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Erin's Top 10 Wine Resolutions for 2015

Raventos bottleInstead of making New Year's Resolutions that won't last more than a few weeks, I thought it would more fun and interesting to make my New Year's Resolutions about drinking more wine!

Here are my Top 10 2015 Wine Resloutions:

  1. Drink More Bubbles. Champagne, Sparkling Wine, Cava, Prosecco... Drinking bubbles does not have to be reserved for special occasions; it's a special occasion when you pop the top! Right now I am in love with the producer Raventos i Blanc. They've been making wine since 1497. Their great, great, great grandfather, invented the word Cava. The family has had a devotion to the indigenous grapes from their region in Spain ever since. Amazing quality, vintage wine from Conca de Anoia – a very special place, and a approachable price, gets these bottles on my resolution list.
  2. Turn a friend into a Wino! I think we all have that friend who "doesn't like wine." It is my belief that these friends just haven't tried the right wine for them. Start them out with a light, fruity wine like a quality Riesling or un-oaked Chardonnay for whites; or a light red like Pinot Noir or Gamay (Cru Beaujolais). Then, move them up in baby steps to the big style wines, like Cabernet, Malbec and Syrah.
  3. Go to wine tastings. Attending wine tastings is a great way to meet other wine lovers, and also great for those friends who are new to wine (see #2 above). Wine tastings typically present wines from many different regions or a focused theme. This gives you the opportunity to learn about new wines and "test drive the car before you buy it."
  4. Start a Monthly Tasting Group with Friends. Starting a monthly tasting group is a lot of fun. In the wine industry we like to "blind taste" the wines, usually picking a theme. For example... ask your friends to bring a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon from a wine region in a brown paper bag. Number the bags as they arrive, and have everyone taste them and write down where they think the wine comes from. You can also add vintage guesses as well. 2012 Argentina? 2008 South Africa? 2010 Napa Valley? Once everyone has tasted the wines, reveal them and see who got the most correct. Then discuss regions and look up vintage reports and see what the weather conditions were like, comparing how different weather conditions and soils affect the Cabernet varietal. It's really wine geeky, but we love it!
  5. Drink Pink. I am NOT talking about White Zinfandel either (although Turley Wine Cellars did start making a dry White Zinfandel that is actually quite good). Dry rose wines can be exceptional, especially in the summer. When it is too hot for red wine, dry rose is a refreshing choice. Dry rose pairs well with just about any type of food. Dry rose can range from more fruity styles, with hints of fresh raspberries and strawberries, to more intense styles, with dark cherry flavors and full of body.
  6. Drink Real Wine. "Real Wine", is made by real, caring people and not marketing companies who are only interested in their bottom line. Be wary of wines with catchy, sometimes childish labels (remember Yellow Tail?). Initially it may seem like a fun wine, but in most cases, you should judge the book by its cover. Know who the producer is and the methods they use to make the wine. If no one at the store can tell you, find a good, well respected, local wine shop.
  7. Explore New Varietals. There are many different grape varietals of wine in the world. Some are better known, however, there are many wineries that have found varietals that were thought extinct. For example, Maturana in Rioja, and Sauvignon Gris in Chile were both found in the back rows of old vineyards, hidden for years. In addition, Tempranillo Blanco is Tempranillo that just mutated itself into a white grape. It is fun to explore these wines and taste something that has been untouched for ages or completely new.
  8. Visit a Wine Producing region. If you can't make it to the Pacific North West, France, Spain, or any other wine producing region, check out a local winery. Every state in the USA has at least one, and although the wines may not be as good as the traditional wine making regions, the beauty is you get to have a winery experience that is original.
  9. Join a Wine Club. Wine Clubs are a good way to try new wines as well. There are many out there, but the best will give you facts, information and a lot of diversity. Every month is a surprise, how fun is that?
  10. Support Local Wine Shops. The benefits of "Shopping Small" are much greater than shopping at the large, big box, chain stores. You will find knowledgeable employees, higher quality wines, made by caring people.

Shop Small for Best Wine

shop-small logoAfter Thanksgiving and the crazy shopping days that followed, including Small Business Saturday, it got me thinking about what it means to Shop Small with regards to the retail wine business. It's just fermented grape juice in a glass bottle, right? Wrong! All wines are not made equal. The wine regions and winemaking processes all vary so widely, which can be confusing. So this poses the question: How do you know which wines are well made and which aren't?

