Portugal is Unique in that they produce 250 grape varietals unique to their region..
OK, I didn’t actually try to taste 250 new grape varietals (can you say “Alvarinho”, “Baga” “Trincadeira” or “Touriga Nacional” ?) but I did try to better understand the wonderful variety of wines coming from a country with a unique language and known more for fortified wines – their Ports – than for their still wines.
Trade Tastings can be a SERIOUS Affair!
The best part of my tasting was the seated seminar with Evan Goldstein
- I had seen him in videos, but it was great to actually meet the wine powerhouse in person. Passionate is not a wasted word on this wine lover – he really presented with energy and humor and a keen sense of fun and adventure – he popped a few key Portguese words into the presentation but for the obvious effect – few people understand the language!
Evan Goldstein of Full Circle Wine Solutions was quite engaging..
So what did I learn from the seated tasting of 7 wines (it was supposed to be 8, but one never made it through shipping!) ?
-Vinho Verde which translates as “Green Wine” does NOT mean green-hued wine, but rather a wine meant to be consumed “young”.
-Portuguese “Verdelho” is NOT the same as Spanish “Verdejo”
-There is a Rose Vinho Verde
-There are many micro-climates and the wines from the southern planes tend to ripen very evenly from year to year.
-Moscatel de Setubal is a Muscat Fortified wine other than Port from the southern Peninsula and has more of a golden raisin/apricot flavor than Ports more prunish, dark fruit flavors.
Overall I was impressed by the consistency of the wines – most had abundent acidity and enough fruit and flavor for backbone. Some of the reds such as the pure Touriga Nacional’s were quite tannic and “cedar box” spice, but still the average quality of wines was quite good.
I do want to mention that TasteDC was affiliated with the Consumer Grand Tasting that evening and helped to sell it out – although the wines were the same in the consumer tasting, the food was much better than the Trade got which is actually a good thing. Also the food was quite good – really tender carved Roast Beef, Ham Table, Specialty Taco Table and something I hadn’t seen before – a Ramen Noodle table with the chance to choose your own noodles and fixings- this kept the Vegetarians happy – Cheers!
“In Order to Make Great Wine, the Vines Must Suffer..”
I attended a recent trade tasting given by the Bureau of Burgundy Wines on Tuesday, April 23rd at the Capital Wine School in Washington, D.C. – it was taught by a very affable and precise Jean-Pierre Renard who took us through history, philosophy and ultimately a tasting of 9 wines from the lowest classification up to a Grand Cru – Corton Grand Cru, les Renardes, 2008 Domaine Maillard.
We covered the basics of Burgundy which can actually be quite confusing. In a nutshell, Burgundy is a region and the wines are named from their location in that region. The basic breakdown is Regional wines, Village wines, Premiere Cru wines and Grands Cru wines, each respective layer being more rare and specific to a smaller number of wines and thus normally costing more as well. If you purchase a regular Bourgogne with little more information on the bottle, it most likely can come from grapes grown anywhere in that region. Village wines have regionality, but are not specific to any site while Premiere Cru and Grands Cru grapes come from specified parcels. Add to this the complexity rule-wise of “climats” which loosely translates according to the speaker as the “DNA of the individual Bourgogne Vineyards” – I actually found a site in English that delves deeper into the climats concept – the “climats”. Climats equates closely with “terroir”..
OK, now that you’re probably totally confused, let me say that much of what the speaker said rang true with what I had learned over the past 15 years at various wine classes and courses.
Burgundy has been producing serious wine since the Roman times, and afterwards the plots of land came from Church donations by nobles – they always gave their worst sites (poorest and rockiest soils) to the local Monasteries. Ironically, the rocky soils and hills they donated actually produce the world’s greatest wines!
The concept of “terroir” has really been developed from the wines of Burgundy more so than any other region – why?
