Archive for the 'fine kosher wine' Category

10
Dec
13

La Brochette Steakhouse and Sushi Bar


Last evening, SYR and I attended La Brochette‘s (340 Lexington Ave; New York, NY 10016; Tel: 212.972.2200Grand Opening Event. It is located on the premises of the late La Carne GrillUnder the direction of its owners Avi and Reuven Cohen, it acquired a more sedate and contemporary look to give it the distinctive atmosphere that would do full justice to its fare.

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The main floor...

The main floor…

Chef Angel Rodriguez cooked up a memorable menu for the occasion. We started out with the Petit Omakase, a selection of sushi rolls…

White tuna with avocado crunch, tuna/salmon roll and more in a sweet and sour sauce...

White tuna with avocado crunch, tuna/salmon roll and more in a sweet and sour sauce…

For a meat appetizer we had the La Brochette Sampler; it soon became very obvious we were about to be treated to a virtuoso performance of food and heavenly aromas…

Spring roll, wagyu beef brochette and Peking duck

Spring roll, wagyu beef brochette and Peking duck

SYR followed with La Brochette Salad, which came with Boston lettuce, baby corn, haricot vert, Kalamata olives and Ranch-Lemon dressing and she liked it!. I, intrigued, opted for the French Onion Soup. This soup is traditionally covered with bread and melted cheese, since we were at a steakhouse, I just had to see what Chef Angel would come up with and I was pleasantly surprised at the riches, the nuances of flavors.

We both segued with the Roasted Prime Rib, which came with a side of of potatoes Lyonnaise and the house beef glaze, SYR ordered hers medium rare, while I opted for a medium well. Both were excellent choices…

....ample portions, deliciously juicy and tender. Who can ask for more?

….big portions, deliciously juicy and tender. Who can ask for more?

We washed it all down with 2 glasses each of Borgo Reale Pinot Grigio 2012, from grapes grown in the the Friuli Venezia Giulia region. It was pale straw in color, medium bodied, with a fruity aroma and a clean refreshing taste. We should have found a more adequate wine pairing for the robustly flavored roasted rib, though the wine went delightfully well with everything up to the entrée.

SYR finished her repast with a Mascarpone Tiramisu..,

it truly mimicked the dairy original!

…it truly mimicked the dairy original!

while I – an unrepentant chocoholic – opted for a Chocolate Lava with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. We left the restaurant enchanted by the atmosphere, and the succulent dinner. 

...the taste of paradise!

…the taste of paradise!

We run into quite a few old friends, most notably Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, Elan Kornblum from Great Kosher Restaurants Magazine, and Meyer Harroch from New York Kosher Guide, among others. The waiter, a gentleman of the old European schhol (though he was only middle aged), was very attentive and made everyone feel very special. As SYR and I discussed the evening, we both agreed that we’ll have to go back again an again.

CS

10
Mar
11

Kaizen! Perfection at Prime Ko


Have you ever had one of those microcosmic moments in time encapsulating a window onto something so much bigger in its depth and substance? Though most of mine have not been food moments, this one surely was this past week at the Japanese inspired restaurant Prime Ko (217 West 85th Street New York, NY 10024-3901 – (212) 496-1888) when I tasted Chef Makoto Kameyama’s signature sushi Crispy Rice with Spicy Tuna appetizer. But more about that in a moment…

CS and I were escorted into the ground floor dining area; they’ve got a lower level with a wet bar, TV screen and more seating. Décor showed subtle Japanese influences. The waiting area had these lovely brown leather boxy ’kabuki’ shaped chairs and couch, fresh orchids on a dark rectangular table, with a wall of hand-painted coral peonies on soft aqua…

Wall dividers of slatted mahogany separated one area from another; windows were shaded with white bamboo semi-transparent treatments. Seating was brown textured suede on wood, a few striped suede backed benches, all tucked into square darkwood tables. Settings consisted of simple white geometric china, flatware laid out on deep red bamboo textured placemats, and chop-sticks resting on logo enhanced wood pieces. Lighting was recessed in one area and a framed oval shaped ruched red fabric with a back lit center aperture against the far wall, with a row of rice textured globe light fixtures in the other area.

A partial view...

Esteemed Chef Makoto Kameyama, the former prized Sushi Chef at Prime Grill for the past ten years, has served as Executive Chef at Prime Ko since it opened last year. His experience began in Tokyo where he assisted his father, a prominent Edo-sushi chef running a successful restaurant in Japan. In1981, Chef Kameyama came to the US and opened his own Japanese restaurant. Transitioning to Japanese kosher posed quite a challenge. Aside from the dietary restrictions on pork, shrimp, crustaceans, etc. sourcing fine quality kosher fish for sushi and sashimi, replacing basic Japanese cooking elements like bonita flakes and dashi (made of fish bone, until recently unavailable with a kosher certification), achieving consistent textures and creating exciting sauces were but a few of the obstacles he faced.

Chef Kameyama is very pleased with healthy low fat and low cal Japanese cuisine becoming staple of the American diet. Be it the DHA and heart healthy fresh fish, lung healthy miso, or vitamin mineral-rich seaweed, it is thanks to Japanese cuisine masters like Kameyama that this healthy streamlined fare is taking the nation by storm.

