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Wine DJ: a Fun app Combining Music & Wine!

August 7th, 2012 No comments

Wine DJ IconHave a good bottle of wine?  Need the perfect music to set the proper mood?  Have no fear; Wine DJ is here!  Wine DJ is an iPhone app designed to help you build the perfect playlist based on your desired mood, coupled with the Liberty School wine you’re drinking.  Simply enter the type of wine you’re planning to drink, use a variety of fun controls to customize and fine-tune the desired mood, and discover the perfect playlist for the occasion!

Though the wines featured are those by Liberty School, the app is still fun to use if you substitute other wines.  For example, if you’re opening a nice Cab, no matter the winery, simply select the “Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon” from the wine list.

Though other programs with “intelligent” playlist-generating features do exist, Wine DJ’s mood sliders allow you to add a more refined level of selection to generated playlists based on personal choices, in addition to your chosen wine.  (The algorithm, created by Grooveshark, has produced some compelling playlists, indeed!) And if a song appears that you don’t own (but want to), all you need to do is click the “Download on iTunes” button.  Simple!  Playlists can be saved, too, so you can relive the memories of any night, anytime.

For a free app, Wine DJ is certainly entertaining.  Wine DJ is available from the iTunes store.  It is compatible with all iPhone models, plus iPod Touch.

 

Wine DJ Screenshots

Wine DJ Screenshots

Dare to Drink Wine by Yourself?

July 17th, 2012 No comments
Enjoying wine alone lets you give it your full attention.

Image from Wine Online Club: wineonlineclub.com

Although there’s a stigma surrounding drinking by yourself, sometimes it can’t be helped!  What if circumstances make it so that you must dine alone?  What if your dinner companions call last-minute, sending regrets, after you’re already seated at your restaurant of choice?  Dining and drinking alone does not have to be a sad affair.  In fact, there are benefits.  You can devote your full attention to your great glass of wine, and since most restaurants now offer “wine by the glass” (as well as half bottles), with the right questions you can turn your no-show meal into a fun “wine tasting for one!”  Here’s how…

Ask for samples.  If you’re going to order a glass of wine, ask your waiter for a few samples of the wines you’re interested in.  In most cases, the response will be positive, and you’ll be able to sample some of the wines you’re considering (at no extra charge!)

Ask about “additional” wines not found on the “by-the-glass” menu.  Quite often, especially as the night progresses, there’s an open bottle of something good sitting in the kitchen.  Why?  Perhaps a decent bottle of wine was opened, but then sent back by another patron?  Perhaps someone ordered just a half bottle of wine, earlier, the other half just sitting around?  You’ll often be allowed to purchase such leftover (and usually more expensive) wine by the glass if you ask!

Order a couple full bottles and share them with other patrons!  You’ll make some happy friends very quickly, and they’ll often offer to return the favor come dessert time!  (Here we come, dessert wines!)

There’s nothing to be ashamed about enjoying wine alone.  And in a restaurant setting, you’re hardly alone; you’re surrounded by the restaurant’s wait staff and other guests!  If you must drink wine alone, relish the moment!  Try for a mini-tasting, ask about “special” wines, or share a bottle.  Some restaurants with walk-in wine rooms, similar to the Vintage Series Wine Room 2600, will even allow single diners to take a peek inside.  It never hurts to ask, and you might spot something really good!  Cheers!

So, You’re at a Benefit Dinner… and the Wine is Terrible!

July 10th, 2012 No comments
What to do if the free wine is terrible

Image from Service Culture International: www.choosingservice.com

Perhaps you’re at a dinner to benefit a worthy cause, but the wine served with your prepared-in-bulk meal is mediocre at best, or in the worst situation downright undrinkable: what do you do?  Is there a graceful way to handle the situation?  If wine is being served with your meal, chances are you’re not out at the Eagle’s hall for a spaghetti supper benefit.  Therefore, if your benefit is in an established restaurant, you’re in luck!  Restaurants have wine lists, and that’s exactly what you need to ask to see.  Ask your server for the wine list, pay an additional sum separately for a bottle of something good, and share it with the rest of your table.  (They’ll thank you for it, and you’ll make some new friends on the spot!) If the restaurant has a walk-in wine room like the Vintage Series Wine Room 1300, perhaps it’s possible for you to take a peak inside?  It never hurts to ask.  Cheers to finding good wine!