The Farm-to-Table food movement has exploded, and I think the same principles apply to wine. If you want to know what farm your steak or carrot came from, wouldn't you want to know who makes the wine you are going to drink? If you only eat seasonal organic produce, don't you want to know where the wine comes from and what farming practices they use?

Who's Who in the Central Florida Wine and Beverage Business

The wine business in Orlando has come a long way over the last 30 years and there are several people to thank for it. Since I am so closely connected to the different aspects of the wine business, I know first hand the time and work it takes to get a wine into your glass. I am always disappointed when I read a review of a restaurant - one that I know has put a lot of time and energy into their wine and beverage program – and the wine list isn't even mentioned. I feel that at the greatest restaurants, the wine and beverage program are what make them the full package, the ultimate experience. The first thing people order at a restaurant, after all, is a drink.

For all of you who read Scott's flog regularly, you know he is always fighting for Orlando to be recognized as a culinary destination. Some say the beaches and theme parks hold us back but ultimately I believe that without a wine culture people are actually willing and able to talk about, Orlando will never be viewed as a culinary destination. Wine and food have a long history of marriage, and with wine comes the idea of culture, prosperity and most importantly sharing. To truly understand the wine culture in Orlando, I feel it's important to recognize the people who started it, and those who are fighting for our town to have a stage in the market. This is all pretty common knowledge amongst us that have been in the wine business for a while but for many, I think that it may not be known who is the driving force behind what has and does happen in our wine scene.

How Much Should You Pay for a Corkage Fee?

CorkscrewHow important is a corkage fee to you?

If you're not sure what a corkage fee is, then it probably doesn't matter much at all. Corkage fees are what a restaurant charges a guest who wishes to bring his or her own bottle of wine rather than order one off of the restaurant's wine list. Why would someone want to do that? Usually it's because the guest has a special bottle of wine he'd like to enjoy for, presumably, a special occasion. Sometimes, less frequently, a guest wants to bring a bottle from his own cellar as a way of saving costs.

The better question is why would a restaurant, which is in the business of selling food and drink, allow this?

Some don't. Many years ago I was on the phone with Paul Bocuse and I asked him what he says when guests ask if they can bring their own wines to his famous restaurant near Lyon, France. "I tell them, 'Fine, why don't you bring your own chairs, too,'" he replied through an interpreter.

Many restaurants grudgingly allow guests to bring a bottle of wine from home. And most that do will impose a corkage fee for the service of the wine, the use of the glassware and the cleaning. The fee may run anywhere from $15 to $20 typically, although as this article, which is curiously titled "The Etiquette of Navigating a Corkage Fee," states, some restaurants, such as Thomas Keller's French Laundry and Per Se, charge $150 for each bottle. That's presumably to discourage the practice, but given the price point of those two restaurants a guest might come out ahead with the corkage and a bottle brought from home.

It's possible that a restaurant would charge nothing for guests who bring a bottle with them, but those will usually be establishments without a license to sell alcohol.

If you'd like to take a bottle of wine to a restaurant, be sure to call ahead and ask about the restaurant's corkage policy. Never take a bottle that can be found on the restaurant's own wine list, and it's also bad form to take an inexpensive vintage (or nonvintage) just to save a few bucks.

What do you think? Have you ever taken a bottle of wine to a restaurant? What's the most you've paid for a corkage fee? And restaurateurs: What is your policy about outside wine? Or dining room chairs, for that matter? Leave a comment below.

Tacos, Tequila and Foolish Choices

Blue Nectar

I did something foolish on my trip to Mexico City. Well, actually, I did several foolish things, it being a major birthday celebration/avoidance trip, but I'm only going to tell you about one of them. And for the record, I was not thrown out of that bar; I was ready to leave anyway.

Mexico City is full of street vendors selling all manner of foods. Many of them set up ramshackle tents and tables with crude seats for people to sit at. It all just looks like such a wonderful experience, and the food looked and smelled so tempting each time I passed one.

But those not assimilated to bacteria found in Mexico may eat at one of these street vendors only at their own peril. Even in established restaurants where it's safe to eat it's best to avoid foods not fully cooked — salads, for example — and even drinks with ice cubes. Montezuma, it turns out, was a very vengeful dude.

But there's another type of eatery that seems to fall between established restaurant and pop-up street vendor. They're technically brick and mortar businesses — they're under a roof, but they're typically wide open to the street. Their sanitation practices are a bit hinky.

Saturday, 31st January 2015

What is a Flog?

A flog is a food blog with news and reviews of restaurants. Here you'll find all things edible, lots of things to drink, including expert wine advice, and lots of other stuff.


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