Friday, December 30, 2011

A Toast To Champagne (Infographic)

With the end of the year upon us, our thoughts turn to sparkling wine, probably champagne. And what's better than just drinking wine? Knowing something about it! There's nothing like an infographic to make one both educated and amused! Here's A Toast To Champagne, some history and fun facts. Bubbles were an accident! What is dosage? The most expensive champagne? All that and more... infographic
Brought To By, Purveyors of Fine Wine and Champagne

Happy New Year!

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Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Durand: Corkscrew for Fine Older Wines

The end of the year is a great time to open special old bottles, recently procured, brought out from the cellar, or received as gifts. Nothing mars the experience more than struggling to uncork the bottle and/or ending up with glasses full of cork pieces.

Mark Taylor developed and produced the Durand, named in honor of Yves Durand, a wine collector known for outstanding vertical tastings, who had struggled with difficulties in extracting some older and fragile corks.  It is a fully patented, and surprisingly simple, two part device that permits the user to successfully remove older and fragile wine bottle corks whole and intact.

The Durand comes inside a beautiful cork case, adding to the allure of the product, protecting it, and making it easy to store.

To use the Durand:
  1. Screw HELIX into center of cork until STABILIZER BAR rests against top of cork (or bottle).
  2. With BLADES on either side of STABILIZER BAR, insert first the “long” then “short” BLADE between the cork and bottle.
  3. Work the BLADES down between the cork and bottle by pressing down alternately over each BLADE using the HANDLE. Continue this “rocking” motion until the bottom of the HANDLE rests against the top of the STABILIZER BAR.
  4. Hold the bottle securely. With the other hand grasp the STABILIZER BAR and HANDLE together and twist, then pull upward, slowly continuing to twist to remove the cork.

We used The Durand on multiple occasions over the last month or so, opening bottles ranging in age from 41 years old to ones of the most recent vintage. While the manufacturer warns that not every cork can be removed cleanly, we never had a problem with a single bottle. Simply follow the directions and out pops the cork.

While more expensive than some other corkscrews, The Durand appears foolproof in extracting corks from bottles of all vintages. Even if you aren’t lucky enough to consistently taste older bottles, this product deserves a place in your wine paraphernalia drawer.


Disclaimer: This product was sent to me for review purposes, courtesy of The Durand. I was not compensated in any other way for the review, was not obligated to give the product a positive review, and all opinions are my own. Some information in this review was taken from the company website.

Would you like your wine accessory reviewed?
Contact me at!

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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Glenview House Restaurant Review

Glenview House Then and Now - The third floor burned down in 1923.

The cuisine at Glenview House is simple: fresh, locally sourced, organic and delicious. The menu features beautifully presented, upscale American comfort food with French, Italian, and Asian influences. The bar specializes in craft and imported beers with over 100 different beers available on draught and in bottle. The selection itself includes over 30 styles of beer from over 60 brewers and is always evolving. Glenview House has one of the North Shore's best whisky collections and offers over 60 scotches and 50 North American whiskies. In 2010, the building was extensively rehabbed, with care taken to ensure that it had modern amenities, historic charm and remained a place where friends could get together for drinks.

First Impressions:

Ever have mixed impressions about a place? When I started looking for others' views on this restaurant, there seemed to be some negative opinions mixed in with glowing reports, with nitpicky complaints balanced by gushing over the food and ambiance. Then, about half a year ago, the reviews slowed down, which is also somewhat strange.

Chef Grant Slauterbeck has helmed some impressive kitchens (One North Kitchen and Bar, Pinstripes, D.O.C. Wine Bar), so my thought was that the food should be pretty good. When I spied sweet potato gnocchi on a special Rosh Hashanah menu the restaurant served, I hoped for the best.

An initial worry was that, perusing the online menu, there seemed to be little vegetarian or vegan fare, apart from some appetizers, salads, and a wrap - nothing on the entree section. This has always puzzled me when it happens, as a vegetarian pasta dish can always have the option to add protein of the diner's choosing. This is also a simple way to make non-meateaters feel welcome. Chef Grant, when he came out to talk to us, explained that in the past, when these options were featured, they were not big sellers, so faded from the menu. He did say that the kitchen would always be happy to accommodate special requests. To balance my vegetarianism, I brought my wife Laima, who is our designated carnivore when we eat out and happily sampled plenty of meat and fish options.

The entry to the restaurant is like stepping into someone's house, with the living room (bar) on the first floor and the living quarters (dining area) on the second. This restaurant has the feel of some serious money being put into the fixtures and decor. The tile in the ultra-clean bathrooms (thank you!) continued onto the landing, before giving way to carpeting and dark furniture. Though 2 of the walls are heavily fenestrated, no sound from the outside comes in, making the dining area a clubby, relaxed, and safe-feeling atmosphere. We visited on an early weekday evening and, while the room started off somewhat empty, it was basically full by the time we left.

