Tag Archives: Argentina

4 DAYS IN NEW YORK – WINE AND FOOD

Dorianne and I went to visit our daughter, Grace, who attends CAP21 (LINK), a musical theater conservatory in Manhattan. During our four night stay, we sampled a few restaurants and had some wine experiences, including setting Grace up with a starter case of wine. The restaurants we chose were generally under the radar – not the high-end, but places that interested us and fit our budget. They were generally reasonably priced, actually a bargain, for New York City, but a couple would be considered expensive in other places. Wine was of course on our minds in making our selections. Here is a brief overview of our experiences.

We arrived on Saturday and went to see Grace’s end of the year performance at CAP 21 in the Village. I had made reservations for the three of us and her boyfriend, Kyle, at ŌTTŌ, Mario Batali’s Enoteca and Pizzeria (LINK) on 5th Avenue near Washington Square Park. It was a “meet the parents” dinner, so we wanted something special. While not really expensive, ŌTTŌ is a great experience and has the largest list of Italian Wines that I have ever seen – well over three hundred choices. The three of us arrived before Kyle and we had a glass of wine in the Enoteca in front. We were poured tastes of any by-the-glass wines we wanted before we chose by a very knowledgeable barman. The food was very good in this noisy bustling place. We were seated next to a group of 36 (at two long tables), so that may have affected the noise level. Our wine was a 2011 Soleado Nero d’Avila from Sicily; very tasty – spicy and full-bodied. The service was excellent. I would definitely return.

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Grace and Kyle Holding Up Pretty Well at the Meet the Parents Dinner.

On Sunday, Dorianne was at a workshop at the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music, so after Grace’s Sunday performance, we took the subway over to Park Slope and met her at Cafe Dada (LINK), a funky wine bar with Hungarian ownership. We had dinner reservations later on a few blocks away. Cafe Dada features a number of wines, several from Hungary, so we had a 2014 Peter Benedek Cserszegi Fűszeres, a crisp and refreshing white, with some appetizers. Cserszegi Fűszeres is the varietal (LINK), which was dry with hints of fruit and minerality. It was a bit unusual, but very refreshing.

Then it was on to dinner at Rose Water (LINK), on Union Avenue nearby. Our party of 6 included some friends who live in BrooklynRose Water is a tiny little place with a small kitchen just off the entryway. They offer a seasonal menu of locally sourced foods and everything was delicious. The wine list is one of those that is carefully chosen due to minimal storage space – but with a nice selection of wines that fit the menu well. We opted for a 2015 Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare Rosé, since people were getting a variety of dishes. It was a perfect choice (and there were five other rosés on the list). If you are in or near Park Slope, make arrangements to eat at Rose Water.

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On Monday, we met Grace when classes ended and headed over to Union Square Wines and Spirits (LINK), from the top-ten list of New York Wine Shops in the Village Voice (LINK). As readers of this blog may know, we took Grace to France to taste wines when she graduated from high school. The idea was to educate her palate so that she was not tempted by the cheap, crappy stuff at college parties. It largely worked, and she gets wine as well as any 22-year-old I know. So a mixed case of mid-level wines was selected at this excellent wine shop, she opened an account, and the wine was delivered two days later. I will blog about the idea of a “starter case” and the contents of this one in a future post.

Monday’s dinner was just the three of us and we chose Maison Harlem (LINK), just a couple of blocks from Grace’s apartment. The Harlem food scene is really taking off, and this place is near the front of that procession. A funky, laid-back place with definite French accents (including the owners, Samuel Thiam and Romain Bonnans and some of the staff). The food is excellent and the vibe is very friendly. There is a bar in the front that gets very lively, and the dining room in the back with live music on this night – a very competent jazzy trio. The wine list is short but interesting. We had a wonderful meal. The owners were sitting at the next table, so it was a nice experience interacting with them (like one of them showing me his smart phone with my minutes-old Tweet about the place). They also own a wine shop across the street.

Except for one thing. Our server brought the wrong wine. I have been on a bit of a Cahors Malbec kick for a few weeks, and they had one on the menu. I ordered it, pointing to the listing as I did so. The wine was brought, but not shown to me, and when given a taste, it tasted very good and looked like a Cahorsdark and inky. But when the bottle was put on the table (I was not shown the label first), it had an all black label, which seemed strange. When I examined it, it was an Argentinian Malbec. By this time the server had gone and the wine tasted fine. When told about it later, he apologized and offered to change the wine, but we decided to keep the wine we were served. Otherwise a great experience; and I could have asked to see the label (but I should not have to).