1)They pretty much only use Pinot Noir for red wines and Chardonnay for white wines (a few exceptions like Aligote, but these are not blended)
2)hillside vineyards grow very different quality grapes from vineyards grown in the valley – hillier/higher sites produce more intense wine flavors, valley grapes are more generic.
3)Each vineyard site has it’s own weather patterns, geology, geography and even human/historical conditions. This last point is very confusing to most Americans: wine is made by humans, NOT by nature! Choosing the right site and propagating the best grapes is a human endeavor, but Nature is always adding chance to the equation. There is science as well as mysticism in the vineyard, maybe even some witchcraft..
“People can’t wait for aging wine any more, they want to drink everything young..”
A sad refrain by Jean-Pierre, but the reality of the modern wine drinker – people today don’t want to age their wines, so they want to drink young vintages before they’re ready to shine. There is so much history in Burgundy and even though winemaking today is better than ever, to truly understand and appreciate a fine age-worthy Burgundy, you simply must wait – Patience!
Dave McIntyre of both the Washington Post and his own Wine Line Blog interviewed and cajoled Jancis on a comfortable stage setting – the two seated in “comfy chairs” (OK – bad Monty Python reference! )
Jim Law, Linden Vineyards, Virginia
The discussion related to wine, specificially American, and Jancis’ latest book (with the fellow authorship of Linda Murphy) American Wine: The Ultimate Companion to the Wines and Wineries of the United StatesJancis has a very British speaking style and a dry wit that is best appreciated with a glass of wine. She mentioned that there are now 8,000 wineries in the US – the majority outside of California – and this is part of why America has become a great wine producing region on the international scene. I haven’t read the book, but she mentioned that it was primarily written by Linda Murphy who is a sports writer – and there is very little technical information about wine, the book was designed to be a fun read. I want to say – it is VERY difficult to make talking about wine interesting..Dave McIntyre did a very good job by broadening the topic from just American wine into lifestyle (mentions of wine tourism and also Dave’s own organization DrinkLocalWine ) as well as an interesting word association back-and-forth at the end:
Dave: “Natural Wines” ?
Jancis: “Very trendy right now..They have to be good!” (approximation of a quote!)
The Lovely Rachel Martin, Boxwood Estate Winery, VA
Overall, an excellent evening and the finish was a wine tasting in the famous Natural History Museum Auditorium with the elephant..nobody probably noticed, but the famous dinosaur Shark Jaws were hiding behind the wine exhibition..sort of like the evening – a subtle discussion of wine with amazingly delicious wines by American wineries from Idaho to Virginia – is America “biting back” at the French/Italian wine dominance of the past? Who knows – Cheers!
American Wines take a BITE out of Europe’s Dominance!
How many times have I heard at a wine tasting – “why should I spit out or dump my wine out – I paid good money to attend this event?” Well, at a recent wine tour that came to DC Around the World in 80 Sips presented by Bottlenotes everyone behaved pretty orderly, but I had to recant tales to fellow wine lovers what the point of the spit bucket is – to prevent being bombed! What I always find entertaining about 100+ person walk-around wine tastings is how formal people are at the beginning of an event..maybe even a bit uptight..but how much they loosen up after the first hour or so.So Is There Proper Etiquette at a Wine Tasting?
Astrolabe SB was so Gooseberry and Minerally!
You know what they say about Americans – Anything Goes we take our democratic freedoms seriously, and we don’t like when people tell us to behave. Having said that, Americans often feel directionless when it comes to cultural events and particularly wine – what is the “proper” way to behave at a wine tasting? Believe it or not, I think many people are TOO polite at wine tastings, so here are some fun rules which you may feel FREE TO BREAK:
Rule #1: “Thou Shall Not Drink Everything In Thy Glass” The purpose of a spit bucket is 2-fold: first, so you can spit out wine so that you can drink more and not get drunk; second, so you can dump out excess wine for the same reason – not to get drunk! The wine professionals pouring the wine EXPECT you to dump out excess wine..they’re hoping you do so, they don’t want people to drink too much! Maybe it seems wasteful to Americans to throw away wine, but there’s a reason these are called “tastings”..dump away..
