Archive for September, 2010

eSommelier Wine Collection Management System

September 29th, 2010 No comments

If you have a growing wine collection, there’s one thing you can’t do without: a system for keeping track of your bottles.  Ok, you need a proper storage space and a climate-controlled environment too, but once you have those things, organization really is essential.  If you don’t know what’s in your cellar, your collection can quickly turn into chaos.

Keeping track of the bottles you buy and drink is the only way you can ensure that your collection grows the way you want it to.  But if you’re like me, your average organizational techniques consist of scribbled post-it notes and lists that you are continually losing.  Your wine collection deserves better.

Disorganized wine enthusiasts, meet eSommelier, “The World’s Finest Wine Cellar Management System”.  It uses a touch screen system to track the bottles you have in your cellar, giving you an easy, elegant way to keep in touch with your wine.

Here are a few of its coolest features:

  • It shows you the price you paid for the wine and compares that to its current value.
  • It uses a simple color-coded system to show you how close any given wine is to optimal drinking age.
  • It includes a bar code printed that makes a unique label for each wine you bring into the cellar, giving each bottle a unique address and identity that lets you know where it is at any time.
  • You can access your eSommelier database from your kitchen or even from the wine store, letting you know at the touch of a button which bottles you already have, and which will be the perfect additions to your collection.

It’s definitely pricey, but there’s no comparing this system to a pen-and-paper log or excel spreadsheet. eSommelier is truly the ultimate wine management system.

Wine Recipe: Boeuf Bourguignon

September 25th, 2010 1 comment

Boeuf Bourguignon with pastaAs the cold weather approaches, my tastes start changing.  After months of craving chilled Rosé or Pinot Grigio, I start to want deeper, richer wines.  I’ll start with rich, buttery Chardonnays, turn to Pinot Noirs, and eventually end up wanting only the biggest, boldest reds, like Cabernet Sauvignons.

My cooking starts to reflect this change, too.  I begin to shun salads, and leave the grill alone for weeks.  I cook soups, roasts, and rich, thick stews.  My favorite way to combine my cravings?  Cooking with wine, of course!  Today, let’s talk about a classic: Bouef Bourguignon (you can call it Beef Bourguignon or Beef Burgundy too; I won’t judge).

This is my grandmother’s recipe for Boeuf Bourguignon.  It uses a good dry red wine, like Burgundy or Chianti, and it’ll satisfy those cravings for a dish rich with the flavors of wine.  Enjoy!

Grandma’s Boeuf Bourguignon


1 3-pound filet of beef, trimmed and cut into large pieces

1/4 lb bacon, diced

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 cups wine

1 1/2 cups beef stock

1 T. tomato paste

A few sprigs of thyme

1 bay leaf

1/2 pound pearl onions, peeled (you can buy already-peeled frozen ones to save yourself the work)

8 carrots, cut into large slices

2 T. butter, room temp, and 2 T. flour (to make a roux)

1/2 pound white mushrooms, sliced

minced parsley for garnish


Heat a pan over medium-high heat.  Salt and pepper the meat.  In a few tablespoons of olive oil, brown the meat on both sides until it is nice and brown on the outside but very rare inside, 2-3 minutes per side.  Remove the meat and set aside.

Turn down the heat under the pan to medium-low.  Saute the bacon until browned and crisp.  Drain all but 2-3 tablespoons of fat from the pan.  Add the garlic and cook for no more than a minute.

Deglaze the pan: pour in the wine, and with the heat turned up high, scrape and swirl the pan until you’ve loosened all the delicious brown bits from the bottom of the pan.  Add the stock, thyme, bay leaf and tomato paste, and salt and pepper to taste.  Bring to a boil, turn down to a high simmer, and let it cook for 10-15 minutes.

Strain the sauce and return it to the pan.  Add the onions and carrots and let simmer until cooked (20-30 minutes).

In a small bowl, mix the 2 tablespoons of flour and 2 tablespoons of butter until it forms a paste.  Whisk into the sauce.  Simmer for a few minutes until it thickens.

