India’s Rapidly Expanding Wine Industry

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When you think of a fine wine, India isn’t the first country to come to mind, is it? Sure, spicy, fragrant food, haggling in markets for trinkets and visiting the Taj Majal would be high on any tourists’ list, but you probably wouldn’t expect to indulge in some fine Indian wine.

Over the last handful of years, India has seen a small, but surprising explosion in the number of wineries throughout the country. The area of Nasik in India is known for it’s grapes and some of the wineries that have set up there buy grapes from local farmers, sustaining them.

India is ripe for the wine production, as many Indians are upwardly mobile and can afford to purchase wine on a regular basis. This has led to wine tastings, clubs and even wine dinners.

Indian wineries are not without challenges though. The calendar is turned upside down. Grapes are pruned in September and picked in February and March to avoid the heat and monsoon season.

White wines like sauvignon blancs, and chenin blancs, are good complements for vegetarian dishes like bhindi masala, (okra) or saag paneer (cheesy spincach).Reds can hold their own against dishes seasoned with cumin, mustard seed, fenugreek and other musky flavors. They pair very well with items prepared in the tandoor oven.

Don’t expect to find many Indian wines outside of the country though. Almost all the wine produced there is consumed there. Maybe it has to do with the slightly different taste of smoky earthiness that isn’t present in the red wine us Westerners are used to. One thing’s for sure, it is a nice match for the spicy foods it is served alongside.

Wine Varietal Substitutions: Change Up Your Holiday Party

holiday parties wineAs the holiday season officially kicks off, no doubt there will be parties to host and attend. Here are some fabulous wine substitutions to be made whether you are the host or guest. 

•  If you like white zinfandel, consider a Riesling.
White zin is the “Kool-Aid of wine.” It can be a good introduction to the wonderful world of wine because it’s sweet, and everybody likes sugar. But there are a number of wines at many price points that are also sweet and carry a much more interesting profile — a fuller body, honey and pear or apple notes and much more. Riesling and Gewürztraminer wines are a great place to start.

Fun fact: red zinfandel hails from the same grape as white zinfandel, except the red variety includes the grape’s skin – white does not. The skin gives the wine a more robust flavor and color than its popular cousin, deep, rich and full of zest. It’s quite different from white zin, but worth investigating with a curious palate.

•  If your go-to white wine is strictly Chardonnay, try a bottle of white from the Côtes du Rhône or a sauvignon blanc from just about anywhere.
Wine can be confusing because varieties may refer to a grape, a region or both. Chardonnay refers to a specific green-skinned grape and is grown all over the world, most notably in Burgundy, France. Côtes du Rhône is from the region of France of the same name and is usually made from a blend of grapes, none of which, by the way, are chardonnay.

Chardonnay is very popular and, it is said, a rite-of-passage grape for wineries. While Chardonnay is a relatively straightforward selection, Côtes du Rhône offers white and red varieties that will be fun crowd-pleasers at parties, and it’s inexpensive. An export grape from the region is Syrah, remarkable for its now-global prevalence, from Washington state to South America to South Africa to Australia, where it’s called Shiraz. For something completely different and light, try sauvignon blanc, which can be herbal and tart , with good acidity and complexity.

“Sauvignon blanc can be like drinking passion fruit – not quite orange, cherry or lemon – just passion fruit,” he says. “I’ll never forget one time I had it with tuna sashimi. It was such a perfect pairing…These are the things that make life great

•  If you like Moscato before dinner, try Sauternes or port wine with dessert.
Again, sweet wines are popular, but Sauternes from the region of Bordeaux with the same name, has a distinct flavor because of a unique geographical attribute. Sauternes is made from Sémillon, Sauvignon blanc, and Muscadelle grapes that have been affected by a fungus that usually causes souring. But, thanks to the weather in the Sauternes region, the fungus instead adds sweetness and complexity to wine. Varieties range from very sweet to dry as a bone. Port, Portuguese fortified wine, and Sauternes are amazing with nuts, blue cheese and foie gras, or goose liver pâté, slathered on baguette, Kleinfeld says.



Door County Cherry Wine

Wines of Door County

Wine really is everywhere. I was surprised when I headed up to the Buffalo / Toronto area and found so much prevalence of Ice Wine. Most recently when I visited Door County, Wisconsin (they just call it Door County – no city names are used), I was surprised to learn that they have wineries there as well! And you thought all Wisconsin produced was cheese!

