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Archive for January, 2012

Red Wine Garlic Bread

January 31st, 2012 No comments

Delicious wine bread with garlicIn the mood for some warm, winter bread?  Who isn’t? With a little wine and garlic, your winter snack will be even more delightful!  First, pick up a freshly-baked baguette from your local grocery store or bakery.  (You may also opt to bake yourself a homemade loaf of French bread.)  In addition to a loaf of bread, you’ll need:

  • 1/4 cup dry, red wine (pick a good one!)
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced thinly

Preheat your oven to 400° F.  Cut your bread into 1-inch slices but do not fully separate them from the main loaf; aim for semi-sliced bread that will bake as a unit, but with slices that will be easy to separate later on.  Place a large amount of foil on a baking sheet, and place your bread on top of it.  Curl up the edges of the foil to contain the soon-to-be-made wine and butter mixture.  Between each slice of bread, place a thin slice of garlic.  Mix the wine and melted butter in a bowl, then pour the mixture evenly between bread slices.  Pour whatever is left evenly over the top of the bread.  Bake for 22-24 minutes until the bottom of the bread is nice and crisp.  Enjoy!

STACKED Wines: a New Packaging Concept

January 26th, 2012 1 comment

STACKED Wines

We’re the first to admit we love an interesting innovation in the wine world. Wine is full of tradition and history, and that’s great! We love old-world styled wine cabinets and stone-trimmed cellars, but there’s also a place for fun, modern things like sideways wine racks and this interesting new concept for packaging.

Currently a California phenomenon, this curious, creative method of wine packaging will be making its way to the other states in due time.  Created by former UC Irvine students Doug Allan, Jodi Wynn, and Matt Zimmer, STACKED Wines have made a splash in Newport Beach!  What are they?  Four single servings of wine stacked on top of one another, reaching regular bottle height.  The “four-stacks” contain as much wine as a regular bottle.  Basically, each container is a stemless “glass” containing pre-poured wine.  The containers pop apart easily, making it fun and simple to enjoy wine in numerous on-the-go scenarios.  No longer do you need to fuss with corkscrews, fragile bottles, or be forced to drink from cheap, plastic cups when hiking, biking, having a picnic at the park, or traveling.  STACKED Wines are convenient for other outdoor functions like barbecues, concerts, and boating, too.  Currently, STACKED Wines offer a Merlot and Chardonnay, but more wines will be added as the company expands.  Their first major retail launch is planned for this March, so keep your eyes peeled residents of Orange County!  (To the rest of the country: this packaging innovation will soon make its way to you, too.)

What do you think? Intriguing idea, or gimmicky nonsense? Have you tried the wine?

To Cork, Bag, or Seal Another Way?

January 24th, 2012 No comments

In 2011, over 60% of the most popular domestic wine brands were sealed with natural cork.  This statistic comes from the Cork Quality Council, a Napa-based organization.  Based on surveys of A.C. Nielsen data, the executive director of the Quality Cork Council, Peter Weber, claims that there has been “a sharp increase in the sale of wine sealed with cork.”  He further comments that there is “unwavering consumer preference for natural cork” and that there are “emerging problems with alternative closures.”  Although the majority of popular wines in 2011 were sealed with cork, note that a great number of popular wines were also sealed by other means (under 40%)!  And just because a wine is sealed with a cork does not make it “better” than a wine sealed with a screw cap.  The same is true of boxed wine. That said, the top bottles will probably continue to be sealed with natural corks for years to come. Tradition and time-tested methods persist strongly in the wine world!

While these “alternative closures” can pose difficulties (screw caps can trap excess gasses that naturally pass through and out of cork, synthetic corks can become difficult to remove after a few years, traces of plastic that makes contact with the wine can be ingested, etc.), a lot of popular wine is packaged with them.  The natural vs. synthetic cork debate will probably continue for many, many years.

The Rogar Champion Pewter-Plated Wine Opener with Hardwood Handle & Table Stand

The Rogar Champion Pewter-Plated Wine Opener

Why choose natural cork?  Possibly because of tradition, to take home a cork as “souvenir” of a meal or special occasion, to remember a particular wine, to use in a craft project, etc. Cork is also a renewable resource, and, of course, biodegradeable.

Why choose screw caps or boxes?  For convenience; if you’re on the go, no corkscrew is needed, and bottles can easily be capped to prevent spillage.  Boxed wine will “keep” on a trip, and it pours easily.

What works best for long-term storage?  Not boxed wine.  (If your box has a “boxed on” date, you should drink it within a year of that date.)  Screw caps or corks?  The verdict is still out, and even the experts cannot agree.  This usually means you’re pretty safe either way.  To solve the “hard to open” issue, if you’re opening a corked wine, no matter what the “cork” is made of, try using a Rogar Champion pewter-plated wine opener. This elegant, timeless piece makes opening any wine a breeze.  You can uncork (and even recork) a wine bottle in under a second.  No matter the material of your cork, a good opener like this is nice to have on hand.  Corks of some material will likely be a part of the future of most wine for many, many years.

