Food, Wine, Good (and Evil) Spirits

whitewine.jpgAfter about a decade of studying and drinking wine, I've become the de facto "expert" amongst our group of friends. Which is to say I've read more wine books, taken more classes and wine tasted in more regions than them, but what I've learned is just the tip of the wine iceberg. That being said, since I have this website, I get asked a lot of questions about wine, but there are two that always seem to come up with the answers usually engendering surprise.

1) What are my favorite Napa wineries?

and

2) Do you really LOVE white wine? Really?

My response that I don't make a pilgrimage to Napa several times a year is akin to saying something like "I hate puppies." The shocked looks are quite amusing to me. I've been all over California, tasting in every region where wine is grown, including Napa, yet there are just other places I'd rather go. I've come up with an equation that should explain this apparent break down in my mental faculties.

(Too far away x snotty attitude + $$$$ bottle price = Unhappy Wine Traveler)

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pinot_gris.jpgI had to laugh the other night while having dinner in a local restaurant. The patrons next to us ordered a bottle of wine, confidently requesting "Pinot Grisss", with lots of heavy emphasis on the "isssss", as their wine of choice for the evening.

I shouldn't have laughed. Really I shouldn't have. But I'm horrible like that. Don't worry... they didn't hear me. I wanted the waitress to correct them though, "You mean PEE-noh Gree?" but she didn't. Maybe she was worried about her tip or was trying hard not to laugh herself.

I think the intimidation for ordering wine is even greater at fine dining establishments employing a sommelier (sum-muhl-YAY). The sommelier is there to help guide restaurant guests in the best wine choice possible in terms of their meal, palate and pocketbook. It can be intimidating to speak up and request something from somewhere like Chateauneauf-du-Pape (shah-toh-nuhf-doo-PAHP), if you have absolutely NO IDEA how to pronounce the words.

I should be more forgiving. I know for a fact, as many have confessed to me, some people shy away from ordering particular wines simply because they are afraid of making a pronunciation mistake in front of friends and clients.

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jones2.jpgWhat could be better than to customize the label on your soda? Well, yeah, world peace, but in the meantime, Jones Soda, which my daughter Lena turned me on to, has done that. Right from the beginning.  In fact, they’ve gotten awards for their unique packaging and constantly changing labels, which are generated and submitted by their customers. Their attitude is clearly expressed by other product lines such as their energy drink: WhoopAss.  This season you can give the gift of Holiday Collectors Packs.  Be “thankful” Thanksgiving is over. They had Turkey and Gravy Flavor.  Look out Bernie Botts. 

 

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vinsantocakes.jpgWhen I saw this in Gourmet magazine several months ago, I knew I had to make it.  I knew it would be fabulous and the rest is history.

What I didn't know is I would decide to make these Individual Grape and Vin Santo Cakes on a day when temperatures outside would climb to 90 degrees.  It was a little hot from the oven, but oh well.  It was worth it.

Now you are saying, what is Vin Santo?

Well, it's one of my favorite Italian dessert wines originating from Tuscany.  Vin Santo does have a dry version but I prefer the sweet.  Made from Trebbiano and Malvasia grapes, I love sipping Vin Santo while dunking almond biscotti into the wine.  This is the classic way to serve it.  You have to try it.

Vin Santo can be pricey as the grapes are hand-picked, hung from rafters in a building and dried. Once dried they are pressed and the juice fermented in caratelli (small-cigar shaped barrels).  After fermentation is complete the caratelli are sealed and placed under the winery roof for aging....for a long time. The result, is an amazing nutty-nectar that warms you as it goes down. 

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“The Long Goodnight” 

lips.jpgLady Restylane was a carnivore, a notorious coquette who left lipstick marks like business cards. But when men followed up, expecting the innuendos to lead to escapades, their calls were seldom returned. To Lady Restylane, it was all about the dance. Genuine intimacy scared the hell out of her.

There were times when her game left her so exhausted that she’d give anything just to have a normal evening. Just to have dinner with a friend. And on one ill-fated night in the City of Angels, I was that friend.

We made plans to meet at the Bicycle Shop Café, a Westside eatery that had bicycles hanging on the walls. Not exactly artwork, unless you prefer Schwinn to van Gogh.

It was half past fashionably late when Lady Restylane arrived, wearing a little black dress and stilettos that could have doubled as steak knives. She said she wanted to leave the act at home, but she couldn’t do it. She just couldn’t do it. As soon as she made her entrance, she went on a flirting binge – targeting two guys at the bar, the bartender and our waitress. After that, I stopped counting.

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