Understated, comfortable interior
 The Wine:

As always, I take a look at the wine list, with the hopes of 1. finding interesting varietals to try out and 2. finding local wines. Glenview House has a simple wine list, divided into Sparkling (3), White (16), and Red (16) options. Some familiar names bracketed by complete unknowns, from here, there and everywhere. As an aperitif and to drink with my appetizer, I chose the Simonsig Chenin Blanc from South Africa, while Laima opted (at my urging) for the Louis Laurent Rose from the Loire. I also requested our reds towards the end of the first course to get a chance to try out those food pairings: Spain’s Luzon Verde for me and the Uppercut Cabernet Sauvignon from California for Laima. On the drinks menu was a special wine, the Skouras Moscofilero from Greece, so I had to try that as well. Overall, I’d say that, while the wine list is not extensive, it seems well-planned and fits the food, which, in my opinion, is most important.

We talked to Grant, the chef, about adding local wines to the list and he wasn’t sure if that would happen anytime soon. It turns out that we both vacation quite a bit in Harbor Country, Michigan, so he’s aware that they are making better wines there. Crossing my fingers that something like the Old Shore Vineyards Sofia Rose shows up on their list – a nice, safe addition to any Midwest wine list!

If you’re a beer drinker, plenty of local beers available, so no worries there.

Beautifully plated, great taste

The Food:
  • Appetizers:
    • Ahi Tuna and Wontons (pickled jicama, cucumber, wasabi caviar, ginger soy emulsion) which were, in Laima’s opinion, “refreshing.” My Stuffed Jalapeños (housemade with cream cheese, Japanese bread crumbs, fried, herb ranch dressing) tasted somewhat bland initially, but much improved with the dressing – I would have liked to see a bit more seasoning in the breading, to make them better on their own.
  • Entrees:
    • I opted to pair a Root Salad (house mixed greens, beets, celery root, rutabaga, carrots, lemon pine nut vinaigrette) with a Grilled Vegetable Wrap (seasonal vegetables, goat cheese, pesto, grilled pita bread). The salad was outstanding, a great mix of vegetables combined with a surprising lemon vinaigrette, the pine nuts adding an interesting nut flavor as well as complementary crunchy texture. The Grilled Vegetable Wrap was equally flavorsome, with the thick pita bread enveloping julienned vegetables. At the waitresses suggestion, I added some mushrooms to the mix, which, with the goat cheese, completed the package. Laima’s Char-Grilled New York Strip (paired with roasted garlic mashed potatoes, green beans, and a red wine demi-glace) was cooked to her order and apparently very good. The green beans were nice and crunchy, which is always a sign the kitchen is paying attention!
  • Desserts:
    • We consciously left room for dessert, though it was hard to let the waitress take our plates, and we were both really glad we did. Of the 3 options, we chose Roasted Banana Bread Pudding Bites with Lavender Honey and the Chocolate Wedge. The former reminded me of French toast, while the latter is possibly one of the best chocolate cakes I’ve had in a restaurant. No, really. Addition of hazelnuts(one of my favorites) was the pièce de résistance. Both highly recommended.

Save room for dessert!

Amazingly and unfortunately, the Glenview House does not have an espresso machine, depriving us of a much-desired after-dinner cappuccino. Definitely a needed upgrade!

It really is after the meal that one can make sense of it all. As Laima and I strolled around the Christmas-lighted downtown of Glenview, we both agreed that it had been a great meal, from start to finish. Service was professional and unobtrusive. To me, of course, the lack of more vegetarian entrees was a disappointment, but the food I did have was truly tasty. Hailing from Downers Grove, a suburb not so very far from here, but far enough, we both wished that we had a gastro-pub like Glenview House to call our own.

Glenview House on Urbanspoon

More information can be found on the Glenview House website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Disclaimer: This meal was comped for me for review purposes, courtesy of Glenview House. I was not compensated in any other way for the review, was not obligated to give the restaurant a positive review, and all opinions are my own. Some information in this review was taken from the company website.

Would you like your restaurant reviewed?
Contact me at!

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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Tuesday Tasting: Château Carbonnieux

1970 Château Carbonnieux
$86 (

Aroma: very little, maybe wood shavings
Texture: medium to full bodied
Taste: some cherry and dried plums
Finish: some tannins at end, relatively abrupt

Thought it might be a goner due to ullage level at mid to low shoulder. Discolored cork pushed straight in. Still remarkably dark color, with slightly pale edges. Eaten with a modified beef stroganoff (no beef, added parsley and parmesan). This wine even complemented our roasted brussels sprouts. I can imagine drinking this with Jim Harrison and Guy de la Valdene, over a midwinter dinner in the UP. If you can find this, buy it.

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Monday, December 26, 2011

Château Carbonnieux

Château Carbonnieux, a Cru Classé de Graves A.O.C. Appellation Pessac-Léognan, from the Classement 1855, was founded in the 13th century by the Benedictine monks of Sainte-Croix Abbey, Château Carbonnieux is one of the oldest estates in the Bordeaux region. In 1956, Marc Perrin purchased the château, that became a Cru Classé in 1959, for its red and white wines. Today, Eric and Philibert, his grandsons, have taken over, continuing the remarkable work of their father Antony. Since the 13th century, the Carbonnieux vineyard has benefited from a fine, naturally drained, gravel outcrop. Within the Pessac-Léognan appellation, this prestigious terroir is remarkable for its morphology and the diversity of its soils. On these rare and sought-after terroirs, the best wines are produced. Their typical features have been recognised for centuries.

Last week we had the opportunity to taste a bottle of the 1970, courtesy of my father-in-law. Tasting Notes here.


