Archive for April, 2011

A Wine Cellar from Scratch (and Vintner Wine Racking Kits)

April 29th, 2011 No comments

Back Wall

After moving from Midtown Manhattan to a home in upstate New York, Rick Fraser finally had the necessary space to create his own wine cellar capable of housing 2,000 bottles.  He consulted Vintage Cellars, and decided to use approximately 61 Vintner wine racking kits to construct the cellar he envisioned.  When complete, he wrote us with photographs of his elegant, finished cellar that we would like to share with you.

Once Rick embarked on the project, it took him about 200 hours to complete.  Rick tells us he believes his time was actually extended because of additional “effort to ensure the room was properly sealed,” as well as extra time “required to install the 16×16 [inch] slate tiles, Tuscan accent walls, and raised panel tin ceilings.”   He also tells us he is sure the project would have been finished far more quickly if he had only to assemble the wine racks.

Right Wall

“The installation of the racks was actually one of the less time consuming efforts, and no special tools were required,” says Rick, although he also recommends using a 2″ pneumatic brad nailer to speed up assembly time.  Looking at the photographs, you can see how well the Vintner racks easily accommodated to the shape of Rick’s cellar.  “The quality of the Vintner racks was outstanding and each piece required no additional cuts during assembly,” Rick recalls.

Left Wall

It’s amazing that such a professional-looking cellar was created using easy-to-assemble wine racking kits that did not require any trimming or professional assistance. Rick thinks so, too.  “Once the project was complete, I stepped back and looked at the beauty of the Vintner racks.  I was very surprised that this was something I was able to create myself.” And we’re happy to have helped you, Rick!

Perhaps Rick Fraser’s project will inspire you to create or spruce up your own wine cellar?  If so, we’d love to hear from you, too.  And thank you, Rick, for sharing your beautiful work with us.

While the Vintage Cellars team is well-known for our custom wine cellar projects, we are also delighted to assist with semi-custom projects like this one. Wine racking kits are, as you can see, an excellent option for getting a custom cellar look without a professional build team. Contact us with your questions; we’re always happy to help you design and construct the wine cellar you’ve been dreaming about.

Fotinos Brothers Presents the 2007 Pinot Noir, and a Sale!

April 28th, 2011 No comments

The 2007 Pinot Noir from Fotinos Brothers proudly hails from Napa Valley. (The 2007 is the second offering from the inaugural release in 2006.) For a second vintage, this wine is impressive, and Jake Austad from Vintage Cellars had the opportunity to taste and review it. “The upfront is pure cherry,” he recalls, “and a smooth mouth feel is followed by a taste of more ripe cherry and sugarplums.” The wine also possesses an enveloping, soft finish that “gives way to a secondary taste of raspberry.”

The Fotinos Brothers Vinyard

Fotinos Brothers is tucked away in the Los Carneros region of Napa.  All the fruit is entirely estate grown, hand picked, and double sorted. The family’s wine-making tradition extends back to Greece, but came to the U.S. in the early 20th Century via immigration. Thus, the family legacy continues in America!

The Fotinos Brothers Los Carneros 2007 Pinot Noir opened to great reviews, and was awarded a Gold Medal at the 9th Annual Pinot Noir Shootout. This wine will also be showcased during the annual Pinot Noir Summit in a blind tasting courtesy of Affairs of the Vine and CRN Talk Radio.

An invitation is extended to our blog readers (this means you!) to join Lot 18 for fantastic deals on premium wines, private flash sale discounts, and more. (Lot 18 is a membership-by-invitation website that features coveted wines at appealing discounts.) For a very limited time, Lot 18 members can even purchase the 2007 Pinot Noir at a discount nearing 50%. So, go ahead and try the Fotinos Brothers Los Carneros 2007 Pinot Noir. With this wine, you are in for an ambrosial treat!

Fotinos Brothers Winery - Pinot Noir

Wine and Cheese, Please!

