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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!

Wine May Help Prevent Diabetes

March 29th, 2012 No comments

American studies have shown that drinking wine helps to prevent type-2 diabetes, and a recent study conducted in Europe concurs.  The results, soon to be published in the Journal of International Medicine, were derived by examining numerous variables among thousands of participants.  These included detailed lifestyle and eating habits of individuals living in Italy, Spain, the UK, and other European countries.  Examining the data from this massive selection of people, what was the verdict on alcohol?

The blue circle represents diabetes, and wine may help reduce the risk of diabetes

The blue circle is a universal symbol used to represent diabetes

According to this study, scientists discovered that moderate alcohol use is connected with a 13% lower risk of developing type-2 diabetes in men, and a whopping 20% lower risk in women.  (Ladies, raise your glasses!)  Women who drank primarily fortified wine (as opposed to other types of alcoholic beverages) fared even better; their risk factor of developing diabetes was 32% less than the norm.

Another very interesting finding had to do with weight.  Moderate alcohol intake reduced the risk of diabetes in overweight participants much more than participants who were of average build.  Scientists could not explain why this was so, but have theorized that heavier folks may metabolize alcohol quicker.

In short, the study reports that moderate alcohol consumption lessens one’s chances of developing type-2 diabetes.  Wine drinkers, especially, had the highest percentage of protection.  This is welcomed news for the world of wine!

*This blog does not constitute medical advice.  Consult your primary care physician before making changes to your diet or lifestyle.   Women should not drink alcoholic beverages during pregnancy because of the risk of birth defects.

What to Look for in Ruby Port

March 22nd, 2012 No comments

Of all the varieties of port, ruby port is arguably the smoothest.  Many wine drinkers unfamiliar with the world of port can easily enjoy glasses of this sweet, deep red wine.  Sampling ruby port is a fantastic way for wine drinkers to become familiar with port wine, and though often less complex than their tawny cousins, good ruby wines can also be appreciated by port connoisseurs.drink ruby port shortly after it is bottled

Ruby port (made from the grapes Toriga Francesca, Toriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Tinto Barrocca, and Tinto Cao) is a bright, deep red-colored wine.  Rather than being made from a blend of grapes harvested during one given season, ruby port utilizes grapes that come from many vintages.  The blend is then aged in wooden casks for around three years prior to bottling.  A sweet wine, you should expect your glass to be brimming with red cherry and fresh plum flavors.  Its finish should be long, smooth, and very warm; port is the perfect nightcap to a date on a cool, spring night!

Unlike most other wines, ruby port needs to be enjoyed shortly after it is has been bottled.  (Remember, it already spent nearly three years maturing in a wooden cask.)  Because of this, when looking for bottles of ruby port in your local wine shop, be wary of older bottles; they will almost always be disappointing.  If you’re unsure about which bottle of ruby port to take home, attend a tasting and try a few glasses of different rubies before making your selection.  If your area wine shop doesn’t offer many opportunities to taste port, consider ordering a glass of ruby with your dessert the next time you go out for dinner.  Bring a pad of paper, and take a few notes.  If you’re out with others, convince everyone in your party to order a different ruby port so you can sample and compare them.  (Now, that’s fun!)  Though less expensive than other port wines, ruby port serves as an excellent introduction to the world of port.  When you do find a bottle that suits your fancy, remember to enjoy it with appropriate glassware such as Riedel Sommeliers Vintage Port Glasses. Cheers!

Stay tuned for our next post–we’ll tell you what to look for in Tawny Port as well!

Take a Bath, A Wine Bath!

March 20th, 2012 No comments

Bathtub

There’s been a lot of discussion about the benefits of wine consumption, lately, but a new trend has appeared that takes wine enrichment to the next level: bathing in it!  That’s right, it’s called “vinotherapy,” and it purportedly reduces wrinkles, repositions unsightly cellulite, and even helps lift the face.   Begun in the world’s first “wine spa” in France (appropriately), the full-body wine treatment also includes being wrapped and massaged in delightfully-aromatic wine extracts.  The “secret” to the procedure is grape seed oil, which is believed to increase blood circulation when applied topically.  Participants often begin their vinotherapy regimens by bathing in a jacuzzi of warm, red wine, since the force of the jets offers cardiovascular benefits.  To minimize cellulite, a wine and honey wrap is then applied, or a Merlot wrap designed to refresh the skin and help eliminate toxins.  Some people even follow this treatment with an all-grape diet for 3 days following the procedure (Though I doubt your doctor will approve)!  If your face could use a tune-up, a  “vinolift” may also be in order.  This natural facelift procedure utilizes resveratrol (found in grape skins), as well as gentle electrical pulsation.

