Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Wine Blogging Wednesday #65 - Snow Day!

I was born and raised in Chicago so I love the snow. I had never heard of a snow day until I went to NC for college...and clearly I didn't think it was that much snow. Then I move to DC were 2 inches of snow and a little freezing rain call for days off work and kids home from school. But the Blizzard of '09 this past December, that was a snow day (or days I should say). Snow started to fall on on Dec 19th and didn't stop until the 21st. Malls were closed, the metro was closed, churches canceled services. And all I could think was...20 inches does not shut down Chi-town! But alas, I was in DC and stuck in the house for 2 days.

So, when I read about the topic of Snow Day for this Wine Blogging Wednesday I was excited. 1) because I knew what a snow day was and 2) this was the first time I found out about the topic before the post was scheduled for submission. Now, even though this isn't really a wine...the first thing that popped into my head was mulled wine! But with the ground still covered in snow and the holidays were still upon us, there is nothing better than a mug of mulled wine with a cinnamon stick poking out. For mine, I'm kinda semi-homemade and use Willams-Sonoma mulling spices, a bottle of cabernet sauvignon, a bottle of shiraz, and a bit of sugar for sweetness. Once my house smells of cloves and's ready!

I pour mine in a glass mug and drop in a cinnamon stick. Then sit on the couch wrapped up in my Snuggie and hope for a Law & Order marathon on TV.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Zestfully Delicious

OK, so Capitol Hill is my new fave neighborhood in DC. Great restaurant, cool bars/lounges, and diverse crowds. What's not to love! So when I heard about a new restaurant opening, clearly I had to try it ASAP.

Zest only opened in December '09, but they already have their thing down. My date and I sat down at 6pm on a Saturday (slightly before the dinner crowd) and our waiter came straight to the table and didn't just ask what we wanted to drink, but offered wine suggestions from the start! He asked my date, "Would you like to try a malbec this evening? Or perhaps a cabernet?" Impressed? Definitely! It also helped that his fav wine is malbec. The waiter turned to me and said I looked like I could use a zinfandel or a syrah. You know what, I could use a I ordered one!!

We ordered the BBQ shrimp for an appetizer. I had lamb shank with polenta and roasted tomatoes for my meal which was PERFECT with the syrah. The grill of the tomatoes and the gamey-ness of the lamb were a great match with my rich, spicy shiraz. And that lamb was so tender! I put my fork in it so that I could cut it, the meat came right off the bone! I didn't want my meal to end...I saved a bit of it for a doggie bag to enjoy later :-)

After the dinner plates were cleared, the dessert menus arrived. My eyes went straight to the bread pudding. And what the heck, it's date night...2 glasses of 10-year tawny port! Sweet dessert, sweet drink, sweet goodness! The port with the caramel in my bread pudding, while sweet it was more creamy making the port a divine pairing. Besides, I totally believe it drinking and eating whatever I like.

I so cannot wait to return to Zest so I can eat up the rest of the menu. There was a tempting plate of grilled calamari walking by me on my way out.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Post Update - Good News

Last month, I was studying for the Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) certification. The cert is offered through the Society of Wine Educators and is a 100 question, multiple choice exam based on their study guide. Mind you, this study guide comes in the form of a 3-ring binder and has a CD with maps of all the major wine growing regions. So, what exactly do you need to know for the exam?? EVERYTHING!! The info states that the exam is 'designed to test your academic wine knowledge and your mastery of key elements within the world of wine and vine deemed vital to all industry wine professionals.'

Guess I have mastered key elements because I passed the exam!!! WOO HOO!! I just got my certificate and CSW pin in the mail. And no jinx involved...well maybe that the exam was postponed for a week and a half because of the blizzard of '09. I'm just glad that I passed.

Definitely want to give a shout out to my parents who quizzed me over the holiday. Even though they had a pretty tough time with the French and Italian terms, it worked! Thanks Dad & Mom!

CWE here I come???

Friday, January 15, 2010

Sorry Ma'am we're out of that, and that....that too

I'm always on the lookout for restaurants or bars with a wine happy hour. Whether its specials on flights, by the glass, or bottles, I love a wine deal....when it's good wine and in stock.

I meet a girlfriend for dinner at a restaurant in Capitol Hill. I'd been there before and enjoyed their food so their Thursday special of 1/2 off on bottles of wine was a no-brainer. The waitress hands me a wine list and I look for reds, because that's what my friend enjoys and it's cold outside. There were 5 to choose from and all fairly affordable at regular price, 1/2 off was a steal! I decide on a bottle of the malbec and tell my waitress. The rest of the conversation goes a little something like this

"I'm sorry ma'am, we're out of that one."

"Ok then, I'll have the tempranillo."

"Um, I don't think we have that either."

"The pinot noir from Chile?"

"Nope, that's not in. But we do have a substitute."

I take a glance at the table next to me and they have a CA pinot on their table. "Is that the substitute?"

"Yes it is."

