Archive for the ‘Wine Trends’ Category

1. First off, I’d like to congratulate the NYT for finally realizing that good wine is now coming in boxes. Hey, it only took you a year to get it together and if you used my blog post for inspiration (funny cuz Eric Asamov notes some familiar examples of good boxed wine) that is a-ok. Also, NYT – get it together on the trending pieces – dresses in summer? the Brooklyn flea? What’s next….the revelation of short pants?

2. If you found yourself here because you googled “woman with legs open” you are either 13 or you really think you are going to find porn in google images – probably both (that is one of the top google searches that will land you right here on this lovely little blog). Trust me, all you’re going to find through google are sterile and totally unsexy medical images. Try googling “free porn” instead.

3. Happy Wednesday, all…you’re halfway to the weekend (woot woot)! Go celebrate with a bottle of wine or what not.

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        Seven months ago, when I set out to create this blog, one of my goals was to write about wine in a way that spoke to people my own age. So many of my friends or acquaintences were self-professed “foodies”. They watched Top Chef religiously, they went to the newest restaurants and ate food that was seasonal and reveled in identifying esoteric ingredients and obscure cooking techniques. They drank craft beer and frequented bars helmed not by bartenders but mixologists and paid $14 dollars for artisanal cocktails. They were the first brave and eager patrons of the food trucks that spawned an army of restaurants-on-wheels doling out gourmet-fusion fare.

With this proclivity for the obscure and complicated, how hard would it be, I thought, to make the leap from molecular gastronomy and the like to wine? The answer, seven months later, is that wine is still a no-mans-land for most of the people described above. In the last few weeks I’ve been asked more than a few times why, exactly, it was, I thought, that young people still hadn’t “discovered” wine in the same way that they’d “discovered” food? In short, the question they were asking was, “Why am I the only 20-something they know who is a wine geek?”

Well, I have some theories.

Wine is at odds with the cultural phenomenon of hipsterism

As someone recently mentioned to me, if you’re in your 20’s its almost impossible to defend or define yourself as “not a hipster” to anyone in our parents’ age group. The term is so loose and so vague precisely because there is such a vast array of “types” of hipsters within the broader category. However, no matter if you’re of the vegan-hippie variety or the salvage-obsessed (of obscure cultural moments or otherwise), there is something about hipsterism that promotes an attitude of prolonged adolescence and eschews anything that might be too serious.

Previous generations were anxious to grow up, get out of their parents’ houses, get jobs, and find success. We are generally a group that is too busy reveling in the anxiety of “feeling lost” and indulging our desire to “find ourselves”. Our parents, not wanting us to end up as “unhappy” as they are, have allowed us and often encouraged us to pursue this alternative course in the hopes that we may end up “happier” if we can avoid becoming grown-ups as quickly as they did.

Wine, despite all efforts by winemakers and marketers, hasn’t been able to shed its association with the realm of the grown-up. Fine dining transcended the boundary between these two worlds by humbling itself in the form of upscale comfort food and by employing “artisanal” products that were made by the “little guys” who shunned the conventional model and were, thus, embraced by hipsterist culture.

Wine doesn’t get you drunk fast enough

            Alright, maybe you’re not a hipster. No matter, if you’re around my age, no matter what you consider yourself, if you went to college, you probably did a lot of drinking. I mean a lot. Like, scary a lot. Most of the people I know who are my age and even older, have carried their college-drinking habbits into adulthood with them. True, most of them aren’t getting blackout every night, but there’s a good chance that when they are going out, they’re heading out with the intention of having a debaucherous night of wreckless abandon. Often, the goal is blackout and if it doesn’t happen, it wasn’t a good night.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m no teetotaler. When the mood strikes I’m usually the first one to suggest tequila shots – the bad kind, too, thrown back with a lick of salt and a desperate suck of lime. But most of the time I’d rather have a few drinks with friends and be a functioning human the next morning rather than spend an entire day in bed with a headache, stomachache, and only a faint will to live.