Even though antioxidants found in grapes have been shown to slow the aging process, skeptics remain unconvinced that the amount of them absorbed through the skin during vinotherapy provides much benefit.  Still, if you’re a wine lover looking for an unforgettable spa experience, vinotherapy may be a nice preview of heaven.  Cheers!

Winos, Healers, and Wine Weirdos: Four Historical Personalities

March 13th, 2012 No comments
Frederick the Great

Frederick the Great, who brewed his coffee with Champagne instead of water

Here are four interesting people who really enjoyed their wine!  (Whoever said history had to be dry?)

  1. Frederick the Great (1712-1786), King of Prussia, brewed his own coffee with Champagne instead of water, adding a little bit of powdered mustard to make the flavor stronger.  (Note: for anyone adventurous enough to try this at home, do not put Champagne into your Mr. Coffee® machine; use an easy-to-clean French press, instead.)
  2. Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), in his day, earned $25,000 a year.  From that amount, he annually spent around $3,000 on wine, alone.  (That’s quite a bit, considering the time period!)  He admired good Madeira and Bordeaux, and helped to stock the wine cellars of the first five presidents of the United States.
  3. Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179), composer, writer, philosopher, mystic, and Benedictine abbess, prescribed herb-infused wine for pain relief.  “One who is in pain from a stone should take parsley and add a third part saxifrage. He should cook this in wine, strain it through a cloth, and drink it in a sauna.”
  4. Dr. John Carmichael (1761-1837), a surgeon at Fort Adams, enjoyed his wine collection so much that he spent the majority of his later days in a rocking chair, staring at his wine cellar.  His will included specific instructions about how he was to be buried, following his death: before the burial, his friends were to move the casket containing his body to the wine cellar, then drink his entire collection of wine in its presence.  Following two full days of dutifully emptying his cellar, Dr. Carmichael’s friends forgot what they had done with his body!  After sober reflection, the casket was eventually found, and Dr. Carmichael was given a proper burial.

If You’re Going to Drink, Choose Red!

March 6th, 2012 No comments

Pink Ribbon for Breast Cancer AwarenessThere have been a lot of benefits associated with drinking red wine.  Now, a study at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center at Los Angeles has demonstrated that a glass of red wine a day may help reduce the risk of breast cancer.  What did the researchers find?  Chemicals just under the skins of red grapes (and in their seeds)  lowered women’s estrogen levels slightly (and also boosted testosterone levels).  How is estrogen control helpful?  Elevated levels of estrogen, in women, puts them at a greater risk of developing breast cancer cells.  Lower estrogen levels decrease the risk of this cancer.  Women participating in this study who drank red wine experienced lowered levels of estrogen, while women who drank white wine exhibited no estrogen reduction.

As with most studies, researchers stressed that further studies are still required.  Even so, it’s interesting that moderate amounts of red wine have shown a beneficial estrogen-reducing effect, while white wine displayed no impact on estrogen.  Dr. Chrisandra Shufelt, assistant director of the Women’s Heart Center at Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute, has commented that “If you were to have a glass of wine with dinner, you may want to consider a glass of red. Switching may shift your risk.”  This is some curious food for thought.

Please note that of course this blog does not constitute medical advice.  Consult your primary care physician before making changes to your diet or lifestyle.   Women should not drink alcoholic beverages during pregnancy because of the risk of birth defects.

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!”

The Allure of Tokaji Wine

December 8th, 2011 No comments
A portrait of Beethoven by Joseph Karl Stieler, 1820

A portrait of Beethoven holding the "Missa Solemnis" by Joseph Karl Stieler, 1820

Children are often amused to learn that, years before Kraft Foods, Ludwig van Beethoven’s favorite dish was macaroni and cheese!  For adults–even those of us who still enjoy mac and cheese–it may be more interesting to note that one of Beethoven’s favorite wines was a white dessert wine from Hungary’s Tokaj region.  Situated northeast of Budapest, the Tokaj region is nestled in the Zemplen Mountains.  The region’s soil consists mostly of clay, with an underlying volcanic layer.  Sun filled summers and dry autumns help to nurture the precious Aszú grapes used in this wine.  (These grapes possess an unusually high concentration of sugar, and are picked and painstakingly sorted by hand at harvest time, which is rather late.)  In fact, the Tokaj region was Europe’s first ever classified wine region.  Today, some distilleries exist where select Single Malt Scotches are put into former Tokaji wine casks for a few years, imbuing the whisky with a hint of the delightful aromas (and a hint of the characteristic sweetness) of Tokaji wine, itself.

