Monday, November 28, 2011

Holiday Shopping Made Easy

So now we're into the Holiday Season. Wine makes a great gift and perhaps you're thinking about giving a bottle to a business associate, friend, or family member. Here are some suggestions that are good for both experienced wine drinkers and novices alike, it's a selection for the Holidays of the best of the best.

1. Barolo and Barbaresco. Nebbiolo is the top grape from Piedmont, Italy and the best ones are so good and justifiably famous that they aren't classified by the grape varietal at all but by these names of these two small communes. Superior aromatics are a hallmark of these wines and words like dried cherries, leather, roses, tar, cinnamon, and tobacco come to mind. In general you'll find that Barolo tends to produce a slightly bigger, darker, and earthier wine than Barbaresco, which is a little leaner and more delicate. Great choices are Barolo from Brovia, Cogno, and Burlotto as well as Barbaresco from Produttori Del Barbaresco and Cascina Della Rose.



2. Brunello Di Montalcino. In Tuscany, the most prized reds are from the town of Montalcino where a local (and considered superior) clone of sangiovese is grown and made into Brunello. These wines are ripe, full, and powerful yet elegant, graceful and aromatic at the same time, a combination that makes them highly prized in the wine world. We have Altesino's 2004 which is sublime.





3. Napa Valley Cabernet. With their big, forward flavors and mouthfilling texture, cabernets from Napa are loved by a lot of wine drinkers. The best ones generate complexity from notes like cedar and mint leaf to go along with the ultra ripe, blackberry tinged fruit. Some selections to consider are Corison, Cultivar, Chappellet, and Bell.



4. Chateauneuf Du Pape. Considered the best terroir in Southern France for serious red wines, Chateauneuf Du Pape has the ripeness, body, and complexity that rank it with the world's greatest wines. Full, dark fruit is mingled together with savory herbs like thyme, sage, and rosemary. If a Cotes Du Rhone is your thing, try one of these.


5. Pinot Noir. Pinot noir is a noble grape and in Burgundy it's the Holy Grail for serious wine enthusiasts. Unrivaled complexity and a myriad of variation as you go through wines from village to village keep drinkers passionate about pinot noir for a lifetime. Cheveaux Clos De Vougeot (a Grand Cru) and Bouley Pommard Premier Cru "Les Fremiers" are just two examples. Also excellent to try are two stellar Sonoma wines like Chasseur "Joyce" and the legendary Hanzell Vineyards.


I hope that you are able to give the gift of one of these great wines to a worthy recipient this year or better yet, someone gives one to you!

Happy Holidays,
Michael

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011


Some of the most challenging wine questions we get every year have to do with Thanksgiving. A Thanksgiving meal is a usually a large, casual affair with a lot of different dishes and trying for the perfect match for specific dishes can be misguided. I like to serve several wines that are food flexible and non-fatiguing. Here are some strategies that can make your holiday meal more successful.

Try apples to start. Hard cider or apple wine is a perfect fall beverage and a great starter to turkey day. We have some West County Cider ($16.99) from the Berkshires and Wolffer Apple Wine from Long Island ($10.99), both are excellent.

Drink American. Many folks think that this classic American holiday deserves a homegrown wine and that's a great idea! Excellent choices are pinot noir from Oregon, California, and the Finger Lakes, gamay like Edmunds St John Bone Jolly ($18.99) or something unique like the Heitz Grignolino ($17.99).

White wine, really? Emphatically yes! Poultry and a full-bodied white is a classic so it's an excellent opportunity to have a white on the table. First choices would be Oregon pinot gris and domestic riesling.

Don't worry, serve several wines.
Thanksgiving is a big meal and if you have several guests it's enjoyable to have some different wines on the table. Experiment, relax, and have fun!

Don't forget the dessert wine. The sweet and savory flavors of pumpkin pie are perfect with an unctuous dessert wine. I love Eden Ice Cider ($29.99 for 375ml) from Vermont, if you haven't had an ice cider, you're missing out!

On the days before Thanksgiving we'll have a lot of our favorites on the floor for easy pickings so take a look.


Happy Thanksgiving!
Michael

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Spanish Wine: Value and Character

We are always happy to find wines that have good quality at a good price and even more so if they offer some interest and character. The wines from Spain definitely fall into this category. It's not surprising, Spain has a long history of wine production and a great wine and food culture. What is surprising is that some of these wines aren't more popular. Sure everyone knows Rioja and perhaps Cava, but not the vast quantity of great and affordable wines from a myriad of other regions.

Spanish wines come in a wide range of styles and one thing they are really great at is bridging the gap between old world and new world. Frequently the wines have a ripeness and forwardness that pleases fans of the modern style while retaining enough earthy, spicy flavors to appease the traditionalists. Aging the reds in oak barrels is a common practice, mostly in American barrels or a combination of French and American wood, with a lot of wines seeing a balanced approach that compliments the fruit rather than overwhelming it.