Rule #2: “Thou Shall Rinse Thy Glass Between Wines, But Not With Water” You rinse your wine glass so that the next wine tastes like the wine should. If you rinse your glass with water, that water will DILUTE the wine you’re about to taste..and it’s usually a pretty small pour. The way the PRO’s do it, is we ask for a little pour of the wine we are about to drink, we swirl and pour that excess into the bucket, and then we wait for the wine to be poured..in this way, the wine you’re tasting tastes like the..well, uhh..wine you’re tasting – not a blend of water/wine or wine and something else..I know, it seems like YOU’RE WASTING WINE..get over it..
Rule #3:“Thou Shall Move Close to the Pourer and Put Thy Wine Glass Out To Receive a Pour” I actually have a funny story in my book I Drink on the Job about a woman who walked up to receive a pour of wine, but never put out her glass..she just stood in front of the table..thinking..about what, I have no idea, but when she was offered a pour of wine, she acted like it was an offense! Don’t use your time at a wine tasting to ruminate..you’re there to taste (NOT DRINK) wine..yes, of course take a few breaks, talk with your friends, get some food, etc..but use your time EFFICIENTLY. Walk up to the wine table and find a little space to stand, put out your wine glass (do not hold it close to your body..this is how you get wine on your clothing, and that’s a BAD THING!), and either wait for the wine to be poured or request a wine to be poured..this is NOT RUDE – this is actually proper..it’s efficient too..Personally, I’m a machine when I taste: stand, offer glass, swirl, look, sniff, taste, spit or swallow, spend moment in reflection on the wine, dump wine, REPEAT..
Rule #4: “Thou Shall Not Wear Perfume, Cologne or Anything That Has an Aroma at a Wine Tasting”I’m smelling coconuts in my wine..but, it’s not emanating from the glass – somebody wore a body lotion that smelled like coconuts! Actually, I spoke with her and she was very nice, but whenever she was within 5 feet of me..ALL I COULD SMELL WAS COCONUT LOTION!
Hopefully, you take this post with good humor – none of the above mentioned Rules is really written in stone. We Americans love our independence and freedom, but when we try to behave at a cultural event, maybe we’re actually too polite..I’m not saying you should be a hillbilly and come into a wine tasting with a cavalier attitude, but it’s OK to loosen up, enjoy, and even have lively banter at a wine tasting. Within the confines of a wine tasting, there is room for self-expression, creativity, and of course conviviality, but it’s best to get the etiquette down pat first – Cheers!
Sometimes You Get More Than You Expected at a Wine Tasting..
I’ve been to alot of low-priced wine tastings – and normally, the price of the event and the quality of food/wine/ambiance match – but not this time! Redwood Restaurant in Bethesda, MD which is right in the heart of the burgeoning retail sector on Bethesda Ave (anchored currently by Barnes and Noble) is a beautiful high-ceilinged restaurant with plenty of redwood (surprise!) and glass fronting on a lovely outdoor open-aired pedestrian atrium.
Although there was not actually a private area for this walk-around tasting (no seating) it was in the back of the restaurant and began at 6 pm before the hordes of diners and bar loungers came in. It was a simple basic setup of regular tables with wine reps pouring a selection of their wines at each table based on a theme: Table 1 – South Africa, Table 2 – Italy, Table 3 – France/Germany/Spain and Table 4 – Argentina/Australia/California. Each table had 5 wines, so that adds up to 20..the 20 wines for $20 title..but really, this event had more: generous hors d’oeuvres! Unfortunately, I couldn’t take photos of the food, but it was well-prepared, presented by servers with a napkin (nice touch..funny how important a napkin can be when you are trying to drink wine in a glass!). The Wines (my apologies for forgetting vintages!): Since I find reviewing wine boring and frankly hard to follow, I’ll focus on what caught my attention. I started at the South African Table with wine rep Matt Leemhuis of Cape Classics, a well-known importer from that region. Two wines were really noticeable – the Kanonkop Pinotage and the Detoren Fusion V, both over $50 retail in Montgomery County. Pinotage is a funky, earthy smokey kinda wine, but it goes great with food. Detoren was it’s polar opposite with a Bordeaux Blend that was luscious rich black fruit and soft tannins and extremely accessible.