April 27th, 2011 No comments

Wine and cheese image courtesy of

Wine and cheese platters are customarily a part of many people’s celebrations. But choosing the right cheese to accompany your wine of choice, or vice versa, is not always easy. And just as serving wine at an improper temperature can bring out its worst, serving a badly-paired cheese will also impair the taste of a wine. That said, here are a few general tips when pairing wines with cheeses.

White wines are best served with soft cheeses (including spreadable ones) and stronger-flavored cheeses. Chardonnay pairs well with Cheddar and Provolone, Gewurtztraminer is nice with Swiss cheese, Rieslings are great with Gouda and smoked Gouda, and Sauvignon Blancs pair nicely with goat cheese. Rich, stimulating cheeses are best paired with sweet wines, the sweetness being matched by the “bite” of the cheese. For example, Stilton and Roquefort cheeses go well with Sauternes. Hard and mildly-flavored cheeses pair well with most red wines. Sharp Cheddars pair well with Cabs, Asagio, Parmesan, and Gorgonzola are nice with Amarone. As a final observation, exceptionally sweet and fruity white wines (mostly dessert wines) pair well with almost any cheese. This is because they overtake the fat found in cheese and thus allow you to still easily taste the wine.

Whenever a celebration calls for wine and cheese, use these suggestions to help you bring together two that are complementary. (A personal favorite of mine is Shiraz with Extra Sharp Cheddar.) So go ahead! Pour some wine, slice some cheese, and enjoy!

Wine Review: Atalaya Almansa 2007

April 22nd, 2011 No comments

Atalaya Almansa 2007

Atalaya Almansa 2007

The Atalaya Almansa 2007 will surprise you not only with its ridiculously low price tag, but also with its richness in flavor. The Atalaya Almansa is a distinguished blend of Monastrell, Garnacha Tintorera, and other grapes.  Brought to you from Spain, and aged eight months in French and American oak, its impressive nose consists of violet, blueberry, black cherry, leather, and spices, that seem fitting and appropriate given its rich royal purple hue.  On the tongue, this wine is enveloping and elegant.  Its delightful complexity contains the flavors of succulent berries and dark fruit, and its exquisite tannins are balanced by pleasant acidity.  With a finish that is long-lasting and satisfying, containing coffee, oak, and other flavors, this is truly a wine with depth.  Because of its considerable presence, consider pairing it with bold, flavorful foods like steak, pepperoni and cheese, pasta and chicken, or even spicy shrimp.  Of course, it is also quite sufficient on its own!  At such an affordable price, this is one of those wines to buy by the case (need some inexpensive, moveable storage for your extra bottles? How about a metal lattice wine rack?).

With an expressive bouquet and regal purple appearance, this is a wine sure to impress without making an impression on your budget.

Pass Over the Manischewitz

April 20th, 2011 No comments

Manischewitz kosher wineDuring this year’s Passover, some of you will probably have a glass of Manischewitz, a peculiarly sweet kosher wine often associated with Passover.  There are, however, kosher alternatives to Manischewitz many people are unaware of (Unless you’ve read our previous post on kosher wine!).  The idea that all kosher wines are eminently sweet is simply untrue.  When kosher wines (like Manischewitz) were first made in America, the incoming Jewish population had little time–and few resources–to produce wine quickly for religious holidays, as well as the regular Kiddush ritual.  Since Jewish immigrants also tended to settle in areas that were not conducive to growing grapes, early kosher winemakers in America had but a handful of varietals at their disposal.  Because of limited time, tools, and grapes, the resulting wine was often less-than ideal, so it was sweetened until palatable (It often came to this, or drinking a raisin wine!).  From there, all it took was one generation in America to associate kosher wines with sweetness.  During passover, Manischewitz is still sweetened with cane sugar.