Friday, December 23, 2011

Holiday Gift Suggestions

To your enemy, forgiveness.
To an opponent, tolerance.
To a friend, your heart.
To a customer, service.
To all, charity.
To every child, a good example.
To yourself, respect.
~Oren Arnold

Have a great holiday weekend!

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Try It Thursday: Limoncello Part II

Last month, I decided that I wanted to try and make Limoncello at home. The menu I followed called for lemon rinds only, so the first order of business was to peel all the lemons (we've slowly been using the lemons themselves, so as not to be wasteful):

I wanted to make it a bit lighter and stronger, so I doubled (or more) the vodka in a large glass jar, poured in the lemon rinds and then waited, patiently, for about a month:

The next step was all about making the simple syrup:

Adding it to the vodka/lemon mix, tasting!, and, once again...waiting. The recipe calls for it to sit and meld for 10-14 days, so in a couple of weeks I'll let you know how it went!

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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

2011 American Wine Society Commercial Wine Competition

A Pennsylvania rosé, a Quebec apple ice wine, a New York Finger Lakes sparkling wine, and a California cabernet sauvignon from the Temecula Valley were among the top wines honored at the 2011 American Wine Society Commercial Wine Competition held at the Radisson Riverside Hotel in Rochester, in November. The wines were evaluated by 21 judges, over two days, in conjunction with the Society’s 44th annual conference. Evaluators included AWS Certified Wine Judges and prominent wine industry representatives.

There were 527 wines entered from the U.S. and Canada. The competition awarded 21 double-gold (double-gold medals require a unanimous vote) and 24 gold medals in six categories, and for the first time since the AWS competition began in 1986, it included “Best of” categories.

The Best of Show winner and Best Red Wine went to boutique producer Fazeli Cellars of Irvine, Calif. for its 2008 Khayyam, a 100 percent cabernet sauvignon. Fazelli Cellars also earned a double-gold for its 2008 Valda, a red Rhône-style blend.

Other top winners included:
  • Best White Wine: Seven Mountains Wine Cellars 2010 Vidal Blanc (Pennsylvania)
  • Best Fruit Wine: Domaine Pinnacle, 2009 Ice Apple (Quebec, Eastern Townships)
  • Best Dessert Wine: Leonard Oakes Estate Winery, 2008 Vidal Ice Wine (Western New York)
  • Best Sparkling Wine: Chateau Frank 2006 Blanc de Noir (Finger Lakes New York)
  • Best Rosé: Presque Isle Wine Cellars Blushing Heron, Concord/Niagara Blend (Western New York)

A complete list of winners, including silver and bronze medalists, can be seen at

About the American Wine Society

Founded in 1967, the American Wine Society (AWS) is the oldest and largest consumer-based organization in the U.S. dedicated to promoting wine appreciation through education. AWS is a non-profit organization of 4,200 wine enthusiasts, from novice to expert, in 125 chapters throughout the U.S. and Canada. Membership is open to adult interested in wine.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tuesday Tasting: Uvaggio Moscato

2009 Moscato 'secco'
$16 (Media Sample)

Aroma: Citrus and melon
Texture: Light to medium bodied
Taste: Melon, tropical fruits
Finish: Lively

When I think of Moscato, I picture a sweet, simple wine, made for drinking on the deck in the heat of summer as the kids run around the yard with their buddies. Uvaggio, the winemakers of interesting Italian varietals from California, completely shattered that conception with this drier version vinified from Lodi grapes. This is a great lively and acidic wine with just a hint of sweetness. Great drinking on its own and also pairs well with food.

Disclaimer: This wine was sent to me for review purposes, courtesy of Uvaggio  via Dan Fredman. I was not compensated in any other way for the review, was not obligated to give the wine a positive review, and all opinions are my own. Some information in this review was taken from the company website.

Would you like your wine reviewed?
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Monday, December 19, 2011

Uvaggio - Interesting Italian Varietals From California

Uvaggio, based in Lodi, CA, are not attempting to duplicate what Italy has to offer. Rather, they are interpreting some varietals, to bridge the best of both worlds. Their desire is to honor what Italy has done for centuries while bringing a modern product to American winedrinkers.
Their focus is on more unusual varietal grapes, including Vermentino, Moscato Giallo, Rosato, Primitivo, and Barbera. These grapes are vinified into a range of fruity, expressive wines - white, pink and red – they are mostly dry though one is sweet.
When it comes to the world of wine, here is what they believe:
  • Wine should be fun.
  • Part of that fun is trying something different.
  • Wine should complement a meal, not replace it.
  • One need not have to take out a loan to buy a case.
  • If you like their wine, open another bottle. Enjoy something new!
Can’t argue with that.
When it comes to their wine closures, their decision was to honor several centuries of tradition (and postpone the consignment of our corkscrew collection to E Bay) but in lieu of a natural cork, they opted to use a very high quality agglomerated product (i.e. technical cork) which is produced from chopped cork. Think of it as a cork board in a convenient cylindrical form. The raw material is screened for TCA (nasty moldy smelling stuff) and other undesirable off characters, processed for its removal (if detected). I personally feel that screwtops, which the winemakers decry, are the future, but I admire their finding a way to use cork while reducing the chances of corked bottles.
I received a bottle of their Moscato as a media sample, look for tasting notes tomorrow.