Here's a great list of wines to try along with their respective grapes and places of origin.

Whites

Seculo Blanca 2010, godello and dona blanca from Bierzo - $9.99
Eidosela 2010, albarino from Rias Baixas - $14.99
Blanco Nieva 2010, verdejo from Rueda - $15.99







Reds


Menguante 2008, garnacha from Carinena - $11.99
El Posadero 2010, tempranillo/syrah from Madrid - $11.99
Lorca 2008, monastrell from Bullas - $11.99

Labraz Rioja 2010, unoaked tempranillo - $12.99
Pinuaga Nature 2009, tempranillo from Castilla - $14.99

Sinergia Barrica 2007, monastrell/cabernet sauvignon from Valencia - $14.99
Vinedos De El Seque 2008, monastrell/syrah from Alicante - $14.99


Cheers,
Michael

Thursday, October 20, 2011

What's a Quaffer?

What's a quaffer? Well various sources define "to quaff" as a term that means to drink a beverage deeply and enjoy it heartily, especially an intoxicating one. We're not advocating chugging any of our products but in our world, we use the word quaffer to describe wines that are inexpensive, pleasant, and fun to drink. It's an everyday wine with a bit of a gulpability factor, something to enjoy simply and without pretense. They are also good quality and a better alternative to large format industrial wine brands.

Here's a current list of wines that qualify:


Whites

North Fork Project Chardonnay 2010 1L ($12.99) - Unoaked chardonnay from Long Island, it's dry with nice crispness and a great price for a liter.

Giacomo Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie 2010 ($11.99) - An inexpensive pinot grigio that's expressive, clean, and dry with apple tinged fruit.

Douglas Green Steen, South Africa 2009 ($11.99) - Steen is South African parlance for chenin blanc. This one is unoaked and completely dry with nice mouth feel and character.

Zum Martin Sepp Gruner Veltliner 2009 & 2010 1L ($1
4.99) - A great deal in the one liter bottle, here's an earthy gruner veltliner that's delicious.

Reds

L'escale Anjou Rouge 2009 ($14.99) - This is all gamay, a quintessential quaffing grape, and it has great freshness with just a touch of underlying mineral. Although it's a little pricey for this category it's still worth it.

AG Cotes Du Ventoux 2008 ($8.99) - Red stone fruits and crisp acidity from the south of France. Made from grenache, carignan, and syrah. What more could you want?

Les Clos De Vauriou, Touraine 2010 ($13.99) - Mostly gamay with a pinch of malbec, known as "cot" in this part of the world, this is a perennial favorite here at Windsor. It's got lovely juicy raspberry tones and nice complexity for the price with herbs and a chalky mineral note in the background.


Cheers,
Michael

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

On The Alternative Side

Have you been drinking a lot of the same wines? Perhaps you're ready for a change of pace to get out of the rut of the ordinary and usual. Maybe you want to do a little upgrade to your regular selection or want something a little more special and unique? Here are some alternative choices to consider (click on the pictures for a better look):

Alternatives to Pinot Noir - Two reasons we love pinot noir are the light to medium body and the great aromatics. For another light red you could try Antoine Pouponneau "L'escale" Anjou 2009 ($14.99). 100% gamay from the Loire, it has great fresh red fruits with just a touch of tannin and mineral in the background. A great food wine, this will go with anything from sandwiches, to burgers, and fish. Additionally, a wine with superb aromatics is the Gumphof Sudtiroler Vernatsch Alto Adige 2009 ($17.99). From northern Italy, it's very light and pretty with an interesting savory overtone, a super wine with great interest at it's price.



Alternatives to Rioja - We can look to Ribera Del Duero for a darker and fuller version of the tempranillo grape, known by the local name tinto fino or tinta del pais. For dark berry fruit and balanced tannins, try a wine made from 60 year old vines, the Milcampos Vinas Viejas Ribera Del Duero 2009 ($14.99). If you'd like a little fresh plum/cherry fruit in a smooth package with a dab of toasty oak, try the Traslascuestas Ribera Del Duero Roble 2009 ($16.99). Both wines are great with red meat or chicken, especially if you are still cooking on the grill.



Alternatives to Cotes Du Rhone - This one is easy, like hitting an A.J. Burnett fastball in the 5th inning. There are a lot of choices here and two of my favorites are Chateau Massiac Minervois 2008 ($14.99) and Domaine De Nidoleres "La Raphaelle" Cotes Du Roussillon 2008 ($17.99). What they have in common is that they are from areas near the Rhone and use the typical grapes from the south of France: grenache, syrah, carignan, and mourvedre. While both are full bodied, the Minervois is more peppery and the Rouissillon is dense, earthy, and elegant. If we have a cool, autumnal evening it's great to try one with a slow cooked braised meat or stew.



