemed to be "very elegant and delicate with a slight spritz and a long, clean finish." 

Never hear of the Bacchus varietal?  Not many have as the grape is not grown in many spots other than the colder vineyards of Europe.  Bacchus is a hybrid, coming from a cross of Riseling, Sylvaner and Muller Thurgau grapes.  Named after the Roman God of wine, Bacchus is being increasingly planted in English vineyards.  The cooler climate in England allows this grape to retain high acid levels.  When allowed to fully ripen, Bacchus can offer powerful flavors.

Wine-Knows still has limited space on its June 2019 trip to England (the 2018 English tour sold out).  The 2019 tour will be showcased on our website later this summer. Currently, there are only 6 spaces remaining.  The trip will focus on the stunning Cotswold countryside, however, visits will also be made to Kent, Surrey and Hampshire district (all of which are located along England's southern coast).

Long live the Queen !

Friday, July 7, 2017

Michelin Buys Robert Parker

The giant Michelin Tire empire (who also owns the prestigious Michelin restaurant guides), just announced its purchase of 40% of Robert Parker’s renown Wine Advocate and its website   Parker, who founded the publication in 1978, sold it in 2012 to a group of Singapore investors. 

Robert Parker’s reviews and ratings help make or break wineries all over the world, as well as set global wine prices.  An East Coast attorney by trade, Parker left the legal world in 1984 to concentrate full-time on rating wine.  France awarded him the Legion of Honor in 1999 to recognize his unprecedented impact on French wine.  Although he is no longer the Editor of the powerful publication he birthed, Parker is still considered the most powerful wine critic on the globe. 

The marriage of the Wine Advocate and Michelin will surely effect the international culinary scene.  Just how is yet to be known, however, the two have been partnering for the last year to produce gastronomic events in Singapore.