Make Your Own Sangria

July 3rd, 2012 No comments

While wine purists may roll their eyes at this post, making Sangria has become a popular topic.  Taken for what it is, basically a mixture of wine and fruit, Sangria is often a summertime “gateway beverage” that leads non-wine drinkers to eventually explore the richly-rewarding world of wine.  (Some folks say wine coolers act in a similar way.)  While Sangria tends to be very fruity and sweet, the good news is that you can control its sweetness if you make it yourself.  What is more, Sangria pairs well with just about every kind of BBQ sauce, especially sauces rich with honey flavor.  This means it’ll be enjoyed at almost any cookout.  And, of course, it’s a great addition to Caribbean meals.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Pitchers of Sangria (image from Wikipedia)

  • 1 bottle of red wine (Rioja is used most often)
  • 1 cup peach-flavored rum
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 lime
  • 1 orange
  • 1 apple (cut into chunks)
  • 2 cups club soda
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 6 strawberries, halved
  • 3 tablespoons of sugar (or more)

Pour the wine into a big pitcher.  Cut the lemon, lime, and orange into wedges.  Squeeze the juice out of each wedge into the pitcher, then throw in these “squeezed” wedges.  Pour in your rum, then your lemon juice and orange juice.  Stir in 3 tablespoons of sugar.   Chill!  When ready to serve, add apples, strawberries, club soda, and ice (if desired.)

If your BBQ sauce is too acidic, or if your Sangria needs to be sweeter to combat other big dinner dishes, simply add more sugar as needed.  You can even experiment by altering the other ingredients.  Have fun!  Give this recipe a whirl on one of this year’s final summer days.

The Easiest Wine-Pairing Rule

June 26th, 2012 No comments

Without referring to the internet (or your latest wine-pairing app), how can you tell what wines go “best” with what foods?  Here’s the simplest wine pairing rule that almost always produces yummy results: if it grows together, it goes together!  That’s right.  Tried-and-true wine and food pairings often originate in the same region, and because of this synergy many pairings (and wines themselves) have been “perfected” over hundreds of years to best match the local cuisine.Pair your food with wine characteristic of the region.

For example, goose and duck go great with wines made where they roam abundantly in Catalonia, Spain.  Try pairing them with a regional favorite like a bottle of red Vall Llach, Cellers Pasanau, or Clos Mogador.  Goat cheese, a common product of France’s Loire Valley, pairs superbly with Gerard Boulay and Henri Bourgeois. (See our blog post on wine and cheese pairings here.) Having bistacca alla fiorentina as an entrée?  Pair this classic Italian dish with Italian wine from the same locale: Brunello di Montalcino!

When in doubt, pair your dish with a wine produced in the same region.  Remember: if it grows together, it goes together.  A wine’s label usually presents valuable clues about its origin, so ask to see it if you’re unsure.  Your waiter or chef may also have excellent suggestions once you’ve narrowed down the options, so don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations.  If you do have a smartphone handy, check yourself with a program like WineStein Pro to see if you’re on track!  Cheers to easy pairing!

Has My Wine Gone Bad?

June 19th, 2012 No comments

If you’ve been drinking wine for a while, you’ve most likely encountered a bottle that has gone bad somewhere along the line.  Unlike wines that simply taste “less-than-good,” bad bottles taste unbelievably bad!  What causes such ruined wine?  Here are a few factors…

bad wine that tastes like vinegar

Image from northof9finewine.blogspot.com

A Bad Cork: Bad corks are the number one cause of “bad” wine.  If stored improperly (upright instead of on its side, or in an environment without much humidity) a bottle’s cork can become too dry.  It can then crumble, exposing the wine to air prematurely.

Air Exposure: Premature exposure to air (often because of bad corks) makes wine go flat and taste weak.  Any air leak will quickly ruin decent wine.  Some people mistakenly think that re-corking a bottle of opened wine will enable it to be preserved as before.  Unless you’re using a wine preservation system similar to the Winekeeper Vintner 3 Bottle Wine Dispenser System, just popping the cork back on will not preserve your wine; the air remaining in the bottle will wreak havoc on your remaining wine.

Warm Storage: If wine has been stored for a lengthy period in heated conditions (direct sunlight, an uncooled storage area, a steamy car trunk, etc.) It can acquire a rubbery, burnt-like taste.  One telltale sign of a bottle that’s been exposed to heat is a cork that leaks a little bit of wine.  If you’re storing wine at home in your cellar, consider investing in a WhisperKOOL XLT 1600 cellar cooling unit that not only regulates temperature, but also humidity!

