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Posts Tagged ‘serving wine’

How to Open a Bottle of Wine the Right Way

March 11th, 2014 No comments

You could open a bottle of wine in your sleep…but are you doing it right? Learn the simple steps to properly open a bottle of wine, and look like a pro at your next dinner party.

Step One: Gather your tools

There are a lot of fancy wine openers (we sell some great ones!) on the market, but you should at least know how to do it properly, with an old-fashioned “waiter’s corkscrew” (also called a “sommelier’s friend”) that you can pick up for a few dollars and that slips easily into a pocket.

Step Two: Remove the Foil

Flip the small knife on the corkscrew out, and hold the corkscrew in the fist of one hand, the blade pointing towards your thumb. Holding the bottle firmly in the other hand, place the knife blade below the lip of the bottle. (Too high, and you could potentially contaminate the wine with bacteria from the outside of the bottle as it’s being poured.) Squeezing the neck of the bottle between the knife and your thumb, rotate the bottle. After one or two passes, your foil will be cut cleanly all the way around.  Using a scraping motion with the knife, peel the foil upwards and away from the bottle. Finish removing it with your hands.

Step Three: Insert the Corkscrew

Close the knife, and flip the corkscrew out. Again holding the wine bottle firmly in one hand, use the other to insert the point of the corkscrew into the center of the cork. Applying gentle downward pressure while turning the corkscrew will help it get started traveling downward into the cork in the proper position. Continue twisting downward until there is one turn of the corkscrew left. (Going too far could push the corkscrew all the way through the cork, breaking it or pushing cork residue into the wine.)

Step Four: Remove the Cork.

Set the first step of the corkscrew (the projection closest to the screw) onto the lip of the bottle. Continuing to hold the bottle firmly in one hand (never put it down on the table, that’s considered bad manners), use the other to apply upward pressure and lever the cork up. Once the cork has moved up enough, switch to the second step of the corkscrew. Using both steps lessens the chance the cork will bend and break. Once you’ve leveraged the cork out as far as it will go, simply pull to remove it the rest of the way.

Step Five: Remove the Cork from the Corkscrew

Being careful not to poke yourself, twist the cork off of the corkscrew with your hand. You’ll want to inspect the cork for damage, which can include cracks running up its sides, mold, or other signs of deterioration. If the cork doesn’t signal you that something has gone wrong with the wine, it’s time to pour a glass. After all that hard work, you deserve it!

 

 

How to Navigate a Wine List

January 15th, 2014 No comments

Even the most confident of wine lovers can get bogged down by a wine list that reads like a novel. Here’s how to safely navigate a restaurant wine-list and pick a bottle that’s sure to please everyone at the table.

Step 1: Choose a Color

Start by choosing between white or red by considering what you’ll be eating. You’re out to dinner, after all: the most important thing is that your wine complements your food. But feel free to throw that old “red wine with red meat, white wine with chicken and fish” adage out the window. A better method is to base your wine decision on your dish’s most prominent flavor. A chicken breast simply poached in white wine, for example, calls for a white wine that won’t overpower the flavor. The same chicken breast topped with a Marsala sauce, with its reduced wine and hearty mushrooms, is bold enough to stand up to a red.

Step 2: Balancing Act

Next, consider the heartiness of the dish you’re eating: the dish and the wine should match each other in body or richness. One of the best ways to do this is to consider your sauce. The simple buttery, garlic-y wine sauce in a bowl of linguini with clams plays well with a white wine with some heft, like a California Chardonnay. A pasta primavera with a simpler olive oil-based sauce, however, needs the lighter touch of something like a Cabernet Sauvignon.

Step 3: Match like Flavors

Here’s where you can get really creative. You can match the flavors and aromas in a wine to ingredients in your dish. A dish spiked with verdant cilantro, for example, can go well with a white wine with herbal, grassy notes. A steak topped with a sauce studded with currants would pair perfectly with a Cabernet rich with berry flavors.

Step 4: Think about Structure

The perfect pairing will result in a food and wine match that’s perfectly in balance. Certain components of the food you’re eating can  increase or lessen the acidity, sweetness, and bitterness of  the wine you choose.

Acidic ingredients like citrus juice pair well with acidic wines, making them taste softer and better-balanced. However, if a wine is already balanced, acidic foods can make it fall flat. Likewise, the tannins in a wine interact with the fatty flavors in a dish. Rich foods like steak diminish the appearance of tannins in wine and make it taste smoother. Salty and spicy foods, on the other hand, interact poorly with tannins, and can make a wine taste harsh.

With these four steps, you’ll be able to successfully choose a wine to pair with any dish on the table. But as with all things wine, we encourage you not to feel limited. If you don’t like red wine, don’t let that stop you from ordering that porterhouse. After all, what matters most is that you enjoy yourself. Choose a wine you’d drink by itself, and you’ll always be happy.

See our recommendations for local San Diego shops that carry the wines we love!