Door County is well known for their cherry production. Cherries are a staple at every restaurant, dessert and yes, winery in Door County. So, while in Door County, give some cherry wine a try. I had the opportunity to do just that when I visited Orchard Country Winery.

While we did sample more standard wines like Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon, we also got to sample their cherry wine. Simply named, Celebrate, this is a tad sweeter than a Merlot or Cab but certainly a pleasant tasting wine. Orchard Country Winery describes it as a well-balanced semi-sweet blend of white grapes, apples and cherries and recommends pairing with fried chicken or medium cheddar.

cherry pit spit door county

After touring Orchard Country Winery and sipping on some tasty wine, try out your cherry spitting prowess. How far can you spit your pit?

Dial M for Merlot: Advice on Wine

wineIn the past two decades, zins, cabs and chardonnays have soared in popularity among imbibing Americans. The preference of just one in four in 1992, its now the alcoholic beverage of choice for 35 percent of us, according to a 2013 Gallup poll. Here’s some advice from author and wine expert, Howard Kleinfeld, author of the book, Dial M for Merlot

1.  What’s the best wine?
You’ll find all kinds of lists purporting to distill the top 10 or top 100 best wines of the thousands upon thousands of new releases each year. They are a wonderful resource for information and a great starting point, but there is no substitute for personal exploration.
“The best wine is always whatever’s in your glass at the moment,” Kleinfeld says, “unless whatever’s in your glass makes you grimace, in which case …”

2.  Don’t drink it if it doesn’t make you happy.
Life really is too short to not make the most of every moment – and every sensual experience.
“I learned that in 2007 when I was diagnosed with throat cancer at, what I felt was, a very young age,” Kleinfeld says. “I got through surgery, chemotherapy and radiation with the love and support of my family and friends, but I lost my sense of taste for a few years.”
Cancer-free and with all of his senses intact, Kleinfeld says he has resolved to enjoy every sip of life.
“Don’t waste your time on wine you don’t enjoy. Save it for cooking,” he says. “Drink something that puts a smile on your face. And remember – there are all kinds of smiles.”

3.  Go ahead and shell out $50 or $100 on a wine you just have to taste again.
A lot of us think California and Napa Valley when we think domestic wines, and while The Golden State is the No. 1 producer in the country (followed by Washington, Oregon and New York), every state now has wineries. That means that wherever you are, there’s a wine tasting room within driving distance.
“If you go to a wine tasting and you sample something you absolutely love, something you know you want to taste again – maybe with a steak, which they don’t usually have at wine-tasting rooms, go ahead and buy it,” Kleinfeld advises.
“Forget that it costs three or four times what you (might) usually spend for a bottle of wine. Splurge. See tip No. 2.”

4.  Forget the red with meat, white with fish and chicken rule – unless it works for you.
The idea of pairing red wines with red meats has to do with the bolder flavor of both. Fish and chicken tend to have milder flavors, as do many white wines.
“But there are so many exceptions to those ‘rules’ you may as well just toss ‘em,” Kleinfeld says. “They don’t take into account the range of flavors of meat, fish and chicken, especially when you consider all the different ways they can be prepared. And if you’re not a fan of Riesling, for instance, you won’t like it no matter what you pair it with.”
Be an adventurer, he advises. Open a few different varieties of wine when you sit down to eat and explore different pairings.
“The entrees and wines you best enjoy together are the perfect pairings for you.”

Coravin: A Sexy New Wine Tool

coravin wine system

Want to know what the latest, sexy new wine tool is? It’s the Coravin, a device that lets you sample small tastes from wine bottles without disturbing the cork. Why is this such a neat offering? Well, what it means is that restaurants can now offer small tastes from wines that they only have limited supply of. This means that they can now serve a high end wine to many more customers than before. And for customers who aren’t looking to spend $100 more on a bottle of wine, they can simply get a taste of the wine.

The way the Coravin works is that a needle is inserted right into the cork to release a small amount of wine for a glass or less. The bottle is then pressurized with argon, an inert gas that’s in the air we breathe. Once the device is removed from the bottle the cork reseals itself. This means that the oxidation process never begins. When oxygen is introduced to wine it begins to lost it’s initial taste.

Here’s and excerpt from Coravin inventor, Greg Lambrecht “My dream was to magically pour wine from bottles without ever pulling the cork. The remaining wine could then go back in my cellar, so that I could enjoy it again, whenever I desired. What followed was a decade of development and testing until I had a system that delivered great glasses of wine, indistinguishable from untouched bottles, while never pulling the cork.”