At Table 3 which was a mix of European wines, the Leitz Dragonstone Riesling really stood out – all the things I like about a German Riesling with a hint of petrol, but lots of minerality and acidity to balance a bit of sweetness – although Rieslings are great food wines (think Asian food), this one was actually so vibrant on the palate that me a Red wine drinker was just savoring it!
At Table 2 Italy, there was a very interesting white, but I was really enjoying the Argiano Non-Confunditor which is a blend made of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Sangiovese – a Super Tuscan wine, and it actually tasted like a blend of Old World and New World – earth and soil from Italy, but roundness from Cabernet – a really interesting contrast!
Table 4 had contrasting Malbecs: Finca Sophenia Malbec Reserva vs Voodoo Moon Malbec – the first was pretty traditional with a touch of rough tannins and earthy overtones, while the latter was all perfume and weirdly candy-like – unexpected but delicious! Food: I didn’t try everything, but all hors d’oeuvres were passed – the chicken wings were especially good and enormous – they were in a sweetish BBQ sauce that was decadently good, thumbs up (I ate them to the bone!). The fried foods were served hot, an although the pimento cheese biscuit was only OK, I was overall impressed by service and the food in general.
Conclusion:If they do another 20 for 20 event, snap up a ticket – it’s a great deal, great food and really decent setup and service. If I could Yelp this event (I probably could!), it would be 5 Stars, no caveats. Forgot to mention..even the wine glasses were very nice and big allowing for good swirling..Cheers!
I attended a really fun Sparkling Wine Comparison Tasting of Champagne vs. The Rest at the Hill Center as part of the Barracks Row Culinary Crawl on Sunday, February 17th, 2013. There were actually 2 speakers at the event: Burnie Williams of Chat’s Liquors who did most of the educational component of the event and a French gentleman I only remember as “Charles” who spoke about the specifics of the 4 wines we tasted because he imported them.
The Setup: We sat in a U-shape at tables with each of getting 4 flutes of sparkling wine. I thought the black table coverings were a nice touch even though traditionally you look at wines through a white background (and tablecloths) – but why? The colors of the wine show exceptionally well against a black background – maybe for red wines a different story, but we only had one rosé, so no issue here. The Frenchman opened each wine and came down the interior of the “U” and poured each glass individually – as you can see on the left, it’s a visually pleasing way of pouring wine/presentation!
The Wine: There were 4 sparkling wines poured of which 2 were non-Champagne (one Italian, one French Cremant) and two “true” Champagnes. (I’ve included “suggested retail price” which usually means you can get them for a bit less..)
Ca’ dei Zago DOC Proseccor Coi Fondo 2010 – Prosecco is actually made in a less expensive method than traditional Champagne – the Charmat method, where the second fermentation is done in tank. This was also a pretty dry version of Prosecco – they usually are a bit more sweet.
Klein “Cremant d’Alsace” Chardonnay Extra Brut (Alsace, France), $29.99 – very nice Chardonnay based sparkler – pretty good value.
Champagne Francois Diligent Rose Cote de Bar, NV (Champagne, France), $36.99- this wine was a bit funky, but I think the cork had ruined it..
Laherte Freres “Les Vignes d’Autrefois-A Chavot” Extra Brut, 2006 (Champagne, France) $74.99 – My favorite by a long shot – price doesn’t always determine quality, but this wine had the wine on the lees for 3 years in bottle and this created that nutty, smokey, yeasty complexity that I LOVE in Champagne – by this one for me!
