Bubbles: Your Guide to All Wines Sparkly

Written by Sheri Varasdi on .

PiperThis holiday season, there is little to no doubt that you will attend or throw a party during which someone will pop the quintessential party favor.  Nothing is more festive than a little sparkly, and considering the high price and inedibility of gemstones, that sparkly is most likely going to come to your party in the form of Champagne or sparkling wine.

This brings us to an interesting question: What exactly is the difference between Champagne and sparkling wine, besides the obvious, which is that Champagne hails strictly from the region of Champagne itself? Only Champagne can come from Champagne; however, champagne can come from the U.S. just as long as that first letter remains lower case, because there are no laws in place to keep American winemakers from doing so. That is, except for “Champagnes” produced in the U.S. before the year 2006. They may keep the Champagne name—big ‘C’ and all—provided the label also lists the actual state of origin. (For example, Korbel California Champagne, which grew to fame in the early twentieth century and remains popular today.)

Kung Fu Girl Wine Can Handle the Spicy Asian Food

Written by Sheri Varasdi on .

Kung_Fu_GirlBlack Friday was heralded by countless commercials advertising the hottest trends and biggest sales, reminding us just how steeped in consumerism our country is.  And in some cases, that’s okay.  It’s America after all, and consumerism is what fuels our economy. But if there’s one thing many of us may not want to admit, it is how often packaging and appearance dictate what we buy.  Let’s admit it, packaging sells products.  And sometimes, it’s downright refreshing to purchase something that manages to deliver on both the inside and the outside.  Just ask Washington winemaker Charles Smith. He has the same motto.

Anyone who has seen a bottle of Charles Smith Wine will already understand where this is going.  Stylistically modern, eye-catching, bold and clean, each label of Smith wine speaks paradoxically of understatement and overstatement.  Two-toned pop art might be an apt description for his bottle imagery and, while a label’s artwork should never be the sole factor upon which one chooses it, in this case, the art is noteworthy.  Here’s why:  Charles Smith believes in immediacy.  It is his philosophy on wine and how the public wants to receive it that drives his method of winemaking.  He knows the public is smart.  He knows they understand good wine, and he knows that, in most cases, they want to drink it now.  Right now. 

Think Outside the Bird: Consider Going Rogue on Thanksgiving Day

Written by Sheri Varasdi on .

rogueIt is no surprise that, in terms of food and drink related articles, the present season has columnists focused on the classic Thanksgiving Day fare consisting of those traditional holiday standbys:  turkey, stuffing, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes and gravy, amongst other, age-old family recipes of the high fat and starch variety.  And of course, no feast would be complete without the perfect wine to accompany the perfect bird and pumpkin pie. But something about this formula is beginning to taste as stale as unprepared Stove Top. 

One could spend hours trolling Internet sites and reading wine magazines in search of a tantalizing sparkling wine to serve as an aperitif, the perfect pinot noir to pour with dinner, or a rich yet affordable dessert wine to accompany the pumpkin pie.  One could spend days researching the subtle nuances between the turkey-pairing options of red versus white, not to mention the lengths that are taken (and, in many cases, the standards that are lowered) trying to honor the preferences of family members. 

Malbec, Dark Horse of Argentina

Written by Sheri Varasdi on .

Note from Scott: I'd like to introduce Michelle Widmer. [Flog, Michelle; Michelle, Flog.] Michelle will be writing about wine here. Michelle is currently employed as the Lobby Lounge supervisor at the Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes Resort, Orlando.  She graduated from Rollins College in December, 2009 with a B.A. in Humanities and Writing.  A self-professed “beer snob” and  10 year veteran of the beer and wine industry, Michelle’s real interest and education in wine did not begin until April of 2008, when she began working for Eola Wine Company.  Since then, Michelle has continued to increase her love of and passion for all things libation.  In April, 2010 she completed the Introductory Sommelier Course under the Court of Master Sommeliers, just one month before a near-fatal car accident claimed her right arm and put her on a long and arduous road to recovery.  While Michelle’s career goals may have been set back a few months, she is thrilled to still have the opportunity to explore the two things she loves the most, writing, and of course, wine.

Michelle Widmer

For many, fall is the quintessential season of sports.  After all, in America, no other sport and holiday intertwine quite like football and Thanksgiving. And if you’re a sports-lover on the lookout for a stellar vacation, Mendoza, Argentina may have landed on your map. While it may not be seasonally ideal to visit Mendoza during the American fall season, if hot weather is your thing, then you’re in luck.  It’s summer over there. The adrenaline junkie has his pick of poisons, ranging from parasailing, to white water rafting, mountain biking, hang-gliding, hiking, skiing, and even wilderness survival.

On the other hand, if the only survival you’re into is surviving a hangover, then in Mendoza, your goblet will hath runeth over. Anyone who has recently perused the wine aisle at the local grocery store or wine warehouse will tell you that Argentinean wine seems to be gaining more face time on the supermarket shelves. More specifically, wines from the region of Mendoza are becoming increasingly hip, and even more specifically, malbecs from Mendoza are making their mark.

A Master Class of Wine Tasting

Written by Scott Joseph on .

I try not to write in superlatives. (I was going to say I never write in superlatives, but that would have been one.) In the wonderful world of restaurant reviewing, assertions that something is “the best” you’ve ever had or “the worst” you’ve ever experienced tend to strain credulity. Of course, we all speak that way. Even those of us who roll our eyes at the flippant use of the word awesome can be heard exclaiming, “This is the best soup I’ve ever had,” even though it may not even be in the top 10, if you were to spend the time to rate your soupal experiences.

That said, I believe last week I attended the best wine tasting I’ve ever experienced.

It wasn’t just because of the wines, though they were, indeed, stellar: a 12-year vertical tasting of Shafer Hillside Select, one of the premier producersShafer_Hillside_Select of fine cabernets in California. The lineup included the 1994 to 2005 vintages. It would cost around $3000 to purchase one bottle from each year -- if you could find them. As one of the wine experts pouring the wines before the guests arrived commented, the tasting, priced at just $150 per person, could have sold out at the more likely market value of $450 per person.

All of the wines had ratings from wine publications in the 90s, with one vintage, the 2002, earning a perfect 100. It was indeed a fine wine, and the favorite of many, though not all. And some wines, such as the '97, had petered out a bit. The '95 was corked. But that was the fun of the vertical tasting: to sample and compare the qualities of the wines over the years, and consider the influences that make one different from the others.