Winemonger Talk

  • Champagne Survival Kits

    Fans of Zalto wine stems know that these glasses are never discounted, and we are not about to break with this company policy either. Those that do put them on sale will never get to sell them again.

    Zalto Champagne GlassZalto Champagne Stem

    Today we are making a small amount of Zalto Champagne sets of 4 and 6 glasses available in a wine value pack that essentially gives you a bottle of the stunning Marie-Courtin Resonance Champagne (93WA) at no extra cost (2 bottles if you opt for the 6 glass deal). So technically, it’s the incredible bottle of Champagne that’s on sale, because as we said, Zalto wine glasses are never discounted.

    While the virtues of Zalto glasses almost need no introduction (search the blogs and chat boards my friends), here’s a quick primer: these are hand-made (mouth-blown), feather light yet remarkably durable, dishwasher safe and lead-free. They have set a new bar in the top end category for wine glasses and are many wine enthusiasts’ most coveted treasures. Why else would Chef Sommelier Aldo Sohm (Worlds Best Sommelier 2008 & right hand man to Eric Ripert at Le Bernardin) put his name behind the brand? Why would Francois Mauss, President of the Grand Jury European, allow himself to be quoted as saying “I didn’t think there would be anything better on the glass market- this glass is.”

    Marie Courtin ChampagneMarie-Courtin Champagne

    And the Marie-Courtin Resonance Champagne? This is the kind of small production wine that you might not have had a chance to try. Our friends at Joli Vin Imports have made these bottles available to us and were kind enough to keep their promise even after the 93 point write up by Robert Parker that made this wine an immediate sell-out.

    But as for the number of Zalto glasses we have made available for this offer, amounts are limited and orders will be filled on a first-come first-served basis.

    Perhaps Pamela Anderson put it best when asked how she planned to celebrate one of her marriages: “I’ve got two words for you- CHAM PAGNE!” Joking. We all know it was Tom Waits with true wisdom on the subject: “Champagne for my real friends and real pain for my sham friends.” (no, we don’t care if somebody else may or may not have originated that quote.) Get your Zaltos and your Champers on.

    4 GLASSES + 1 BOTTLE: $297.99 SALE PRICE: $244.50
    6 GLASSES + 2 BOTTLES: $476.98 SALE PRICE $338.50

  • Michael Chiarello Pairs Us Up For His Club

    Napa Style Wine Club & Winzerkeller Andau Gruner Veltliner

    Andau Gruner VeltlinerAndau Gruner Veltliner

    Our very own Winzerkeller Andau Gruner Veltliner was selected for the April shipment of Michael Chiarello's NapaStyle Wine Club. Why would we link you over to another website selling wine? The fact is that what we have here for you at Winemonger are the wines we import-- but we love wines from all around the world, and sharing some other places to get those wines is what it's all about.

    What it's also all about is that Chef Chiarello created a recipe to pair with our Andau Gruner*, which we're sharing with you here. But first, this is how he describes the wine:

    When the spring sun pops out, reach for Austria’s favorite white wine, Grüner Veltliner. It’s similar in texture and body to Riesling but differs in taste. The wines show tropical or citrus fruit flavors when very ripe, and savory or herbaceous flavors when less ripe. This snappy, crisp Grüner Veltliner is perfect for celebrating longer, warmer days. It has engaging aromas of lemon blossom and pineapple and flavors of persimmon, kumquat, white pepper and citrus zest.

    Beer and Chipotle Battered Fish Tacos
    Cooking Notes: You can’t beat the combination of sour cream, lime and cilantro to serve with these delicious fish tacos.
    Prep Time: 20 minutes, Cook Time: 20 minutes, Serves 12

    Michael Chiarello Fish Tacophoto courtesy NapaStyle website

    For the batter:
    2 oz canned chipotle peppers
    2 eggs
    2 cups beer (recommended: Tecate or other 2 tbsp lime juice, plus 6 limes, cut in wedges pale beer)
    2 cups all-purpose flour
    2 tbsp cornstarch
    2 tsp baking powder
    2 tsp gray salt
    freshly ground black pepper

    For the fish tacos:
    3 cups sour cream
    1 1/2 bunches cilantro, chopped
    1 tsp gray salt corn oil, for frying
    3 tomatoes, small diced
    12 red radishes, thinly sliced
    24 corn tortillas
    1 1/2 lbs cod or other white fish cut into 1-oz strips

    Preheat oven to 300°F.