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Mid-Century Decor with Wine Bottles at Amelie Wine Bar

Our final wine-related meal was Tuesday’s lunch. We went to the Amelie Wine Bar (LINK) on West 8th Street, literally a block from ŌTTŌ closing the circle as it were. This little gem of a place offers really tasty food and an eclectic wine list in a mid-Century modern decor. It is very lively at night, there were only a few people there at lunch. There are dozens of wines by the glass, mostly French, but many others as well. We all opted for French wines. The servers are knowledgeable (here, too, most have French accents), and the food was exceptional. I opted for the burger and it was the best I have had in years. There is also a San Francisco branch of Amelie Wine Bar.

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Bread, Wine, and Goat Cheese rolled in Pistachio Nuts 
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Dorianne and Grace happy at Amelie Wine Bar
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How Our Check Came at Amelie Wine Bar

We closed our visit with a Broadway Show – School of Rock on Tuesday evening, and jsut snacked before the theater. As always, New York is an amazing place with a dazzlingly large array of possibilities. We chose well, I think, and I know that we missed so much.

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C’est la Vie!

As always, your comments are welcomed. And, if you would follow this blog and share it with others, I would be most appreciative. You can also follow me on Twitter at @JimLockardWine.

Copyright 2016 – Jim Lockard

A DAY IN THE COTSWOLDS – BEAUTY, HISTORY, FOOD, FRIENDSHIP, AND WINE

Last Saturday, we took a mini tour of the Cotswolds region, a beautiful rural area of southwestern England dotted with picturesque towns. We spent a week in one of those towns, Fairford, which is very friendly and beautiful.

On Saturday, our friends, Charlie and Avril, who live in Broughton Poggs, picked us up and took us out for the day. The first stop was in Lechlade, a town between Fairford and Broughton Poggs. While Dorianne and Charlie went to the store, I spied a little wine shop called Vin Est . . .; I told them to stop on their way back and pick me up.

The Vin Est . . . shop (LINK) is very small, a front room stocked with wines on shelves, in bins, on tables, and three casks for those who want to bring their own container. In the back are a couple of more rooms, one empty on this visit – about to become a beer room and to be used for tastings, and a smaller room where the premium wines are kept. They also distribute wines to a number of restaurants and pubs in the area.

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Some of the Good Stuff.
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Fill Your Own Bottle.
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Nice Wine Shop in Lechlade.
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The Main Shop Floor

I spoke with Rachel Jenkins, who owns the place with her husband Mike. They moved out from London to this idyllic spot and noticed a hole where a premium wine shop should be. The shop is inviting and intimate, and the Jenkins’ know their wine. If you are in the area sometime, this is the go-to wine shop once you get away from Oxford. I bought a nice bottle of Pouilly Gris that is sitting comfortably in the fridge now.

Back in the car to Charlie and Avril’s beautiful home in Broughton Poggs. A cup of tea or coffee and some conversation, then we are off to The Plough Inn (LINK) in Kelmscott for a hearty lunch. Sauvignon Blanc for Dorianne, grapefruit soda for Avril, and the local Buttcombe Bitters for Charlie and me. Great food in a really nice spot – and you can book a room if you like.

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The Plough Inn Barroom.
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Some Wine Choices at the Plough Inn

Then a walk down the lane to Kelmscott Manor (LINK), the former home of the great arts and crafts movement’s William Morris and his family.

After a tour of the stately home and grounds, we headed back to Broughton Poggs, where we examined a very old stone barn that Charlie and Avril are reconditioning into a home. A remarkable transformation is done with these old buildings, keeping the historic charm while remaking them with all the current conveniences.

Then to their home, which is in a converted 15th Century mill, with about an acre plus of gardens on the property – truly a remarkable place. We toured the gardens with a nice glass of Crémant (my fault in not noting the maker) from near Macon in France.

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Glasses of Crémant for our Garden tour.
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Jim, Avril, Dorianne and Charlie. Well into a Very Good Day.