Now, back to our meal… The opening appetizer was an assortment of Rainbow Roll, yellowtail, tuna, and salmon sashimi and that fabulous Crispy Rice with Spicy Tuna I mentioned earlier. That was the defining moment of kaizen (Japanese for perfection) . The mouthful of toasted rice cake topped with spicy tuna pureed with bell pepper, topped with jalapeño and aioli sauce was a bite of pure perfection. The creative combination of textures and genius flavors conjoining to taste so remarkably well, spoke volumes about the artistry of a chef whose collective experience and expertise arrive at the table each time this signature dish is served. Bravo! Omedetou!

Sushi and Sashimi

But we were just getting warmed up… CS and I shared lovely grilled miso Chilean Sea Bass skewers in a spicy teriyake sauce served aside sautéed bok choy & veggies which couldn’t help but be outshined by an outstanding Tuna Delmonico, edged in breading served with jalapeño sauce, wasabi, beet and ginger sauce, with a side of soba noodles and pickled radish/onion/carrot garnish.

Tuna Delmonico

Our waiter, Al, our server, Lebron, treated us like royalty; they were friendly, efficient, informed. I thought we were getting the ‘special treatment’, but service to the tables nearby was just as extraordinary. Al, had the menu and wine pairings memorized down to the last nori seaweed bit & dot of sauce. Service was the epitome of high Japanese hospitality; water goblets refilled with Prime Ko’s own filtered carbonated water, napkins refolded, tables cleaned between courses, and soy sauce, dishes and silverware replaced with the arrival of each new dish.

We enjoyed a cleansing, refreshing Borgo Reale Pinot Grigio 2007 as we waited for our next course, a medley of kobe chopped beef dishes. We sampled Kobe Meatballs with ground ginger and garlic in miso sesame sauce, spicy Kobe Pizza - crispy dough, house made marinara topped with chopped salad & chopped wagyu. Wagyu Beef Sliders – a mini kobe hamburger with spicy aioli and teriyake sauce – completed this tasty Americanized trio.

Cutlery was replaced again with a fresh set including steak knives. I starved myself till dinner in anticipation, but this was turning out to be a most extravagant meal… The best was next! Three ounces of the most amazing Kobe/Wagyu steak resting on a slab of Himalayan salt rock witha side of white mushroom cooked at our table with a spritz of fresh lime. When quality is this good, extra spicing could only detract from it natural flavors – it was melt-in-your-mouth delicious.

Taken before being cooked at table-side. 3 ozs of marbled beauty!

The second steak dish was a 6 oz. Grain Fed Chateau-Briand with vegetable rice served with a jalapeño/uzu/teriyake sauce, with salad and rice. The steak was so good, I would have preferred the sauce on the side.

Steak Chateau-Briand

Chef then surprised us with Eggplant Dengaku. Baked eggplant topped with miso and sesame sauce. Unusual, and superbly tasty. The evening’s crown,  came with the creative and most beautiful desert dish pictured below.

Beautiful presentation, superlative tasting

Two crepes laid out like a Japanese fan, topped with blueberries and strawberries with hot chocolate sauce, sprinkled with green tea powder and confectioner’s sugar that looked like fairy dust. Need I say more?

A brilliant meal overall. Our thanks to Chef Kameyama and the staff of Prime Ko for a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

SYR

Prime Ko on Urbanspoon

08
Mar
11

Cafe Renaissance


Last week RN and I had an early dinner at Cafe Renaissance (802 Kings Highway, NY 11223-2240; Tel: 718.382.1900). We were prepared for a sumptuous, scrumptious meal but even so we were pleasantly surprised.

RN opted to begin her early dinner with Sauteed Artichoke in a very aromatic lemon-garlic sauce. Delectable, she said.

I started with a colorful Green Dragon Sushi Roll, it consisted of spicy salmon, cucumber, avocado, topped with spicy mayonnaise and crunch…

Green Dragon Roll

We both found it succulent; the spicy salmon gave it just enough of a bite, a great meal starter!

Next I had a Citrus Salad

Citrus Salad

It came with Romain lettuce, baby greens, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, walnuts, pomegranate seeds and pomelo strips. The blend of flavors of fresh fruit and vegetables combined to form a perfectly harmonious symphony of wholesome flavors.

RN opted for the Healthy Salad, with low glyceride pasta, sauteed spinach, broccoli, olive oil, garlic topped with Parmesan cheese.  She described it as perfectly cooked pasta, with a superb cheese topping.

We then shared a Greek Salad with feta cheese, olives and more. Again, like the earlier salads, this one did not disappoint.

Starting the mains, we shared a very tender St. Peter’s Fish…

St Peter's Fish

It came accompanied with red, yellow, and green peppers with a flower carved lemon. It was juicy, tender and neither tasted nor smelled fishy. Quite good!