Saute the mushrooms in butter over medium-high heat in a separate pan until tender and browned.  Add them, along with the beef, and the bacon, to the pan with the sauce and vegetables.  Reheat for 5-10 minutes.  Check for seasoning.  Serve in shallow bowls with pappardelle, mashed potatoes, or a baguette.  Garnish with parsley.

Boeuf Bourguignon on Foodista

Wine Review: 2005 Chateau Valcombe

September 22nd, 2010 No comments

Looking for a great French red wine?  Look no further.  The 2005 Chateau Valcombe from Côtes du Ventoux is one of those full-flavored but smooth wines that comes around all too infrequently.  It’s very adaptable, great with a meal but complex enough to stand up on its own.

I tried the 2005 Chateau Valcome at a great Alsatian restaurant in my new neighborhood, New York City’s Upper East Side.  If you’ve never been to an Alsatian restaurant (and how many can there be?), think of a place where France and Germany meet and fall in love over steak frites and wienerschnitzel.  In true French fashion, the restaurant, Cafe D’Alsace, loves its beverages, and boasts a sommelier that knows a lot about both beer and wine.  The restaurant also stays true to its casual, bistro vibe, offering plenty of great wine options at reasonable prices.

The 2005 Chateau Valcome boasts a unique cuvee: 60% Grenache Noir, 20% Carignan, 10% Syrah and 10% Cinsault.  The average age of the vines these grapes come from is 60 years.  Old vines produce less fruit, but concentration and complexity to what they do produce, meaning that vineyards who cultivate vines like these sacrifice quantity for quality.  (And for us drinkers, this is a very good thing.)

Ventoux was recently upgraded to an AOC, and its wines are always some of the best deals in the southern Rhône.  So try this one, or one similar, and have a great bottle on hand perfect for those times when friends drop in by surprise.

Categories: Wine Reviews Tags: ,

For the Perfect Custom Wine Cabinet, Go Vinotheque

September 19th, 2010 No comments

There’s no doubt about it: a high-quality wine cabinet large enough to fit a growing collection is quite an investment.  If you’re going to shell out the money, you want to make sure that it will be well-spent.  There are a lot of options out there, raising the question: what should I look for in a wine cabinet?

Vinotheque Cardinale wine cabinet

The Vinotheque Cardinale wine cabinet

Vinotheque wine cabinets are a very popular option.  The Vinotheque name has long been associated with wine cabinets that are both of high quality and aesthetic beauty.  There’s no doubt that this reputation is a deserved one.  But in our opinion, what really sets Vinotheque apart is its customizable options.

Wine cabinets have to go somewhere, which means that you can’t just plunk down any old wooden box in the dining room, no matter how well it controls temperature and humidity.  Wine cabinets need to be functional, of course, but they also need to be beautiful.

Vintotheque offers many different options, meaning that you can customize your wine cabinet to fit exactly into both the physical space you need it to go, and the visual space it needs to occupy to look like a part of the room that was always meant to be there.

One of the many things Vinotheque lets you customize is doors.  There are dozens of different Vinotheque doors to choose from.  Since the door is the most visible part of your wine cabinet, choosing the door that perfectly suits your decor can take your wine cabinet a long way towards making your dining room, entertainment room, or kitchen area look perfect.  A few of its unique options are:

wrought iron door for Vinotheque cabinet

Wrought iron doors.  They offer a variety, but this one, with its elegant grape clusters and intertwining vines, especially caught our eye.

Mission-inspired Vinotheque cabinet door

Southwest-style doors.  We love the traditional, classic Spanish look of these.

Hidden door with glass rack.

Secret doors.  So cool!  Artfully conceals your wine collection, and doubles as a perfect tasting area.  Vinotheque also offers sleek, modern glass doors and hand-carved wooden doors with old-world elegance.

Vinotheque offers a huge variety of racking styles.  You can customize a variety that maximizes storage and also beautifully displays bottles.  You can accommodate extra large bottles, magnums, and even splits.