Friday, December 16, 2011

Wine Wit: You Know You’re a Wine Geek When...

I had to share this after reading it on Dave McIntyre's WineLine.

From Diner's Journal - Illustration by James Yang

You Know You’re a Wine Geek When:
  • You swirl your water glass at dinner parties.
  • You would solve the European debt crisis by abolishing the euro and imposing a new common currency called the “Galloni.”
  • You put out your recycling late at night after all your neighbors have gone to bed, then sneak around looking at what they’ve been drinking.
  • Someone tells you they are taking a cab to the party and you ask, “Napa?” (Hat tip to Allen Clark!)
  • You have hundreds of bottles in your cellar, but keep complaining, “There’s nothing to drink!”
  • You try not to invite “Parker people” to the same dinner party as “Jancis people.”
  • You correct your hostess when she offers you “Champagne” but pours you Cava.
  • You tell a talkative New Zealander to “Stick a Stelvin in it!” and laugh as if you’re the funniest guy on Earth.
  • You say things like, “Wine gives me a Riesling to live!”
  • You can’t type words like win, windows, winter or winnow without hitting the backspace key.
  • You sleep with your dog, Turley, and get offended when someone asks, “You named your dog Turdley?”
  • Your favorite beverage is “#wine”.
  • During a business conference, you text a colleague to “meet me in the Laube.”
  • You nicknamed your son Brett, not because he can throw a football, but because he smells funky.
  • You do not have to consult Wikipedia to know that Alder Yarrow had nothing to do with the Salem witch trials.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Climber Pouch from Clif Family Winery


This week I've been concentrating on the Clif Family Winery, tasting both whites and reds from their collection. One of the things that really impresses me is their approach to their packaging, making it as friendly as possible. Their bottles use screwtop closures, which in my mind is the way to go in these modern times. While cork closures are romantic and historic, it's more likely than not that they will phase out sooner rather than later, as will bottles, eventually. That's where packaging like The Climber Pouch comes in. 

With an 80% lower carbon footprint and 90% less waste than two glass bottles, the Climber Pouch is easy on the planet and the palate. It's lighter to carry than glass, perfect for any adventure, easy to re-seal and stays fresh for up to one month after opening.

New Innovative Packaging that is as Easy on the Planet as the Palate:
  • Portable and Unbreakable – perfect for camping, picnics, barbeques, ball games and anywhere glass can’t go
  • Less Packaging, More Wine– 90% less waste than the glass equivalent
  • Environmentally Friendly – 80% lower carbon footprint than the glass equivalent
  • Highest Quality Wine – sourced from the finest California vineyards
  • Sip Anytime – wine tastes great for up to one month after opening and chills in just 14 minutes in the refrigerator
  • Great Value – equivalent of two 750ml bottles in every pouch

The handles are a great idea, easy  to carry. With my media samples I received a carabiner, which utilizes the handles or holes at the top of the package to attach itself to lots of things, like a backpack. We will definitely be bringing these pouches when hiking and camping!


On top of all this, Clif Family Winery is a proud member of 1% for the Planet and will donate one percent of all Climber Pouch sales to Trees for the Future, an organization that has been helping communities around the world plant trees since 1989.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Tuesday Tasting (On a Wednesday): Clif Family Reds

2010 Climber Red
$14 (Media Sample)

Aroma: cherries, berries
Texture: light-bodied, acidic
Taste: berries
Finish: short

50% Zinfandel, 36% Cabernet Franc, 6% Petit Sirah, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Merlot – I have to admit that this wine was not to my taste. It felt thin in both flavor and texture. Clif Family Wines mentioned that the 2010 vintage included a wet spring followed by a long, cool growing season and some late heat spikes. Perhaps this explains my reaction.

N/V Cabernet Sauvignon
$17 (Media Sample)

Aroma: berries
Texture: Medium-bodied
Taste: plum, berry
Finish: Lingering

I enjoyed this red much more than The Climber Red. Easy-drinking, tasty on its own or paired with a meal. Packed in a 1.5 L Climber Pouch, easy to carry, easy to pour!

Disclaimer: This wine was sent to me for review purposes, courtesy of Clif Family Wines via The Barn Group. I was not compensated in any other way for the review, was not obligated to give the wine a positive review, and all opinions are my own. Some information in this review was taken from the company website.

Would you like your wine reviewed?
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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Tuesday Tasting: Clif Family Whites

2010 Climber Sauvignon Blanc
$14 (Media Sample)

Aroma: citrus, honeydew and tropical fruits
Texture: Medium-bodied, acidic
Taste: Citrusy
Finish: Lingering

Organic and sustainably farmed Sauvignon Blanc ( Mendocino County and Central Coast), blended with Riesling, Muscat and Viognier. Fermented in stainless steel. Better with food.

N/V Chardonnay
$17 (Media Sample)

Aroma: citrus, honeydew
Texture: Lush
Taste: Citrusy, melon, apple
Finish: Lingering

This unoaked Chardonnay was by far my favorite of the Clif Family Winery wines we received. Great to drink on its own or with a variety of foods. Comes in The Climber Pouch, great idea!