What the heck?! I'm 0 for 3 now. Only 2 reds left! We ask about the merlot on the menu, another substitution and this substitution was a super value...if purchased in a store. I just could not pay restaurant markup for a wine that I know costs like $5.99 at a wine shop. Last choice, the California cab. Being broken down at this point we just ordered the cab. Waitress comes back with one of my faves, Casillero del Diablo!! For my palate, this was an upgrade!

But this whole incident got me to thinking, even though the bottles were 1/2 off, is it OK for a restaurant to have a wine list in which NONE of the reds listed are available? And what is the proper substitution in this case? Region, price point, popularity?

Good thing I've been to this restaurant before and truly enjoy their food, otherwise I doubt I would consider returning. Next time though, I will definitely stick with ordering a wine by the glass.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Wine Wednesday - Under $10 Challenge

I'm always on the internet, reading wine articles and wine blogs but, hearing about challenges after the fact. Not this time! Since I follow @raelinn_wine on twitter. She posed the Wine Ophelia Twitter Cheap Wine Challenge where readers (and drinkers) are to find a nationally available wine for under $10 that they enjoy. Perfect, the recession is still not over for everyone ;-).

When thinking of what wine to purchase or where I would find the best value, I immediately thought about Argentina and Spain. Two wine growing regions that are moving to the forefront of consumers minds due to value and taste. I went to Cost Plus World Market (I get future points for any purchase) and actually ended up buying 2 bottles, one from Argentina and Spain. The 2008 Garnacha de Fuego from Calatayud, Spain was the better of the two.

Upon first swirl were hints of flowers and red berry aromas. But the first sip filled my mouth with fire. This garnacha comes in at 14% alcohol and tasted heavily of white pepper. I put my glass down and came back to it in about an hour and I had a grilled hamburger. The smokiness of the grilling matched the pepper of the wine and the true flavors were allowed to shine. I loved the silky smooth mouthfeel and the ripe cherry flavors. I found a very light texture and acidity to this wine and a bit of chocolate on the finish.

While this garnacha is a bit spicy for me to sip alone by the glass, at $8.99 a bottle it will be my go-to this summer for all barbecues.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Timing Is Everything | Drinking Out Loud | News & Features | Wine Spect

Timing Is Everything | Drinking Out Loud | News & Features | Wine Spect

I don't usually just cut and paste articles into my blog, but this one really got me thinking. It's longer than my usually posts but after reading...let me know what you think. Enjoy!

Wine Wednesday - Vinoteca

Well, it's Wednesday and I wanted to review a wine for my blog post, keep with my New Year's resolution, and didn't want to open a bottle to sample at home. So, I headed out to DC's U Street and stopped by Vinoteca. I’ve been to this wine bar a couple of times before but never when I could sit back and really enjoy the wine, the atmosphere, chatting with the bartender, etc. And enjoy I did! For their happy hour from 5pm – 7pm, they offer $5 glasses of wine. Not your regular house wines, I’m talking about 10 whites, a rose, 10 reds, and a beer! I choose the 2007 FairValley Pinotage as my first glass. Being a bit familiar with Pinotage, I was expecting its typical gamey-ness, but not here. This one was rich with ripe plum flavors and a slight hint of oak. Thought it would be perfect with the liver mousse crostini that was also on the menu…or maybe I was just in the mood to try something new. No matter, the kitchen was out of it so I had the Pan Catalan, crostini with with garlic, tomato, prosciutto and manchego. Delicious!

After eating, I would have loved to try another glass of wine since it was still happy hour but I was the only one at the bar that was sitting by myself  So I felt a bit out of place and realized that as much as I enjoy Vinoteca, I will definitely have to come back with a dining or drinking companion. And I just have to come back, there are 20 other wines that I need to try!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

New Year, New Decade, New Dreams

As I get over the excitement of seeing another year, another decade...the parties are over, the champagne bottles are empty and the headache is fading away, I can't help but think about possibilities of 2010. Not to be mushy or super introspective or anything but, this is a new DECADE, what wasn't working last year and what can I do different this year?

2009 was one of the most difficult years of my life. There were losses and a couple of life changing events but still made it through. There were some amazing strides as well. I went to Burgundy, France to attend the Burgundy Wine School were I passed exams to become a Certified Burgundy Instructor. I passed my WSET Advanced exam. I started a wine consulting/wine education business and a wine tasting club.

So, what dreams do I have for 2010? Over a glass of Louis Bouillot Cremant de Bourgogne Brut Grande Reserve (I am so loyal to Burgundy!) I dream that my new business will become prosperous and flourish. I dream that my tasting club becomes one of the best 'things to do' on a Sunday afternoon. I dream of becoming a much better writer and being more diligent with writing my blog posts. I dream of writing a wine-related book, as soon as I come up with a topic. I dream that I am at peace with myself. I dream that I will continue to need my clothes taken in from all my hours at the gym ;-)

Well, my glass is empty so it's time to get off this computer and make these dreams a reality!! Happy New Year!!