However, even those who have graduated from the habbit of destroying themselves every weekend, are not drinking wine. No, they’re drinking those fancy cocktails I mentioned earlier. Sure, they are expensive, but they’re truly delicious and they can still get you drunk relatively quickly. They have alcohol in them that they’re familiar with – these kids don’t have a clue what Barbera or Gewurtztraminer is, but they know the difference between Rye and Bourbon.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that wine just doesn’t have the allure of being a get-drunk-quick-fix. Wine is for dinner parties and long conversation – its for sipping not gulping. Until the culture that surrounds drinking changes, wine won’t ever have the same allure as even the most hoity-toity of cocktails or spirits.

Nobody believes that cheap wine can be good wine

Wine is still largely viewed as something that’s too expensive. Forget trying to explain that one bottle of wine at even, say, $30 a bottle (at four large-ish glasses to a bottle) is still cheaper or about the same price as buying four gin-and-tonics at your average NYC bar.

And as far as cheap wine goes – you’re talking about an age group that came of age at the same time as Two-Buck-Chuck. In other words, standards aren’t very high and it’s hard to convince someone that you can actually get decent wine at $10 or $11/bottle if you do just a little bit of homework.

Along that same line of thought, because the only wine that they have tasted is the super-cheap variety, a lot of people around my age have just resigned themselves to the idea that they don’t really like wine very much anyways.

The local movement didn’t help, either

If you’re not in California, Washington, or Oregon, its going to be pretty hard to find a great bottle of wine that can be considered “local”. Pretty much anywhere else, however, and New York included, you can probably find locally-made spirits or beer. In New York, at least, it’s much cooler to buy a bottle of small-batch gin that was distilled in Brooklyn by a small operation than to buy a bottle of wine made by a tiny biodynamic winery somewhere in the Languedoc.

So that’s it, folks. That’s all I got. If you have got a better idea, I’d love to hear it.  Next up might be the story of how, exactly, I “got into wine” – another question that has been popping up with more and more frequency. I also have some great posts coming up – including one all about cooking with/and wine. So stay tuned! 

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The other night I attended a lovely event hosted by Sonoma Cutrer. The evening started with a discussion, moderated by one of my idols, Barbara Fairchild. The panel included Chef Michael Lamonoco, who owns Porter House New York, where yours truly worked as a hostess for about 4 months when I first moved and when I still thought that I was the exception to the “magazines aren’t hiring” rule.

Also on the panel was famed Chef Charlie Palmer, cookbook author and writer Dede Wilson, longtime food journalist and critic Ray Sokolov, and Mick Shroeter, winemaker for Sonoma Cutrer.

The prospect of being in the same room with, let alone possibly meeting Barbara Fairchild had me shaking in my boots just enough to zap my appetite for the day. The wine served was a California Chardonnay that was zippy and fruity rather than oaky and buttery. The discussion was centered on the idea of American food trends, so naturally, Barbara asked about the biggest trends of the last 30 years had been.

No matter how many different ways they tried to say it, the answer from everyone on the panel was the same: fresh seasonal and local ingredients. There were jokes about how frozen Dover sole was once an innovation, and about how restaurant patrons back in the day didn’t know the difference between a freshly caught diver scallop and one chiseled out of a frozen bag. The biggest shift, agreed on by all present, was that fresh and quality ingredients had become available, in demand, and had changed the way that everyone was cooking.

The follow up question was, of course, to name three chefs who made a difference in food trends of the last 30 years. Chef Lamonoco went first and mentioned Wolfgang Puck, Charlie Palmer, and the French chef  (my French is nonexistent…) who brought contemporary French haute cuisine to NYC. All of these, I thought, were noble choices and all of the parties mentioned certainly did make a significant contribution to modern American food.

However, after all of the other members of the panel went on and discussed their choices, the feminist in me couldn’t resist screaming inside my head:


(By the way, she had spent that morning with Michelle Obama – you know, the president’s wife? No big deal.)

While the feminist in me can be hot headed,  she also has a point.

To be honest, it should not have been surprising. At the end of the day, though women have made huge contributions to the culinary industry, its still a world predominantly run by men. That’s not to say that women have not been successful – especially outside of New York.

When I think about Los Angeles, where I grew up, and the culinary scene out there, I think about women who have built veritable culinary empires like Nancy Silverton, Susan Fenniger, Suzanne Goin, Zoe Nathan,  and Candace Nelson.  Even the food critic for the LA Times is a woman (though S. Irene Virbilla is hard-up for fans these days) – hell, Ruth Reichl got her start as the LAT critic and Barbara Fairchild ran Bon Appetit from the west coast!