Don’t Swallow Too Soon: Lessons from a Riedel Wine Tasting

How does Georg Riedel begin a wine tasting? By making guests start with water. Yes, water. The best way to learn about why the glass is important is by learning how the liquid  falls on your tongue. So instead of trying to taste the wine, we began by filling our three glasses with water. We started with a flared glass (Pinot Noir), small opening (Syrah) and big glass (Cabernet). It was interesting to note how the glass opening can affect where the liquid falls on your tongue.

Once we dispersed the wine into the various glasses and went through the various tastings, we could truly taste and SMELL a difference. The shape of a wine glass really does affect the smell. It can also affect the acidity and the saltiness you pick up when sipping. Wine has first and second aroma. It is important to smell the wine before drinking, taking deep breaths.

Georg Riedel demonstrates a Riedel Decanter

“Don’t swallow your wine too soon”, says Georg Riedel. He likes to savor it in the mouth first. There are calories in wine, so if we are going to drink it, we should really swirl it around in our mouth before we swallow. “If we commit to a sin, at least we should enjoy it,” he says. I have to agree.

If you plan to decant your wine, it is important to have superior tools for that as well. See above where Mr. Riedel shows off his luxury Riedel decanter to the audience. Yes, it’s full of wine.

Here are some other gems, Mr. Riedel shared with us:

  • Flared glass is also great for champagne.
  • As we get older our preferences for different reds change. In his mid 60s, Riedel loves Pinot Noir a change from Cabernet in prior decades.
  • The narrow opening glass (Syrah) is the best universal glass for any red wine. Though most people don’t want to use it because it isn’t that aesthetically pleasing and is hard to dry.

But that wasn’t all. Alcohol isn’t the only nectar that deserves it’s own speciality glass. Riedel has been asked by Coca-Cola to develop a glass specifically for this fizzy product. As Coke is headquartered in Atlanta, it made perfect sense to debut the glass at the Atlanta Riedel wine seminar.


reclaimed wood project

Barrique: Wine Cask Recycling

Barrique: The Third Life of Wood is a creative exhibition traveling around various cities in the US. The exhibit focuses on creating unique objects using recycled wine barrels or casks. The wine casks can only be used for three years and then they are no longer viable for use with wine making. Instead of simply trashing them, the community in Italy where this project began, decided to use them as reclaimed wood.

The Italian organization brought on designers and architects to craft pieces of furniture that reflected their style. Besides design and recycling there is a third component of this project: recovery. The exhibition highlights Europe’s largest treatment facility for those covering from drug addiction.

Located in San Patrignano, Italy, the facility provides housing, education and treatment to 1,300 residents. Here they learn professional skills – including viticulture, wine making, and woodworking – and produce more than 450,000 liters of wine each year, aging it all in 230 liter French oak barrels.

The residents of San Patrignano crafted the pieces of furniture from the designers out of old barrels, demonstrating how design innovation can be used for social good. Pretty cool.
The movement has been also named “recycling and recovery.” Not only do the casks get recycled but residents get a sense of purpose in transforming the wine casks into gorgeous creations. San Patrignano has been in existence for over 30 years and averages a 70 percent recovery rate. All this for a place that doesn’t charge the residents a dime.

“…we learnt to grow by drawing upon the eyes, heart and experience of the artisans who taught us… The things we made no longer stood for lonliness and death, but enthusiasm, fullness and satisfaction. Giving another opportunity to a simple piece of wood was like tasting the sweetness of a new life.” – Marco Stefanini, former San Patrignano resident.

We saw many tables and chairs that were constructed for the Barrique exhibit. But one that stood out was the Stave table. The table makes the most of the curvature of the wine casks. The curvature of the barrels is evident, but the pieces fit together with total smoothness.
This such a creative way to make use of wine barrels that would otherwise be discarded.

Wine Tasting Euphoria

4 Reasons Why Red Wine is Healthy

Do you love to drink…wine? Well, if you have a passion for red wine, you are in luck, because in addition to it tasting great and complimenting food so well, there are significant health benefits to drinking red wine too. Here are a couple benefits to red wine:

Red Wine is Heart Healthy
Red wine contains Resvertarol. This protects your heart and arteries against saturated fat. So, one or two glasses a day can help protect against cardiovascular disease. Red wine also contains flavonois and sapponins, which raise your HDL, or “good” cholesterol.