Then more tea and conversation before heading out to dinner at The Five Alls (LINK), a pub about 50 meters from Charlie and Avril’s home. The same management as The Plough Inn, it is a nicely appointed pub with a barroom and several dining rooms. We were seated in short order and I perused the menu and the wine list. The list is interesting, mostly French, of course, but with a number of New World wines from South Africa, New Zealand, Chile, and Argentina. And, the wines are sourced thought our friends at Vin Est . . ., mentioned earlier. The only U.S. wine is a (cringe) White Zinfandel. But, we’re in England after all.

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Door to the Gents Room at The Five Alls.

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Charlie asked me to select the wines, so I chose a 2014 Picpoul de Pinet from Racine (LINK) in the Languedoc, France. Charlie cringed a bit at my choice, noting that the Picpouls had been pushed in England as an alternative to Pinot Grigio and that he found most of them lacking in any complexity. So we would see. At the same time, I also ordered a 2012 Crozes-Hermitage from Domaine du Colombier (LINK), to go with the venison that we had all chosen for our main course. This rich Syrah with a peppery, dark fruit, favor and good structure proved a success with the venison. I had asked that the second wine be decanted when I ordered it, however, this did not happen, so it took some time to open up nicely.

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But back to the Picpoul de Pinet. When it arrived, I was wondering if Charlie would be right, and we would be getting a vin ordinaire with little to no character. Right off the bat, it had a strong minerality on the nose, with hints of pear, citrus and lemongrass – similar, except for the heavy minerality to a New Zealand Sauvingnon Blanc. The taste was strongly earthy with hints of floral notes, pear, and a saltiness around the edges. It opened up a bit more after about ten minutes in the glass – it smoothed out and the complexity showed through. Charlie approved.

This is a beautiful region, becoming more gentrified by the minute due to its proximity to London, but retaining much of its charm – and getting some very good restaurants in the bargain. We have thus far not had an English wine – we plan to do that next week in London, but we have stuck pretty much with the French, with a couple of forays into South America and New Zealand at the supermarket. I would love to hear comments about your wine experiences in the U.K., and any recommendations for London would be appreciated as well.

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THE PLEASURES OF WINE – EVERYONE CAN ENJOY IT

As a new year begins, I have been browsing Twitter and some wine blogs and seeing, for the most part, the results of New Years Eve celebrations – pictures of very nice labels, people having fun, even features about opulent wine cellars. Wine is definitely a catalyst for good time and a good lifestyle, isn’t it?

That being said, I have to admit that I am somewhat put off by the displays of opulence. I guess I fall somewhere between those drinking old Chateau Margeaux  and those drinking Yellow Tail. (Full disclosure – I stayed in and did not imbibe last night – a case of food poisoning.) I disparage neither end of the spectrum, for they represent parts of a very wide spectrum of wine enjoyment. Now, I have had both Chateau Margeaux and Yellow Tail, and I hope to have the former again; and I am pretty sure that I will have the latter again. This is more about what wine enjoyment can be and how it is often portrayed in the wine media.

Wine - Bottles Dusty

The emphasis of much of the wine media, including the Twitterverse, is that true wine enjoyment only happens at the high end – by those with better palates, more money, and greater access than most of us will ever enjoy. I know that this is true of many aspects of life – cars, houses, etc. – but with wine, it is, I think, a bit more universal. This deprives many of the true enjoyment that a more modest degree of the three items mentioned above – quality of palate, financial assets, and access to great wines and the places where they are made and consumed – can bring.

I do not wish to disparage the high end of the wine world, but I do want to celebrate the other aspects more than we do. I want to let people, especially young people new to wine, know that a visit to the tasting rooms of Paso Robles or Santa Ynez can be as much or more fun than a visit to the Chateaus of Bordeaux. For one example, you will likely taste wines that are ready to drink in Paso or Santa Ynez, whereas the Bordeauxs that you will taste in Chateaus will mostly be years away from their peak. Also, the people pouring your wines in Paso will be much more accessible and patient with the newcomer than most of the equivalent people in Bordeaux, or in many of the other “premium” places.

I want people new to wine to know that there are many, many AMAZING wines that cost less than $25, and that most of the wines that cost under $50 are really good. That there is a significant drop off in quality to value ratios when you get above $50 per bottle. I want them to know that pairing a wine with a pizza can bring as much pleasure as pairing one with caviar; that screw caps are a better sealing device than corks for wines not meant to age for a long time (and even that is debatable).