Disclaimer: This wine was sent to me for review purposes, courtesy of Clif Family Wines via The Barn Group. I was not compensated in any other way for the review, was not obligated to give the wine a positive review, and all opinions are my own. Some information in this review was taken from the company website.

Would you like your wine reviewed?
Contact me at!

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Monday, December 12, 2011

CLIF Family Winery

As an endurance enthusiast (I write the blog Midwest Multisport Life), I’ve always been a fan of Clif Bars and the company’s commitment to being socially and environmentally responsible. I participated in the Clif Bar Meet The Moment Campaign  (and won some sweet swag), so I’ve been following their family winery development with lots of interest. It seems fitting that the first wine samples I’ve received to review on my wine blog, 50 States Of Wine, would come from the Clif Family Winery. Though they do bottle their wine, they also have considered us outdoor folks as well, creating the Climber Pouch, with a grab handle and a carabiner hole, for easier transport on bike or on foot. Very cool.

Their lifestyle and interest in wine led Gary Erickson and Kit Crawford to the Napa Valley in 1997. What started as a home in the country has developed into a wonderful adventure in winemaking, and a deeper commitment to sustainability and farming.

In spring 2011 they opened Velo Vino Napa Valley, a wine and cycling destination that brings together their passion for wine, food and cycling in a single location. Built to fuel the adventurer’s soul, Velo Vino is a unique tasting room and retail experience that features Clif Family Wines, food products from the Farm, espresso, Clif Bars and cycling apparel. Cannot wait to visit!

I’ll be reviewing the wines in the next couple of days - whites tomorrow and reds on Wednesday.


Friday, December 9, 2011

ZORK Wine Closures

I have an interest in non-cork closures and am not turned off by screw caps and the like. Some people argue that only corks allow for some air transfer within an aging bottle, but it’s strange to me that magnums (a larger format) are preferred for aging – as a larger bottle, they have less air surface area by volume, so the cork might not be doing that much. I truthfully don’t know.

Have you heard of ZORK wine closures? Me either, until I read Good Better Best Wines. Intrigued, I Googled them and here’s what I found.

Nothing like a good double-entendre

ZORK Pty Ltd was founded specifically to develop and commercialise alternative closures for the global wine and spirits beverage industry.

 Consumers have embraced the convenience and quality experience of ZORK. Domestic Australian and imported brands under ZORK have achieved success not only in the US, but worldwide. The overwhelming response from consumers to STL is that they love the convenience of being able to open their wine without a corkscrew while retaining the pop!

STL is also suitable for use with fortified wines, spirits, other high volume alcohols and other beverages. The materials used have been extensively tested and the closure has met, and in many instances exceeded, the industry benchmarks for wine bottle closures.

ZORK closures have been designed with consideration for the environment.

• Reduce - lower carbon emissions
• Reuse - can be used to reseal still and sparkling wine
• Recycle - 100% recyclable polyethylene

The STL closure is a patented, alternative wine closure that solves the problems of cork taint and random oxidation for still wines.

The STL closure for still wine incorporates a:

• Tough outer cap – resistant to dents and leaking
• Metal foil liner - low and consistent oxygen transfer
• Tamper evident tear tab - consumer protection
• Inert plunger - reliable seal & pop on opening, will not scalp or taint.

SPK for sparkling wines delivers producers:

• Bubbles - high and consistent CO2 retention
• Taint free - no TCA or flavour modification
• Easy opening - safe and intuitive
• Reseal - reseals and retains pressure
• Bottling – simple change parts for existing equipment

SPK delivers consumers:

• Confidence in consistency of the product
• Convenience of opening and reseal
• Contemporary appeal


Have you tried ZORK wine closures?
What other cork alternatives do you like?

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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Guest Post: Wine Education

If you have a high interest in wine, perhaps you should consider becoming a wine waiter or sommelier. In order to better prepare yourself for this career, you will need to attend a wine school. Even if you aren’t interested in turning your love for wine into a career, attending a wine school can be a fun way to further educate yourself about your wine hobby.

The Five Best U.S. Wine Schools

The following is a list of the top five best wine schools in the United States, according to Food and Wine Magazine:

Chicago Wine School: Independently operated by Director and teacher Patrick Fegan, the Chicago Wine School offers a five week course that covers the basics of wine in a non-confusing, non-intimidating way.

International Wine Center, New York City: This wine school has been open since 1982 and became the first organization in the United States to become affiliated with the prestigious Wine and Spirit Education Trust and offer its courses. In 2003, the International Wine Center in New York City became the U.S. Headquarters of the Wine and Spirit Education Trust.

International Wine Guild, Denver: The International Wine Guild of Denver is an accredited wine vocational school that offers diploma programs and professional certifications. You don’t have to be seeking a professional certification, however, to attend this school; wine enthusiasts are welcome, too! They even offer a wine judge diploma.

Rudd Center for Professional Wine Studies, Culinary Institute of America, Napa: The Wine Professional Program in Napa offers courses in the basic of wine, wines of the world, wine and food pairing, the business of wine and wine immersion. Courses are both students who are looking to work as wine professional or students who are looking to learn more about wine for personal pleasure.

Washington Wine Academy, Alexandria, Virginia: This non-profit wine school focuses on educational wine tastings in the Washington D.C. metro area. Classes are taught by wine professionals and experts in the area. Certification classes are also offered on specific dates.