Considered a prized wine of nobility, Tokaji wine was also adored by Franz Joseph Haydn, Beethoven’s one-time instructor with whom he had a falling out.  Franz Schubert, an early Romantic composer who idolized Beethoven, also had a preference for Tokaji wine.  Schubert set numerous poems by Goethe, Heine, and Schiller to music, and each of these famous authors, incidentally, had a passion for Tokaji.  After his early death at age 31, Schubert’s music was championed by several prominent pianists, including Franz Liszt, and Liszt–a descendent of the pedagogical lineage of Beethoven–also happened to like Tokaji wine.  (We do not know if he also liked mac and cheese!)  Liszt’s personal philosophy regarding the contemporary music of his time also contains a reference to wine: “new wine requires new bottles.”  In short, this motto can translate as follows: new music will require new forms.  Liszt’s quotation is also a nod to Luke 5:37: “And no one pours new wine into old wineskins.  If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined.”

Painting of Louis XV

Louis XV, by Maurice Quentin de La Tour, 1748

Exploring the history of this much-loved wine outside the musical community, we learn that Louis XV of France once presented a glass of Tokaji as follows: Vinum Regum, Rex Vinorum.  (Wine of Kings, and King of Wines.)  Louis XV’s father, Louis XIV, probably introduced Tokaji wine to his son after receiving several bottles as a gift from Francis Rákóczi II, Prince of Transylvania.  Since then, this beverage became a staple in the Court of Versailles.  American connoisseur Thomas Jefferson had several bottles imported for his presidential feasts in the early 1800’s, while yearly on her birthday, Queen Victoria received numerous bottles of this very wine from Austrian Emperor (and Apostolic King of Hungary) Franz Josef.  Even Napoleon Bonaparte purchased barrels of Tokaji for his Court on a yearly basis, and King Gustav III of Sweden would not drink any other wine!

Given its rich history, why is this wine so little-known, today?  In short, several prominent Hungarian vineyards were ravished by phylloxera in the late 1800’s and did not recover quickly.  Couple this with the onslaught of WWI, the deterioration of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the advent of WWII, followed by the ascent of Communism, and you have a recipe for run-down vineyards!  Only recently has the wine enjoyed by Beethoven, Goethe, Louis XV, and Thomas Jefferson been reproduced after a long period of hibernation.  Will it regain its former glory and win over the artisans and world leaders of our day?  Only time will tell.  For more information about wine and history, check out Vintage Cellar’s Wine Storage Education Center r check out our “Wine History” category here on the blog.  Cheers!

Music and Wine, by Dave Matthews

November 29th, 2011 No comments
Dreaming Tree Wine Bottles

Dreaming Tree: a collaboration between Dave Matthews and Steve Reeder

Dreaming Tree…  That’s a song title, right?  Actually, it’s the product of Dave Matthews’ musical mind, along with winemaker Steve Reeder’s wine talents.  When Matthews was performing at Robert Mondavi Winery, Steve Reeder was there and conversing with representatives from Constellation wine brand.  Ideas centering around the perfect union of wine, food, and music were flowing, and someone asked Reeder’s opinion about working with Dave Matthews to create wine.  After a little research, Reeder called Matthews “a true artist,” in the sense of the multi-talented artists of the Renaissance, adding that Matthews also has a small Virginia winery, as well as a farm.  In short, Reeder was delighted to initiate a collaboration.  Reeder sent Matthews some Simi wines to sip, and Matthews reported back what he liked, and why he liked it.  After some trial blends, the duo of “Dreaming Tree” has produced three new wines.  These include a Chardonnay, a Cabernet Sauvignon, and a red blend.  Sold at around $15 a bottle, the wines are “Wine Institute certified sustainable” meaning that their bottles are lightweight and eco-friendly.  Reeder commented that Dave is concerned about being socially responsible, and that this type of packaging is the “right” thing to do “for the right reasons.”  Reeder also commented that just as Dave Matthews loves music, so does he love wine!

Drink Wine, Prevent Sunburn?

August 15th, 2011 No comments

According to a recent study conducted by the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Barcelona, a compound found in grapes (and grape products) may actually help protect skin cells from harmful UV rays.  Researchers “evaluated the in vitro capacity of several antioxidant polyphenolic fractions from grape, which differ in their degree of polymerization and percentage of galloylation, to protect HaCaT human keratinocytes against UV-induced oxidative damage.”

The result?  Flavonoids in the grapes helped stop the harmful reaction that destroys skin cells triggered by exposure to sunlight.  When exposed to UV rays, the skin activates “reactive oxygen species”  which then oxidize larger molecules.  Like a chain reaction, this eventually activates enzymes that destroy skin cells.  The flavoniods in the grapes, however, reduce the amount of reactive oxygen species in skin cells exposed to the sun’s harmful rays, thus preserving the skin.  “These encouraging in vitro results support further research and should be taken into consideration into the clinical pharmacology of plant-derived polyphenolic extracts as novel agents for skin photoprotection.”  Here is yet another miraculous property of our beloved grapes!  The study can be found in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

drinking wine on the sunny beach

Image courtesy of discover-eleuthera-bahamas.com