We segued the above dish with a Grilled Salmon for RN and a Salmon Teriyake for me. Both were delicious and while the list so far should have been enough to satisfy the most ravenous creature, we were not done yet…

We finished the meal by sharing a Four Seasons Pizza

Four Seasons Pizza

Its eight slices infour sections consisted of Vodka & Cheese (my favorite!!), Mushroom, Roasted garlic and Cheese, Tomato Sauce, Black Olives and Pesto over Cheese, and Roasted Tomatoes, Broccoli and Cheese. As a pizza connoisseur, I am compelled to give this combination very high marks.

We washed the meal down with a Bartenura Pinot Grigio 2008. A well balanced dry white wine with tangy lemon/grapefruit aromas and flavors and a great aftertaste. All in all it was a very enjoyable meal, beautifully presented, but…

Considering the amount of dishes we consumed and pleasantly surprised as we were at the consistency of freshness, quality, and unsurpassed flavor I felt obligated to speak to Cafe Renaissance‘ owner, Shaul Ashkenazi. We wanted to know about his background and how he developed the successful philosophy behind this eatery.

Shaul started out in the business under his father, 40 years ago; the father owned and operated a very popular restaurant on Tel Aviv’s Rechov Sheinkin. Among the restaurants habitués were many prominent politicians (including Golda Meir) and financial bigwigs who often concluded many a political or financial deal at the restaurant’s tables. Later, in 1975, Mr. Ashkenazi opened up his own place in Ramat Gan (Gute Gute), next to the Stock and the Diamond Exchanges.

Eventually, after the death of his father, since all his siblings were already in the US, he too emigrated to these shores. Ten years ago he opened Cafe Renaissance, he sought only quality fresh ingredients and required each Chef do things his way. While most Executive Chefs get to decide on the menu, here only Shaul and his wife Tikvah make those decisions. Any item on the menu gets rigorously tested by the couple and honed to perfection before it is ever served to any restaurant patron.

Shaul’s son-in-law Ronnie manages the Ashkenazis second venture Cafe Venezia (1391 Coney Island Avenue Brooklyn, New York 11230; Tel: 718.258.5400). We’ll just have to try it!

CS

Cafe Renaissance on Urbanspoon

18
May
10

What Gives a Food Critic the Right to Critique?


Granted, CS and I have a combined prandial gastronomic, collectivistic consumption spanning nearly a century (we make no admission of time exceeding that!). Coincidentally, we were both blessed with superbly critical, highly skilled, culinary genius in the kitchen – parents of Polish and Hungarian descent respectively. They tolerated nothing but brilliance and excellence from their gifted, savant, miraculous offspring of the Diaspora and post Nazi oblation – instilling in us not only superior minds and egos endowed by birth, as well as a natural hunger for all things good. Our generation was brought up with the assumption that somehow we were born with inalienable rights to judge and critique the handiwork of our peers but never our parents. Both of us share the uncanny experience of every patriarchal inquisition into our lives and all critical moments predicated with the always relevant questions: “What did they serve?”, or “What did you eat? Was it good?”

The locus of kosher restaurants we’ve marked collectively through the various stages of our lives is equally impressive. From family style restaurants, to fancy upscale dating restaurants, from cafés for momentary pondering or perusal to married dating eateries, circling back to family restaurants and some of us back to dating restaurants again… we’ve done them all! The Shabbos tables we’ve set and served along with the tables we’ve guested at – often with suffered grimaced smiles of approval conceding to our napkins the putrid memorial – or being imparadised by occasional sensational dishes provided by our hosts! The trials and tribulations of experimental dishes imposed on our loving families without dis-ownership or dis-membership is legendary.

...eating our words

CS has an impressive curriculum vitae – having written many a fine food and/or wine review for well known global publications. I, on the other hand, am more the ‘everyman’, learning through doing, acquiring new skill sets, cultivating and advancing my palate and knowledge as I go along. And now we both sit here… judging others with culinary degrees and years of mastery in the art of Kosher cooking. Yeah, maybe we’ve cultivated our palates enough to judge… certainly as well as the consumers whose attendance make or break a restaurant. Mostly, we are grateful, grateful for the abundance of excellent restaurant choices and fine cuisine that we have been privileged to find and sample. It’s competitive out there and to keep the edge, a fine dining restaurant has to be good. We want a great dining experience and customers want to feel that the money spent was well worth the investment. The mediocre don’t survive for long. There are some food reviews that we’ll never publish, nameless here forever more…

There are many great kosher restaurants yet to review and savor. We love sharing our experiences with you and hope you enjoy sharing with us here at The Kosher Scene. With z’man matan Torah upon us, we would like to wish all our readers a Chag Shavuot sameach! May this time of Torah and harvest bring cornucopian blessings of plenty into your homes and lives.

We’ve collected some great Yom Tov recipes here and here. Enjoy!

SYR

10
Mar
10

Glatt a La Carte


So, I’ve got to admit, I showed up to Glatt A La Carte (5123 18th Avenue; Brooklyn, NY 11204; Telephone: 718.438.6675) in Boro Park bearing preconceived notions of uber chulent-fresser waiters in bowties serving upscale Jewish chic, featuring ptcha in arbes parsley pesto and liver pâté in matzo taco shells, with huge mains of brisket and mashed potatoes in a pomegranate reduction sauce.

