Wine and mourning

Do they belong together?

This is a relevant question as Kevin and I are out east following his mother’s death early Tuesday morning.

Luckily in her family’s Irish tradition a wake will be held. Not a raucous event like some might have seen. But a quiet dignified luncheon at a restaurant near the cemetery. Like a traditional Irish wake, it WILL be wet…. so wine will be available…

The wine list for this place is listed below. I am not sure that it is right to enjoy any of these wines under the circumstances. But at times like this it is important to feed the soul as well as the body.

  • Peconic Bay Riesling
  • Pindar Sunflower Chardonnay
  • Pindar Winter White
  • Palmer Chardonnay
  • Lenz White Label Chardonnay
  • Borghese Chardonette
  • Corey Creek Chardonnay
  • Duckwalk Chardonnay
  • Paumanok Barrel Fermented
  • Chardonnay
  • Kendall Jackson Reserve
  • Chardonnay
  • Robert Mondavi Private Selection
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Lindemans Bin 65 Chardonnay
  • Donna Cristina Pinot Grigio
  • Bolla Pinot Grigio
  • Robert Mondavi Private Selection Chardonnay
  • Borghese Petit Chateau
  • Pindar Pythagoras
  • Martha Clara Merlot
  • Peconic Bay Cabernet Franc
  • Palmer Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Black Stone Pinot Noir
  • Forest Glen Merlot
  • Lindemans Shiraz / Cabernet
  • Kendall Jackson Vint. Reserve
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Robert Mondavi Private Selection
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Ravenswood Zinfandel

Wine and Sushi

Is wine really the best way to go when eating sushi?

To test this thesis, your intrepid team at VinoVerve made our way to a local treasure, Katsu, to eat some sushi and drink some beverages.

Initially, we began with beer. That is certainly traditional. And those Sapporos went down very nicely with wasabi, soy sauce, rice and fish…

We moved on to wine. Rory brought a half bottle of the Colette Faller et ses Filles, Domaine Weinbach, Alsatian Grand Cru, 2004 Reisling Schlossberg. How is that for an estrogen packed wine! I have had wine from these ladies before and enjoyed it. The 2004 was not where the 2003 was in terms of flavor and depth, but it was certainly tasty with a light burnt caramel flavor and scent. The wine, while dry kept had enough fruit to stand up to the umami of Japanese food.

Next began our experiments with sake. Sake is produced by the fermentation of rice along with a mold, Aspergillus oryzae or kōji-kin as it is known in Japan. This mold is also used in the fermentation of soybeans, potatoes and other grains in order to make soy sauce, rice vinegars, miso and other alcoholic beverage such as shochu. The rice for sake must initially be milled, or polished to remove proteins and oils from the surface. The finer the milling, the finer the finished product. Fermentation takes place in multiple steps as the starch remaining in the rice is converted into sugar although these steps occur simultaneously. The fermented sake is cloudy and is often filtered to eliminate the milkiness that comes from the rice.

Sake grades are based on the amount of milling and the ingredients used in the process. The most typical grades, Junmai, use rice or molted rice alone. Other grades may allow the addition of distilled alcohol or special brewing processes. Additionally the type of rice and yeast are important considerations as well as the types of water (soft, hard) as well as the brewer and the school of which he is part.

All this being said, we proceeded to taste three separate sakes (hey! They come in 300ml bottles…) The first was the Tomoju which is a Junmai Ginjo (prepared with rice that was 40%-50% polished away and only with rice or molted rice). It was a smooth, medium dry sake that smelled of melons (I thought cucumbers which I think is a potato, potahto scenario)

The next was one that Kevin and I have enjoyed before… the Suijin or God of Water was a crisp dry and tastes of rice, which I find somewhat refreshing. The last sake that we tried was selected for us by our hostess, Hiroku Romanov. Hiroku is the co-owner of Katsu and wife of its chef… She runs the dining room and is responsible for the selection of the wines (viniferous and rice) on the menu. I must admit (in the spirit of full disclosure that she and Katsu are friends of ours and that it is a friendship born out of love of food and its excellent preparation…plus I have cute kids who know how to behave in restaurants!) that her choice was the perfect selection to match with what we were eating and drinking… it was mellow and mild, with some richness and medium dry. And for the life of me, I have no recollection of which sake it was. Is that because we drank too much (well that probably didn’t help) or because I failed to write down what we were drinking because I was taking pictures of the bottles… and I forgot to take the picture. Yes, that was the answer…

Truth be told, we were having a great evening. We were talking amongst ourselves with Katsu and Hiroku and their staff… and my 12 year old daughter… What? Don’t you take a preteen with you when you go out for a wine tasting dinner? Well, we do. The Angel was with us and she is developing her palate at restaurants by smelling what we drink and eating what we eat. I am proud to report that she has moved beyond descriptors other than “grape-y”. If we had been home, I would have allowed her to try a sip, but out of respect for our hosts, we skipped that.

Which wine did we prefer overall? It was a toss up. The Alsatian Cru was wonderful and fruity and a great choice if you want a grape wine. Of the sakes, I my favorite was the Tomoju. Kevin and Rory? Well I can’t speak for them…. Maybe they will give us a heads up.

Over the River and Through the Woods…

To my house this year!

My folks generally handle the Thanksgiving festivities but this year due to work considerations opted to let me and my shiny new kitchen handle the majority of the cooking. Not to be outdone, my father did bring the turkey and the dressing…. because as we have learned from inestimable Alton Brown, stuffing is evil because it both dries out the meat and creates a bacterial time bomb in your oven.

