This past week, during a trip to Windsor I had the pleasure of meeting up with two very talented an knowledgeable wine bloggers – Robert McIntosh (the Wine Conversation), and Andrew Barrow (the venerable Spittoon.biz). In the ‘real world’ that is.
I also had the pleasure of sharing some bottles of real wine, sharing real food (at the Two Brewers pub), and having real honest-to-goodness conversation with like-minded wine geeks.
Personally, I love connecting with the wine blogging community online. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever been accepted more quickly, or by a better group of folks – a large (and ever-expanding) one at that. And certainly the online wine world made our get-together possible, organized in record time via twitter.
But as I’m fond of saying, reading about wine tasting is like trying to learn how to french kiss by studying a diagram. At times, on-line conversations and friendships can reach a similar point on their trajectory. As Rob so aptly puts it in his recap of our ‘International Wine Bloggers Mini-Conference’, the ultimate point is to make real friends, in the real world…
Which is exactly what we did last week.
What do wine bloggers talk about when they get together face to face? We talk about the same things that we discuss on-line: wine, the state of its culture and service in our world today, and how to further the cause of making wine more accessible – with a smattering of personal tidbits for good measure.
In between sips, that is.
The highlight of our get-together for me was the near-instant camaraderie; never having met face to face before did not prevent us for a millisecond from striking up interesting conversation and enjoying one another’s company.
A close second was the match-up between the lamb entree and our bottle of 2000 Chateau Musar.
But that’s exactly the kind of thing that you need to have been there to truly appreciate.
I recently received an e-mail response from a 1WineDude.com subscriber, in reaction to the previous post Does Wine Taste Better When You’re Dining Out? This response got me thinking about restaurant wine service in general, and it struck a cord in me because it touches on one of my pet peeves about wine service in many restaurants:
“…one thing I can control at home is proper rinsing and drying of my stemware. Nothing gets my goat more than shelling out good money for a favorite wine only to find that the restaurant’s stemware still smells of soap or rinsing/sheeting agents. If you encounter this problem when out on the town, don’t feel embarrassed to ask the server to have the glasses rinsed and hand dried again when having a special wine.”
Sound advice indeed, and I couldn’t agree more with it. For most wines, having a tulip-shaped glass is about all you need to get the maximum enjoyment out of the wine. Picking the right kind of stemware when drinking a special wine can really enhance the aromas and flavors. But I’d rather have a clean glass of any shape vs. a perfectly-matched but smelly glass!
Generally speaking, a little bit of wine knowledge can go a long way in making customers happy. Another pet peeve of mine when it comes to wine service: “the over-pour.” Filling a wine glass to the brim makes it almost impossible to enjoy all the aromas of a wine. It’s like eating a steak with a napkin draped over it. And just try to swirl the wine without spilling it…
Since we’re into complaining mode here, I’ll offer another one: serving wine at the wrong temperature. I’m not too precious about this – I just want it close. I’d rather have it too cold, because I easily enough warm the glass up in my hands (unless it’s been overpoured!). But getting a really, really cold red or a hot white is a total dining experience buzzkill for me.
Those are my wine service pet peeves. How about yours?
(images: stuff.co.nz, ggpht.com/vincent.vanwylick)
When it comes to me and Iron Chef Takao Iinuma, well, we’ve just got to stop meeting like this.
Because that guy is so skilled, he’s going to ruin me for all other Japanese cuisine. With the exception of cuisine in Japan itself, presumably.
I’m not going to recap the food from my recent sake tasting at Iinuma’s fabulous Azie restaurant in Media, PA. I’ll let my good friends over at WCDish.com do that. You can read up on the details of the Azie tasting in my previous post shamlessly plugging the event.
But I will tell you about the sake I had the pleasure of tasting that evening. Because it’s gone a long way into making me a convert in the temple of all things sake. And a yummy, tummy-warming temple it is…
What’s great about events like the Azie tasting is the high probability of running into other ‘foodies’. In this case, I had the pleasure of hanging with Christine Olmsted of Teikoku, Mary and Sugendran of WCDish.com, and Gino Razzi, the Penns Woods winemaker who is starting to skae things up in the world of east coast wines (see inset pic of Gino, me, and Mary). Of course, it also doesn’t hurt that one of the best chefs in the eastern U.S. is whipping up the fare, either.
The sake samples on display at Azie were selected by Matt Palmer of Star Cellars. the man knows his sake, and since I am a complete sake novice, I took advantage of the opportunity to bend Matt’s ear and ask him a seemingly endless serious of questions about each sake, and the process of making sake in general.
Sake is often referred to as “rice wine” since at its most fundamental it is an alcoholic beverage made from rice. However, the process used to make sake is actually somewhere between those used to make beer and those used to make wine. Specifically, sake is made with a special type of rice with a high starch content, with a mold called koji used to convert the starch into sugars that can then be fermented into alcohol. From there, many techniques are used to create sakes with different characteristics. Like wine and whiskey, sake from different areas of Japan are noted for their distinct styles. You can learn more by checking out Sake.com.
The samples that we tasted at Azie really show the depth, range and breadth possible with sake. We started with an accessible, fun & sweet sparkling (yes, as in ‘with bubbles’) sake, and ended with the complex, powerful, and deep “Mountain Flowers” – a drink that requires (and deserves) as much concentration as a decent Burgundy.
As for the specifics on the sake that we had for our pairings at Azie, I’ve reviewed them in ‘mini’ form on twitter, and included the wrap-up below:
- Harushika Tokimeki Sparkling sake: *Very* sweet n’ fruity for sake; CO2 is added but integrates well, and that acidity rocks the house.
- Bishonen “Beautiful Boy” Ginjo sake: Lots of grain (duh!) and dairy, & good acidity. Maybe a bit too delicate, but beautiful nonetheless…
- Ohyama “Big Mountain” Junmai sake: Pear, peach, minerals, lemon, flowers… isn’t that supposed to be Riesling? Wow. I think I’m a convert!
- Masumi Sanka “Mountain Flowers” Daiginjo sake: Grains, herbs & floral notes. Like a crouched panther – graceful, but ohhh the *power*!
If you’re new to sake… let me tell you, you need to give this stuff a fair shot. Because it is definitely going to surprise you.
Consider this oenophile a convert.
(images: courtesy of Sugendran.net)
I suppose that I’m running the serious risk of becoming a walking virtual billboard for Teikoku at this point, but I’ve got yet another wine tasting event of theirs to plug here on 1WineDude.com.
So sue me – if I’m going to plug something, it might as well be something good, right?
Anyway, Teikoku (located just outside of Philly) will be having another wine tasting on the deck on August 14 at 5:30 PM ET. Details are below.
I don’t yet know what vino Heather is bringing, or what Iron Chef Iinuma is whipping up, but both of them are top-notch and in my book have built up a serious track record of quality, so I doubt very much that you’d be disappointed by this event…
5492 West Chester Pike
Newtown Square, Pennsylvania 19073
Thursday August 14, 2008 – 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. An evening of wine on the deck with Heather Wright, wine educator and consultant from Cellar Door Imports. We will be featuring some new, off the beaten path pours along with small bites from Executive Chef Takao Iinuma to compliment them.
$35 per person all inclusive; Space is limited, reserve now.
(images: courtesy of Sugendran.net)