Nothing could be further from the truth! This restaurant was understated chic and welcoming. There were inconspicuous screen separators between some of the tables giving a sense of privacy and intimacy and tall lean white winter branches warmly lit from below against the back wall.  The waiters, detail oriented and attentive, gave an exemplary dinner service.  Chef Mark Green, a 10 year veteran of Glatt A La Carte, personally brought us the courses that unequivocally proved his superb talents and artistry of taste. It all further demonstrated, the coordinated organic time-lapse frame of a restaurant which, through the patient masterful guidance of owner Binem Naiman and Chef Mark combined,  has grown from the ordinary to the extraordinary, incorporating the traditional with  the contemporary.

I started the meal with a Butternut Squash Ravioli, the sauce consisted of roasted butternut squash, apple sauce, onions and winter sage. The ravioli were freshly made, the combination of spices gave an out of the ordinary perfect taste, rich in flavor and pleasing to the eyes.

Butternut Squash Ravioli

CS had a Spicy Tuna Tartar with a special avocado wrap.

Spicy Tuna Tartar

I followed with a Beef Brisket Spring Roll, served with red cabbage confetti slaw (red cabbage, finely sliced orange and yellow pepper and red onion) in a hickory BBQ sauce. It was the best brisket spring roll I ever tasted. I liked the hickory/honey sauce was on the side as it the well seasoned brisket stand alone on flavor. The bright colored confetti slaw was festive and tangy, a perfect partner to the brisket!

CS opted for the Grilled Veal Sweetbreads, served with rustic chimichurri sauce and parsley with home made garlic bread sticks and olive oil. The presentation was enticing, the flavor all conquering.

Next I had a Reserve Steak.

Reserve Steak

It was a rib eye steak, served with grilled onion and a tarragon béarnaise sauce. It was what every rib eye I ever consumed should have been, exploding with flavor, an exquisitely traditional ta’am.

CS had a Bone-in-Roast Prime Rib with the Columbian Rub (blend of fresh ground coffee and spices), served with Bourbon Aju and topped with crispy seasoned fried onions. It was super tender, juicy and flavorful. The coffee rub, brought out some unusual flavors (my mouth is watering as I write). It cut like butter. I don’t think I can rave enough about either of the steaks!

For dessert CS ordered a Plum Carpaccio.

Plum Carpaccio

This dessert came topped with mango and raspberry sorbet, it was served with molasses and honey… colorful and delicious!

But… I had the best of all. I ordered the homemade Angel Food Pinwheel, it was topped – in front of us – with a luscious, warm blueberry sauce. The cake came filled with whipped creme, decadently succulent! Perfect ending to a perfect dinner…

During the meal we enjoyed a very nice 2005 Segal’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. We accompanied our desserts with a glass each of 2008 Baron Herzog Late Harvest Chenin Blanc. Excellent choices both!

SYR

Glatt a la Carte on Urbanspoon

22
Feb
10

A Private Wine Tasting


I recently had a private wine tasting with Costas Mouzouras, the Wine Director at Gotham Wines & Liquors (2517 Broadway; New York, NY 10025; Telephone: 212.932.0990). Costas, who’s been in the business for 22 years, selected four outstanding wines for me to try. To keep everything strictly kosher, I opened and poured the bottles for both of us.

The choices were: 2007 Lambouri Ya’in Kafrisin, 2006 Shiloh Secret Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007 Dalton Reserve Wild Yeast Fermentation Viognier and a 2007 Yatir Sauvignon Blanc.

We started with the 2007 Lambouri Ya’in Kafrisin. This wine comes from Limassol, Cyprus. It’s made from a mixture of Cabernet Sauvignon, Mavro and Grenache Noir grapes. These grapes are grown in Europe’s highest vineyards. The color is a dark garnet with orange and purple reflections. The Mavro grape is indigenous to Cyprus, and unlike any grape grown in the rest of Europe, it is still grown on ancient rootstock. Most mainland Europe’s vineyards have been attacked by the Philoxera Epidemic during the 19th century, as a result most European vineyards were devastated and their grapes had to be grafted on American rootstock. You can, therefore, surmise that while most European grapes may have, however subtly, changed their taste, the Mavro grape remains untainted and has tasted the same (with fair consistency) for thousands of years.  One will detect a nice fruitiness, with emphasis on blackcurrant, blackberry, purple plum fruits and notes of bitter orange peel, those on a background of white pepper and oriental spices, with the tannins and fruits rising on the finish. It leaves the drinker with an unusual but delightful after taste. Goes superbly well with juicy meats. Definitely one of my new favorites!

We followed it with the 2006 Shiloh Secret Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. This is a very good Israeli wine, grown in the Judean Hills. Aged aged in French oak casks, it is very fruity with blackcurrant and plum undercurrents and vanilla (due to the French oak casks). It goes well with drier meats.

We then went on to the whites. 2007 Dalton Reserve Wild Yeast Fermentation Viognier was our next selection. It started with a certain smokiness, showing intense, vibrant and complex spicy, floral, fig and melon aromas and flavors. Deep and rich with a long, broad finish. This wine was, by far, much better than its price range would suggest!