Past its Prime: If a wine ages too long after it’s reached its maturity, it will begin to taste like vinegar.  Lots of people mistakenly blame vinegar-tasting wine on something that happened during the production process.  Most of the time, however, that vinegar taste simply indicates the wine was stored way past its prime.

So, if you’re storing wine, make sure it is kept out of direct sunlight, stored on its side in a climate-controlled environment (preferably where moisture is also monitored), and consumed close to the time when it reaches its maturity.  Follow these simple steps, and the amount of bad bottles you open in your home will be minimized. Cheers!

Where Not to Have a Wine Tasting

June 19th, 2012 No comments
Allen Kelsey Grammer is Frasier Crane

In an episode of “Frasier,” Doctors Niles and Frasier Crane begin the show with a blind wine tasting…

Niles:  Now, now, let’s move on to number seven.

Frasier: [while blindfolded:] Ahhh… Touch of oak, hint of currant, whisper of…

Frasier’s father enters with his dog, Eddie, on a leash.

Frasier:  …what is that?  What is that?  Oh yes, wet dog!

While amusing in a sitcom, similar scenarios have played out in real life.  Because such a big part of wine tasting is connected with a wine’s nose, tasting wine in less-than-ideal locales can unfairly color your judgement of the soundness of a wine.  Here are some places you’d best avoid holding a wine tasting…

Where the dog sleeps, cat goes, or hamster scurries:  Strong pet odors from dog beds, litter boxes, or small mammal cages can make even the most appealing nose seem foul.  If holding a tasting in your living home, make sure there are no trace animal odors lingering in the room or on the furniture where you plan to gather.

Near a restroom:  This goes for restrooms inside restaurants, too (though most quality restaurants position their restrooms a good distance from their dining areas).  Still, save yourself and your guests embarrassment and disgust.  Never hold a tasting within flushing distance.

Near livestock: Though outdoor country wine tastings have increased, tasting wine close to cattle is usually less-than pleasant.  What is more, the scent of excrement can imbue a wine’s nose with a convincing “barnyard” aroma, masking the true nose of the wine altogether.

Outside near fast food restaurants:  Exhaust from the kitchens of fast food joints, in particular, can be extremely overpowering.  It’s hard to get a decent sniff of wine if your nose is bombarded by the scents of big burgers and fries.

Near pools:  Almost all pools utilize chlorinated water.  Because our sense of smell and taste are connected, having a wine tasting next to a heavily-chlorinated pool can color the wine with a chemical taste.  This is very apparent when tasting Zinfandels.  Just try taking a sip next to the pool, then take another sip 10 feet away; you’ll be amazed by the difference.

Near smokers:  Cigarette smoke can greatly kill the nose of many wines, and can add an artificial “tobacco” hint to some wines.

Within wind distance of a garbage dump:  Refer to “Near a restroom,” above.

In a heavily perfumed area:  Unplug your whole-room air freshener before you taste.  Strong scents of pine, violet, vanilla, etc., will unfairly impact the perceived scent of your wine.

In a moldy room:  Aside from obvious health hazards, tasting wine in a pungent, moldy room will not boost its rating.

…You get the idea!  To learn more about the nuances of wine and wine tasting, visit our Wine Storage Education Center.  The next time you host a wine tasting, be sure to take a good whiff and ask yourself “Is there anything in here that really smells?”

In Place of Red Wine…

June 12th, 2012 No comments

If you enjoy cooking with wine, you probably keep a few bottles on hand.  However, “wine emergencies” do happen; dogs and children can knock over portable wine racks, you can drop, break, or spill the last bottle of “perfect” red wine meant for your dinner, or you can be so rushed to get home and start cooking that you forget to pick up that “perfect bottle” in the first place!  Although nothing competes with a quality wine, below are a few cooking tricks to use in an emergency when you find yourself without a proper wine.

Wine is meant to enrich food, not compete with it.  Be sure your dish really requires that “wine flavor” before doing one of the following:  If your recipe really needs wine, substitute regular grape juice or cranberry juice.  Cranberry juice blends containing apple juice are also possible.  If the result is too sweet, add a tablespoon of vinegar.  (This really does work.)

Use a Napa 4-bottle wine dispenser to keep wine on hand while you cook.

If you are making a soup, stew, or sauce, do not add the wine alternative at the last minute.  Instead, add the substitution to your liquid as it simmers so you can accurately gauge the balance of its flavor and its overall scent.  If you need a red wine substitute for soup, consider using 1/2 a cup of broth mixed with 1 teaspoon of red wine vinegar.  Don’t have red wine vinegar?  Use 1 teaspoon of lemon juice instead!

