Grapes so good I’ll drink the leftovers

May 20th, 2013

As a lover of grapes, especially in liquid form, I’m always excited to try new ones. Whether it’s new grapes, still, sparkling, or fortified, I’m interested. So on a recent trip to Friuli, I would be remiss if I didn’t indulge in the local digestif, Grappa. Grappa is a fortified wine made from the grape skins (also known as must or pomace) that are removed from the juice before fermentation. So the grapes are crushed and pressed, then they remove the skins to let the juice ferment. The pomace then goes through a distillation process in order to create the pomace-brandy, Grappa.

Grappa is now a protected name just like Champagne or Cognac. To be called grappa, the brandy must be produced in Italy, produced from pomace, and all fermentation and distillation occurs on the pomace without the addition of water. These rules/regulations were put into place in order to produce a higher-quality spirit, maintain the integrity of the spirit and to guard against rogue moonshine operations.

Grappa is served primarily after dinner as a digestive. The reason being it is to aid in the digestion of heavy meals. They’re usually clear or very light in color and extremely aromatic. A few have started aging grappas in oak which lends to more pale golden colors and caramel and vanilla flavors.  The younger ones, the good ones, will have a smooth flavor with hints of citrus or berry fruit. Then the finish will bring the heat! Not spicy  heat, think like vodka heat as while this is made from grapes, it is distilled which turns it into a spirit. Sip slowly and in moderation.

At every winery visited in Friuli, at the end of the tasting the group would look at each other, look at the producer, and then one person in the group would speak up and say, “Do you guys have any Grappa for sampling?” The winemaker would go in the back and bring us several grappas to sample. We bought a bottle every time! Only 2 bottles of grappa actually made it home with me, one Livio Felluga and the other from Zorzettig.  I will be on the lookout for more at my local wine & spirits shop.

Tanisha Townsend, Girl Meets Glass
Twitter@girlmeetsglass

 

A Place To Lay My Head

May 20th, 2013

 

I’ve travelled abroad a few times now, even a few times to wine regions. I typically stay in chain hotels, Hiltons, Hyatts, Marriotts, etc. Not this time, not on this trip to Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy. Every hotel we stayed in, and between our group we stayed in 6 over the course of 5 days, was classified as Agriturismo.

According to their website, Agriturismo “is synonymous with free time spent in the open air, at one with nature, immersed in a social-rural environment abounding in culture, authentic traditions, and quality agricultural food products. All of the companies listed on Agriturismo.it offer this type of hospitality, as well as a variety of prices and services that meet a wide range of needs.”

All I know is, they were the cutest places I’ve ever stayed. I’m talking hardwood floors, wood beams on the ceiling, fireplaces, HUGE bathrooms, towel warmers… Need I go on? No, you probably already want to check some out.

La Subida – This was the first stop after quite a long bus ride from Croatia. They already knew we were slightly tired and hungry and they greeted us at the door with snacks and wine. A light crisp Tocai Friulano, a grape indigenous to Friuli started off the night. Then they brought us plate after plate of delicious pastas, risottos, and just everything I could stuff inside my belly. After they rolled me out of the restaurant, we walked up a hill to a private house where we stayed the night.

Lis Roris – Situated on a small vineyard, this 12 room farmhouse also harvests wheat, soy, barley. And breeds hens, ducks, rabbits, and Suffolk breeding pigs. So the food that you come downstairs to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner, is the freshest you can get! And the wines…oh the wines! All local, regionally specific and delicious. Paired perfectly with the menu.

I Comelli – This is where I stayed on the last night of the trip. And they definitely savedthe best for last! They renovated the old family house, complete with a fireplace in the middle of the room. We ate dinner and breakfast around that fireplace. The family also has a vegetable garden and orchard on the property which they use to supply the kitchen with again, the freshest foods that you could possibly eat. The farm on the property boasts bison, goats, ducks and horses.  As if the orchard, garden and farm on the property weren’t enough, the three sons Paolo, Francesco and Enrico are experts in viticulture and wine-making and have dedicated themselves to producing world class wines. Their Ramandolo, the first D.O.C.G. of Friuli, and Tocai Friulano were simply amazing.

This trip was organized and sponsored by the Strade del Vino e Sapori Friuli Venezia Giulia.