The Education: Burnie Williams, the owner of Chat’s Liquors did an excellent job of covering a pretty involved and complex topic. You see, sparkling wines are created different from other wines – they must go through a second fermentation to create the bubbles, the first fermentation creates the “wine” and alcohol. He did an excellent job of covering both the history (yep, Dom Perignon was NOT the inventor of sparkling wine!) and the process of making sparkling wines. I’ve attended many sparkling wine classes so rather than bore with you with all the details, the most interesting parts of making this type of wine are:
Lees - these are the dead yeast that drop to the bottom of the barrel or bottle, depending on how you’re aging your wine. If you let them stay with the wine and age, they create a yeasty/nutty flavor and aroma, if you take them away (slightly different than “filtering” a wine, but similar process), then the wine will have a cleaner more fruit-driven expression.
Riddling – this is the process of turning the bottles a few turns every so often for maybe a year or two to get the dead yeast from the 2nd fermentation out of the wine. This was once done by humans wearing cages on their face to prevent chards of glass from cutting their faces if the bottles exploded (19th century bottles had poor technology!), but now often done by machines.
Disgorging – After riddling, the dead yeast/lees are now upside down in the bottle and form a plug of..dead yeast! This has to be removed or “disgorged” – the way it’s done today is by freezing this gook but putting the bottles part way into an ice bath with salted water – the low temperature freezes only the plug and thus it is pulled out.
Dosage – This is after the dead lees are taken out, the final flavor and sugar level is added back – Brut is less sugar than Extra Dry, so the type of flavor/sweetness is determined at this point. Overall, had a really fun time at this event and it was a helluva deal at such a low price! I’m chatting it up with Chat’s Liquors to do more tasting events – DC has very few wine tastings right now, and the demand is there. As always, keep drinking good sparkling wine, Champagne or whatever is in your glass..you only live once – Cheers!
Everything is Bigger in Texas, but their wines are actually pretty subtle..
Charlie Adler, TasteDC and Andrew Stover, Vino 50 Selections
Andrew Stover of Vino 50 Selections presented some really great wines from his Texas portfolio at the TasteDC 6-Course Texas Wine Dinner at Mayfair & Pine on Saturday, March 2nd, 2013. Andrew is a well-known Sommelier and wine broker in the Washington, D.C. area who has a passion for American wines. My first question to Andrew prior to the event is how could Texas make great wines when the grapes have to suffer through such high heat and desert conditions. His reply was that hot dry weather is actually perfect for grapes – in fact, the dryness also prevents pests and allows the winemaker to actually make more natural/organic style wines. As far as we know, this was the first Texas wine dinner in the history of Washington, D.C. and thus an introduction of McPherson wines and Duchman Family wines to the dining public.
The Dinner was my second at Mayfair and Pine, the first being the Champagne Dinner I attended in December at the restaurant. Chef Emily Sprissler is a Top Chef alum from Season 2 and she knows how to handle the heat! This event was held on a Saturday night which had the restaurant bustling both upstairs and downstairs – a real challenge for the chef.
Here’s the menu, the dishes and some comments about the dishes and wine pairings – Enjoy!
Welcome Amusee Bouche – Pork & Beans!
Welcome Amusee Bouche – This was a take on “Pork and Beans” with homemade bacon – it was quite delicious and had a nice smoky/earthy aroma and flavor to get the meal festivities going! The McPherson Sparkling Chenin Blanc/Muscat went well with a nice effervescence and a touch of the peachy Muscat fruit which created a tasty combination.
Herbed Johnny Cakes with Citrus Butter & Micro Green Salad
Duchman Family Vermentino
I really enjoyed this pairing – I’m not a big white wine fan, but the acidity of the wine cut through the citrus butter beautifully and actually made the dish much lighter to enjoy more food!