We ended the tasting with a 2007 Yatir Sauvignon Blanc. Crisp and lively, with elegance and subtlety. It is light golden in color with orange and green reflections, showing citrus, passion fruit, green apple and grapefruit aromas and flavors on a grassy and stony-mineral background.

All in all, these four selection running in price range from $15.99 to $37.99 were excellent! Costas Mouzouras started working at Gotham Wines & Liquors in 1988, where he soon became the kosher wine buyer, at a time when most of the few available kosher wines were of the extra sweet variety. In his 22 years at Gotham he has seen an explosion of kosher wines with award winning selections from all over the globe including many dry wines (which would have been unthinkable to our older generation), as well as semi dry, semi sweet, and sweet ones.

I liked the wines enough that I had to bring each one home, this is their aftermath...

Currently, they are offering 10% off on any bottles and 15% off on solid cases. (solid meaning a case of the same product.)

On Sunday, March 7th, Gotham Wines & Liquors will present its 7th annual Wine Tasting. It will take place in the afternoon at the Lincoln Square Synagogue (200 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY; between 69th and 70th). They will present over 300 bottles from all over the world, starting at 2:00pm and going until 5:00pm. Pay $30 per person at the entrance or $25 on line at Gotham Wines & Liquors‘ own site. At 1:15 going on until 2:00 there will be a guided VIP tasting for $45 which is only available at the door.

CS

17
Feb
10

Enjoying your Wines – Part 4 – Grape Varieties


There are literally thousands of grape varieties in existence. Most wine grapes are made from the European species, which is considered to be superior to the American vine species. The reason for the numerous varieties is that grape vines have a tendency to mutate and cross breed with ease. Advances in genetic technology have allowed scientists to determine the origins of many well-known grape varieties. The following will give you an introduction to the world of most common grape varieties.

Red Varieties

Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabernet Sauvignon requires care and attention in the vineyard, with fruit exposure and yield directly related to fruit quality. However its thick skin makes it incredibly resilient to adverse climatic conditions. In the winery, winemakers often age Cabernet Sauvignon in a mixture of French and American oak.

Climate has a significant impact on the sensory characteristics of the variety. In cooler climates, minty and leafy characters are intermingled with blackcurrant and red berries. In warmer climates, chocolate and tobacco characters express themselves.

Cabernet Franc
Cabernet Franc
is a component of Bordeaux blends and Loire Valley reds. It has leafy red-berry characters.

Malbec
Malbec is a successful varietal in Argentina. Also used in Bordeaux blends.

Merlot
For Merlot to be good, it must be picked at optimum ripeness, to avoid the presence of herbal characters. Flavors of plums, red currant, mint, pimento, game, earth and leather can be found. Its tannins are invariably soft, making Merlot a good early drinking style, but this does limit its aging potential.

Merlot is most famous in its homeland of Bordeaux in France, where it is used to make some of the world’s greatest and most expensive wines. Over the last ten years, plantings have rapidly expanded across the globe, most notably into California, South America, Italy, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia.

Petit Verdot
Petit Verdot is a red grape variety that is traditionally used in Cabernet Sauvignon based blends. It is known for its intense color, vibrant flavors and firm tannin structure making it a good choice for true red wine drinkers.

Petit Verdot has an interesting flavor profile. It can be incredibly perfumed, having aromas of blueberry and violet. Sometimes it has an attractive herbaceous and spice element, giving the variety complexity. The acidity is often prominent and due to the thick skins of the grape, the color is very dense and the tannins are firm. Structural wines with intense flavors can age well in the mid term. Due to its strength of character, Petit Verdot can have a significant impact on a blend, even when used in small proportions.

Pinot Noir
Pinot Noir originated in the French region of Burgundy, where it is most renowned and revered. The true character of Pinot Noir is expressed when it is grown in a cool climate. In fact, its early ripening nature makes it able to withstand some of the cooler areas.

Wines made from Pinot Noir are typically lightly colored, with cherry-to-plum red hues. The aroma, which is often highly fragrant, can be composed of cherries, red berries, violets and spice when young, transforming into gamey, leathery, mushroomy characters with age. The palate is light-to-medium bodied with fine silky tannins.

As complexity is a vital attribute of good Pinot Noir, the winemaking process is very detailed. Some winemakers choose to include whole berries in the fermentation to increase the fragrance of the wine. Others allow crushed grapes to macerate prior to fermentation to increase the depth of color and flavor. Some choose to do this after fermentation. Oak is used as an important element in both the sensory and structural aspects of the wine, however due to the delicacy of the variety, care must be taken to ensure that it doesn’t dominate the wine. It is not unusual for a single batch of grapes to be processed in different ways to give a range of blending options for the final wine.

Syrah
The beauty of Syrah is that it can flourish in a range of climates. Syrah can be made into a range of styles, defined by the terroir of the region and the winemakers’ artistry. With its soft ripe tannins, black cherry, pepper and spice characters, it can be crafted into wines suitable for immediate consumption.

Zinfandel
Substantial plantings in both California as well as Italy. In Italy it is known as Primitivo. It produces full-bodied and richly flavored wines.

White Varieties

Chardonnay
The popularity of Chardonnay quickly rose, due to its generous flavors and its ease to grow and make into wine. In fact, it is often called a viticulturalist’s dream, as it is early ripening, naturally vigorous and is relatively resistant to disease. Most importantly, it can be grown in a wide range of climatic conditions, leading to a vast array of styles.