The majority of European kosher wines, on the other hand, are not sweetened.  They also tend to incorporate more grape varietals.  It’s possible to pick up a decent bottle of kosher Cabernet, Bordeaux, Merlot, and even Pino Grigio!   Though kosher wine has tended to be slightly lighter in body and color than non-kosher wine, with today’s advances in winemaking technology this “lightness” is quickly disappearing.  Examine a glass of Fernandez de Arcaya Galdiano Alate Navarra 2006, for example, to see a delightful Tempranillo with excellent color!  Though tradition may dictate a glass or two of sweetened Manischewitz this Passover, the larger world of kosher wine is certainly worth exploring.  May you and your family  be delightfully surprised by today’s abundance of quality, kosher wines!

Categories: Purchasing Wine Tags: ,

Cool Your Wine!

April 18th, 2011 No comments

Eurocave Elite

Though you may have a “good” bottle of wine on your hands, serving it at an inappropriate temperature can completely ruin it.  As a rule, a wine should be served at a temperature where its flavors and aromas are most exposed.  This “ideal” temperature, of course, varies based on the wine.  Here are a few ballpark numbers:

Warm, spicy reds are often best served between 61° and 64°, while medium bodied reds often fall between 58° and 61°.  Fruity reds are nice usually around 53° and 55°.  Oaked white wines often open well at 52°, while medium-bodied and lighter wines like Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc range between 48° and 52°.  Very sweet, sparkling whites are often ideal between 42° and 46°, and Champagne tends to be great at around 43°.

These numbers are general guidelines, based on personal taste, so be aware that every wine has its own ideal temperature that can deviate!  If you’re ever unsure about a wine’s correct serving temperature, serve it a little cooler than room temperature.  If it is too cold, it will still open up over time while it seeks room temperature.  For discriminating temperature control, consider investing in a wine cooling unit like the EuroCave Elite.  It’s amazing what a profound effect a few degrees can have on a glass of wine.  With a such a precise wine cooling cabinet at your disposal, you can have fun discovering the ideal  temperatures of your favorite wines.  (And no longer is your wine at the mercy of environmental temperature fluctuations!)

Wine… and Song!

April 15th, 2011 No comments

Beethoven was quite fond of his Wine

Aside from Beethoven’s well-known drinking habits, and Mozart’s love affair with wine bottles as “romanticized” in Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus (1984), few people realize how great a role wine has played in the history of Western classical music.  During the late 16th to early 18th century, over 250 books containing “Serious” and “Drinking Songs” were published in Paris, not to mention the rest of Europe.  Many of these drinking songs, as you can imagine, are quite humorous.  Even opera is not free from references to the drink!  Take, for example, Verdi’s exuberant “Drinking Song” from La Traviata!  There even exists a comical CD entitled Opera’s Greatest Drinking Songs!  The classical masters are known to have frequently indulged in the good stuff of life, including wine.  In addition to Berlioz, Brahms, Debussy, and Lizst, Tchaikovsky relied on wine to ease his troubled nerves, Mussorgsky was rarely found without a glass in hand, Erik Satie enjoyed wine for its simple pleasure, Jean Sibelius spent large sums of money on gourmet dinners and fine wines, and the list goes on.  While some composers chose to write humorous music about stimulants–have a listen to J. S. Bach’s Coffee Cantata–a great body of secular music written by the classical masters includes direct or indirect references to wine and spirits.  Ponder this the next time you hear Carl Orff’s famous Carmina Burana, used in many Hollywood movie previews, which is primarily a setting of medieval drinking tunes!

Ravenswood Zinfandel Vintner’s Blend 2008

April 13th, 2011 No comments

Ravenswood Vintner's Blend ZinfandelThis incredibly affordable California red zinfandel is bursting with dark berry flavor!  The Ravenswood Winery motto, “No Wimpy Wines”, certainly applies to this well-structured, rich blend.  With a nose that includes cherry, dark berry, and black pepper aromas, this wine is perfect for pairing with red meats, pasta, and well-spiced poultry.  Moderately complex, its flavors include black cherries, mint, and vanilla.  Though the initial sip presents a touch of sweetness indicative of many red zinfandels, the slightly pungent finish makes for a nice, well-balanced tasting experience.  Ravenswood’s Vintner’s blends are, however, quickly released; the wine spends less time both in the barrel and the bottle.  This “shortcut” is primarily responsible for the affordability of these blends.  Still, the Ravenswood Zinfandel Vintner’s Blend 2008 is a delicious wine not to be overlooked because of a truncated aging process.  And given its price, it’s a great red zin to try if you’re accustomed to whites!

