A Fabulous Wine and Cheese Party for Fall!

The leaves are turning in Central Park and it’s time to celebrate Fall colors with a fabulous Wine & Cheese gathering!

Have a gander at these helpful pairings of delicious cheeses with lovely wines when planning your Fall festivities!

Cheers!

Crisp Fall nights

Aged Cheese – Gruyere, Adam’s Cheddar

  • Chardonnay:  J.Lohr October Night Chardonnay 2007 ($25)
  • Rioja: Bodegas Altanza Lealtanza Crianza Tempranillo, Rioja, Spain ($16)

Goat Cheese – Chevrot, Capri

  • Sauvignon Blanc: 2009 Cakebread Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, CA ($40)
  • Pinot Noir: 2008 A by Acacia Pinot Noir, California

Blue-veined Cheese – Gorgonzola, Danish Blue, Cambozola

  • Amarone: 2008 Le Tobele Amarone Della Valpolicella Ripasso, Veneto Italy ($15)
  • Muscat: 2009 Joseph Cattin Muscat ($15)

Afternoon Fall delights

Fresh Cheese – Mozzarella, Crescenza

  • Riesling: Late Harvest: Wente Late Harvest 1995 ($10)

Soft Cheese – Camembert, Brie

  • Vinho Verde: 2010 De Gomariz Vinho Verde, Douro, Portugal ($15)
  • Merlot: 2008 Cathedral Cellar Kwv Merlot, Coastal Region, South Africa ($15)

Sheep’s Milk Cheese – Feta, Manchego

  • Zinfandel: 2009 Francis Coppola Diamond Collection Red Label, Zinfandel ($22)
  • Sherry: 2008 Savory & James Amontillado Sherry, Spain ($12)

The Tangled Vine… THE WINE RUNDOWN


A truly overlooked treasure on the Upper West Side hidden between a row of other more dominating italian restaurants and wine bars, this gem could be considered yet another wine bar that the average passerby probably ponders, “I walk by this place 1000 times and always have wanted to go”.  If you find yourself in this train of thought, then I must say, GO!

Don’t be fooled by it’s small and quaint appearance categorizing it as another ‘traditional wine bar’ as this place offers something special.  First off it could easily live in the West Village as both the food, wine and atmosphere is in par with Vyne, Turks and Frogs (although Turkish, a Tangled Vine could be a nice Italian complement) and a few others but overall it would blend in nicely.  When you walk in although looks coy feels like a party!  Loud, great music, and knowledgable bartenders add to the overall spirit of the wine bar and make this place a great after work happy hour spot, early dinner turned into late evening of after dinner drinks and laughs and a casual 2nd date spot.  Also definitely going on my list for wine bars i’d rather sit at the bar with wine and bites vs. at a table.

Enjoying ourselves at the bar, we went straight to the wine list which I would categorize as an “easy read” since it serves as a great “guide” to the wines they offer per glass and bottle.  It is organized by grape variety which makes it easy to quickly flip to what you are in the mood for – red, rose and/or white.  After each glass listed, it has a brief description with non-intimidating wine words that tells you exactly what to expect. It almost forms a story of the wine for you to make the wine decision that much easier and enjoyable.  Something that I have yet to see throughout my NYC wine bar ‘journey’ is their offering of ‘Wine Trios’ that offer “variety of different wine trios, grouped for comparison between grapes, regions, or winemaking styles. Each glass is a 2oz serving, for a total of 6oz of wine in each flight. All of the trios come with optional food pairings in tasting-sized portions, a traditional service found in European cafés.”  This presented a great way for people to explore wines and spirits in an organized style. Another fun element to their list are their “rules” that they present to you when you first open the wine list to get you and your party EXCITED and ready to DRINK!

RULES WE LIVE (AND DRINK) BY

• Every wine on this list is here for a reason. Either it‘s got great taste, historical vineyards or honest winemaking to its name. Ideally all three.

• We are a European wine bar focusing on the old world and old vines, primarily from the historical wine producing regions of the Mediterranean.