While nothing compares to meat marinated in red wine, any marinade will help make your meat more juicy and tender than if cooked alone.  If your meat dish requires a dry red, add a cup of lemon or lime juice for a generic tart taste, or a cup of orange or even pineapple juice for a tart-yet-sweet marinade.  Too strange?  Try 3/4 cup tomato juice and 1/4 cup vinegar.   (That’s actually not too bad!)

Although these alternatives may sound a bit odd, the results are far superior than if you resort to “cooking wine.”  Although you may have an inkling, resist the temptation to use cooking wine!  It is often flavored with salt and various additives that will easily compromise your dish.  Of course, the best course of action is to always have extra bottles of wine around “just in case.”  To ensure you always have a few bottles of red on hand, consider purchasing a Napa 4- bottle wine dispenser. This way, you’ll always have a bottle “on tap” and ready to go.  The Napa 4- bottle wine dispenser also fits conveniently in most kitchen spaces.  Cheers!

Some Dry Red Wines

June 5th, 2012 No comments

Are you new to the world of wine?  Unsure what wines are considered to be “dry?”  Read on!

Quite simply, dry wines have the greatest alcohol content; their juice ferments until almost all of the grape’s sugar is utilized.  Thus, dry wines contain little residual sugar and are not “sweet.”  What common wines are considered dry?  Here’s a little list for the eager wine student:

Host your own wine tasting event with a WineKeeper 4-Bottle Showcase preservation system.

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Cabernet Franc
  • Pinot Noir (the wine that “goes well with everything”)
  • Merlot
  • Sangiovese
  • Shiraz
  • Tempranillo
  • Red Zinfandel (it’s the White Zinfandel that’s the sweet stuff!)

Keep in mind that some of these wines may taste “fruity,” but do not confuse a wine’s fruitiness with its “sweetness.”  Fruit flavors often naturally balance a wine’s absence of sugar.  Also, don’t confuse a wine’s tannins with how dry it is.  Tannins can give sweet wines a “drier mouth feel,” but their abundance does not make a wine dry.  Remember: it’s all about the sugar!  Curious about how these wines taste?  Why not buy a bottle of each and host a few mini tastings, yourself?  You can easily save any leftover wine with the WineKeeper 4-Bottle Showcase preservation system. Cheers!

How to Swirl and Sniff Wine Like a Pro

May 29th, 2012 1 comment

At tastings, many newcomers to the world of wine are unsure about the proper etiquette surrounding swirling and sniffing wine.  Is there a right way to do it?  Or is it a little like the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup slogan: there’s no wrong way to eat a Reese’s?

wines lined up and ready to taste in proper wine glasses

Wines lined up and ready to taste! (Image from Wikipedia)

Since wine’s scent and taste are both key elements of any tasting, swirling and sniffing are encouraged in order to get the best overall sense of a wine.  While most newcomers think taking a single long, drawn out sniff from their glass completes the process, that’s only a beginning part!  Before even smelling your wine, you should be swirling it.  Swirling aerates wine, opening it up so that its inherent scents and flavors are brought to the fore.  You can swirl your glass while it is on the table, or you can hold your glass by the base or stem to swirl it.  What matters most is that you actually do swirl your wine!

Once your wine is swirled a bit, put your nose into the glass as far as it will go. (Don’t submerge your nose in the wine!)  Inhale deeply for a couple of seconds.  Use your diaphragm (your “belly”) to take in a full whiff of the wine’s aroma.  Swirl your glass a little more, then inhale again, smelling the wine a second time.  Swirl, sniff, swirl, sniff, etc.  See if you can identify the scents you are smelling.  Do you smell the wine’s fruitiness?  Do you smell berries, cherries, or figs?  Do you smell lemon, grapefruit, peach, or mango?  Observe how swirling and aerating your wine helps bring out a variety of curious scents hidden, before, in your wine.

While there are several quality wine glasses to choose from, wine glasses made specifically for the types of wine you’re tasting often allow you to perceive that wine’s aromas to the fullest.  For red wine tasting, consider using Riedel “O” stemless glasses, available as a mixed set, designed to enhance the main red varietals.  For white wines, consider a glass designed for your specific varietal, like a Riedel Vinum Classic Sauvignon Blanc wine glass for tasting Blanc fumé, Fumé blanc, Rotgipfler, Sancerre, Sauvignon blanc, Sémillon, Spätrot-Rotgipfler, and Zierfandler.  Breathe in, and enjoy the experience!  Cheers!