Alternative to Chianti - Vercesi Del Castellazzo "Pezzalunga Rosso" Oltrepo Pavese 2010 ($14.99) is a great choice here. Made from a unique combination of barbera, bonarda, and the rarely seen uva rara, this has beautiful tangy cherry notes and a touch of menthol in the finish. It's interesting, different, and delicious.

Alternative to Barolo and Barbaresco - Do you love these two great wines from Piedmont? Do you desire that rare combination of elegance and grace, the ethereal aromas of roses and cinnamon kissed with ripe cherries? Well, from a little further north in the Valtellina comes a wine that can be had at a fraction of the price. Sandro Fay Sassella 2007 ($22.99) is 100% nebbiolo and has great typicity and complexity. Crisp fresh cherries are on the palate wrapped in hints of tarry earth, tobacco, and mint. This is a special wine at an affordable price.


Cheers,
Michael

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Headaches, sulfur, and what's in my wine anyway?


Do you get get headaches from wine? If so, please read on. We have helped many of our customers and here is some information that can help you too.

Typically when someone gets headaches from drinking wine they look to sulfites as the culprit. This is probably not the reason for your headache. Sulfur is present in all wines at various levels. It is a by-product of the fermentation process and winemakers use it to help preserve the wine and to stave off bad bacteria. A tiny handful of winemakers make wine with no added sulfur at bottling. These wines can be very interesting and good but they are also very volatile and tend not to travel well. At any rate, very few people have a reaction to sulfur. If you are asthmatic you could be susceptible, and if you do have a reaction it is likely to be an allergic type of reaction rather than a headache.

A possibility is that you could be sensitive to certain types of grape varieties. Theories are that some people have a reaction to histamines or tannins. Both these substances are more prevalent in red wines than whites so try sticking to white wines to see if this is the case for you.

More important I think is the plethora of chemical additives that large scale commercial wineries add to their wine. There are chemicals that add color, artificially increase mouthfeel, enzymes that are supposed to release certain types of aromatics, soluble wood tannin for structure (and you get to choose your flavor too, try chestnut tannin if you don't want the oaky flavor). How about a silicone oil emulsion that reduces frothing? It's really unbelievable, there's even a pesticide called "Drop Dead" that companies can use at the winery to control fruit flies (so much for your organic wine). Why do they add these chemicals? Mostly to compensate for poor quality grapes and to cut costs. They also do it to fashion a wine in a style that receives high scores from some wine reviewers. There are no scientific studies here, but this type of wine making is highly manipulative and who's to say that these additives don't cause reactions in people when they ingest the stuff?

What I do know is that we have helped a lot of customers with their headaches by recommending small production, estate bottled wines. In a lot of cases these wines were made by the family that grew the grapes and were harvested by hand by the family and their team of workers and friends. To me, this is a much more honest method of wine making. There's less chemical intervention in the vineyard and in the winery, and generally less sulphur at bottling. There's also less manipulation of a wine "style" which I like. It's like your grandmother growing her own tomatoes and making homemade sauce. How's a big industrial winery going to compete with that? Try some of these wines and I bet your headaches will dissipate.

Cheers,
Michael

Saturday, August 20, 2011

How To Taste Wine

I thought it would be nice to go over a little method of how to taste wine, this is something we would talk about in an introduction to wine class and it can really help you get more out of your wine experience.

1. The wine glass. To get the more enjoyment out of your wine choose a good wine glass. It should have a tulip shape where the width of the bowl is slightly larger than the rim. Most importantly the glass should be clean. Take it out of the cupboard and smell it, if it smells like the cupboard wash it and let it dry. The glass should have no odor before you use it.

2. The pour, swirl, and sniff. Pour some wine into the glass, filling the bowl no higher than the largest circumference of the glass. Now swirl the wine in order to coat the sides of the glass and to give it some air. I like to swirl counter-clockwise. (There is a super geeky reason for this, if you want to know then ask me next time you're in the store.) Put your nose to the rim of the glass and smell. Pay attention to any immediate impressions that the wine gives you. It could be anything; fruit, earth, spice, herbs, clothing, a handbag, someone in your past, a favorite meal, anything.

3. The sip and swallow. Take a sip and notice the initial taste that you perceive. Sometimes it confirms aromas that you picked up in the nose and sometimes it's very different. Now swallow and continue to pay attention to the flavors and textures as they linger into the finish of the wine. Do you get new sensations that weren't in the nose? Does the wine have nice length? Is it light or heavy? Are the flavors in balance or is there an extreme of acid, tannin, or alcohol? These are all things that you can ponder.

4. Relax and enjoy the wine. See if the wine changes over time after being open. Is your next glass different from the first? If the wine is chilled, see if the flavors change as it warms up. If you are eating food see how the flavors and textures interact. Does the food make the wine disappear or vice versa? Have fun!


Drinking wine is a subjective experience, it's mostly about paying attention and being open to any sensory feelings and thoughts that you get. As you gain more experience you'll start to notice things in common between wines and you'll pick up on the lingo and terminology that you see in wine magazines and hear from wine professionals. With more wines under your belt you will also start to find your personal preferences, and don't be surprised if these change over time.