Herbed Johnny Cakes with Citrus Butter & Micro Green Salad
“Angels on Horseback” – Chesapeake Oysters wrapped in bacon sauteed in Plum Butter served on Flatbread
Anything wrapped in bacon is great, and these little oysters were nicely nestled in this crunchy chewy porky goodness. This wine was a classic Rhone varietal blend and the slight earthiness of the Mourvedre and Carignan is nicely balanced by the fruit and acidyt of the Viognier – this just goes to show you that America can produce French style wines that are just as good if not better than the originals – American wine ingenuity!
Halloumi Cheese & Radicchio Enchiladas
Halloumi Cheese & Radicchio Enchiladas
Duchman Family Sangiovese
Sangiovese is the grape of Chianti and so many spaghetti Italian dinners and it was a pleasant match in this wineries rendition. The slight spicyness of the sauce (almost like an Italian marinara) was tastefully offset by the roundness of the wine and created a nice marriage. Another fallacy is that traditional Mexican foods don’t go with wine (Cerveza!), but this again proved that wine is a great bedfellow with Mexican and authentic American cuisine.
Wild Boar Swedish Meatballs
Wild Boar Swedish Meatballs
McPherson ‘La Herencia’ Tempranillo
These were some spicy meatballs! The Tempranillo grape is grown in the dry hot regions of Spain, so this wine really shined..Probably my favorite wine of the night..well, except someone brought a 1o year old McPherson Syrah that was really Super!
Bacon Chocolate Pretzel S’mores
Bacon Chocolate Pretzel S’mores
Coffee & Tea
It was overall a very nice meal and Texas wines will now be one of my Go-To staples – I’ve learned (over and over again!) that you should never assume with wine – just because you think a State is too hot, or cool, or whatever to produce wine, well then they’ll start producing wine, and you’ll be surprised. According to Andrew, Texas is the 6th largest producer of wine in the U.S. What other states are producing wine in the 7th to 50th positions? Who knows!?
Because one can never have enough wine, I had a glass of Chandon in the Lounge before the event. There was an interesting assortment of characters in the lounge including a gentleman who used to frequent the restaurant when it was The Jockey Club and two conservative women arguing about Obama. My bartender had lived in DC since the 1980s and used to live on 17th street.
After I finished my glass, I checked in to the wine dinner. I found out I was seated at table 40 – with the winemaker. That’s how important I am (or that I like to think that). The restaurant has been renovated, but still maintains the old school/old DC decor. There was a lovely display set near a bar area of the wines featured for the evening.
2011 Miner Simpson Vineyard Viognier
For the reception the viognier was poured. It really is the perfect aperitif. It was incredibly aromatic with the honey suckle notes strongest on the finish.
Gary spoke briefly about the 2011 Miner Simpson Vineyard Viognier and presented the 2010 Miner, Napa Valley Chardonnay and 2008 Miner Wild Yeast, Napa Valley Chardonnay.
He provided background and history as to the winery, the use of solar panels at Miner and the incredible amount of varietals planted.
I was surprised at how Gary was down to Earth and incredibly pleasant. Besides speaking to the group at large, he frequently walked around to speak individually to the attendees.
Mango and Avocado Salad, Coriander Cilantro Oil
The first course was paired with 2010 Chardonnay and 2008 Wild Yeast Chardonnay. The plating on this and all dishes was spectacular. The buttery notes in both wines went incredibly well with the lobster and avocado notes. There was a creaminess that as a person who normally hates avocado (yes I hate it and no, don’t try to change my mind) was incredibly harmonious.
I was excited to speak with Gary about these wines especially the wild yeast. Apparently, he likes using wild yeast and giving up that control.
He was quite entertaining explaining how wild yeast can start the fermentation and give up or burn out quickly. I imagined little yeasts partying too hard and then dying off as they made this amazing chardonnay.
The 2010 chardonnay did not spend any time in oak, but did go through some malolactic fermentation. The wild yeast had spicer notes on the finish and was more viscous.