Tanisha Townsend, Girl Meets Glass
Twitter@girlmeetsglass

Run For The Border

April 17th, 2013

As a speaker and attendee of the International Wine & Tourism Conference in Zagreb, Croatia last month, I attended several seminars and learned of a few interesting places to visit for wine tourism. Some right in our own background that we never would have even thought of.

Napa, Sonoma, Finger Lakes…?? Nope, Baja California! I have to be honest I hadn’t really thought of heading there as a destination for a vacation. Baja, California has invested several thousands of dollars in their city and the promotion of their tourism, especially as it relates to wine. Baja has launched an extensive social media campaign through twitter, facebook and their website in order to spread the word that they are safe, they are fun, and they have wine! Baja has a rich culinary history, hospitality, and delicious wine. Upon viewing their website, they have established a unique and consistent brand for themselves. Baja has a QPR code on their site to gain up to date information right on your mobile phone.

With over 30 wineries, museums  natural sites, and world-renowned restaurants you can definitely find everything you need. And you don’t even have to use your passport.

Tanisha Townsend, Girl Meets Glass
Twitter@girlmeetsglass

 

 

 

History Lesson on Wine

February 13th, 2013

It is February, the month of holidays. Lincoln’s Birthday, Washington’s Birthday, Valentine’s Day, the start of the Lenten season, and Black History month. The internet is full of articles and stories on wines for your sweetie and pink/rose wines for Valentine’s Day. Having visited several

Virginia area wineries, I know that Washington had a private wine cellar and even tried his hand at winemaking. So this month, I’d like to highlight a few African-American winemakers that are impacting the wine community in an amazing way.

Mac McDonald — Vision Cellars

I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. McDonald a few years ago at a wine tasting. He wears overalls and a straw hat. Born the son of a Texas moonshine maker, he got an early look at the alcohol making process. Mac started Vision Cellars with an initial investment of $82,000 and released his first vintage in 1997.  Located in California, he primarily focuses on Pinot Noir and Zinfandel, grapes that grow well in the California climate. These wines have graced pages of Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast. The Pinot Noir has been enjoyed in the White House by every president since the Clinton.

Iris Rideau – Rideau Vineyards

Established in 1997, Iris Rideau became the 1st #AfricanAmerican female winery owner in the USA. Her winery is located in the Santa Ynez Valley of Santa Barbara County. Ms. Rideau is a New Orleans natie and wanted to create wines that paired with the Creole cuisine she grew up with so, Rideau Vineyard produces Rhone varietals. On her 16 acre, one can find Syrah, Viognier, Mourvedre, Roussanne and Grenache.

Dan Glover – L’Objet Noir

In a story similar to the above 2, Dan Glover came to wine from another career entirely. Being unfulfilled in the music industry, he decided to take his creative artistry to developing Pinot Noirs. He worked 12 years for various wineries in Sonoma before created his own wines under the L’Objet label. The wine has been released to much acclaim as the 2008 Bacigalupi Vineyard, Russian River Valley Pinot Noir scored 90 pts in Tasting Panel Magazine.

Tanisha Townsend, Girl Meets Glass
Twitter@girlmeetsglass

Super Bowl Pairings

February 13th, 2013

Super Drinking for the Super Bowl

It’s almost time for the big game! Plenty of recipes for the best wings, dips, burgers can be found. But what will be in your glass? Beer commercials abound during the Super Bowl, only everyone doesn’t drink beer. Where does that leave the wine drinker? What wine pairs with wings or nachos? You’ve come to the right place! Wine is perfectly acceptable to drink while watching the game on Sunday and here are some ideas as to what to pair with what.

Nachos – With the richness of the sour cream, cheese, and possibly even guacamole, the white wine Gewurztraminer with its citrus and  hints of spice cut through all the fat and tone down any heat.. If you’re a fan of reds, try a Shiraz. The acidity in the tomatoes and the boldness of Shiraz play very well together.

Wings – Bake, broiled, barbecued, fried, lemon pepper, teriyaki, made-with-any-and-everything food need a pair with anything wine. Chardonnay definitely fits the bill! Select an unoaked one from Chile or France. For you red wine lovers, Merlot. This will actually work well with any citrus-based sauces used on the wings or the ranch and blue cheese dipping sauce.

Burgers – The super bowl is a celebration, why not pop a little bubbly to pair with those burgers off the grill. Try a Cava from Spain or an Italian Lambrusco to accent the grilled flavors or a red Zinfandel to stand up to the meat and toppings.