The base flavor of Chardonnay is generous, but relatively neutral thus the winemakers’ individuality can be expressed through the winemaking techniques used. Oak usage, yeast lees contact and malolactic fermentation are just some of the ways a winemaker can influence the style of Chardonnay.

Chenin Blanc
Chenin Blanc is a classic French variety. The basis of some of the world’s greatest and long-living sweet wines.

Gewurztraminer
Gewurztraminer is a spicy, aromatic variety. Its style ranges from the flavorsome and fruity, to fine and delicate.

Pinot Gris
There are many synonyms for Pinot Gris. In Alsace, it is known at Tokay Pinot Gris. In Italy, it is commonly referred to as Pinot Grigio and in Germany it is known as Ruländer or Grauburgunder.

Gris, meaning grey in French, refers to the color of the Pinot Gris grapes. As a result, wines made from Pinot Gris often have a slight coppery hue. They have a delicately perfumed aroma with flavors stretching from fresh pear through to tropical fruits. Pinot Gris is similar to Chardonnay in that it has good palate weight and flavor.

Riesling
Riesling is an aromatic variety that produces intensely fragrant and flavored wines of exceptional character. Notes of citrus, honeysuckle, blossoms, green apple and mineral are commonly seen. With concurrent high acidity and comparable low alcohol, the wines retain an enviable freshness which many other varieties lack. Oak is not used and the wines are very pure and clean.

Riesling is a variety that is much loved by winemakers and wine connoisseurs due to its intense flavors and its defined palate structure. Riesling is delightful when it is consumed young and fresh. However it is one of the few white wines that has the ability to age.

Sauvignon Blanc
Sauvignon Blanc
is a variety with increasing popularity in Australia. Although its plantings are quite small, they are expected to significantly increase over the next ten years. Sauvignon Blanc is used to make fresh, vibrant wine styles with none of the heaviness of Chardonnay or the floral tones of Riesling. Its flavor profile is in harmony with Semillon and consequently these varieties are often blended together.

The flavor spectrum of Sauvignon Blanc is quite diverse. Upon a backbone of herbaceousness lie tropical fruit, passion fruit and gooseberry. Look a little closer and you may see tomato leaf, spice and flint. The stronger styles have elements of asparagus, capsicum and gun smoke. And winemaking can add tones of oak, butter and yeast. They are a feast for the senses, especially during the heat of summer where their defined acidity adds freshness to the palate.

Semillon
Semillon is a unique minerally, lemony style, which is crisp and lean when young and is made without the influence of oak or malolactic fermentation. However the wine undergoes a transformation with age, evolving into a complex, nutty, honeyed wine of great depth and complexity.

Semillon is often seen blended with Chardonnay, particularly in mass-market wine styles. The freshness of Semillon provides a necessary balance to the often overly rich Chardonnay. It is a blend that has been very successful.

Viognier
The most distinctive attribute of Viognier is its stone fruit character, most notably that of apricot. It can also show considerable floral and spice tones. In cooler climates you can see citrus whilst in warmer areas there is more honeysuckle. It has good viscosity due to generous alcohol levels and is similar to Chardonnay in that it has a weighty mid-palate and generous flavour, making it a good alternative to this ubiquitous variety.

Aaron Zimmerman

[Mr Zimmerman owns and operates Liquors Galore, 1418 Avenue J (between 12th and 13th Streets); Brooklyn, NY 11230-3702; Telephone: 718.338.4166. The above post is the lastof a multi-part series we have been posting once a week on these pages]

RELATED POSTS

Enjoying your Wines – Part 3 – Storing

Enjoying your Wines – Part 2 – Tasting

Enjoying your Wines Part 1 Buying

12
Feb
10

El Gaucho Steakhouse


Walking into El Gaucho Steakhouse, (4102 18th Avenue; Brooklyn, New York 11218; Telephone: 718.438.3006) brought back many fond memories from my childhood in Montevideo, Uruguay. The authentic decor, the food, the aromas… ah…

A detail of the wall mural

The meal consisted of some favorites from my childhood and adolescent years… yeap, these dishes were just as good as I remembered them… maybe even better!

I started out with their Empanada Casera de Carne. A turnover with beef and criolla sauce and a salad. It has a crispy exterior, and a very flavorful interior.

I followed with a Chorizo Parillero.

Chorizo Parillero and the authentic ambiance at El Gaucho Steakhouse

It was juicy and very aromatic!

For the main I ordered their mock Filet Mignon.

Filet Mignon

This cut is made from the eye of the ribeye, I ordered it medium. It was served with potato puree and mushroom sauce, garnished with minced scallions and mixed vegetables.

For dessert, I ordered their cake of the day.

Chocolate Cake and Ice Cream

It consisted of a hot molten chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream with chocolate topping. A fitting crown for a meal filled with memories and tastes of yesteryear. A true delight for decadent pleasures!

I washed it all down with a very good 2006 Layla Malbec from the Mendoza region of Argentina.