    To make the batter: Puree the chipotles and egg together in a blender. When well-blended, transfer to a bowl and whisk in the beer. In a separate mixing bowl combine the flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture, whisking well to prevent clumps. Add freshly ground pepper. Set the batter aside while preparing the other ingredients.
    In a small mixing bowl mix together the sour cream, 2 tbsp of the chopped cilantro, 2 tbsp lime juice and 1 tsp gray salt, mix well and remove to a serving bowl.

    For the fish tacos: In a large pot or skillet add corn oil about 1 to 2 inches deep. Over medium heat, heat the corn oil to 350°F.
    On a large serving plate arrange the tomatoes, lime wedges, chopped cilantro and sliced radishes to garnish tacos.
    Wrap the tortillas in aluminum foil and heat in the oven while frying the fish.
    With your fingers dip the fish strips into the batter and carefully place in the hot oil. Fry until golden brown all over, about 2 minutes on each side. With a slotted spoon remove the fish to a paper towel. To assemble the tacos, place 1 piece of fried fish on a warm tortilla and garnish with tomatoes, chopped cilantro, radishes and sour cream. Serve with lime wedges.

    For more great recipes and wine pairings from Chef Chiarello, follow this link

    *as of this post, we are actually sold out of this wine, but there are other fine retailers who still have it available. LOOK HERE.

  • Drink This With It - Slanted Door in San Francisco

    The Slanted Door

    Sommelier Chaylee PrieteChaylee Priete

    I have never had a bad meal at The Slanted Door. I have never even had a less-than-incredible meal there. And if you consider the number of meals this place dishes out every day, and the number of times I have eaten there, this is saying a whole lot.

    Wine director Chaylee Priete has put together a list such that one almost cannot go wrong- ranging from grapes you know (hello Pinot Noir) to grapes you likely don't (buon giorno Vuillermin), and all of them the very best examples of what they can be. She's also one of those sommeliers who just instantly make you feel like you are in good hands- She gives suggestions without snobbery.

    So to my favorite pairings... this was a tough one to narrow down. So many many great dishes...

    Carmelized Prawns

    Two dishes we always order are the Caramelized Wild Gulf Shrimp with garlic, yellow onion, and caramel chili sauce and the Cellophane Noodles with Fresh Dungeness Crab Meat which feature green onions and sesame. Both are a classic Gruner Veltliner situation, and the Hogl Schon Reserve 2007 has just the right amount of heft to hold court with those strong flavors- but again, Chaylee can lead you towards whatever best Gruner (or other wine) to pair that she has on the list when you are there.

    My other favorite pairings would have to be the Easkoot Pinot Noir with the Lemongrass Grilled Devil's Gulch Ranch Rabbit which is done as an olive oil poached leg with braised fennel, thai basil, chives and lemon. Farmer extraordinaire Mark Pasternak is responsible for both the berries and the bunnies, so they were always meant to end up together on the table.

    Slanted Door Restaurant Shaking BeefMaking Shaking Beef

    And then I love the Jagini Blaufrankisch or the Moric Blaufrankisch, or the aforementioned Vuillermin from Institute Agricole Regional with the Grass-fed Estancia Shaking Beef, which is cubed filet mignon, watercress, red onion and lime sauce. I know- I should be narrowing it down here to one wine- so blame Chaylee for giving so many options. This dish is perhaps the one that chef/owner Charles Phan is most famous for, and he generously shared the recipe in an advertisement in the San Francisco Chronicle. And so, without any permission whatsoever, I am sharing it here:

    Shaking Beef
    Charles Phan, The Slanted Door

    The Meat
    2 T chopped garlic
    1 t sugar
    1½ t salt
    ¾ t fresh black pepper
    2 T neutral cooking oil, such as canola or corn oil
    1½ lbs filet mignon, cut into 1” cubes

    The Vinaigrette
    ¼ c rice vinegar
    1 T sugar
    ¼ c rice wine
    4 T light soy sauce
    1 T dark soy sauce
    1 T fish sauce**

    The Dipping Sauce
    Juice of 1 lime
    ½ t kosher salt
    ¼ t fresh black pepper

    The Stir-Fry
    4 T neutral cooking oil, such as canola or corn oil
    3 stalks green onion, cut into 1” pieces
    ½ small red onion, thinly sliced
    2 t butter
    2 bunches watercress, for garnish

    1. Prepare marinade by combining garlic, sugar, salt, pepper and oil in a large nonmetal bowl. Add filet mignon, combine and marinate, covered, in the refrigerator for two hours.