Salad Dressing With Red Wine: A Colorful Recipe

April 11th, 2011 No comments

I was recently exposed to a surprisingly flavorful salad dish prepared by a friend.  It’s finally warming up, and there’s nothing  quite like indulging in a cool, crisp, hearty salad.  My friend was not sure where she picked it up, but it was good enough to inspire me to share it with you.  Although a variety of spices are required, healthy “foodies” will probably have many of them on hand.

Here’s how you can create this delicious cocktail of flavors to drizzle over your salad:

Add the following to a saucepan and bring it to a boil: 2 cups (or three!) of good Temperanillo wine, 2-4 cloves, 1/8 cup of lemon peel shavings (plus a spritz from the fresh fruit), 1 cinnamon stick, 3-4 star anise pods, 2/3 cup sugar, one teaspoon of fennel seeds.  Keep boiling for about 20 minutes; the dressing will reduce in volume, but do not fear!  You’ll know it’s ready when the mixture becomes very, very thick.  Allow your dressing to cool, then use a strainer to get rid of the solid matter.

Prepare your salad as usual, but the addition of a few strategically-placed mint leaves compliments this dressing very nicely.  Add a pinch of salt on top, if desired.  Serve, and enjoy!


Tempranillo Vines (image from Wikipedia)

“Contains Sulfites”–Don’t Fear the Label!

April 8th, 2011 No comments

Contains Sulfites” is printed on most bottles of wine we purchase.  We may even know people who claim to be allergic to sulfites and abstain from drinking red wine.  (They often substitute a few glasses of white.)  Other people complain that the sulfites in all wines give them headaches; they avoid drinking wine altogether, preferring other spirits.

sulfite wine label

What is interesting, however, is that use of sulfur dioxide is not limited to wine production.  In fact, sulfur dioxide is commonly used in the food industry, partly because of its antibacterial nature!  Sulfite levels in wine are actually much lower than those found in the majority of foods we consume.  Pizza, fruit juice, jams, jellies, cookies, crackers, soda, flour tortillas, hash browns, and other common foods contain substantially high levels of sulfites.  So do prescription medications.  Although a small number of people genuinely suffer from sulfite allergies, the majority of us do not–we can eat pizza or pop a pill without developing a rash, itching, or swelling up.  However, many folks are still quick to point to the “Contains Sulfites” label should a headache follow a few glasses of red.

If you have not been diagnosed with sulfite sensitivity, chances are that your headache is not caused by your glass of red or white!  (Why white?)  Contrary to popular thought, in actuality red wines contain fewer sulfites than white wines. That’s right!  Less sulfur dioxide is required to protect reds because of the tannins these wines naturally contain. Though sulfites have often been blamed for causing headaches, many people choose to drink whites with higher sulfite levels to avoid headaches!  The headaches such people experience when drinking red wine are, therefore, not caused by sulfites, but might be caused by the tannins in red wine, which release serotonin.  And high levels of serotonin–the “happy” hormone–are known to produce headaches.  If tannins are really the issue, think twice the next time you have a bar of chocolate, cup of tea, or healthy soy snack; these foods are also rich in tannins!

serotonin cartoon

Sulfites abound in the foods we eat daily, from pizza to processed potatoes, yet these foods do not display large  “Contains Sulfites” labels.  Dried fruit, alone, contains about ten times more sulfites than a glass of red wine.  If you consume dried fruit snacks and feel fine afterward, you probably do not have a sulfite allergy.  When it comes to wine, don’t buy into the sulfite hype. But obviously, if you experience frequent or severe headaches you should talk to your doctor.

dried fruit

courtesy of