Cheers,
Michael

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Surprising Pinots

The places we look to for quality pinot noir are few; typically Burgundy, parts of California and Oregon, and New Zealand. I wanted to point out a few really nice pinots from places you normally wouldn't think about.


Two generous and lovely pinots from Germany

Becker Estate Pinot Noir, Pfalz, Germany 2008 ($19.99) - This wine is made from grapes grown right on the German border with Alsace. It's a ripe and generous pinot, with balanced, dark red fruits and a little spice framed by a silky mouthfeel.

A. Christmann Spatburgunder, Pfalz, Germany 2008 ($24.99) -
Also from the Pfalz, this features beautiful woodsy aromatics leaping out of the glass. The palate has firm cherries up front, then winding into a deep, lingering, savory complexity.




Two Mountain Reds from the Italian Alps

Ottin Pinot Noir, Vallee D'Aoste, Italy 2008 ($24.99) - A gorgeous wine. The fruit here is pure raspberry and it has very interesting smokey, meaty notes. It's one of my favorite reds in the store, I had even featured this in a blog several months ago.



Arnad Montjovet "La Kiuva", Vallee D'Aosta, Italy 2008 ($19.99) - Another Italian mountain red, this is actually a blend of nebbiolo, pinot noir, and a tiny bit of a local varietal. Red raspberries in a medium light style and some mushroomy tones make for a unique and tasty wine.




A New Zealand wine from an unknown region


Mt. Beautiful Pinot Noir, North Canterbury, New Zealand 2009 ($23.99) - We know that New Zealand is capable of making some stunning pinots and this is the first one I've seen from this part of the South Island. Rarely do we find a pinot this good at this price. The wine is a mid-weight with gorgeous red raspberry fruit, a meatiness on the palate, and a wisp of toasty oak in the finish.




The quality of all these wines is superb and they represent tremendous value. I hope you can give one a try.

Michael

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Great Whites!

It's officially summertime and I wanted to highlight some beautiful full-bodied white wines that deserve more attention. These wines are big, extracted and not oaky. The hot climates that these wines come from have the sunshine and heat to push the ripeness resulting in big forward lush fruit flavors. They are super expressive and really fun to drink. Let's go first to France for a look.


Pascal Marthouret Condrieu 2007 ($49.99) - Viognier is the grape here and Condrieu is considered it's best expression. The wine starts with white flower blossoms on the nose and moves into silky, honeyed apricot in the mouth. Very soft and elegant. Even with it's size, it's nicely balanced and not over the top, especially for viognier.




Prieure Saint-Jean De Bebian Coteaux Du Languedoc 2006 ($28.99) - A blend of predominantly roussanne with bits of picpoul, clairette, and grenache blanc this wine is rich and honeyed with nectarine and honeysuckle notes. Super complex with balanced acidity make it a joy to drink.






Chateau Pech-Redon Coteaux Du Languedoc "L'epervier" La Clape 2008 ($16.99) - The little craggy solid chalk mountain of La Clape receives more sun per year than any other place in France and the Romans started the winemaking here about 2200 years ago. This white is organic and made from grenache gris and bourboulenc. I get a spectrum of yellow stone fruits here; apricot, peach, nectarine and even some orange peel. A nice herbaceous anise overtone adds complexity as well, a great wine for the price.



Line Shack Roussanne San Antonio Valley, Monterey, California 2009 ($17.99) - Now it's time for a California wine! This is a style that is done very well on the west coast. White Rhone varietals, unencumbered by new oak, excel in the heat and long California growing season. The Line Shack has intense varietal character with a feeling of thick and rich honeysuckle apricot nectar. Impressive.




Thomas Coyne Viognier, California 2009 ($18.99) - This very well made viognier is super tropical, I get coconut oils along with the typical honeysuckle notes of the varietal. Very rich, heady and expansive in the mouth it's a great price for large scaled viognier.



These wines are plenty of fun to drink on their own but if you are thinking of some food pairings I have some ideas for you. One way to go is to try rich shellfish like scallops, crab, lobster, and grilled shrimp. Pork chops, pork tenderloin with a fruit glaze, chicken with a cream sauce all work well as does something rich like liver pate or foie gras.

Enjoy,
Michael







Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Is it dry?

The motherload of all wine topics! The subject of dryness in a wine is the most misunderstood thing amongst customers so I thought I'd try to approach it in an intelligent way. First off let me state that whether a wine is dry or not is not indicative of it's quality! Okay, I had to get that off my chest, but it's true. Really, think about it, in a world where there are so many poorly made dry wines we as a staff wonder why, when recommending a wine to someone, do we often hear the question, "Is it dry?", as an inquiry to quality?