That being said, we had reached the point in the preparations where is was now time to finally select those wines that we would consume with our fowl friend… These were the planned choices and really we stuck to them pretty closely. Although I think we were much more in a mood for red wine and ended up drinking 2004 Warm Lakes Estate Pinot Noir in addition to the Hilton Clay in lieu of the Flora Springs. Our friend, Richard would be horrified, but in the end we will enjoy that Chardonnay so I say no harm, no foul on that choice.

My folks enjoyed the Gruet Brut and initially thought that it was a French wine. They were stunned to find that it came from New Mexico and more pleased that I managed to find that particular bottle for about $13.00 at WDC. The pinot noirs, on the other hand we had found together when out on our adventures on the Escarpment. This was our opportunity to taste them side by side again and this time get my mother’s opinion (as she kindly took charge of the girls that day). Over all the 2004 was preferred to the Hilton Clay but we enjoyed both…

After dinner as we enjoyed the maple cream pie, we tasted a number of lovely wines… A Port from Niagara Landing which tasted of Concord grapes, a R.L. Buller Tawny Port and Lustau Solera Reserva Rare Cream Sherry .

Grapevine News

That is Billion with a “B”

According to the Canadian Press, wine sales are up almost 6 percent in Canada… our neighbors to the north consumed 387.7 million litres of wine. A third of that consumption came from Quebec and red wine was preferred overall, unless you live in the Maritime Provinces of Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Maybe because of their access to fresh seafood? Oh, and don’t worry about your association with Canada and beer… They still drink 2.2 BILLION liters.

Cocktails Anyone?

The Canadians are not the only people drinking beer. According to the consulting firm, Technomic, Inc., when out on the town, most of us are more likely to drink beer or cocktails. Unless we are out for business, romance or dining that is…

Wines of Mencia

The LA Times reports that the wines of Bierzo, Spain made with Mencia grapes are fast becoming the new darlings of the wine world. The wines tend to be high quality and affordable. The vines themselves were abandoned years ago after being originally brought to Spain in the 10th century by French monks. Notable winemakers include: La Fararona Mencía, El Dorado, Descendientes de J. Palacios Corullón, Dominio de Tares, Paixar, Pago de Valdoneje, Cuatro Pasos and Luna Beberide.

How Do I Get That Kind of Job?

The McClatchy Newspapers report that the Wine Institute received $4.5 million from the Department of Agriculture’s Market Access Program to subsidize or outright pay for foreign journalists to travel to and enjoy California (mainly) wineries…

And She is Left-Handed Too!

For those of you that like skin… and not just the grape type, The National Post’s Shinan Govani, writes about his interview with Savanna Samson. Samson, a two time winner of Adult Video News Award for best actress is also a winemaker. Her wine, Songo Uno, received ratings of 90-91 from Robert Parker.

I wine about Martha

Like many women, I have a love/hate relationship with Martha Stewart. There are days when she inspires me be more creative in my approach to cooking or kid’s projects… and then there are other days when I feel demoralized by the Wonder that is Martha. She cooks better than I do… or at least making it appear more appetizing, she can sew and decorate and throw a party and clean (not that I give her much of a run for her money on that account) all with more style, panache and elan than I.

But at the end of the day, when I feel weary and beaten by Martha, I was always able to have a sip or three of wine and suddenly I felt like me again.

Until now.

Now she has invaded my wine too!

From this morning’s Modesto Bee:

Martha Stewart lifts glass to Gallo deal


The High Five are the five most-read stories, updated hourly.

When it comes to selling wine, could there be any name as recognizable as Gallo?

Sure there could. It’s Martha Stewart.

The doyenne of domestic arts announced Friday that she has joined with E.&J. Gallo Winery of Modesto to market three wines under her name.

The $15 bottles from Gallo’s Sonoma County operation will be sold in six

U.S. cities, none of them in California.

“We just wanted to produce a wine that she would be proud to put her name on,” Gallo spokeswoman Susan Hensley said.

The partnership has its roots in Stewart’s visit

to Modesto in 1990 to speak to the Omega Nu women’s group. Among the spectators was

Marie Gallo, daughter-in-law of winery co-founder Julio Gallo.

She and Stewart have remained friends. Stewart donated $10,000 in June to the soon-to-open Gallo Center for the Arts in downtown Modesto.

A 2000 installment of Stewart’s television show featured Gina Gallo, who is Marie Gallo’s daughter and oversees the Sonoma winemaking.

“There’s a long-standing relationship and a personal one between Martha Stewart and the Gallo family, and it’s based on their mutual love of food and wine and entertain- ing,” said Elizabeth Estroff, vice president of corporate communications for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc.

The company, based in New York City, provides advice on cooking, decorating, gardening and other skills through books and magazines, and on TV, radio and the Internet. It remains a force in these areas despite the founder’s five-month prison term following a 2004 conviction in an insider-trading case.

The Martha Stewart wines are a 2005 chardonnay, a 2006 merlot and a 2005 cabernet sauvignon — 15,000 cases in all in the first release. They will be sold starting in January in Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, N.C., Denver, Phoenix and Portland, Ore.

“These cities are a good geographical representation of the country,” Hensley said. Sales in other cities are not in the works, she said, nor are partnerships with other celebrities.

In Friday’s news release on the Martha Stewart wines, Chief Executive Officer Joe Gallo said the winery is “pleased to help bring her vision of wine and everyday entertaining to life.”

Stewart said in the same release, “As a former caterer and a lifelong hostess, I understand the important role wine can play at a gathering. The wines were crafted with great care and attention to every detail.”