In the spirit of giving credit where credit is due, I’ve rounded up some  California wine makers that make great wine and happen to have breasts, too.

Heidi Peterson Barrett: Winemaker at Screaming Eagle & La Sirena Winery (her own label) via CalWineries.com:

“In 1992, Barrett went to work for Screaming Eagle. Screaming Eagle is one of those wines that everyone has heard of, but not many have tasted. It is an emblematic California wine, perhaps the California wine of the last few decades. And once again, it was Barrett’s exquisite blend of art and science that made this wine a reality.

Her first vintage, the 1992, also received a 100 point score from Parker. (Two in one year!) At the 2000 Napa Valley Wine Auction, a 6 liter bottle of this wine was purchased for $500,000; the most expensive single bottle of wine ever sold.”

Sally Johnson:  Winemaker at Pride Mountain Vineyards. Pride Mountain Winery is located on Spring Mountain, one of my favorite areas of Napa. I’m not alone, here, and Johnson managed to make one of Wine Spectator’s top 100 wines of 2010.

Laura Zahtila is the owner of Laura Zahtila Vineyards in Napa Valley. Laura is the owner and winemaker and they make teensy tiny amounts of amazing wine.

Anne Vawter: Winemaker at Oakville Ranch Vineyards. Vawter worked under Heidi Peterson Barret at Paradigm, one of the most prestigious winemakers in Oakville before moving on. Oakville Ranch Vineyards was the first in the area and has always been known for being the best so Vawter’s position is an important one.

Helen Turley: Winemaker at Martinelli, Marcassin, and Turley Wine Cellars.

Via thelifestyleloft.com:

“A name that has become synonymous with truly great California wines is Helen Turley, one of the most sought-after winemakers in the world. […] Now Turley’s efforts are so revered that she recently graced the cover of Wine Spectator beside the suggested title “America’s Greatest Winemaker?” 

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Ladies and gentleman, I have been on a roll this week. I suspect that my brush with zombie-ism that was last week and my reintroduction to the wonders of caffeine are at least partially responsible but this week, I just feel great.

I have done such things as craft two haikus (go ahead, you try it before you roll your eyes at me), come up with an entire wine related rhyme, and made a gigantic leap in the direction of saving myself a giant mound of money by learning to make Chinese food at home. BAM.

So how did I feel when my dear cousin brought up the topic of wine spritzers? Did I slump into my chair and groan? Did I laugh? Did I cower? No, dear readers, I said bring it.

Spritzers are generally something I relegate to the realm of white zinfandel and commercials for Arbor Mist. However, I have a feeling that wine-centric cocktails are boomeranging back from 90’s obsolescence and I’m always happy to be ahead of the game.

Spritzer’s are generally nothing more than white wine and seltzer with, perhaps, a stray strawberry or raspberry thrown in for decoration. However, after a wee bit o googling, there’s also a healthy contingent of spritzer spikers out there who recommend a splash of peach schnapps or other such fruity liquors. To that end, this whole spritzer thing is starting to sound like a vaguely good idea.

So, what wine would I use? I would say that, since you’re going to be mixing it with seltzer you want to use a white wine that is already pretty light but that has plenty of fruit in it. Also, since you’re going to be watering it down, I would think that you wouldn’t want to spend more than $10. Give these a whirl:

• Torrontes: A distinct nose of peaches and apricots that would get a nice bump from a splash of Schnapps. The high acid, full body, and crisp finish are perfect for a spritzer.

•Albariño: A super super light and snappy white wine that usually has notes of watermelon and roses. Throwing in some Saint Germain Liqour along with your seltzer of choice couldn’t hurt.

Vinho Verde: Bargain-basement prices and a unique fresh lime zest quality makes this ideal for a spritzer, especially if you wanted to throw in a dash of vodka or perhaps even some clear tequila or a splash of chartreuse?

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As New Yorkers, we hardly balk at a Subway car that already looks horrifyingly packed, a gallery filled with art that is annoyingly pretentious, or a shop hung with $2000 t-shirts. Walking into a wine shop, however, complete with the smell of cork and old wood and a curmudgeonly proprietor can inspire hesitation and mild anxiety in even the most jaded.


