Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Champagne: Real vs. The Imposters!

If you've been reading these blogs, you know how much I love Champagne. It's the wine of celebration, it's very food versatile and it makes me happy when I drink it.
But, alas. as hard as I try, I still sometimes mis-use the name "Champagne".
Champagne should only refer to sparkling wines produced in the French wine region of Champagne.
Even within France, if the wine is not produced in Champagne, but is made in the Champagne method, it is called a Cremant.
That Champagne method that I mentioned is known as methode champenoise, which is a "process" that is used to make the world's finest sparkling wines.
If you want to learn more about the methode champenoise process, I've included a link below. It's actually pretty interesting.
In general though, when someone asks for Champagne they are thinking of a dry white or rose sparkling wine.
Here are some price ranges for dry sparklers available at The Market. Only the domestics and Champagnes use the methode champenoise, which is reflected in the price:
Spanish Cava:  $15 - $25
Italian Prosecco:  $18 - $30
Domestic Sparkling: $20 - $100+
Champagne: $40 - "the sky's the limit"!


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Those Wacky Wine Customers!

I'm not complaining. I appreciate anyone who walks through our door here at The Market. You never know where your next great customer will come from.
But. Some interactions are just ... well ... funny.
A guy comes in the other day and interrupts me helping another customer to ask "do you have any dessert wine"? I say "I'll be right with you". And then the exchange goes something like this:
Me: I have a couple of great Sauternes here. This is a classic dessert wine.
He: Are they sweet?
Me: Yes. But they are balanced.
He: Anything not so sweet?
Me: These Muscats are more like port, but sweeter. Not as sweet as Sauternes, though.
He: Do you have anything white that's sweet but not as sweet as Sauternes?
Me: German Rieslings fit that bill nicely. (I proceed to show him several options at various price levels)
He: Do you have any I can taste?
Me: (Beginning to think this is going nowhere) No. Sorry, I don't have any Rieslings open right now.
He: Do you have any Moscato? (a slightly sweet sparkling wine, usually from Italy)
Me: Sure. (I show him several selections)
He: Do you have any I can taste?
Me: No. Sorry, we don't keep sparkling wines open because they "lose their sparkle" quickly.
He just kind of looks at me like I'm evil and proceeds to look at accessories.
He did actually buy one of our accessories, which I appreciate.
I think to myself: How could I have handled this differently to help the guy with the wine without opening up multiple bottles at my expense?
If anyone has any advice for me, I will gladly consider it.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Cardinals Lose - We Still Have Wine!

We moved from Chicago to St. Louis 18 years ago. It didn't take me long to embrace the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team. What a great franchise!
And they rewarded me with hundreds of thrills over the years, and, of course, two World Series championships - 2006 and 2011.
This year though.  Geez!  It was just emotionally draining.
They're hitting - they're not; they're scoring - they're not; they're pitching - they're not.
Oh, and what was that move our new rookie manager just made?
I wasn't going to drink last night, but I opened a Chardonnay in the second inning.
In the fourth inning it was time to change channels. But to what? The debate?  Ugh.
In the fifth inning I opened an Italian red blend.
My old football team, Da Bears, was on Monday Night Football, but, I just couldn't get into any more sports while my Cards were getting thrashed.
Eighth inning: Bourbon.
This one will hurt for a little longer, and then I'll just spend the next few months wandering aimlessly through the other professional sports on TV.
And then ...... Spring training!
The beverages of choice last night were:
2009 Dierberg Chardonnay
2008 Caburnio
Eagle Rare Single Barrel Bourbon


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Lunch With A Napa Winemaker!

Had a great lunch today at Cafe' Napoli with winemaker Michael Keenan. Michael is president of Napa Valley's Robert Keenan winery. He took over from dad, Robert, in 1998, and continues the tradition of making great Cabernet, Merlot and Chardonnay.
We've been a big supporter of the Keenan Cabernet since we opened The Market, but I was surprised by the quality of the other wines we tasted. I don't know why. I just assumed Keenan was more a Cabernet house than anything else.
The Chardonnay, Merlot, and, of all things, Cabernet Franc, were outstanding.
And what is Michael Keenan's favorite varietal? Hands down - Merlot! He says he drinks Merlot more than any other wine - probably 5 out of the 7 days in a week.
Incidentally,The Cafe Napoli in Clayton was excellent. I hadn't been in a while, and I almost forgot how good this place can be. House salad and chicken Marsala for lunch was a real treat!