Wine Dispensing Best Practices

March 12th, 2013 No comments

WineKeeper’s Magnum 8 Bottle

You found that perfect wine while tasting at a sun-soaked vineyard years ago. You carefully carried a bottle home and placed it in your wine cellar. You monitored the temperature and humidity. You researched and thought about when the right time to open it. Finally, tonight’s the night: it’s time to uncork that bottle and at long last, enjoy the wine inside. But here’s the rub: you don’t want to down the whole precious bottle in one night. How do you enjoy the wine over a few days without losing that taste you’ve worked so hard to build?

Anyone who’s left a bottle out on the counter or in the refrigerator knows that the wine just doesn’t taste quite as good the next night. Can you save your wine without losing taste? The answer is yes: Your just need a wine dispenser.

Wine dispensers are devices designed to preserve wines. They store wines at appropriately cool temperatures, and keep oxygen from coming in contact with the liquid inside the bottle. You’ve probably seen wine dispensers used at restaurants and bars. But wine dispensers are available for home use, too.

One wine dispensing system we recommend is the WineKeeper. WineKeepers work by replacing the oxygen in the open bottle with nitrogen, a gas that doesn’t react with wine. Meanwhile, they hold bottles in a refrigerator specifically calibrated to the right temperature to preserve the wine. To use the system, you uncork the wine, insert the dispenser’s stopper faucet, and plug in the gas. You’re ready to pour a perfect glass.

WineKeeper offers a wide variety of dispensers. If you’re a restaurant or bar owner, you might be interested in something like their 8-bottle model, available in all kind of finishes from oak to stainless steel, and customizable with features like chrome faucets and a door lock. This model has different temperature zones for white and red wines, making it simple to keep each at its correct temperature.

If you’re a home enthusiast, you might be more interested in WineKeeper’s 4-bottle model, called the Napa. Though smaller, this model uses the same nitrogen preservation technology and advanced refrigeration system, and has two separate compartments for wine and red wines.

Whether you need a commercial or personal model, WineKeepers will keep opened bottles of wine fresh for weeks, so that you never waste that second half of the bottle again.

What’s Vintage Port?

April 24th, 2012 1 comment

Just as aged tawny ports are created from the “best” harvests, vintage port is made from only the finest harvests.  In fact, vintage port is the most desirable of all port wines, and collectors often proclaim vintage ports to be the pinnacles of their collections.   Vintage ports are very full-bodied wines with an abundance of sturdy tannins that make them loved and prized by port connoisseurs across the globe.  They are well-balanced, and contain gentle fruit flavors of cherries, figs, and hints of black licorice and chocolate.  (Don’t worry, even if you don’t care for black licorice you’ll probably still like vintage port; lots of folks who aren’t big licorice fans love it!)a bottle of vintage port from 1963

Vintage port is made from the grapes of the finest harvests of a single year.  After aging for two to three years in wood, the wine is bottled for at least fifteen years.  Unlike other port wines that are meant to be consumed at the time of purchase, some vintage ports are intended to be held onto.  For instance, the majority of vintage ports from 1991 to 2003 should be purchased and kept until their flavors peak.  Vintage ports that have “reached their peak” and should be enjoyed now are those from 1970, 1975, 1977, 1983, & 1998.  Some vintage ports can either be consumed now, or can be held until a later date.  These vintages are from 1980, 1985, 1987, & 1998.  (Be aware that the years of some vintages may be approximate, since not all port houses declare the same vintage year.)

Unlike tawny port, vintage port needs to be decanted when served.  Bottles of vintage port contain a lot of sediment, and decanting helps to remove it.  Consider using a sophisticated decanter like the Riedel Tyrol wine decanter to effectively aerate and remove the sediment from your bottle of vintage port.  If storing a vintage port in your wine cellar, make sure you store the bottle on its side (as you would any other wine), and keep it in a room with a maintained temperature.  Ideally, a steady temperature between 55 and 60 degrees is fantastic for port.  Cheers!

Dare to Mix Red and White Wine?

April 10th, 2012 No comments

mixing red and white wineBefore reading further, please understand that wines like rosés are not just mixtures of red and white wines.  They are made by a process similar to red wine, but the skins of the grapes are removed before they fully turn the wine a deep shade of red.  (Read more about the process of making rosé wine in our previous post How to Choose a Great Rosé.) That said, some experimental wine drinkers delight in mixing red and white wines, producing curious concoctions that either intrigue or disgust  (This is the adult equivalent of the way kids mix multiple sodas together at fast food restaurants).  While purists will have no part in such playing, some wine drinkers delight in making their own mock blends of “signature” wines this way.

Is it possible to mix red and white wines to create new blends of your own?  Yes, it is.  Will they be any good?  While there’s no guarantee, if your palate is discriminating enough you may just very well be able to come up with a custom mix that suits your fancy (We can’t speak on behalf of your guests, however!).  And while your blend will not be a real rosé, it may still exhibit an interesting, rosé-like appearance.

How should you go about mixing red and white wines?  If you want your results to be drinkable, follow these simple steps:

  1. Decide on the two wines you want to mix.
  2. Fill a glass halfway with whichever wine has the weaker flavor.
  3. Add half a shot glass full of the stronger wine.
  4. Stir!
  5. Sip, and see what you think.  If the flavor is too weak, repeat to steps 3-5.