Fees and tuition vary at each school. For more information about how to enroll and class schedules, visit each school’s website by searching each respective school in Google. Bon appetit!

Guest Author: Carrie Oakley is editor and writer for Online Universities. She likes to write articles about many topics of interest, including career planning.

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

What Is Organic Wine?

The most widely accepted definition of Organic wine is wine made from grapes grown in accordance with principles of organic farming, which typically excludes the use of artificial chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides. The legal definition of Organic Wine is a complex issue and varies from country to country. The primary difference in the way that organic wine is defined relates to the use (or non use) of preservatives during the wine-making process.

In the U.S., the creation by the USDA of a NOP (National Organic Program), an organic wine is defined as "a wine made from organically grown grapes without any added sulfites". This means the vast majority of what you and I may have been calling organic wines can now only be referred to as "wines made from organic grapes" (or organically grown grapes), since they are allowed to contain up to 100 ppm of added sulfites.

Organic wine refers to the absence of chemicals in the growth of grapes and in the winemaking facility and production process. It is a legal certification with third party inspection.

Natural winemaking is a style of winemaking that can be applied to any wine. It is loosely defined as using native yeasts in the fermentation process and minimal or no sulfur dioxide in the winemaking process. It may also mean unfined and unfiltered as well. Natural winemaking is not governed by laws (at least not in the U.S.) and has no inspection or verification process (unless it is a biodynamic wine).

Some farmers take additional steps beyond standard organic winemaking to apply sustainable farming practices. Examples include the use of composting and the cultivation of plants that attract insects that are beneficial to the health of the vines. Sustainable practices in these vineyards also extend to actions that have seemingly little or nothing to do with the production of grapes such as providing areas for wildlife to prevent animals from eating the grapes and allowing weeds and wildflowers to grow between the vines. Sustainable farmers may use bio-diesel for tractors in the vineyards to reduce emissions among the vines, or plough with horses.


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Tuesday Tasting: Albero Sparkling Wine

Albero Sparkling White Wine N/V
Bottled by: Iranzo Fields
$4.99 Trader Joe's

Aroma: Flowery
Texture: Light, almost medium-bodied, velvety
Taste: Green apples, some melon
Finish: Sweet, then tart acidity

Made with certified organic Spanish Macabeo & Airén grapes, this wine has a lovely light yellow color and pairs well with a variety of foods. Light, small bubbles more similar to Prosecco than Champagne.

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Monday, December 5, 2011

Good Better Best Wines Book Review

When it comes to wine, your "wants" are pretty simple: a good wine, at a price you can afford, that's stocked at your local wine shop or supermarket. Good Better Best Wines: A No-Nonsense Guide to Popular Wines (New York, NY: Alpha Books, 2010, $12.95) gives you just that. It reveals in plain English, the good, better, and best wines available for the dollars you're willing to spend--up to $15--along with photos of clearly labeled bottles to make wine shopping easier.

Inside you’ll find:
  • The good, better, and best big-name wines under $5, $8, $11, and $15 for each major grape variety
  • Perfect party wines for specific occasions—weddings, dinners, backyard barbecues, and more
  • Trade secrets for getting the most out of each wine, including storage, serving techniques, and food pairings.

About the author: Carolyn Evans Hammond is an accomplished wine writer whose articles have appeared in such eminent magazines as Decanter and Wine & Spirit International in the United Kingdom, as well as Maclean’s, Taste, and Tidings in Canada. Her first book, 1000 Best Wine Secrets, earned critical acclaim and international distribution. She also issues a newsletter, runs a wine club,conducts seminars, and publishes a blog on her website— She holds the Diploma from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust and a BA from York University.

Nicely sized reference book, well-illustrated with the wine labels, what's not to like? And it is a great book, except it shares the same inherent flaw that all books ranking wine share. While one might take a single producer, say Mondavi, and compare three Chardonnays from their line, it’s more difficult when you cross producers and even more so when differing grapes or blends are evaluated. Here’s an example:
  • Good: Lindemans Cawarra Semillon Chardonnay, South Eastern Australia – sumptuous orange, bright lemon, and aromatic melon
  • Better: Folonari Soave DOC, Veneto, Italy – reminiscent of lime and cool, wet stones
  • Best: Riunite Bianco, Italy – honeyed apricot and chin-drip peaches
Honestly, they all three sound pretty good to me, but how is a sweet wine comparable to a lemony one or to one reminiscent of cool, wet stones? They are not and therein lies the problem. Of course most of the wines are evaluated by varietal, so it’s less extreme than my example.

This is a great resource to have if you are looking for a quick suggestion on what less expensive wine to serve for your dinner party or for which box wines to search out, but the suggestions must be taken with a grain of salt. However, this is a well-written book that can be referenced and utilized in many ways - assists in choosing a wine, lots of tips and trivia, and she names the varietals in some of the blends, helpful if you're shooting for membership in the Wine Century Club, like me. Even if you’re not a fan of less expensive, big brand wines, it’s a worthwhile book for the writing alone.


Disclaimer: This book was sent to me for review purposes, courtesy of Alpha Books via Wilks PR. I was not compensated in any other way for the review, was not obligated to give the book a positive review, and all opinions are my own. Some information in this review was taken from the company website.