    2. Prepare vinaigrette by combining rice vinegar, sugar, rice wine, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce and fish sauce**. Set aside.

    3. Heat a wok over high heat. Divide beef, green onions and red onions in half, as you will cook in two batches.

    4. Add 2 T oil to the wok. When the oil starts to smoke, add first portion of the beef in an even layer. Let it sit until a forms a brown crust, about 2 minutes. With a spatula, flip the beef over to brown the other side, about 1 minute.

    5. Add first portion of the green onions and red onions and cook for 1 more minute. Pour half of vinaigrette down the side of the wok, and then shake pan to release the beef and toss with the vinaigrette. Add 1 t butter and continue to shake pan until butter melts. Remove the meat and onions from the wok. Keep warm.

    6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 with second portion of meat, green onions and red onions. Place the watercress in the middle of the serving plate and spoon hot beef and onions on top.

    7. Prepare dipping sauce by putting salt and pepper in small ramekin and squeezing lime juice over it. Serve alongside the beef. Serves 4.

    **Tip from me- we participated in a charity event for one of Phan's favorite causes, One Vietnam, and as a gift he gave us a bottle of the fish sauce he uses. It is incredible stuff- pure umami in liquid form. It's called Red Boat 40 degree N. Obviously the brilliance of this dish has a lot to do with the actual ingredients used, so at least you can get that one right!

    all photos are from the Slanted Door website - follow this link to see many more

  • Drink This With It - Oxheart in Houston


    Sommelier Justin VannSommelier Justin Vann

    We admit it. We have not been to the much-buzzed-about Oxheart (oks-hahrt, as they note on their website) restaurant in Houston, but we know the resumes of the players and we're impressed with everything we've read, heard and followed. And so we will simply have to defer to the skills of Team Oxheart and believe it when Sommelier Justin Vann tweets "New pairing: 2008 Moric Blaufrankisch with Chef's beef shank dish tonight. It's a rock opera you can eat and drink." He must mean this item from their new spring menu: Beef Shank with Roasted ‘Yellow Lunar’ Carrots, Seaweeds and Preserved Lime. Rock opera indeed!

    You can follow the tweets of the Oxheart crew: @OxheartHouston @Whiskyplz (Justin Vann) and @TetsuJustin (chef Justin Yu)

  • Greet the Grape: Neuburger

    There are many unique grape varieties in Austria, some several of which produce memorably flavorful wines. And among these varieties, many turn out to be spontaneous crossings of two previously established type, and certainly Roter Veltliner wasn’t always all too concerned about whom he woke up next to in the morning.

    Neuburger (the word translates to “new citizen,”) is one of these extraordinary products of ampelographic promiscuity: Roter Veltliner crossing with Sylvaner.

    Legend goes that a bundle of grape-cuttings was fished out of the Danube some hundred years ago, planted for kicks, and turned out to produce a hardy vine that needed so little moisture that, as Josef Högl puts it, “sometimes the dew is enough.”

    The wines can be light and spicy in style, as proven by Karl Alphart, in the Thermenregion south of Vienna. His Neuburger “Hausberg," out of deep brown soils with a bit of limestone, not only comes in at a modest 12.5%, but also shows intense aromatics.

  • Greet the Grape: Zierfandler

    To begin: Roter Veltliner has tested positive for paternity in the case of  three unique and wonderfully Austrian white grape varieties: Neuburger, Rotgipfler and Zierfandler.

    We focus here on Zierfandler.  A precious and endangered species peculiar to the Thermenregion, with a few rows of vines planted within the city limits of Vienna, Zierfandler resulted from a spontaneous crossing of Roter Veltliner and an unidentified Traminer-like vine.