What are your thoughts? Do you buy “alternatively sealed” wines? Would you ever consider them for aging, or are they strictly “table wine”?

Haunted Happenings at Charles Krug Winery

January 19th, 2012 No comments
The ghost of Charles Krug might be here, at Charles Krug/Peter Mondavi Family Winery

Napa Valley's first winery, established in 1861

If you’re inclined to believe in ghosts, St. Helena’s Charles Krug/Peter Mondavi Family Winery has been a “hot spot” for paranormal activity for years.  In fact, the winery’s founder, Charles Krug, claimed to have seen ghosts himself!  (To put this in perspective, the winery was founded in 1861.)  Current “sightings” have occurred most frequently in the winery’s Redwood Cellars built in 1872.  The ever-growing body of sightings was enough to prompt Vice President of Marketing, Paul Englert, to conduct a paranormal investigation of the winery.  Englert, who is “open to the possibility that [ghosts] exist,” says the winery’s ghost stories, true or not, are quite interesting either way.  He even knows two employees who have reported seeing spooks on the premises.

Ghost photo from a real séance in 1872

Photo of a séance conducted in 1872

Intrigued, Englert invited the San Francisco Ghost Society, and Leanne Thomas, a medium, to examine the facility.  Following an in-depth investigation by the San Francisco Ghost Society (which utilized an array of the latest paranormal detection technology), the Society turned up empty handed.  However, the team expressed great interest in revisiting the winery after more work in Redwood Cellars is completed this spring; they claim major renovations can sometimes arouse the interest of resident entities.   Leanne Thomas, on the other hand, claims to have seen the apparition of a woman wearing a blue dress.  (Numerous sightings have been reported of a woman in white strolling through the upper floors of Redwood Cellar.)  She also saw the spirits of a young boy and girl.

For curious tasters, Englert plans to host a “Wine and Spirits” (pun intended) dinner at the winery, which will also feature a seance!  In the meantime, “There are several people who have seen activity and things here. We’ll try to corroborate those stories.”  Given the winery’s lengthy history, there are artifacts around that go back over 100 years.  “It’s really interesting,” said Englert, “You kind of don’t know what you’re going to find when you open a closet.”  For the sake of the winery’s employees, hopefully not a ghost who says, “Boo!”

Romanian Wine

January 17th, 2012 No comments

A Map of Romania

We often don’t hear much about Romanian wines, but Romania is in fact the 5th largest wine producer in Europe; only France, Spain, Italy, and Portugal produce more wine than Romaina.  With a history of winemaking that goes back over 2,500 years, coupled with unique geography (mountain ranges, valleys, coastal winds, and several microclimates), Romaina’s land is perfect for growing grapes and producing wine.  Like other European countries, Romania boasts several varieties of indigenous varietals, as well as some western ones.  Some more well-known native varietals include Grasa de Cotnari, Feteasca Alba, Feteasca Regala, and Tamaiosa Romaneasca.  For reds, varietals include Feteasca Neagra, Babeasca Neagra, Cadarca, and Negru Vartos.  Romaina’s largest wine-producing region is known for its production of Cotnari wines, which are sweet dessert wines similar to Tokaj.  The southern regions of Muntenia and Oltenia make excellent red and white wines (as do Crisana and Maramures in the west), while wines from the picturesque Transylvanian plateau are mostly white.  If you’re looking to try a decent Romanian wine, here are a few picks that range from about $10 to $25:

  • Prince Mircea Merlot, 2008
  • Prahova Valley Reserve Pinot Noir, 2009
  • Terra Romana Pinot Noir, 2009
  • Castel Starmina Riesling, 2001

Perhaps you’ll find one of these to your liking?    Noroc!  (That’s “cheers” in Romanian.)

Introducing the Wine Tube

January 12th, 2012 No comments
The Wine Tube, a great new wine rack

The Wine Tube

It’s a rack.  It’s a tube.  It’s a Wine Tube!  The Wine Tube is designed to elegantly house and display your precious wine bottles.  It’s unique design will certainly get your guests talking since, when mounted, the Wine Tube give the illusion that it is actually floating away from the wall!  Made from hearty stainless steel, the Wine Tube houses up to 12 wine bottles which can easily be turned to display their labels prominently without being blocked by rack The Wine tube, a new way to store winewood or wire.  Its contemporary design is sleek and classy and, for music lovers, the Wine Tube has been said to resemble a flute.  The Wine Tube is affordably-priced, too, making it a perfect gift (or guilt-free impulse buy!)  It fits almost all wine bottles, and the diameter of each mounting hole is 30.5mm (1.2 inches).  The Wine Tube is two feet long, with a 2” diameter, but you’ll want to measure to be sure you have enough space to insert wines from either side before mounting.  Several Wine Tubes can be placed around a room if you desire to separately organize reds and whites, and you can get creative mixing and matching bottles on either side of a tube to create the perfect “balance” for your room.  The Wine Tube makes a great conversation piece for apartment dwellers with limited wine storage space who also want to display their wines with sophistication.  Designed for years of use, the Wine Tube is a creative, new addition to the tried-and-true systems of storing wine.