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Friday, December 2, 2011

Head Training Grapevines In The Midwest

It appears that my vineyard dream is on hold for a few years, barring a financial windfall of some sort, and I have a small backyard. I really don't have enough room for a trellis system, nor does it make financial sense if I'm planning on moving soon (hopefully) anyway. I'd still like to start my viniculture education, and some looking around has led me to the possibility of head training my vines instead.

Head-training is a style of pruning meant for vineyards without trellising. Head-trained vines look like stunted trees, and give little support to the vines save their own mature wood. Head Training includes pruning the vine like a goblet — keeping the center hollow, developing a short trunk and pruning the spurs up in a circular pattern, in the shape of the rim of a glass. The main advantage of head training is obvious — it’s cheap. The disadvantages include: the vine toppling under its own weight; a congested canopy, which makes it an easy target for mildew and rot; and it can be difficult for sunlight to reach the fruit.

This winter, I'll be doing more research into possible varietals that could survive Midwest winters, are appropriate for head trained pruning, and can make decent or better wine at home. I have no idea if it's even possible, but it's worth a shot!


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Voodoo Vintners Book Review

I recently read Alice Feiring’s Naked Wine and became intrigued by the idea of natural winemaking, which led to organic farming, which led to biodynamism. When I saw the book Voodoo Vintners: Oregon’s Astonishing Biodynamic Winegrowers (Corvallis, OR: Oregon State University Press, 2011), I had to read it.

Katherine Cole writes wine columns for the FOODday section of The Oregonian newspaper and MIX magazine. Voodoo Vintners, her book on biodynamic winegrowing, was published in June 2011 by Oregon State University Press. Katherine’s work has appeared in numerous national magazines. She holds degrees from Harvard College and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has studied with the International Sommelier Guild, and has taught journalism courses at Portland State University. Interact with her on Twitter:

Could cow horns, vortexes, and the words of a prophet named Rudolf Steiner hold the key to producing the most alluring wines in the world—and to saving the planet? In Voodoo Vintners, wine writer Katherine Cole reveals the mysteries of biodynamic winegrowing and explores its practice in Oregon vineyards. Cole’s story of biodynamic winegrowing starts on the back of a motorcycle in Persia and ends on a farm where the work is done by draft horses, chickens, and goats. Voodoo Vintners answers the call of oenophiles everywhere for more information about this “beyond organic” style of farming. Cole’s engaging narrative is a must-read for anyone interested in wine, sustainable agriculture, or the local food movement.

This book comes at a time that biodynamic winegrowing is becoming more discussed. It is an evenhanded look at both sides of this agricultural debate. It really made me ponder what aspects of biodynamism I could relate to, and what just sounded overly farfetched to be worthwhile. Her explanation of biodynamic farming is one I can really get behind:

“…you’re not just managing a crop. You’re not just managing a farm. You’re managing an ecosystem. It’s a giant, farm-sized organism, of which every bird, bee, and bug is an integral part. Everything -- from the stray deer to the stray dandelion seed – contributes to the dynamic circle of life.”

Then again, I must admit that this book was maddening at times, where Cole has built up biodynamic farming as the obvious answer to so many winemaking problems, only to deftly deflate that balloon by using a counterpoint suggested by a researcher, farmer, or scientist. Very well done – it really made me think. It’s also apparently not surprising that so many people are conflicted by the opposing forces of biodynamism.

Rudolf Steiner, the godfather of biodynamic farming, was a conflicted man, trying to integrate mathematics and the sciences with cosmic rhythms and forces. As Cole writes: “Biodynamic agriculture is a textbook example of this conflict: on the one hand, it’s practical horticulture. On the other, it’s faith-based farming."

An alternative view can be found at the blog Biodynamics is a Hoax -- it’s not often updated , but it’s always good to be exposed to other views.

Ultimately, it seems that, much like natural wine, biodynamic winegrowing is something that lies along a continuum, with individuals opting in to more or lesser degree of adherence. That’s pretty much where I find myself, especially so early in my study. It seems that the most beneficial aspect of biodynamic farming might be the time and attention the grower must give to the vineyard. The cosmic aspects I’m a little more skeptical of, though lunar planting has been adhered to for centuries, so I’m not closed off to it either.

At the end of the day, this book is a must-read.


Disclaimer: This book was sent to me for review purposes, courtesy of Oregon State University Press. I was not compensated in any other way for the review, was not obligated to give the book a positive review, and all opinions are my own. Some information in this review was taken from the company website.

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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Blue Duck Tavern

If you are in Washington, DC, a restaurant worth checking out is The Blue Duck Tavern, located in the Northwest section (24 & M Streets, NW). The restaurant showcases an open staff pantry and kitchen, complete with a wood-burning oven, as well as the showpiece custom-designed commercial Molteni range, crafted in France and the first of its kind in Washington, D.C. Handcrafted furnishings and heavy, uncovered wood tables keep the restaurant warm and contemporary, offering a welcoming dining experience.

The Blue Duck Tavern welcomes you with wholesome American fare prepared through simple, time-honored cooking methods such as roasting, braising, preserving and smoking. This contemporary neighborhood tavern evokes the warmth and convivial setting of a residential kitchen and gathering place. The restaurant also recognizes the purveyors and artisans who enrich their menu with their fresh ingredients.