El Gaucho Steakhouse has a well stacked cellar with a nice selection of Argentine, Italian, American, French, Israeli and Australian wines, all kept at the proper temperature.  Mr. David the owner got his education in a restaurant in Buenos Aires, Argentina. They have a large Argentinian parrillador (grill) on premises and the Chef himself is from Argentina.

The food was delectable, the memories came flooding amidst the decor and the aromas… I’ll be back!!

CS

09
Feb
10

Enjoying your Wines – Part 3 – Storing


What is the appropriate method for storing wine?

If wine doesn’t sit around long in your house, you don’t worry about storing it. But maybe you want to take advantage of your wine shop’s cheaper-by-the-case policy, or you’ve come into a few bottles of good wine that need aging. If so, it’s time to make some decisions about storing your wine.

First, you have to understand what you are trying to accomplish. How much and what type of wine are you going to store? Where are you going to store it? How often do you buy wine? How often do you drink wine?

Careful storage will be rewarded with a better wine when it is finally opened.

Temperature, light, humidity and vibration all affect how a bottle of wine matures. The longer a bottle is kept, the more impact those factors will have.

Temperature

Storing at too cool a temperature will retard maturing, while storing at too warm a temperature will accelerate it. Keeping the temperature consistent is also critical. Changing the temp levels will affect the wine’s aging process.

Light

Long-term exposure to light can accelerate aging and even damage the wine.

Humidity

Humidity comes into play in keeping the cork moist. Too dry an environment will dry and shrink the cork, permitting air to seep into the bottle.>

Vibration

Bottles shouldn’t be disturbed in any way as they age. Vibration interferes with the biochemical process of aging.

You should consider all four of these factors when choosing the appropriate method for storing your wine.

Start by storing wine on its side. Except for screw-cap bottles, which can be kept upright, this benefits any wine, whether you drink it soon or hold onto it for years.

Bottles should be stored or stacked on their side to keep the cork moist, thus fully swollen and airtight, avoiding oxidation

To reduce vibration and to secure bottles on their sides, even a casual wine drinker may want to invest in a wine rack. Wine racks can be small and simple or large and elaborate. The size should depend on how many bottles you intend to store, as well as where the rack will sit. Keeping bottles in a wine rack in a shadowy corner of the den or in a closet is fine for a few weeks, but bottles stored long term need temperatures that are cool and consistent.

Wine should be stored between 53 and 57 degrees Fahrenheit In some areas of the country this can be achieved by storing bottles in a cool, dark basement. In Florida, though, that means refrigeration. Wines need to rest peacefully and that can’t happen in an environment that is constantly being disturbed. The best solution is a refrigerator engineered specifically for storing wine.

Aaron Zimmerman

[Mr Zimmerman owns and operates Liquors Galore, 1418 Avenue J (between 12th and 13th Streets); Brooklyn, NY 11230-3702; Telephone: 718.338.4166. The above post is part of a multi-part series we’ll be posting once a week on these pages]

RELATED POSTS

Enjoying your Wines – Part 2 – Tasting

Enjoying your Wines Part 1 Buying

03
Feb
10

Enjoying your Wines – Part 2 – Tasting


What is the “Right Way” to taste a wine?

Learning how to taste wines is a straightforward adventure that will deepen your appreciation for both wines and winemakers. Look, smell, taste – starting with your basic senses and expanding from there you will learn how to taste wines like the pros in no time! Keep in mind that you can smell thousands of unique scents, but your taste perception is limited to salty, sweet, sour and bitter. It is the combination of smell and taste that allows you to discern flavor.

Look: Check out the Color and Clarity.

Pour a glass of wine into a suitable wine glass. Then take a good look at the wine. Tilt the glass away from you and check out the “color” of the wine from the rim edges to the middle of the glass. What color is it? Look beyond red, white or blush. If it’s a red wine is the color maroon, purple, ruby, garnet, red, brick or even brownish? If it’s a white wine is it clear, pale yellow, straw-like, light green, golden, amber or brown in appearance?

Still looking? Move on to the wine’s opacity. Is the wine watery or dark, translucent or opaque, dull or brilliant, cloudy or clear? Can you see sediment? Tilt your glass a bit, give it a little swirl – look again, is there sediment, bits of cork or any other floaters? An older red wine will be more translucent than younger red wines.

Smell

Our sense of smell is critical in properly analyzing a glass of wine. To get a good impression of your wine’s aroma gently swirl your glass (this helps vaporize some of the wine’s alcohol and release more of its natural aromas) and then take a quick whiff to gain a first impression.

Still Smelling. Now stick your nose down into the glass and take a deep inhale through your nose. What are your second impressions? Do you smell oak, berry, flowers, vanilla or citrus? A wine’s aroma is an excellent indicator of its quality and unique characteristics. Gently swirl the wine and let the aromas mix and mingle, and sniff again.

Taste

Finally, take a taste. Start with a small sip and let it roll around your tongue. There are three stages of taste: the Attack phase, the Evolution phase and the Finish.