If you’re lucky, you may have discovered a personalized blend you’re absolutely crazy about.  Then again, you may have Frankenstein’s monster on your hands!  If so, discard your glass and use a wine preserver like the Napa 4- bottle wine dispenser to keep the unused, untainted portions of your two opened bottles fresh for another time to be enjoyed on their own!  Good luck, and happy mixing!

Easter Wine Pairings

April 3rd, 2012 No comments

Easter is a time to celebrate with family and friends.  When meals are involved, the focus is often on a roasted ham or a nice leg of lamb.  But what wines go best with these dishes?  After all, hams are often prepared with a variety of glazes, aren’t they?  Read on!An Easter ham perfect with a glass of wine.

No matter how sweet your ham’s glaze may be, ham is an inherently salty meat.  Keeping this in mind, the best wines for any ham are Rieslings or  Gewürztraminers.  Both sweet wines complement the salty flavor of ham without impacting the taste of the glaze, or the taste of the wines themselves.  If you’d prefer a more buttery mouth feel to accompany your glazed ham, a slightly oaked Chardonnay is also a possibility.  For drinkers who prefer red wine, Red Zinfandel is a spot-on alternative; the bold presence of its fruit flavors will complement any sweet ham.

If you’re serving leg of lamb, consider a traditional pairing like Burgundy, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, or Merlot.  You’ll want a wine that is fruity and acidic so that it complements your lamb (a meat with big flavor!), but does not subdue its flavor.  If some guests want white wine, while others desire red, consider having two or more bottles of wine open simultaneously.  Save any left over wine with the convenient WineKeeper 3-Bottle Executive for more relaxed enjoyment later in the evening.  Cheers, and Happy Easter!

What to Look for in Tawny Port

March 27th, 2012 No comments

Unlike its ruby cousin, tawny port’s signature color is a bit lighter, as is its body.  Simply put, it’s a more delicate wine that exhibits some of the softer traits of vintage port.  Unlike expensive vintage port, however, tawny port is available at a fraction of the cost.

a glass of tawny port

Photo by Jon Sullivan

Tawny port is produced by blending older port wines.  Similar to ruby port, tawny port is also aged before bottling.  The time spent aging is usually between two and seven years.  Unlike sweeter rubies, tawny port features flavors of darker fruits and berries, as well as ripe plums.  Comparatively, a glass of tawny is richer with tannins.  And compared to their older, vintage cousins, non-vintage tawny ports are less dry and their tannins, while robust, are more mellifluous.

If tawny port’s tannins are a bit much for you, it’s okay to let a bottle of tawny sit for a bit; its tannins soften substantially as it ages.  Because it’s not as “forward” as ruby port, be sure to serve tawny port in proper port glasses.  Riedel Sommeliers Vintage Port Glasses are ideal because they are designed to reveal port’s pleasant, subtle aromas that are often masked by the smell of alcohol when served in larger glasses.  If you’ve enjoyed ruby port, perhaps it’s time to give tawny a try?  Cheers!

Did you catch our post last week on ruby port?

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?

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?

Wine: The Perfect Last-Minute Gift

December 20th, 2011 No comments
Last-minute shoppers looking for gift ideas

Shoppers on Dundas, photo by Ian Muttoo

Shopping for gifts at the last minute, again?  Does what to get for a certain loved one have you stumped?  If you continue to suffer from the daunting task of gift selection, here’s a gift that is always appreciated: wine!  What is more, shopping for wine is much easier than sifting through racks of ties, perusing packages of festive socks, or combing the entire hardware section of Sears.  And unlike jewelry that may not see the light of day once fashions change, or knickknacks that may have just a two-week shelf life, wine will always be popular and appreciated.  You need not break the bank when purchasing wine (there are good bottles in every price range), and its affordability allows you to easily put together decent gift baskets for less than $50.  Single bottles can even be given as gifts; special “artistic” bottles created by vineyard artists make excellent showpieces after they have been enjoyed, and most retailers offer gift bags, boxes, and wrapping services so your present will look extraordinarily presentable!  Because gifted wines often get opened around a broad array of holiday foods, at least one wine to include in a gift basket is a Pinot Noir since it pairs adequately with most foods.  Equally good is a sparkling wine, which is always associated with festive times.  For variety’s sake, you may want to gift one of each– white, red, and sparkling wine –so that your recipient has options to choose from.  Also, you may want to consider including a rosé; though this wine is often associated with summertime, it adds a breath of fresh air to winter dinners.

Red and white wine served at dinner

Photo by Adrien Facélina

When serving wine at your holiday dinner, make sure you use proper wine glasses, and keep your wine bottles at the proper serving temperature.  It is especially important to make sure your sparkling wines are adequately chilled.  (No one likes warm Champagne!)  Whites should be chilled properly, too, but most reds can be served at cellar temperature.  To be sure your wine reaches its ideal serving temperature, consider using a Le Cache European Country 1400 wine cabinet, or a Vintage Series 2 door single-deep credenza in your dining room.  No matter the occasion, the gift of wine is one that will always be welcomed.  Happy Holidays!