    Bottled as a monovarietal, and also frequently blended either as Gemischter Satz or Cuvee with Rotgipfler,  Zierfandler (also called Spätrot) is the most highly spicy and delicate of these three crossings. The plantings of this variety have diminished in recent years; there are perhaps fewer than fifty hectares of the grape under vines today, due to the fact that it is a late-ripener and prone to most any disease or distemper that affects the vine. An additional factor comes from viticultural progress made with the husbandry of Neuburger, whereby similar results are obtained with much less effort and risk.  Zierfandler shares the typical almondish nuttiness of the other Roter Veltliner crossings, but in the case of later-harvested wines, the aromatics develop elements of tropical and exotic fruit. This homegrown classic ages very well, and develops nicely expressive secondaries in the process.

  • 7th Annual Marin County Wine Celebration

    Marin County Wine Tasting 2011


  • Bio Vio - Producing Organic Wines in Liguria

    BioVio is the kind of winery that you get to know about only if you hang out with the Ligurian locals- nearly all of the tiny production is poured into their glasses to be enjoyed with the local cuisine (the famous Cappon Magro- a seven layered pyramid of local herbs, vegetables, lobsters, prawns, oysters and sea bream, drenched in a sauce of anchovies and olive oil, all to be followed by a sweet Sacripantina.) It is the rare drop that is spared for export.

    When I was heading to my appointment with Mr. Giobatta Vio, I became completely lost in the hills of Albenga: partly because I was totally taken by the beauty of the landscape and partly because his winery and home are so remote that not even the GPS had a clue how to find him!

    Vineyards of Liguria

    When I finally did arrive, I found the air rich with the scent of flowers and basil (this is also the land of pesto); the same bouquet that you then find in his wines. The cellar consists of just 4 small steel tanks in 3 square meters of space-  but it can be tiny because his secret is not the winemaking but the vineyards. Gio (“Chiamami Gio!”) has some of the best plots in the entire Albenga area, with vines of up to 40 years of age. This is why his wines are so intense, so mineralic, so unique. They are a summer day in Liguria, the salt breeze in your face-  they are the very definition of terroir caught in a bottle. They are also all certified organic (called Biologic in Italy, thus the Bio)

    The BioVio Marene' Pigato shows intense notes of basil, thyme and honeysuckle with that strong influence of the warm sea in the forefront while it keeps rolling with an almost velvety long finish.
    The Aimone Vermentino is more delicate and feminine, it has a more subtle minerality and an elegance that simply lingers….
    Meanwhile, the U Bastio Rossese di Albenga is pure fun: fruity, fresh and young with hints of wild strawberry.

    The wines can be found in restaurants and shops all over California, including: Animal, Camino, Domaine LA, Gjelina, Go Fish, K&L Wines, Marco's, Poesia Oesteria Italiana, Slanted Door, Terroni, Traverso's, and The Wine House... (to name a handful)

  • Winemaker Lunch at 3 Square Cafe on Sunday May 1st

    Join us for a special winemaker lunch with Michael Malat at 3 Square Cafe in Venice on Sunday May 1st from 12-2PM.

    $22 gets you a seat at the table, lunch by the epic chef Wolfgang Gussmack, as well as a glass of Malat's wine. Casual. Easy. A great way to spend part of your Sunday.

    Call the restaurant directly to reserve your seat! 310-399-6504

    About the Winemaker:
    The Malat family yield very mineral-toned and vibrant Riesling along with precisely articulated peppery Grüner Veltliner grown in deeper loess—these wines bring off being a bit modern without rejecting the roots that grew them.

  • The Austrian Vintage 2010: A Happy Ending with Small Quantities

    The Austrian Vintage 2010: A Happy Ending with Small Quantities

    The 2010 vintage was defined by unusually difficult weather conditions, with low grape yields the result. Nevertheless, crisp white wines and fine, lean red wines are expected.

    The harsh Winter of 2009 was met by the pleasant arrival of Spring in 2010. However, cold, wet periods soon followed, and 2010 saw significant rainfall and a lack of sunshine overall. Depending on the grape variety and wine-growing area, the flowering period occurred during weather conditions that were sometimes - and sometimes not – favourable, and had a direct effect on the yields. The occurrence of couloure at this point was a key factor in the vines bearing fewer bunches as well as each bunch yielding a smaller amount of grapes. This led ultimately to the lowest grape harvest in 25 years.