The Attack Phase, is the initial impression that the wine makes on your palate. The Attack is comprised of four pieces of the wine puzzle: alcohol content, tannin levels, acidity and residual sugar. These four puzzle pieces display initial sensations on the palate. Ideally these components will be well-balanced one piece will not be more prominent than the others. These four pieces do not display a specific flavor per se, they meld together to offer impressions in intensity and complexity, soft or firm, light or heavy, crisp or creamy, sweet or dry, but not necessarily true flavors like fruit or spice.

The Evolution Phase is next, also called the mid-palate or middle range phase, this is the wine’s actual taste on the palate. In this phase you are looking to discern the flavor profile of the wine. If it’s a red wine you may start noting fruit – berry, plum, prune or fig; perhaps some spice – pepper, clove, cinnamon, or maybe a woody flavor like oak, cedar, or a detectable smokiness. If you are in the Evolution Phase of a white wine you may taste apple, pear, tropical or citrus fruits, or the taste may be more floral in nature or consist of honey, butter, herbs or a bit of earthiness.

The Finish is appropriately labeled as the final phase. The wine’s finish is how long the flavor impression lasts after it is swallowed. This is where the wine culminates, where the aftertaste comes into play. Did it last several seconds? Was it light-bodied (like water) or full-bodied (like the consistency of milk)? Can you taste the remnant of the wine on the back of your mouth and throat? Do you want another sip or was the wine too bitter at the end? What was your last flavor impression – fruit, butter, oak? Does the taste persist or is it short-lived?

After you have taken the time to taste your wine, you might record some of your impressions. Did you like the wine overall? Was it sweet, sour or bitter? How was the wine’s acidity? Was it well balanced? Does it taste better with cheese, bread or a heavy meal? Will you buy it again? If so, jot the wine’s name, producer and vintage year down for future reference.

Why do I need to let my wine “Breathe”?

The whole concept of letting wine breathe, or aerate, is simply maximizing your wine’s exposure to the surrounding air. By allowing wine to mix and mingle with air, the wine will typically warm up and the wine’s aromas will open up, the flavor profile will soften and mellow out a bit and the overall flavor characteristics should improve.

Which Wines Need to Breathe?

Typically red wines are the ones to benefit most from breathing before serving. However, there are select whites that will also improve with a little air exposure. In general, most wines will improve with as little as 15-20 minutes of air time. However, if the wine is young with high tannin levels, it will need more time to aerate before enjoying. For example, a young cabernet Sauvignon will likely require around an hour for proper aeration and flavor softening to take place. Not that you cannot drink it as soon as it is uncorked, but to put its best foot forward give it more time to breathe. Mature wines are another story all together. These wines will benefit most from decanting and then will only have a small window of aeration opportunity before the flavor profiles begin to deteriorate.

Some erroneously believe that merely uncorking a bottle of wine and allowing it to sit for a bit is all it takes to aerate. This method is futile, as there is simply not enough room (read: surface area) at the top of the bottle to permit adequate amounts of air to make contact with the wine. So what’s a Wine Lover to do? You have two options: Decanter or Wine Glass.

Decanter – use a decanter with a wide opening at the top to pour your bottle of wine into. The increased surface area is the key to allowing more air to make contact with your wine. Keep this in mind while setting up proper “breathing” techniques for your favorite wine.

The Wine Glass – Pour your wine into wine glasses and let it aerate. This is certainly the low-maintenance method and typically works quite well. Just be sure to keep the glass away from the kitchen commotion, while it breathes in peace. A good tip for pouring wine into glasses make sure that you pour into the center of the glass with a good 6-10 inches of “fall” from bottle to glass to allow for further aeration during the actual pour.

In general, the Aeration Rule of Thumb: the more tannins a wine has the more time it will need to aerate. Lighter-bodied red wines that have lower tannin levels, will need little if any time to breathe.

How do I know if my wine is “corked”?

Fresh picked blueberries, juicy peach, toasted vanilla bean, or mold, which one does not belong? The first three flavors are great descriptors for wine; unfortunately, the last one is a pretty accurate descriptor for a corked bottle of wine. Nuances of mildew, no matter how slight, are an indication of TCA, a bleach-loving mold that infects corks and bottling facilities. As revolting as a corked bottle can taste, TCA starts out as a loss of fruitiness with no ill flavor. So that highly recommended, highly disappointing bottle may still be a great wine, just not the one you opened.

Even though it tastes like it could kill you, you can drink the wine. A faint cardboard flavor can be tolerated when the wine is still tasty enough to drink. When you encounter a bottle that is too far gone don’t dump the wine down the drain. Pour it back into the bottle, put the cork back in, and return it to the store where you purchased it. Retailers get credit for bad bottles of wine. Some experts estimate that one bottle in twelve is tainted with TCA. Just because one bottle has it, doesn’t mean that another bottle from the same case does too. TCA mold takes effect by coming in contact with the wine in the bottle. Mold on the top of the cork is usually not an indication that the bottle is corked.

Aaron Zimmerman

[Mr Zimmerman owns and operates Liquors Galore, 1418 Avenue J (between 12th and 13th Streets); Brooklyn, NY 11230-3702; Telephone: 718.338.4166. The above post is part of a multi-part series we’ll be posting once a week on these pages]

RELATED POSTS

Enjoying Your Wines – Part 1 – Buying




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