Let's look at this reasonably. There are two ways in which we can discuss dryness in wines. One is technical, the actual measure of residual sugar (RS) in the wine, with anything less than 10 grams per liter considered dry. The other is subjective, does the wine feel dry? Is there an impression of dryness or sweetness irregardless of what the RS actually is? I think this discussion is more important and something valid to think about is what people perceive as dryness or not when tasting wines.

The two things that come to mind for me are acidity and tannin. Acidity is tart and gives an impression of dryness, freshness, and crispness. My analogy is always lemonade so think about lemon juice with some sugar added to make it palatable, is it dry? A wine with super high acidity and RS under 10 grams/liter will always feel dry. Examples would be things like Muscadet, Chablis, Albarino, Rueda, and Sancerre. If there is a little more RS and the acidity is still high, like some chenin blancs and rieslings, the wine can still feel dry and crisp contrary to the technical number. Actually in that case you'd want a little RS because without it the wine would be overly acidic and austere. Some California wines like chardonnay and viognier, actually have high RS and low acidity which can feel dry to some people and sweet and flabby to others. Some dessert wines with very high RS have enough acidity to keep things balanced and not cloying. Go figure, this type of opinion as to dryness is like asking someone if the music is funky or not, it's well...subjective.

Tannins are the other issue here and when a customer asks for a red that's "not too dry", that's what I think they are referring to. Tannins in a wine are astringent and while giving structure to they also give an impression of dryness. Think of black tea with no sugar or milk, that lingering dryness is the tannin. Same effect in red wines, if a wine has substantive tannins we would use words like "chewy" and "muscular". There is some subjectivity here too as to what kind of wine you like or are in the mood for. On the other end of the spectrum, reds that are full-bodied, with low acid and low tannin, can feel smooth and silky to some folks and downright jammy to others. Another factor is that barrel aging in oak can also give an impression of sweetness, so even though a wine is "dry" it can be perceived as less dry with the creamy, toasty flavors of oak present.

I think the crux of the issue here is not to think that a "dry" wine is a good wine. There are well made and balanced wines all across the spectrum. Start with drinking quality wines in a style you like and branch out from there.

Cheers,
Michael

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

It tastes like rocks?

Well, I can't say that a wine actually tastes like rocks but I do know that wines definitely reflect minerality. I think using the term "minerality" is a way of trying to specify flavors in the wines that are notable for being grown in rocky soils. Certain wines, especially whites, are famous for expressing mineral. Chablis, Sancerre, and Muscadet are three of the most obvious. In the case of the first two, limestone and clay soils called Kimmeridgian are the factor while for Muscadet it's gneiss and granite that are in the vineyards.

For some people, it's difficult to identify minerality in a wine. The taste can be subtle and usually lingers in the finish. The flavors are savory, non-fruity, and not the toasty, vanilla, or oaky flavors produced in a barrel. In fact a lot of winemakers who raise minerally whites will not use barrels at all because they don't want any of the stronger oak flavors to cover up the minerality. They'll keep the wine in stainless steel tanks until bottling or if they do use barrels, the wood will be neutral. Once you start to notice mineral complexity in a wine, you'll always be able to find it if it's there. For older wines, the minerality and stoniness becomes more intense over time and these characteristics are prized by wine geeks and connoisseurs. Try an aged Chablis or Muscadet and you'll see what I mean.

For us at Windsor, we love these types of wines so you'll always be able to find a good selection in the shop.

Cheers,
Michael

Friday, April 22, 2011

You're An Original, Baby!

Certain wines are completely original. They're impossible to classify and hard to describe. Think about trying to relate a flavor and texture to someone who has never had it before, it's not easy. Well, the wines in this post are all very unique and not well known to people who aren't in the wine business. None of them happen to be red. They are white, yellow, or pink. What they have in common is that they are all made in a way that adheres to long-held winemaking traditions of their respective regions. Looking at the photo clockwise we have:

Monastero Suore Cistercensi "Coenobium Rusticum" 2007 ($29.99) This is a wine made by Cistercian nuns at a convent in central Italy. It starts out with white grapes but then a super long soak on the lees turns it into a multi-layered golden orange/yellow beauty.

Haute Terres de Comberousse "Roucaillat" 2007 Coteaux du Languedoc Blanc($16.99) From southern France, it's made in a very oxidative style in open oak vats then aged for a long time in barrels. What that gives is a golden yellow color, a very rich texture, slight nuttiness, and great interest and complexity for the price.

Herri Mina Irouleguy Blanc 2006 ($18.99) Made with 3 local grape varieties from the Basque region in extreme southwestern France, this unique wine is rich and briny, has an almost oily mouthfeel with lingering tropical fruit and crisp acidity.

Domaine Berthet-Bondet Cotes Du Jura "Tradition" 2003 ($22.99) The Jura region in eastern France is famous for a wine style called "sous voile", aged under a film (veil) of yeast in barrels that are not topped up as evaporation slowly takes place. This version saw 2 years under that process and the wine is very intense and nutty. It's a fantastic wine to pair with cheeses.