    [wpcaption id="attachment_577" align="alignnone" width="216" wpcaption="Wachau"][/wpcaption]

    With only 1.7 million hectoliters, the total harvest quantity in 2010 did not even meet the annual domestic consumption average - approximately 2.5 million hectoliters. Although not every grape variety suffered yield loss, Austria's leading white variety, Grüner Veltliner, was considerably affected. Also other varieties such as Chardonnay, Traminer and St. Laurent yielded lower quantities. But again, the different wine-growing areas must be considered: in Steiermark (Styria), for example, harvest totals were down by only around 12%, while other areas had 40% losses because of bad weather conditions.

    No Disadvantages Without Advantages
    After the rather unsteady flowering period, there was a deceptive stretch of heat in July. But this was all too quickly replaced by a cool, rainy August and a September that showed few signs of Indian Summer. In October, there were several “windows” of dryness that allowed, at carefully chosen harvest times, grapes to be brought into the cellars dry, healthy and ripe. Especially treasured were the undamaged grapes set loosely on their bunches: this deterred the development of Botrytis, and the growers could breathe easier until harvest time. Also, cool temperatures - especially during the nights – made an essential contribution to the rare “wet year but healthy grapes” phenomenon.

    Winemakers with strong nerves were rewarded for their patience because extract, content and fruit nuances increased week by week into the later harvest period. And good results have been achieved. With more than enough sugar-free extract, the white wines are presenting themselves as fruit-accented and with acidity that is racy, but not aggressive. Varietal character and expression are clear and Botrytis, if any, remains – with a few exceptions - in the background. Overall, this kind of white wine vintage is defined by fresh, sleek-style wines – in other words, again a genuine “Austrian” vintage! Thanks to the right amount of patience as well as the acceptance of lower grape quantities, full-bodied wines with 13% or more alcohol, plenty of depth and dense structure were achieved, but in volumes lower than in previous years, of course.

    Crisp Whites, Lean Reds
    White wines, such as those made from the showcase variety, Grüner Veltliner, combine an appealing and animated fruit-acidity play with distinctive varietal character. Nature delivered a bit of a reserved expression to the Rieslings, although they have plenty of raciness and some good crystal-clear fruit flavours - and even could age better than other vintages like 2004 and 2008. The Burgundy varieties, including Weissburgunder and Chardonnay, are – even with their own quantity losses – showing wines that are round, balanced and exude attractive varietal attributes.

    [wpcaption id="attachment_576" align="alignnone" width="144" wpcaption="Styria"][/wpcaption]

    The same can be said for the pointed - but not grassy! - Sauvignon Blancs and the Muskatellers, which turned out nicely in the Steiermark. There, they benefited from the more favourable weather conditions. In the Steiermark's three wine-growing areas, higher sugar-ripeness was reached fortunately at an early stage: fortunate, because wet conditions combined with high temperatures spawned a sudden fungus outbreak that could be managed only through a speedy harvest. Also the white wines of Burgenland reflect the characteristics of the vintage and, with their somewhat heftier acidity structure, are even more refreshing on the palate.

    About the quality and quantity of the sweet wine harvest, it is still too early to tell. But the icy temperatures in early December certainly were optimal for ice wines.

    The red wine sector was a bit more complicated but, finally, Zweigelt brought the best results because of good sugar ripeness and a fruit-accented (red berry) character. Also Pinot Noir and St. Laurent, which had significant quantity losses, performed well in their stronghold territories. Conditions for the late-ripening varieties were even more difficult – such as with Blaufränkisch, for which a very tedious, strict selection was necessary in order to reach appropriate gradations, and the French varieties Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and even Merlot, which had better success in some areas.

    Whether or not our red wine specialists will produce from 2010 wines in all of the known categories or focus on some of their most important brand- and single vineyard-wines, ultimately depends on their own particular “philosophy” and will become clear in the future. But for the time being, the great red wines from 2009 are still maturing in the barrels - and keeping expectations very high!

    This report comes courtesy of the Austrian Wine Board

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