• We concentrate on small grower-producers or vintners who practice organic, biodynamic and sustainable viticulture, resulting in natural, un-manipulated, and above all, DELICIOUS wines.

• Don‘t just drink what you know; drink what you don‘t.

• Wine without food is always a pleasure, but wine with great food is a sheer delight. Now eat something, you look hungry.

After getting acquainted it was time to pick our glasses of choice! We went for a French white wine that was crisp with hints of peach and apricot with lots of acidity a bit of tannin and a nice after taste of citrus. A nicely balanced wine.  It was a very easy drinking wine that you could bring to an outdoor picnic and drink for hours..  Actually, remember how addicting and easy to eat Fruit Roll-ups were?  A certain someone I was with described the taste as “An old-school apricot fruit roll-up…” and loved every bit of it!  Guess who! The wine:  Anjou Blanc “Cuvee les Rangs de Long” Château Soucherie 2010

To end our night we ventured to the after dinner drinks and since I’ve been very into spanish wines, ordered two Oloroso Sherry’s for us to try which we accompanied with the Pan con Chocolate; Belgian chocolate, Maldon salt, Arbequina olive oil.  Both the drink and dessert fused nicely together as it was the perfect sweet and salty treat!  It was very tasty and afterwards we both felt relaxed and were put into a magical trance for the rest of the night!

Overall, a highly recommended wine bar for a casual night of food, wine, music, and relaxation.  Check out their website for their Monday deals and Happy Hour details!  Enjoy!

Tapas and Sherry – A Love Story…

Let’s praise Spain and Sherry for inventing one of the most raved about food concepts in the US and even specifically NYC – Tapas! Way back when in Andalusian, Spain, after a hard days work men would go out to taverns and order something to take the edge off – drink of choice, Sherry.  Since sherry is so sweet, it would attract fruit flies which as you can image was problematic and clearly annoying.  So, bartenders/owners began to serve their sherry with a piece of bread that hovered over the glass to prevent the fruit flies from attacking.  Then to top that, meat was also served, as it triggers thirst, thus creating more business for the taverns.  Then in lieu of competition, other restaurants started to embrace the positive feedback and trend, enough to start to offer a variety of other small snacks and plates to go along with the sherry which increased customers and alcohol sales.

Of course, gratefully this concept caught on and spiralled out of control and now there are numerous tapas restaurants all over the world… Too many to count in NYC however, one of my favorites is ALTA!

Here are some great sherries to impress your friends with when you are entertaining… for a great price too! Remember, they last a very long time so it’s ok to spend a little extra on a great Sherry!

Jerez, Matusalem Oloroso Dulce Muy Viejo, G. Byass – Retails $66 - Tastes of hazelnut, really mature fruit of prunes and figs. Very delicious and sweet

Bodegas Dios Baco Jerez-Xeres-Sherry Oloroso – Retails $24.00 – Similar in taste with the above however has a spicier finish

Wine Essentials – Class # 4 – Spain

It was a week of Spanish wines for me last week and I was able to enjoy a variety of warm climate wines where tastes of robust ripened fruits are extremely apparent.  A lot of oaky notes are pungent in Spanish wines as the majority of wines ferment in oak barrels vs. steel.  There are a tremendous amount of wine producing regions in Spain however, one blend typically stands out when talking Spanish wine, Rioja which is a blend of various grapes and can be white, red or rose.  Sherry also is a typical Spanish fortified wine usually served as a pre or post dinner drink.  I had the pleasure of trying a nice range so the tasting notes will hopefully paint a clear picture of the different tastes of the various wines.