2010 Garys’ Vineyard Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands
Garys’ Vineyard is a 50 acre vineyard that was planted in 1995 by friends and growers Gary Franscioni and Gary Pisoni.
I love anything that incorporates an egg especially quail egg. The quail was perfectly cooked and seasoned. The pinot noir and quail worked well together bringing out additional flavors.
Gary and I discussed the concept of masculine and feminine pinot noirs. I used to have a boss who hated that description. Gary felt that this pinot was more masculine due to the body.
It was somewhat bright with big cherry notes on the nose with some plum on the finish.
Pepper Crusted Virginia Bison
Wine Sauce, Horseradish Cauliflower Puree, French Beans
2009 Stagecoach Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
As you can see, I really wanted to try this amazing dish and forgot to take a photo before diving in (d’oh).
The 2009 Stagecoach Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon is almost entirely made of cabernet sauvignon with about 5% cabernet franc and 5% merlot blended in. It was aged for 21 months in 60% new French oak. Definitely exhibits some of that almost toasty, vanilla notes on the nose.
The wine was silky with a lushness that went well with the pepper crusted Virginia bison. This was my favorite wine of the evening.
Buttermilk Panna Cotta
Fresh Berries, Blood Orange Sabayon
2008 “the Oracle” Meritage Blend
The Oracle is a Meritage Blend utilizing Bordeaux style grapes (cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, malbec,merlot and petit verdot). It spends 21 months in 55% French oak. It was incredibly balanced and full bodied. There were hints of cassis and blackberries.
I was surprised (like others) that this wine was paired with the dessert. But, it totally worked! I think worked best with the top layer of the dessert – blood orange sabayon.
The Chef, Chef Ferrier, and some of his staff thanked us at the end of the night. They also answered questions regarding Virginia bison. I think some people were becoming more difficult and drunk as the night wore on.
In the end, this was an amazing experience with spectacular food, wine and service. I would highly recommend attending a future wine dinner at the Capital Wine Festival.
Editor’s Note: here are some upcoming Wine Dinners in the DC Area on TasteDC:
Buitenverwachting Sauvignon Blanc Constantia WO 2011 ($15.29 special bottle price)
De Morgenzon Chardonnay DMZ Stellenbosch WO 2012 ($16.19 special bottle price)
A.A. Badenhorst Secateurs Red Blend Swartland Coastal Region 2011
($14.39 special bottle price)
Kanonkop Kadette Red Blend Stellenbosch WO South Africa 2010
($14.39 special bottle price)
The wines we tasted were offered for 10% off. My favorite was the
Buitenverwachting Sauvignon Blanc Constantia WO 2011. It had wonderful acidity, light citrus notes and spice on the finish. The De Morgenzon Chardonnay DMZ Stellenbosch WO 2012 was also incredibly well done. It had creamy notes without being overly buttery or vanilla. There was some nice fruit midpalate.
Girl Meets Glass really enjoyed the reds especially the A.A. Badenhorst Secateurs Red Blend Swartland Coastal Region 2011. It was reminiscent of a GSM blend. The Kanonkop Kadette Red Blend Stellenbosch WO South Africa 2010 is one of the most well known and extremely well done wines from South Africa. It’s a bigger red with tobacco notes with a smooth finish.
We were lucky enough to have Eric Rohleder, Founder and Owner, Cordial Fine Wine & Spirits, leading our tasting. He is incredibly knowledgeable and helpful, but extremely down to Earth. I can’t wait to go back to the shop as the selection is well-curated and still affordable. They also had Hop Slam!!
After the wine, I continued the fun to Penn Social for my game show league. We played Pyramid and I was robbed. I did very well at Groundhog Day category. I ended up giving clues to my teammate for synonyms for friends and we didn’t get one. Sigh. Therefore, I stole a competitor’s beer. Next week, he’s going down.