Vinotheque cabinets are available in many different materials, from easy-to-clean stainless steel wine cabinets perfect for a modern kitchen to classic wood that can be stained the perfect shade to match your existing furniture.  The cabinets can be free-standing, or even built in to your existing cabinetry.  If you don’t like that option, Vinotheque can build extra cabinet space around your wine cabinet for a large, gorgeous unit that can make the room.  As a finishing touch, Vinotheque can light up your collection with LED lights that really add a touch of wow to your collection.

These are only a few of the ways that Vinotheque can customize the perfect wine cabinet for you.  There’s no doubt that with all the options, the cabinetmakers at Vinotheque can create a cabinet that is truly a piece of art. However, they are much more than just a pretty cabinet. Vinotheque offers a top-of-the line cooling system that comes with a digital readout and an in-bottle thermometer that maintains perfect accuracy by keeping track of the temperature of the actual wine inside the bottle.

In our opinion, there really aren’t enough nice things to say about the Vinotheque wine cabinets.  To house your collection and help it age gracefully, we think you can’t do better than Vinotheque.

The Spiel on Kosher Wine

September 16th, 2010 No comments

A bottle of kosher wine

Kosher wine’s got a bad rap.  But is it deserved?

A decade ago, there weren’t very many wine options available to observant Jews.  There was really only one choice: Manischevitz, a syrupy, sickly-sweet wine made from Concord grapes.  Concord grapes are typically only used to make three things: grape jelly, grape juice, and–you guessed it–kosher wine.  Needless to say, this isn’t the ideal wine grape.  Unfortunately, this cough syrup-excuse for a wine became synonymous with kosher, and the reputation of kosher wines has suffered ever since.

But in reality, there’s no reason that kosher wines have to be any worse than any other wine.  In fact, many of them can be just as good.  Let me explain:

Kosher wine can be grown from the same grapes, harvested the same way, as any other wine.  The difference is in the production: to be kosher, the grapes must be handled only by Sabbath-observing Jews.  A rabbi or specially-trained supervisor must oversee the whole process, and no winemaking can be done on the Sabbath.

Kosher wines also can’t have any non-kosher ingredients.  This can (but doesn’t necessarily) mean that things like casein (which comes from dairy products, gelatin (from non-kosher animals) and isinglass (from non-kosher fish) won’t be in the wine.  They are replaced with kosher substitutes.

At Passover, there are two kinds of kosher wine which may be served: meshuval and non-meshuval.  The Jewish faith dictates that non-meshuval wines must only be handled by Jews if it is to maintain its integrity.  This stems from the long history wine has played in many non-Jewish religions; according to Jewish law, wine isn’t kosher if it might have been used for “idolatry.”

Meshuval wine is wine that has been treated and is thus considered safe to drink, no matter who has handled it.  In the past, this was achieved through boiling the wine, which completely changed the wine’s chemical structure and so, its taste.  This is another reason kosher wine has such a bad reputation.  However, modern-day flash-pasteurization techniques ensure that the wine is meshuval without damaging it.

So technically, there really isn’t that big of a difference between kosher and non-kosher wines.  Kosher wines can be made from the same great grapes, processed nearly the same way, as any other wines.  Kosher wines have experienced huge increases in popularity over the last few years, and their ratings have been steadily climbing.  So don’t be afraid of kosher wine…just stay far away from that cough syrup stuff.  L’chaim!  (“Cheers” in Hebrew.)

Wine Profile: Syrah

September 10th, 2010 No comments

A beautiful Syrah leaf

It’s still hot outside, but it won’t stay that way for long.  Soon, fall will be here, and its chilly breezes will make you crave wines that are deep, rich, and robust.  One perfect wine for fall?  Syrah, sometimes called Shiraz.

Syrah or Shiraz is a very dark wine grape–almost black in color–that produces bold and rich wine.  Syrah grapes have long been grown in the Rhone region of France–the first vines were likely planted around 600 BC.  Great Syrahs, along with Viogniers, have been cultivated in this region ever since; in fact, about half the Syrah grapes in the world are grown in France.  Syrah is also grown in many other parts of Europe, as well as Argentina, Chile, New Zealand, Uruguay, and the United States.