Lopez De Heredia Vina Tondonia Gran Reserva Rose Rioja 2000 ($24.99) What? Eleven year old rose? Yes! Spain's Lopez De Heredia is legendary and venerated for making ultra traditional wines the same way for the past 130 years. No rush to market here and what results is a coppery hued wine of great elegance and complexity.

Cheers,
Michael

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Accessories Make The Man

In the fashion world they say that "accessories make the man". Well, in the wine world, a few handy items can definitely enhance the experience so let's talk about some useful wine accessories.

The Clamshell ($5.99). Forget about buying half bottles of bubbly. If you like to drink sparkling wines then invest in one of these. It clamps on the top of the bottle and keeps the fizz in. Instead of losing the sparkle in a few hours you can keep a bottle in the fridge for a whole week and just have a glass or two a day. Genius!


The Vacu Vin Wine Saver ($9.99). Another good wine preservation system, it consists of a rubber stopper and a plastic vacuum pump. After the bottle is open, the stopper is placed in the top and the pump sucks the air out of the bottle. It effectively keeps oxygen out of the bottle and extends the life of the wine for many more days than just sticking the cork back in the top. Think about wrapping half of a cut apple in plastic wrap so that it doesn't turn brown. This is the same idea. Easy to use and it works.



A Good Corkscrew. Simple right? A corkscrew pulls out the cork, that's it. Well, not all corkscrews are alike. The Windsor Wines Corkscrew ($6.99) is of a type called the "waiter's friend" or the "sommelier knife". The most important feature of any quality corkscrew is a hollow stem so that the it goes into the cork rather than digging out the cork like the old two lever models. Our corkscrew has the benefit of being teflon coated so it easily works it's way into the cork. Another great feature is the "double hinge" so that you can achieve proper leverage on the cork no matter how deep or shallow it is.



Last but perhaps the most vital accessory is a good stem. If you are drinking wine regularly and not using a proper wine glass then you are missing out. I could write an entire article about stemware, and indeed there is a whole business devoted to pairing a type of wine with a certain glass. There is some merit in that, but suffice it to say that if you don't become a wine geek then you don't need to go that far. The biggest thing a good glass does is let you smell the wine. The tulip shape helps to expose the wine to air and to capture and reveal it's aroma. A good glass also has a cut rim rather than a rolled rim on it's edge which helps to deliver the wine to your palate without hitting a mini "speedbump". We sell Spiegelau stemware in a variety of shapes and quality levels so just ask us if you are interested.

What's nice about these little accessories is that they are super practical and not expensive. Consider them tools of the trade, if you have the right tool it makes the job much easier. Purchase them once and they will greatly enhance your wine experience.

Cheers,
Michael

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

New Day, New Look

Welcome to the new WindsorWineMerchants.com! Combining the best of both worlds, we have taken the live, updated content from our blog, The Windsor Wine Wire, and the design scheme of the old website to produce our current baby.

Our Home Page:

1. No, we do not serve candy, soda, or ice cream. These stained glass windows have become a fixture of our store and, though we may have lost the errant customer here or there who couldn't find us because they didn't see the neon Liquors and Wines signs below these beautiful relics, we will not be removing them any time soon. More on these wonders in another post.

2. Right smack on the home page you will find the most recent Windsor Wine Wire blog entry. No need anymore to click around and jump from site to site; whether you knew us as windsorwinemerchants.com or windsorwinewire.blogspot.com you can now find all of our info at one convenient location regardless of what url you type in.

3. Forgot when we open? Not sure if you can sneak in for one last bottle? Now, on each page of our site you can find our hours of operation and decide before braving the outdoors only to find the gate down and the lights off.

4. The menu bar at the top provides access to all of the content you could fancy about our little shop of wine and booze. Find some frequently asked questions, brief bios about our awesome staff, and (soon) info on upcoming tastings.

Take a look around, laugh, love, stay a while.

-E.C. ouch

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What We've Been Drinking

So I thought I'd ask the staff here at Windsor to share some wines that they've been taking home and drinking lately. Since it's my privilege to write this column I get to go first:

Michael: My choice for a killler wine that I've had recently is Ottin Pinot Noir Vallee D'Aoste 2008 ($29.99). I'm not messing around, this is a wine that can pull you out of a bad day, make you feel good about the world, and remind you that mankind is capable of producing beautiful things. A great and unique expression of pinot noir that has a wonderful balance of tangy raspberries and savory meaty, brothy notes.

Bob
: Steininger Gruner Veltliner Sekt 2008 ($29.99) Anyone who knows my wine tastes knows that I am partial to sparkling wines that are rich and creamy. I don't often get these qualities from champagne, but I do from this sparkler and that's why it's my current favorite in the store. This bottle helps dispel the myth that only the grapes pinot noir and chardonnay make quality sparkling wine, and it's priced the same as the most inexpensive of true champagnes.