As usual, I zeroed in on local wines on the menu, in this case there were several options by the glass and in bottle. Before ordering food, I started with the Cabernet Franc Rosé, from the Boxwood Winery, located in Middleburg, VA. With my food I opted for the Vin Rouge (a Bordeaux Blend) from Glen Manor, located in Front Royal, Virginia.

Not sure what ingredients were sourced in Path Valley, PA (maybe all?), but I really enjoyed my Sweet Potato Pasta, Salsify, Brussels Sprouts, Huckleberry and Pumpkin. Both wines were excellent with the meal as well.

Entree items chosen by my companions included Wood Oven Fired Waygu Cullotte of Beef (from Durham Ranch, WY) with Red Wine Braised Shallots, the Wood Burning Oven Roasted Maine Scallops from Viking Village, ME, Whole Roasted Fish of the Day (Bream) from Congressional, MD, and the Jumbo Lump Crabcakes (Chesapeake Bay, MD) with Frisée, Fennel and Sweet Mustard Dressing. All entrees were deemed very good, though the whole fish caused some problems with loose bones.

Of the three deserts, Apple Pie, Straight from the Oven Chocolate Cake with Maker’s Mark Flambe and Pear, Blackberry and Almond Crumble with Creme Fraiche, the first and last were much appreciated, while the chocolate cake fell flat.

Overall, I thought the experience a worthwhile one. The food and wine options were wide-ranging and I am a sucker for any locally sourced, farm-to-table concept. However, the service was inconsistent, ranging from nonexistent to great. Also, while the food was outstanding, I felt the restaurant was flirting dangerously with the line of being overpriced. All that being said, I would still recommend this for a nicer evening meal out.

Blue Duck Tavern on Urbanspoon

For more info or reservations, check out the Blue Tavern website or read their blog.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tuesday Tasting: Epicuro Aglianico del Beneventano 2009

Epicuro Aglianico del Beneventano 2009
$5.99 Trader Joe's

Aroma: Dark cherries
Texture: Medium-bodied
Taste: Dark cherries
Finish: Lingering

Easy drinking on its own, but slightly tannic feel goes better with food.

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Wine Personality Test

Discover the perfect wine for you.

Wine is known for its extraordinary complexity and diversity - no two bottles are alike. And just as there are many different reds, whites and everything in between, every wine drinker has their own unique personality.

The Little Penguin Wine Personality Test will help you find your ideal wine match, and all you have to do is think like the little guy himself. Whether you identify with the strong alpha male, or even the home-making ladybird, we have the perfect wine to match your unique penguin persona.

My results?

I am a Shiraz Cabernet!

I am not afraid of taking risks. A natural-born problem solver, no challenge is too big for me to take on. Being a deep, intellectual bird, I take time to contemplate the important things in life. As I stare into my deep purple glass of Little Penguin Shiraz Cabernet, I find meaning, as well as smooth, juicy taste.

All in good fun, right? What's YOUR wine personality?


Friday, November 25, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving Weekend!

A Turkey Trot, a brunch, and several hours of outstanding conversation, food, wine, and football were part of our Thanksgiving celebration yesterday. I added 2 more varietal grapes to my Wine Century Club project - Carmenere and Prosecco, so it was a successful day in every way possible.

Have a great weekend all!

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wine Spectator 2011 Top 100 Wines

Every year since 1988, Wine Spectator has compiled a list of the wines reviewed over the past 12 months. These 100 wines reflect significant trends, recognize outstanding producers and spotlight successful regions and vintages around the world.

In 2011, the list was selected from more than 16,000 new releases the editors rated in independent blind tastings. More than 5,400 of these wines earned outstanding or classic ratings (90 points or higher on Wine Spectator's 100-point scale). They narrowed the list down based on four criteria: quality (represented by score); value (reflected by release price); availability (measured by cases made or imported); and what is called the “X-factor”–the excitement generated by a rising-star producer, a benchmark wine or a significant milestone for a wine region. But no equation determines the final selections: These choices reflect the editors’ judgment and passion about the wines tasted.

In this year’s list, 12 countries are represented, and quality remains high, with an average score of 93 points. The average price per bottle dipped from last year from $48 to $44, compared with a $70 average for 90-point wines reviewed this year.

Of the Top 100, for domestic wines, only a few were from outside the typical U.S. states represented (CA, OR, WA):
  • #43 -  90 points, $14 Gruet - Blanc de Noirs New Mexico NV
  • #72 -  90 points, $16 Ravines - Riesling Finger Lakes Dry 2009
Congratulations to those two wineries! Did I overlook any? Let me know.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tuesday Tasting: Lambrusco Dell'Emilia Bianco

N.V. Le Grotte Lambrusco Dell'Emilia Bianco
$3.99 from Trader Joe's (I think that's what we paid)

Aroma: Green apples
Texture: Light-bodied, acidic, and fizzy
Taste: Citrusy, green apples, banana
Finish: Lingering

Very sweet, bubbly, and goes with pretty much any type of food you can think of. The green apple scent and taste add an acidic component to balance the sweet banana flavor. Well-worth searching out, especially for the price.

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