It’s also widely grown in Australia, but there, as well as in Canada and New Zealand, it’s called Shiraz.  Since Syrah was the original name, on this blog, that’s how we usually refer to it.

Syrah is used sometimes alone, sometimes in blends.  It makes the famous wines of Côte Rotie and Hermitage, as well as playing the major role in most Rhône blends, including the famous Chateauneuf du Pape.

Syrah makes very dark, blackish-violet wine.  Syrah wine has a bold, rich flavor and a heavy, chewy texture.  It tastes more of spice than fruit, with clove, thyme, bay leaves, and black pepper commonly noted flavors.  From the terroir, or soil it’s grown in, it can attain flavors of earth or even truffles.  Syrah is often a great candidate for aging, and some years in the cellar will impart to it secondary and tertiary flavors of rich wood, tobacco, and smoke.

When pairing Syrah with food, you’ll need to serve something with strong flavors to match up to the intensity of the Syrah.  Grilled red meats like lamb work well, or try it with an intensely herbed and perhaps spicy sauce.  Syrah is perfection when its deep, rich flavors are allowed to play off of something rich but simple, like grilled sausage and mustard.  So as the weather starts turning colder this year, start thinking about Syrah.

Which Wines Age Well?

September 7th, 2010 No comments

Some VERY old bottles. Let’s hope they have what it takes to open up well!

Aging a bottle of wine has a very distinct, qualitative effect on the contents. But it’s a very unpredictable effect. This leaves wine aficionados in a rough place–you don’t want to spend the time and the money aging a nice bottle of wine, only to open it up and find out that: a) you didn’t wait long enough, b.) you waited too long, or c.) it wasn’t a good candidate for aging anyway. Although wine aging is imprecise, there are some clues that can help you, like some psychic detective who figures out the crime in advance, determine the right bottles to cellar.

Sugar content and alcohol: A high percentage of sugar and alcohol slows the aging process, keeping the wine chemicals from reacting too fast and becoming unbalanced, or worse, turning to vinegar.

Tannins: Highly tannic wines are generally great candidates for aging. Tannins are phenolic compounds present in the skin, seeds, and stems of grapes (and thus, usually only in red wines). You know the wine you’re drinking is tannic when it gives your mouth a dry, puckering sensation that can be very unpleasant. But as tannins age, they bind to each other, losing their astringent quality and making the wine supple and smooth. They also bind to other compounds in the wine, changing their chemistry and giving the wine new, complex flavors.

Structure: Tannins don’t mean good aging by themselves. They need the proper acidity and fruitinesss to back them up.  Having great tannins or wonderful fruitiness alone isn’t enough. A wine that will age gracefully needs to have a backbone–or “structure” to it that will keep the wine from deteriorating into muddiness as it ages. A wine with good structure should have tannins backed up by distinct acidity and concentrated, nuanced fruit flavors.

Varietals that age well:

Riesling: A wonderful candidate for aging. A good Riesling can go on improving, growing rounder in flavor, virtually forever.

Cabernet Sauvignon: Cabs from Bordeaux, California, and many other places have the bold richness needed to age well. When determining whether a Cab will develop delicious secondary and tertiary flavors, ask yourself if it has the structure, tannins, and richness of fruit needed to hold up to years of aging.

Chardonnay: It depends. A rich, buttery Chardonnay doesn’t have the structure to age well and will fall apart within a few years. But acidic Chardonnays with rich mineral tastes can very well improve with aging.

Fortified wine: Port, Madeira and the like age wonderfully because their high quantities of sugar and alcohol act to slow down the aging process, meaning that they can open well after even hundreds of years.

Pinot Noir: Professional opinions vary. Many experts think that the taste of a young Pinot is so great that you shouldn’t hang on to one for more than five years. But others hold that a well-aged Pinot is the holy grail of the wine world. This grape, so unpredictable on the vine, is unpredictable in the cellar too.