Personally, I want everyone who is interested in wine to enjoy their interest without feeling that they are “missing something” due to some lack of knowledge or money or access. I realize that this is probably an impossible desire, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t pursue it. I want this blog and my wine-related activities to speak to people who love wines in all kinds of ways.

During 2015, I will be traveling to Europe and to South America and will blog about wine experiences at all levels. I will be starting to offer wine travel experiences, first in France – Bordeaux and Paris – in two formats – for those who know wine well and for those who want to learn about wine. Later, tours to Burgundy and Lyon and possibly to other world locations will be initiated. The idea is to enjoy travel and to experience the joy of a wine related lifestyle at whatever level works for you.

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Wine is for anyone who wants to enjoy it and we need to keep a broad perspective for the industry, and it’s customers, to thrive. I look forward to exploring more of the world of wine and to sharing it with as many people as want to partake of its many great experiences.

THANKSGIVING DINNER WINES – ALWAYS A CHALLENGE

As we plan for the US Thanksgiving next week, the topic of what wines to drink is always a challenge. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, Thanksgiving Dinner tends to last for hours of prep time, appetizers and snacking, football, the dinner itself, then desserts, etc. Eric Asimov of the NYTimes recommends going with wines that have less alcohol, given that you may be imbibing over a longer period of time.

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You never know who might show up for Thanksgiving Dinner!

Second, the kinds of foods served in many American homes runs a much wider gamut than on a normal day. I mean, how may other days do you serve sweet potatoes with marshmallows? So there are sweet and savory dishes on the table, plus whatever else has been laid out during the day. In Maryland, where I grew up, there was usually a bushel of fresh oysters in the garage or on the back porch from mid-morning on. By the time you get to the fruit and pumpkin pies, you have eaten a variety of foods.

So here are some ideas for wines – not specific wines, but varietals that will tend to serve you well with the chaos and wide variety of foods that you are likely to be served (or are serving). I also recommend less expensive wines for this day, unless you are having a relatively simple meal. Good wines can get lost in the mix of everything from those sweet potatoes to sauerkraut, to green bean casserole to well, whatever.

You will want red, white, and some bubbly for the day. Bubbly? Well, why not? Sparkling wines can be great for earlier in the day (like with those oysters) and for a toast to begin the main meal. Some of your guests may well prefer to have sparkling wine with dinner as well. I recommend Spanish Cava – very accessible both in terms of price and it’s flexibility to go with a variety of dishes. There are also some great California sparklers if you want to stick to American wines on this most American of holidays. Sparkling wine is great with dessert, as you do not want to add more sweetness to the end of a meal like this one!

As for whites, I think that this is a day for Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Torrontes, and Albarino. All of these are light, low in alcohol, and versatile. There are dozens of Sauvignon Blancs from California, France, and New Zealand that will fit your budget. The New Zealand wines will tend more to citrus notes, while the French produce wines with more floral notes. The Americans can be either – so ask you wine merchant if you have a preference for one style or another. Chenin Blanc is a French gem that is also becoming more and more popular  with US growers up and down the west coast. Torrontes is the top white wine of Argentina, light and crisp and affordable. Albarino is a Spanish beauty that translates well with anything from fish to poultry. I think that you will be happy with any of these varietals on your holiday table.

Looking at reds, we want to keep the alcohol on the low side, which makes it tough to purchase most California wines that are in the affordable range (under $25 a bottle). You can find some Pinot Noirs and Merlots that fit the bill, but you may have to do some searching. Actually, I think that your best answers are France and Argentina or Chile. French Beaujolais is an excellent choice. The wines tend to be lighter, lower in alcohol, and there are a number of good wines in this category that are priced right. Malbec from Argentina can range from lighter to heavier; the lighter versions are great for the holiday table, as are some of the Malbecs being produced in California’s Central Coast reason. Chilean Merlot is a great bargain, just watch that alcohol level. I recommend a variety of reds and whites – let your guests explore.

I would figure a bottle per person, plus any other beverages that you will be serving. Of course, you can also have a similar approach for your Christmas Dinner, which in the US is often a repeat of Thanksgiving. If you are having a beef or pork roast, you may still want white and sparkling wines for earlier in the day or with dessert.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving Holiday and let me know you Holiday wine recommendations.