When looking for Spanish wines it is easy to figure out if you are getting a “woody” deep and ripened fruit wine through their Spanish Labeling Laws listed below:

Spanish Labeling Laws (these will appear on the bottle)

  • Joven: A very young wine with little aging.  DRINK THIS RIGHT AWAY!
  • Crianza: A child of about 2 years of aging with at least 6 month in Oak.
  • Reserva: At least 3 years of aging with at least 1 year in oak and bottle
  • Gran Reserva: Extreme above average vintages typically requires 5 years of aging, 18 months in oak, and 36 months in bottle
Now, on to the good stuff!!  We did a circle around the region and tasted some magnificent wines!  Enjoy!
Tastings (wines I liked bolded)

Jerez, Mazanilla, ‘La Gitana’, Bodegas Hidalgo, NV. – Retails $23 (Sherry, Fortified Wine)

  • Notes: Smells of dry fruit and strong apple smell; Does not taste sweet but dry, acidic, very bitter lingering taste, earthy and nutty… A complex wine
  • Pairings: This should be served before dinner as an appetizer with a few salty nuts

Rias Baixas, Albarino, Legado de Conde 2009 – Retails $22 (Albarino grape)

  • Notes: Bright citrus in smells; very lemony, green apple, clean and ‘minerally’ in taste
  • Pairings: A fresh and young wine makes it nice drinking wine on a hot summer day; most definitely a wine you could drink by itself

Condrieu, E. Guigal 2009 – Retails $50 (Viognier grape)

  • Notes: A very floral and fruitful smell; tastes very bitter and citrus with a peppery after taste
  • Pairings: Another great white wine that would go well with a shellfish dish or a lobster with cream sauce

Rioja, Vina Tondonia Blanco Reserva, R. Lopez de Heredia 1990 – Retails $50 (Viura and Malvasia grapes)

  • Notes: Smells oaky, hazelnut and almost “buttery”; In taste it is very complex with tannins, dark bitterness, brown butter, nutty with acidity – it almost changes in the mouth
  • Pairings: This traditional Rioja would go great with roasted chicken, Veal w/ wild mushrooms or an assortment of aged cheeses

Les Baux de Provence, Rose, Mas de la Dame 2009 - Retails $18 (Various grapes including Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and Cinsault)

  • Notes: Unripe peach, herby smell with a citrus edge; Tastes full of acidity, not super lemony w/ little tannin, very bright and refreshing
  • Pairings: Great on a summer afternoon by the pool or with an early dinner of seared tuna enjoyed outside on the roof

Rioja Crianza, Luis Canas 2006 – Retails $18 (Tempranillo, Graciano, Mazuelo)

  • Notes: Smells of deep cherry, plum, refreshing and young; Light/mature red fruits in taste, simple cherry
  • Pairings: Enjoy this light wine with pasta and a light red sauce!

Finca La Planeta Pasa, 2004 – Retails $45  (Cabernet Sauvignon w/ a bit of Grenache)

  • Notes: Tastes of very dark and dense fruit, strong blackberry taste – a very modern style big spanish wine
  • Pairings: One reco – STEAK!

Ribera de Duero, Crianza, Condado de Haza 2007 – Retails $38 (Tinto Fino grape) 14% Alcohol 

  • Notes: Smells of rich dark plum and cherry, earthy and a bit of a petroleum smell; Tastes very rich dried plums, “scrapey tannins
  • Pairings: A great pairing with a strong food – Duck or goose dish

Cornas, ‘Les Grandes Terrasses’, P. Jaboulet 2007 – Retails $36 (Syrah)

  • Notes: Dark fruit, cherry and wood in smell; similarly, dark fruit, wood and spice in taste
  • Pairings: Hard cheeses, roasts, red meats, beef

Barossa Valley, Shiraz, ‘Entity’, J. Duval WInes 2007 – Retails $40 (Shiraz – South Australia)

  • Notes: Smells very peppery and rich in fruit as well as tastes very fruity with lots of tannin an has a hint of peppery after tastes
  • Pairings: This easy drinking wine is a great read to drink by itself!
Jerez, Matusalem Oloroso Dulce Muy Viejo, G. Byass – Retails $66 (Sherry – Palimino, Pedro Ximenez grapes) – 18% Alcohol 
  • Notes: Smells like dry figs, walnuts, raisins, wood, coffee; tastes very bitter with rich dry fruit, almost “walnutty” and astringent in taste
  • Pairings: Great after dinner with a selection of aged cheeses, figs, salty nuts and hard cheese – a great dessert to impress your guests!
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