In addition to being good for your heart, red wine contains lots of antioxidants. They help your body on many levels. One includes helping to fight against aging. In addition, red wine helps to prevent diseases like Type 2 diabetes.

Stick it to Cancer with Red Wine
Cancer affects so many people. So, tell your friends and loved ones to raise a glass in the name of stomping out cancer. There is evidence supporting the fact that red wine kills cancer cells. It is also thought to help in conjunction with radiation therapy. The antioxidants attack cancerous cells and make them unable to function.

Protect your teeth
This seems ironic, because most of us think that red wine causes teeth to stain. While there is some truth to teeth staining, it is true that red wine protects our teeth from tooth decay. It does this be hardening the enamel, which helps fight off the bacteria responsible for tooth decay.

So, keep these in mind when shopping at your grocer or out to dinner. And remember, like most things, red wine is good in moderation. Cheers to your health!

mother's day tea

Mother’s Day: Ideas to Celebrate Mom

Heads up: Mother’s Day is just around the corner. Year after year, moms are treated to a Mother’s Day brunch. But what if mom isn’t a huge fan of brunch? What if your mom would prefer another sort of celebration for Mother’s Day. Here are some ideas of fun things to do for your mom on her special day.

Treat mom to a cooking class. Cooking classes have popped up at many places other than schools. And they span many categories: seafood, vegetarian, Holidays, ethnic cuisines – you name it. Has your mother has expressed interest in a certain type of cooking style? If so, sign her up for a cooking class. Even better, sign both of you up for a fun couple of hours.

Tea time! When I was a kid, I used to come home from school to a house with a mom, grandmother and often times a couple aunties too. Around 3 pm, without fail, we would all have a cup of tea. Why not rekindle this special time and make an appointment for tea at a fancy tea house and be waited on?

Is your mom and wine lover? Why not look into wine pairing dinners around the area (there’s always one going on somewhere) and book one at a restaurant your mother enjoys or would like to visit?

Has it been a while since your mom got all dressed up and went out for cocktails? Why not plan an outing to a fancy cocktail bar or speakeasy (they’re springing up all over) and have a lovely evening?

The best gift is you. As we get older, we get busy with our own lives. Work, friends, and our own kids supersede making time for our parents. It would be a treat for mom if you were to set aside a day or even just an afternoon to spend with your mom. Get takeout from her favorite cafe and enjoy a relaxing lunch. After that, take her to a movie, or help her with stuff around the house.

And don’t forget, just because the day is “Mother’s Day” that doesn’t mean it has to be only your mother you celebrate. There are probably a number of women who have contributed to making your life better through the years. Don’t forget these women on Mother’s Day.


Last Minutes Valentine’s Day Options

With Valentine’s Day quickly approaching, if you haven’t already secured a reservation for you and your special someone, it maybe a tad difficult. At this late date, many restaurants are booked, but you can still find some great restaurants if you think outside the box. Here are some ideas for last minute Valentine’s Day plans.

Go to an ethnic restaurant
While so many opt to go out to the fancy, high-end restaurants, lots of ethnic eateries remain empty on Valentine’s Day. Many have beautiful interiors and offer aromatic and sensual dishes. So why not visit one of these restaurants on Valentine’s Day? As an added bonus, they tend to be easier on the wallet than their upscale competitors.

Get Schooled / Spoiled
Take a cooking class with your sweetie at a nearby cooking school. Big spender? Hire chef to make a special dinner for you. Not only will they serve dinner to you as if you are in a restaurant, but often times they also offer wine pairings and will dress up your dining area in an uber romantic decor. While you may not be able to take advantage of these on Valentine’s Day itself, you can certainly schedule them another day. There’s no rule you have to celebrate on February 14th.

Do Something Out of the Ordinary
Visit the botanical gardens, a museum or do a wine or beer tasting. Check out a comedy club, or catch a flick at your favorite movie theatre, if you are both cinema buffs. There are many movie theatres around the country that offer in theatre dining. Indulge in a full dinner or split a bottle of wine while enjoying your comfy seating.

Don’t let conventional ideas about Valentine’s Day dictate how you and your special someone will celebrate. Do something you both love and enjoy the day together. That’s what Valentine’s Day is all about, after all! Happy Valentine’s Day!