Syrah: Most Syrahs age well, but only up to a limit–about 10 years.

Merlot: Merlot is a very forgiving wine. Many bottles taste great young, but will still benefit from some time in the cellar. So Merlot is a great varietal to experiment with–try a variety of ages and see what suits your tastes.

Zinfandel: Like Cabernet Sauvignon, many Zinfandels have the potential to age to greatness.

Old Italian wines: Yes, they’ve already been aging, so you might say they don’t count, but these wines can make a valuable addition to your cellar. Italian wines from the 50s and 60s age wonderfully because they were made by farmers with primitive equipment. Their wines ended up very high in tannins, making them great aging candidates.

Varietals that don’t:

Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, and most Rosés: They don’t have the structure necessary for good aging.

Wines under $15: They’re made to drink now.

Champagne: Though some champagnes can age well, becoming rounder, softer, and less bubbly over time, most are not meant to. If you’re holding on to a 20-year old bottle from your wedding, you probably won’t like it.

Why age at all?

You may have heard that since most wine nowadays is drunk within 48 hours of purchase, winemakers are starting to cater to the customer who plans to open the bottle right away. There is some truth to this statement–some winemakers, for example, are tending to harvest Cabernet Sauvignon grapes when they are very ripe–almost too ripe. This results in a wine that is high in fruit, acid and tannins, meaning that you can drink it younger, but not necessarily that it tastes good. Wines like this lack the subtlety and grace of a “true” Cabernet Sauvignon, which has a richness of background flavors that makes drinking it anything but a one-note experience.

Wines that have the foundational flavors to age well–a balance of tannins, acids, fruit, sugar, and alcohol, will develop secondary and even tertiary flavors, meaning that the wine will keep surprising the palate with new tastes and aromas from the first sniff to the end of the bottle. These flavors, which can remind the drinker of smoke, leather, figs, soil, or a thousand other subtle smells and tastes, make the drinking of a properly aged bottle a completely unique experience.

Hints for wine collectors:

No one can predict the perfect age at which a wine should be opened.  If you want to come as close to perfect as possible, the best thing to do is buy a case of wine at a time, and open a bottle every so often to gauge how it’s coming along. And don’t think of it as a waste–it’s an entertaining an educational experience to see how the flavors change as a particular vintage matures. Alternatively, you can look online to find people who have opened the vintage you’re holding on to, and see what they thought of it. This is the best way to determine the right age.

Be sure to keep tabs on the ages of the wines in your cellar. Remember that there’s no use aging wines if you’re just going to let them turn to vinegar in a forgotten corner. Keep tags on your bottles‘ necks so that you can read the label without disturbing the contents, and keep a detailed record of everything in your winery, whether on paper or digitally (such as with an  eSommelier wine cellar management device). Don’t forget to include tasting notes when you finally open the bottle.

Our Top Five Wine Storage Product Obsessions

September 4th, 2010 No comments
  1. These Diamond Cube wine racks.  You can stack them to fit your space perfectly, and the shape is so unique and cool.

2.  This Vinotheque Wine Credenza.  It’s a beautiful place to display your family photos, it’s a buffet table, and it’s top-of-the-line, climate-controlled wine cabinet.

3.  This 6-bottle Monterey WineKeeper system.  Ok, so you’d probably have to be a restaurant owner to need this model, but that doesn’t mean you can’t dream, right?  This system would mean that you could open multiple bottles at once for a tasting, and then keep them fresh for weeks. And we have the more reasonably-sized ones, too, if you just can’t see giving up your microwave for this baby.

4.  This VintageView Floor-to-Ceiling Wine Rack.  There’s something to be said for the modern touches in wine cellars, and it’s pretty cool to be able to display all your bottle labels.

5.  This Eurocave Performance 3-Temperature Wine Cabinet.  The king of all wine cabinets. Three temperature zones. No bottle need ever be improperly chilled again.