And please remember that at the end of it all, you are hopefully with people that you like and your team wins. So whatever you drink will be enjoyable. Cheers!!

 

Tanisha Townsend, Girl Meets Glass
Twitter@girlmeetsglass

Wine Resolutions for 2013

January 12th, 2013

Happy New Year! We’re back after a short break for the holidays. Many of you may have made resolutions for the new year like, getting back in the gym, quitting smoking, eating healthy, saving money, etc. I used to do that myself but by February, don’t you know that I had fallen off the wagon! So for the past couple of years I have resolved to make of list of something that isn’t so terrifying and that I’ll have a ton of fun doing. Drinking wine!! Here’s a list of wine resolutions that I know you can probably manage to keep up all year.

1.   Drink an old wine from a new place

You’ve probably had tons of Riesling before, but have you ever tasted one from the Finger Lakes region of NY or Alsace, France? What are you waiting for…just do it.

2.   Try a new region altogether

There are some amazing (and super affordable) wines coming out of Portugal and Chile right now. Try a Chilean Torrontes or a red from Portugal’s Alentejo region. Most of the wines from this region come in under $20.

3.    Drink more bubbly

I can’t say this enough! Don’t save the bubbly just for special occasions, any occasion is special if you can pop a bottle! Buy some Cava, Prosecco, Champagne and open it right away.

4.    Splurge on one NICE bottle of wine

Now of course, this is within reason and whatever splurging is to you. But after a bit of research on vintage and pricing, treat yourself to an amazing ‘splurge-worthy’ bottle of Bordeaux, Rioja or Burgundy.

5.    Research

This was mentioned above in terms of vintage but, do a little wine research before your next purchase. I’m talking about attending a wine tasting or checking out a few wine review sites before you pick up that next bottle. Don’t get too nervous, this kind of research is fun!

Hopefully these tips help! I know that I will have no problem sticking with these. Which may be of detriment to the healthy eating resolution. Oh well!!

Tanisha Townsend, Girl Meets Glass
Twitter@girlmeetsglass

Gifts for Wineauxs

December 6th, 2012

The holiday season is quickly approaching. You could grab a bottle of wine to present to the host as you go from holiday party to holiday party. Or wrap up a Grand Cru Burgundy for the wine lover in your life. But this year, why not gift some amazing, and useful, accessories for your favorite wineaux.

For the wine novice:  Those just starting out in wine may want to learn a little more about what’s in their glass and what the different grape varietals are.   Give them a copy of Drink This: Wine Made Simple by Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl. Not only does this book give you great tips and information about wine, it gives you suggestions to try so you can sip along with the book!

Drink This: Wine Made Simple

 

For the wine drinker: They probably have a nice set of glasses, so why not get them something a little different. These could be used for special occasions, sharing wine with friends, or Wednesdays.

WhosWine9ozS4F12

 

For the serious wine drinker: This person has everything. They’ve read all the books, know all the regions, and tasted many varietals. It’s tough to get them a wine because they are very particular about what they drink and you surely don’t want to walk away with hurt feelings by giving them a bottle they turn their nose up at. So, what to do? Fancy barware is the way to go. Try this cute set from Z Gallerie that’s functional yet attractive enough for display.

Tanisha Townsend, Girl Meets Glass
Twitter@girlmeetsglass

Holiday Pairings

November 27th, 2012

Pairing food and wine at Thanksgiving and beyond will make even the most sophisticated palate break out in a sweat.  There are so many different foods with so many different flavors, how on earth can you pick just one? You don’t! Have several different wines available, white and red, to pair with different dishes and different palates. It is Thanksgiving after all, be thankful for wine.

Turkey & stuffing – This is the main dish, the one thing everyone will probably put on their plates. Try a Viognier from Virginia or a Pinot Noir from Oregon as a pairing. The ripe fruit flavor from the wines will match well with the breadiness of the stuffing and add  interesting flavor components to the turkey.

Ham – Beaujolais est arrive! Beaujolais Nouveau that was just released last Thursday, its fruitiness can stand up to the glaze or smoke on the ham.

Mashed potatoes – Chardonnay, this wine honestly pairs with everything.  Especially the buttery style from California, a perfect complement to creamy mashed potatoes.

Green bean casserole – Vegetables are always a bit tough when it comes to wine.  But a dry Riesling or a red Zinfandel works for this one.  Trust me on this one.