I think I may have gleaned some insight into the matter this past weekend. I spent a hefty portion of my Saturday on the phone to various wine shops all over the city in pursuit of a piece I was writing. One of the things that really struck me in my dealings over the phone that day was how rude some of the people I spoke to were.

My first encounter of the unpleasant kind happened on my very first call. I shouldn’t even have to get into the annoyances frequently caused by the of trifecta of ATT, an iPhone, and New York City. When I dialed the first time, my side of the call didn’t even connect and I was met with the dreaded triple-beep that signifies a dropped call. So, undeterred, I called again.

This time, the call went through and I was met with an irritated voice barking at me, “So, you gonna hang up on me again?”

“Excuse me?”
“Yeah, you just called and hung up on me.”

“Oh, well, I don’t think that was me.”

“Yes, it was. You’re on my caller ID.”

“Erm…sorry, the call didn’t even go through on my end.”

“Well, I answered and there was no one there. What do you want?”

“Oh, um, well. Sorry. Anyways….”

When the shop owner didn’t have what I was looking for, he was so grouchy and that I decided I’d rather not continue talking to him. Instead, I thanked him, hung up, and sat there shaking my head for a moment.

But I kept on keeping on. The next few people I spoke to were nice enough and helpful, too. Then I called a wine shop in Long Island City.


“Hi, can you tell me if you carry any Mencia?”
“Yes. We have a bottle for $25.99.”

“Oh, I’m actually working on a story and I’m looking for bottles at $15 and under.”

“We don’t have any cheap ones. With all due respect have you been to our shop before?”

Lets just leave it at that – he insisted on continuing to recommend bottles that were out of my price range, put down any suggestion I made and “with all due respect” derided the choices I’d already made.

Because this is not a blog about poor customer service, I’m not going to dwell on either of these little encounters. Needless to say, however, the behavior struck me as just the kind of snobbery that puts a lot of would-be-wine-lovers off.

It is especially fascinating to me because, as the BF pointed out, the esoteric and haute-cuisine side of the food world has really ingratiated itself to the public. For a while it was eager foodies clamoring at the gates of the food world, using whatever means necessary to gain access but now, it really seems that in many quarters, the tables have turned.

Why, then, has wine, food’s most stalwart and time-tested companion, not caught up? And for all of those foodies obsessed with molecular gastronomy and obscure local ingredients, why doesn’t wine with all of its quirks have the same allure? Why, does it seem that the wine world is the last bastion of the kind of old school snobbery that doesn’t want to make you join the club but shrink from it?
Don’t get me wrong, there are people in the wine world who are eager to overturn this trend – from consumer-friendly wine shops like Best Cellars to the people behind PBS’ new show, Vine Talk. However, in this case, it’s definitely the wine world reaching out, unsolicited, to would-be winos rather than a response to an infatuated public.

I’m on the hunt for an answer and I’d love to hear what you guys think!

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I spent all of yesterday writhing in bed with a fever I couldn’t quell with Tylenol until I’d  filled my stomach up with enough Saltines and crying out to my roommate that I must have been the victim of biological warfare or cancer.

Otherwise I’ve been busy with other projects that have stolen my free time and creative energy away from my beloved little blog. Exciting things are happening, though, guys, and I can’t wait until I can share them with you! Soon! In the meantime, I’ve rounded up the most interesting wine stories from around the web over the past couple of weeks….it’s been a bit of a slow news cycle in the wine world. Maybe this 24-hours-at-death’s-door thing is going around?

  • According to Snooth, there are 7 steps to full-blown wine geekdom. The slide show is fun and totally illuminating – take a look and let me know which step you’re in! [Snooth]
  • WSJ does a closeup on Japanese wine, mostly made from the Koshu grape. NYT did a similar piece back in the fall that focused on the ways in which the grape has been reviled for much of its history.
  • OK, so a couple weeks ago the scandal of the wine world revolved around tricking a snobby sommelier. This week, the controversy lies in whether wine pairings are straight up bullsh*t or whether there is magic in finding a wine’s perfect match. It’s NYTimes vs. HuffPo. Whaddayathink?
  • This wasn’t really a wine piece, but its a really great article about American’s fickle trend-chasing nature when it comes to food and can totally be applied to wine, as well! [NYTimes]

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This is a page from the wine list at Veritas here in NYC. It is one of the best Wine Lists I’ve ever seen – it lists the wines along with a brief description from the Sommellier that even tells you what GRAPE is in each wine. Love. Love. Love!!!!