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Food, Wine and Mouthfeel

Here's another of those wine terms: Mouth feel or mouthfeel.
This describes the sensation of wine in the mouth. What is that mouth of yours "feeling"?
Typically, you will be describing a texture. Silky, smooth, rough, harsh and hot are a few of the sensations we experience as we taste various types of wines.
The beauty of a wine's mouthfeel is that when paired properly, it is in perfect harmony with a particular food's mouthfeel.
The classic example is matching the full bodied, tannic mouthfeel of Cabernet with the smooth, slippery  marbled fat found in quality cuts of steak.
Other classics include:
Champagne and potato chips (acid and bubbles vs. salt)
Chablis and oysters (crisp minerality vs. briny, salty and creamy)
Sauternes and Foie Gras (rich and sweet vs. rich and savory)
Is your mouth watering? If it is, like mine is, you totally get the concept of mouthfeel.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Dang! Two Corked Wines In One Night!

An unusual thing happened this Saturday at The Wine Market. Of the 30 or so bottles we opened that day, two of them were "corked". I've talked about corked wines before, but, as a refresher, "corked wine" refers to cork taint. This is a wine flaw characterized by aromas of wet cardboard, wet dog, moldy newspaper and wet basement. This condition sucks the fruit out of the wine, making it not only stinky, but unpalatable too.
The chief cause of cork taint is the presence of 2,4,6-trichloroanisole (TSA) and/or 2,4,6-tribromoanisole (TBA). These are natural, albeit undesirable, compounds that are typically transferred to wine from the wine's cork. There is no health hazard from drinking corked wine - just general unpleasantness.
Several customers that day asked me what percentage of wines are corked. So, I pulled a few answers out of my ... uh ... memory that I wasn't really sure about. And there's a good reason for that.
The estimates are all over the place.
Of course all of the studies are unscientific, but the estimates range from less than 1% to over 8% of all bottles of wine being corked.
Any wine sealed with a cork has the potential for cork taint. Price does not matter in the least. The corked wines from Saturday were both reputable Napa Cabernets priced at $75 and $56 per bottle.
Probably the saddest cork taint I ever experienced was in a 1986 Chateau Margaux. This 98 point First Growth Bordeaux currently sells on line for $500 - $800, but this bottle was undrinkable. Very sad, indeed.
Watch for this wine flaw when you order wine in a restaurant, and be sure to refuse the wine if you think it's corked.
Unfortunately, the Margaux mentioned above was from a friend's personal collection.


Friday, October 5, 2012

"Weird" Wine Words

So, I pop open a bottle of Cabernet for a customer to try and say: "that wine is going to be a little closed since I just opened it". My partner looks at me and says: "do you know how totally ridiculous that sounds, except to a bunch of wine geeks"?
It's true. I suppose just like any other industry, the wine world has its words and phrases that can cause some head scratching.
Take, for example, the word "disgorgement".
No, this is not something that occurs in your bathroom after a night of raucous drinking and nasty eating.
Disgorgement is actually a process in making Champagne and other sparkling wines whereby sediment is removed from the bottle to make the wines crystal clear, and well, "sparkling".
If you want more information on "disgorgement" check out the link below.
I'll cover more weird wine stuff in future blogs.



Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Steak and Napa Cabernet - Golden!

Had dinner at my son's house last night. We hadn't seen Michael in about 4 weeks since he was intensely preparing for a competition in cold food preparation and presentation. (He's a sous chef at one of the local country clubs).
He won a gold medal!
So, we toasted his success with Champagne, of course.
Jean Milan Carte Blanche Brut is always a favorite. This "growers" Champagne is also moderately priced. I'll do another blog on growers Champagnes as we get closer to the holidays.
For dinner we had good old fashioned steak, potatoes and vegetables.
I write a lot about difficult wine and food pairings like Asian, Indian, Polish and other challenging cuisines.
But steak is very versatile. Most bigger reds will do. My fallback, though, is usually Napa Cabernet.
And the 2007 Chappellet Signature Cabernet Sauvignon did not disappoint.
Currant, plum and other dark fruits were supported by notes of chocolate, mint and cedar. The mouthfeel is getting very lush on this wine as the bottle age increases.
All in all, great food - great wine - great company.
If only the guys won in pinochle .....