John: Domaine Guillot-Broux Macon-Chardonnay "Les Combettes" 2008 ($24.99) When Michael asked us to pick a wine we liked, I immediately chose the Guillot-Broux Macon Chardonnay Combettes 2008. I'm lucky. Michael is like my personal sommelier, he knows my tastes and picks out wines for me that he knows I'm going to like. Occasionally, however, for whatever reason, some wines stand out above others. Still I was a bit daunted writing about it, since like many wine neophytes, I'm better at knowing what I like than giving adjectives to describe it. When I told Kevin, who used to work here but now works at a wine shop in Rhode Island, he knew the wine well and excitedly wanted to write my description for me. Jason, who also used to work here, went further and actually wrote the following: "Brine and butter. A beautiful acidity dances over beds of rose petals, and limestone chalk blows from a dusty road". Say what? Let me just humbly say, it's delicious! I defy anyone who says they don't like Chardonnay to taste this and draw that same conclusion. It's like a creamsicle in a glass. It's $24.99, which is a bit pricey, but well worth the treat! Cheers!

Evan:
Domaine Baron "Cot" Touraine 2008 ($14.99). I am really digging this wine right now because it reminds me how much more there is to malbec than jammy, in-your-face, Argentinian fruit bombs. This is a classic representation of how the French approach differs from New World counterparts. It introduces an herbal, earthy tone that is distinctly more subtle than most other malbecs AND it only costs a couple dollars more. A steal.

Beth:
Domaine S├ębastien Dampt Chablis 2009 ($21.99). I love this wine because it is a textbook representation of its class. I like it when a wine is exactly what it is supposed to be. Classic village level Chablis is supposed to be flinty, minerally, elegant, and ready to drink with a plate of oysters or some country pate with cornichons and crusty bread. That is exactly what this wine is -- Chardonnay in one of its most fresh, elegant, and food-friendly expressions. If you were to look up Chablis in the dictionary, the Dampt Chablis would be there, with a plate of oysters next to it. That is why I love this wine.

Robb:
Nikolaihof Gruner Veltliner "Im Weingebirge" 2008 ($30.99). During my first week at Windsor Wine Merchants, Mig (Michael) told me that Austria has the best wines that most people have never heard of. Nikolaihof's gruner vetliner offers a refreshing, rich and creamy body, which are my favorite characteristics in a white wine. It has a smooth acidity and is very"mineral."

Don:
Devois de Perret Coteaux Du Languedoc 2009 ($11.99). Big task for me in my fledgling time at Windsor Wines. I'm going to pick the Devois because I've had it a few times and I find it to be a good strong-bodied French wine. I also feel this to be a nice bottle to bring to a gathering of friends.

So it's interesting that we have two chardonnays and two gruner veltliners among the bunch, one of them a sparkler! Check one of these wines out, they're great.

Michael

Friday, February 11, 2011

Welcome to the good old days!


Things change. You always hear stories about how great things were in the past. First Growth Bordeaux was $15 a bottle, Cotes du Rhones were $6, great Chianti was $10.... some of that is true. At a wine shop in which I worked in the mid-80's, we sold a nice Petit Chateau Bordeaux for $3.99, this for a classified, respectable everyday bottle of red, not some bulk jug wine. Of course Burgundy always seems to be the holy grail, and prices for good Burgundy have always been on the higher part of the curve at any time in the market. I'm looking at a wine catalog from 1997 and the prices for village Gevrey-Chambertin are in the $40 dollar range, a Premier Cru at that time would cost you around $60. Given that context, 14 years ago, that's a pricey bottle of wine. Even so, look closely and prices have increased, but not all that much.

What has changed, for the better, is quality and consistency. Shopping for affordable red Burgundy in the past was like rollerblading in a minefield. Yet, the experience of having superb pinot noir was so thrilling that for most wine lovers it was worth the risk. If gymnastics can be an apt analogy for wine, then red Burgundy is like trying to walk on a balance beam. The beam is so narrow, the aromas and flavors of pinot noir having to be so precise as to deliver expression and true varietal character that it's hard to stay on the beam. Wobble and fall of one side and you're in "overpriced, austere stingyland", fall off the other side and you're in "juicy, flabby, jammy I-don't-taste-like-pinotland". Only red Burgundy could accomplish this, and even today it's much the same. The wine world knows this, wine merchants are always advising customers that you have to be very picky and that there's a lot more bang for the buck if you look elsewhere. These conditions not only keep prices high, but a lot of winemakers rest on their laurels, making mediocre wine and knowing that there are customers who will still pay for it. Typically if you found a wine that had the "goods", you'd run around the city purchasing bottles at various wine shops, trying to relive the elusive experience.