I took 2 classes, but this article will only cover the class Pasta Making With Chef Wendi – a 60 minute class where 12 total participants got to make our own pasta and share in the meal afterwards – all for a whopping 20 Bucks! I’ll take you through a quick run-through of the class:
Instructor: Wendi James who teaches quite a few culinary classes at other schools in the region including at Culinaerie, Sur La Table – Pentagon City, VA (or she said she once did – another story!) and at her own cooking school Rutabaga Sweets. I spoke with her before class and she has quite a pedigree having worked at many top-rated restaurants in the U.S. (she worked at Restaurant Daniel NYC, The Inn at Little Washington and Charlie Trotters Chicago) and hailing from serious Foodie City Chicago. Her attitude was refreshingly honest and she spoke her mind about the local restaurant scene and her plans to open up a breakfast place in Asheville, NC. As an instructor, she was direct and “get to work” – but of course we only had 1 hour to make both hand-roll fettucine and ravioli with the hand-cranking pasta machines – no time to dilly-dally..
Flour, Eggs and maybe 1 tablespoon of Olive Oil!
Pasta Ingredients – simple..all you really need is All-Purpose flour, some eggs, and a little olive oil (you could actually skip the olive oil). I was working with 2 other cooks who had never made pasta homemade before. Maybe you can get a little fancy and learn to crack an egg with one hand, but one secret to getting the egg in the flour with No Shell is to crack the egg against a flat surface NOT the bowl. If you mix it in a bowl, it’s very forgiving, but it’s nice to make a small “well” in the middle of the flour to hold the eggs and then swirl a fork (or your hand – watch out, it can get sticky/messy!) until the ingredients all become a dough..if it’s too sticky, add some flour, if it’s too dry, add a little water, it’s very forgiving.
State of the Art Cooking Facility
The Facility and Setup: Class is held in Hill Center’s state-of-the Art teaching kitchen. It was relatively small – only fitting 1 instructor and 12 participants, but it was truly an easy kitchen to learn from and to do hands-on cooking. There was the main table where everyone gathered round in a circle with the burners, and then there were 2 work tables in the back for up to 6 participants each. Things were kept very simple – we were given a bowl of flour and eggs, some olive oil and a tablespoon, and the ravioli filler which we had to cut up the basil and add to the ricotta and parmesan cheese to put into the ravioli’s – just like Italian food, there were simple ingredients and simple instructions. If you’ve ever been to Italy and have seen how pasta is made – it’s very simple and traditionally was done by Grandma at home. BTW – you can also make pasta without the eggs and just using water – that’s how it’s often done in the south of Italy. And then, we had to roll..
Hand making Ravioli
Once you make the dough, you can wait an hour or immediately begin rolling it out into sheets. The way it works is that you begin with the widest opening, do that a few times until the dough kind of “comes together” (the gluten begins to stretch and take shape) and then you keep feeding the sheet into smaller/narrower settings until you get to the lowest setting – and boy, does the dough spread out – I mean it can go for yards! The same sheet of dough can be used for noodles or for ravioli and fillings – I once took a class where different kinds of flour were used for both (All Purpose Flour for Ravioli because it’s relatively soft/tender, semolina flour for a chewier pasta) but frankly it’s a matter of personal taste.
Cooking Pasta: The sauce in this class was made for us (another post on Sauce..soon..) but in a nutshell there was a white sauce with cheese and cream and a red sauce with tomatoes of course. So Chef Wendi boiled the pasta in unsalted water – a discussion ensued – in Italy, they always salt their water for pasta (“as salty as the sea” is the famous quote on how much salt for pasta water – this always starts an argument with Italian cooks!) – her philosophy is you don’t salt the pan when you sear a steak, you salt the steak – so my interpretation is that the pasta/ingredients and the salt should be properly salted. In my own defense of the Italian way of salting the water – it depends – for example, if you cook your greens in the salted water before you cook your pasta (like for Broccoli Rabe and Orecchiette), you have a very flavorful pasta water..well, just like 2 Italians, Chef Wendi and I may never agree!