Stay tuned for some exciting news folks….

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While I toil away on the upcoming guide to demystifying French Wine (look for it tomorrow!) get your fix of the best of the wine news from around the web:

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Me and the BF with glasses of Malbec @ Vincent Arroyo

Often times I impress people with the random pieces of information I have at my fingertips. Just as often, however, I prove infinitely annoying in my ability to remember the scientific name for the fear of beards (pogonophobia – and no, I did not just look that up) while failing to recall important things like passwords or the name of the person calling on the other line.

When the BF and I went wine tasting in Napa last summer, I managed to impress a winemaker guiding the tasting at Vincent Arroyo, a wonderful boutique winery in Calistoga, by knowing what Malbec was.

Looking back it seems that it can’t possibly have already been early June that a winemaker was impressed that a precocious 23-year-old was able to quickly identify Malbec as a typically minor grape grown in Bordeaux for blending purposes. Or that the Malbec produced in Bordeaux was typically as full bodied yet much more tannic as the juicy and smooth Malbecs coming out of Argentina.

I, on the other hand, was just as surprised to have a reason to discuss Malbec in Napa! When the wine maker produced a bottle of wine called “Bodega” for us to try and went on to tell us it was mostly a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec with some Merlot and Cabernet Franc thrown in for good measure, it was like a revelation. Malbec? In California? Quoi???

As it turned out, the wine was delicious and if I was the kind of girl who had $35 to spend on an every-day wine, Vincent Arroyo would have made quite a profit that day.

But none of this is really the point – the point is that I can’t believe that it was June of 2010 that a winemaker was impressed with a 23-year-old knowing about Malbec.  Because these days, it often seems like the only wine people around my age know about is Malbec.

It seems nearly impossibly that it only took from early June until the middle of August for Malbec to become the wine-du-jour amongst hip 20-somethings.

The event that set the dominoes in motion, for me, was the BF’s roommate’s dinner party in LA in August. When the host (who knew less about wine than I did about an East Coast winter at the time) ordered a bottle of French Malbec, I took notice.

And then I noticed as more people around me ordered glasses of Malbec or had bottles of it open in the kitchen with more and more frequency; my cousins at family dinner, my friend Phoebe the food-blogger, one girlfriend after another on various wine nights, and on and on until, most recently, a food-loving coworker admitted she knew nothing about wine except that she knew she loved Malbec.

20-somethings and Malbec became such a thing that the very same night I was trying to convey its very thing-ness to a skeptical friend, she went back to her apartment later that night to discover a bottle of it open on the kitchen counter. She took a picture and sent it to me with a note acknowledging my acumen for wine trends…the roommates in question hadn’t opened a single bottle of wine in her presence in the six months she’d lived with them – until the Malbec.

So, you ready to be a cool kid, too? All you have to do is run out and grab a bottle of Malbec or order a glass of it the next time you see it on a wine list. Chances are, if you’re between the ages of 21-30 you’ll like the stuff. Besides the fact that its generally pretty amenable – big fruit without being overripe, nice subtle spice, and smooth – it’s also relatively friendly to the average 20-something’s budget. Go on, experience the j’nais se quoi for yourself and let me know how it goes!!!!!

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  • Alright, I hate to be a braggard (no I don’t) but the WSJ totally came late to this party; read the recommendations for alta-wine I made months ago here [WSJ]
  • The big love being lavished on a terrifically big wine, Priorat, is well-deserved and a long time coming [WSJ]
  • For those of us who have a tendency to shatter glass rather easily, these wine glasses, should come as a Godsend (and money saver!) [Daily Meal]
  • I’m running out to find my own bottle of this Spanish gem – sounds like its right up my alley and I love discovering something new….looks like this stuff’s about to hit the big time [Daily Meal]
  • For those of you who prefer white wine and are looking for something off the beaten track check out Pinot Bianco [Daily Meal]
  • A less-than-glowing review of 2009’s Roses from Provence – worth a read if you want to know what to avoid this Spring [Huff Po]
  • Yay for lady wine-o’s….profile of a young Kiwi-ess with a knack for good wine [Daily Meal]

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