Sweet potatoes – With roasted sweet potatoes, try Gewurtztraminer. The spiced pear in the wine can stand up to the strong, earthy flavor of the sweet potato. The Riesling that you bought to pair with the green bean casserole works too, that high acidity can cut through the richness of the potato. Or you throw a curve ball and pair the red Zinfandel here also.

Tanisha Townsend, Girl Meets Glass
Twitter@girlmeetsglass

 

The Bubbly

November 8th, 2012

Weddings, anniversaries, New Years Eve all momentous occasions we celebrate with bubbly. But why wait for a special occasion? Champagne and sparkling wine are great with a variety of foods and are perfect just to sip while watching Grey’s Anatomy.

All Champagnes are sparkling wines, but not all sparkling wines are Champagne. Champagne gets its name from the wine region in France. Only sparkling wines made in the Champagne region of France can be called Champagne. Champagne is actually a blend of three grapes – Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay. Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier are both red grapes, so when you see ‘Blanc de Noir’ on a sparkling wine label, it means white from red.

The region is split into five wine producing districts- Aube, Cote des Blancs, Cote de Sezanne, Montagne de Reims and Vallee de la Marne.  Each district produces grapes with different characteristics that are used in the Champagne blend for their various styles. For example, the Pinots of the Montagne de Reims are planted on northern facing slopes and produce high levels of acid and add delicacy to the blend. The grapes on the southern facing slope add more power and character.

Often other sparkling wines are made in the same method as Champagne, methode champenoise or method traditionelle, in order to give the wines a bit more credibility. But plenty of other regions are making sparkling wines grow in popularity in their own right. In Spain you have Cava which is a blend of the Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-lo grapes. Italy has Prosecco. Austria creates a sparkling wine from their signature grape Gruner Veltliner. And of course we cannot forget the sparkling wines of the USA. Gruet in New Mexico and Mumm of California are a couple you must try.

So the next time you want a food friendly, crisp white wine, look no further than a sparkling wine. It’s not just for celebrations anymore!

Tanisha Townsend, Girl Meets Glass
Twitter@girlmeetsglass

Best Grapes Never Tasted – The Red Wines

October 23rd, 2012

Did you know that Zinfandel is a grape? And it’s red?? Most people think of it as just the name used to describe the light pink, sweet flavored rose style wine from California. While all of that is true, Zinfandel is a red grape fermented in contact with the skins for 12-20 hours in order to obtain just the right shade of pink. As for red Zinfandel, it’s fermented with the skins for anywhere from 3 days – 2 weeks. The difference in fermentation times between the two lead to a deeper, richer red color and much more flavor extraction from the fruit for red Zinfandel. So as a final product you get dark fruit flavors or black cherry and blackberries with notes of peppery spice throughout. Most Zinfandels see some oak aging so you will get hints of toast, oak and caramel as well.

 

Carmenere, the signature red grape of Chile was initially thought to be merlot. Upon further DNA investigation of the grapes and the vines it was proven to be Carmenere. This grape is best when harvested at optimal ripeness where it shows a cherry-like flavor with smoky, spicy and earthy notes and a deep crimson color. Although it’s best consumed young, older Carmenere’s will develop dark chocolate, tobacco, and leather on the palate.

Another DNA investigation discovered Petit Sirah, which was found to be a cross due to syrah pollen germinating a Peloursin plant. Since they couldn’t use ‘syrah’ in the name, they changed it to sirah and then added “petit” in reference to the size of its berries that grow on the vine. The small berries are actually very juicy and can produce very tannic wines if fermented with the skins for an extended period of time. Best examples of Petit Sirah will be from California or Australia. When young, you’ll get aromas of herbs, plums and blueberries followed by a black pepper finish.

 

Petit Verdot originated in France as part of the original Bordeaux blend. Unfortunately it ripens later than the other Bordeaux varieties, sometimes even too late for inclusion into the blend, so it had to be scrapped. For the winemakers that can wait for it to fully ripen, it packs quite a punch in blends adding tannins, dark fruit flavors and deeper colors to a final blended wine. Petit Verdot grows very well in Virginia often appearing as a single varietal wine. When young its aromas have been likened to banana and pencil shavings. Strong tones of violet and leather develop as it matures.

Tanisha Townsend, Girl Meets Glass
Twitter@girlmeetsglass