In the last few years of buying wine for the store, we would jump for joy when we found a quality red Burgundy that we could sell for under $20 . We would excitedly show these wines to our customers and they responded with the wines selling very well. These wines are often a basic wine from a good producer with the vines being near a famous village, categorized "Bourgogne", or a wine from a lesser known area like "Givry", "Irancy", or "Auxerre". These wines have always been hard to find.

What has seemingly changed is that recently we are finding a lot more of these affordable Burgundies. I don't know the reasons why, I can only speculate the possibilities of better winemaking in reaction to the global marketplace, more competition and choice from importers here in NYC, or maybe even global warming has something to do with it. What I do know is that we should enjoy this and take advantage of the opportunity to drink and explore these wines. Will the trend continue? I don't know except to say..

Welcome to the good old days!

Michael

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Unknown Italian Gems under $20

We all know some of the great and famous wines and regions of Italy; Brunello di Montalcino and Chianti Classico from Tuscany, Barolo and Barbaresco from the Piedmont, Amarone from the Veneto. Quality everyday wines like Montepulciano d'Abruzzo and Valpolicella are also well known. With such a long tradition, the reputations of these wines are well deserved. Additionally, there are other areas of Italy that have equally long winemaking traditions and that produce wines of fantastic quality. These wines, and the grapes they are made from, are not as well known but offer remarkable quality, personality, and value. Here are some real Italian Gems that we sell for less than $20:

Montalbera Grignolino D'Asti ($17.99) - from Piedmont, grignolino is a light bodied, pale red with woodsy aromas, tangy red fruits, and has more tannin and structure than you would think of from a wine that looks like rose, our friend who imports it likes to have it with lamb.

Gumphof Sudtiroler Vernatsch ($17.99) - from Alto Adige (Sudtirol or South Tyrol) in the northeast, the grape vernatsch is also known as schiava, it's very light with a savory meaty undertone and absolutely delicious.

Occhipinti Alea Viva ($19.99) - from Lazio, the grape is aleatico and it's grown on the shores of a volcanic lake about one hour north of Rome, very expressive aromas of fresh red berries and flowers, the wine is light but has bright acid and present tannins to give balanced grip in the mouth, it reminds me of good pinot noir from Beaune mingled with rose petals.

(picture location: United Meat Market, Windsor Terrace Brooklyn)


Colli di Serrapetrona Collequanto ($16.99) - made from a rare and historic grape in the Marche called vernaccia nera, it's a wild and spicy red, smells of cinnamon, tastes of sappy red fruits and cranberry, it's one of my very favorite unpretentious and unique wines.

Vestini Campagnano Casavecchia ($15.99) - this "old house" is made from the uncommon indigenous varietal named casavecchia, from Campania in the south near Naples, the wine is full and dark, with tangy plums, and shows the minerality of the volcanic soils in the region.

Statti Gaglioppo ($17.99) - from Calabria in the deep south, the gaglioppo grape here is medium bodied with ripe and spicy cherry fruit, a perfect foil for tangy tomato sauce, pizza, it even has enough sappy ripeness to handle a little peperoncino heat.


I wish you the pleasure of trying one of these wines, "alla salute".
Michael

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Cheating on the Pinot Grigio

I like pinot grigio, I do, especially when it's a well made wine of character, and the truth is that there's nicely expressive pinot grigio to be had. When it's at it's best there's texture, an oily, viscous, waxy mouthfeel and richness, a floral aromatic quality, and nice savory notes that can be mineral, smoky, even saline. What I have issue with is vapid, industrial wines without any character or flavor that pass themselves off as wines of quality and a lot of established pinot grigio in the marketplace unfortunately fits that description. It's not that I dislike them because they are cheap, in fact I love to find well made inexpensive wines that have good flavor. It's just that with so many excellent, affordable Italian white wines to choose from why should anyone settle for inferior juice?

So let's cheat on the pinot grigio, we won't tell anybody and the grigio won't even know. Here are some choices:

Castelvero Cortese ($9.99) From Piedmont, it's crisp and dry with a touch of creaminess in the mouth, a beauty.
Colosi Bianco Sicilia ($10.99) Light, crisp, and refreshing. This blows away any pinot grigio at the price for pure, simple, drinking pleasure.
Cesani Vernaccia Di San Gimignano ($11.99) Yes, it's from that famous village in Tuscany with the medieval towers. Super-dry and mineral, it exemplifies the Italian aesthetic in whites that cherishes a slight bitterness in a fine beverage.
Ca'Stella Friulano ($11.99) Umami, "who, Mommy?", a lovely, mushroomy richness wrapped around diffused pear. Talk about a complex wine for a super price!
Mille Sauvignon ($12.99 for 1L bottle) Clean citrus, grassy, very dry, it's from Friuli in the most northeastern part of Italy.
Fattori Soave Classico "Runcaris" ($12.99) Expressive delicious golden apples, that's all I need to say.
Antonelli Grechetto ($13.99)
from Umbria, has richness, length, real interest, and a savory almond finish.

I hope that you have a chance to enjoy one of these wines.

Michael