Wine and Chicken Crock-Pot® Recipe

January 10th, 2012 No comments

Crock-Pot®Slow cookers, like the Crock-Pot®, are ideal for winter cooking; you can keep them on and cooking all day, filling your home with the tempting aroma of tonight’s dinner.  What is more, you can even use them when cooking with wine.  Here’s a delicious chicken recipe perfect for a cold, winter’s eve.

 What you’ll need:

  • 1/3 cup dry red wine
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 8 whole mushrooms, diced
  • 12 pearl onions, peeled
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 to 6 chicken legs, or a small chicken
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 bay leaf (optional)
Napa 4- bottle wine dispenser

Napa 4- bottle wine dispenser

Put your diced mushrooms and onions into your slow cooker.  Add the chicken broth, dry red wine, tomato paste, rosemary, thyme, garlic salt, pepper, and bay leaf.  Stir.  Add your chicken.  Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.  When ready, place chicken on a warm serving dish, and transfer the liquid in your slow cooker to a small pan to make a nice sauce.  Add the 1/4 cup of flour to it and, if necessary, a 1/4 cup more chicken broth.  Cook until thick, and stir.  Remove bay leaf, and distribute the sauce evenly over the chicken.  (This recipe also works well with two cornish game hens.)  Since this dish will be cooking all day, consider using a wine preservation device like the Napa 4- bottle wine dispenser to keep the remainder of your wine fresh to serve with the meal.  Happy eating!

Recipe: Wine & Lemon Sauce for Chicken

January 5th, 2012 2 comments

Every family seems to have a unique, coveted lemon chicken signature dish.  Perhaps this easy wine and lemon sauce recipe will help liven up your current poultry preparatory practices, or perhaps you’ll be inspired to add additional ingredients to make this sauce truly your own?  Here’s all you’ll need:

Sliced lemons, ready to make a white wine and lemon sauce.

A photograph of lemons by André Karwath

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup white wine (we recommend any good Sauvignon or Fumé Blanc)
  • 2 lemons, or more
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

While your chicken is cooking, mix the flour, pepper, and salt together in a bowl.  Add the olive oil and wine.  Mix well!  Pour the mixture into a small pan, and heat on medium until the sauce reaches a desired thickness.  Next, cut your lemons, and squeeze as much juice from them as possible into the pan.  (You can add more lemons, if desired, and bottled lemon juice will suffice if you’re in a pinch.)  Stir quickly, then remove the pan from heat.  Transfer the sauce into a serving bowl, and top with parsley.  Spoon the sauce over your fully-cooked chicken, and enjoy!  As always, be sure to serve the wine you used to make the sauce with the meal.  If you have wine left over, don’t throw it out; consider using a nitrogen-based wine dispensing system like The Keeper Wine Preservation System to keep it fresh for the next time.  And to bring out the flavor of your Fumé Blanc even more, consider adding one or more of the following ingredients to your sauce: dill, basil, chives, crushed hazelnuts, mustard, or capers.  Mmmmm!

The Importance of Champagne Flutes

January 3rd, 2012 No comments

Did you ring in the New Year with a flute of Champagne? Honestly, we wouldn’t blame you for hiding your nice flutes from rowdy NYE party-goers, but for quieter occasions there’s no substitute for a lovely flute.

Aside from simply looking elegant, drinking from the right glass enhances your experience of the wine.  Because Champagne and sparkling wines are served chilled, it’s very easy for the heat of your hands to warm them prematurely.  Champagne flutes with long stems allow your beverage to stay cool longer because your hand makes contact with the stem of the glass; it does not cup the wine itself.  Furthermore, the bowl of the glass is specifically crafted to maximize your beverage’s bubbles; the opening is narrow, meaning the surface area is reduced, which makes the bubbles last longer.

A Riedel Champagne Glass

A Riedel Champagne Glass

While Champagne saucers are frequently found at wedding celebrations, their large surface area causes bubbles to dissipate rather quickly.  While this may be okay for sweeter sparkling wines, these saucers tend not to do justice to the more-common, drier ones.  Some people also prefer to drink sparkling wine from regular white wine glasses (mainly for the benefit of experiencing its nose.)  Usually, however, good Champagne glasses, like a set of the Riedel Wine Collection Champagne glasses will be perfect for your sparkling beverage.  If you’ve got a good wine, why not use a good glass to enjoy it to the fullest?  Shall we toast?