Sunday, November 27, 2016

Wines for Cyber Monday

By Liza B. Zimmerman

If you are not totally exhausted by from the epic meal on Thursday and all that running around in big department stores the day after, Monday is a day to focus on those great online deals in the comfort of your home.

Since most of these deals come from smaller stores and there are lots of them, you will want some wines that keep the brain humming and clear. In Italian we say there are certain wines that are vini da meditazione. There are wines worthy of lingering over by the fire or in company, wines that may go down easily but demand your attention to be fully understood.

I would break these wines into several categories. Let’s start first with Marsala from Sicily: those sweet vicious caramel notes demand you attention as you savor them. Just one sip can get your palate primed to concentrate on those deals and see if that toaster that prints designs on your morning bread is really worth all that cash.

Sherry is another fortified wine that merits your full attention when you drink it. Those nutty, maderized notes continually change on the palate and as you sip from your glass. The relatively low alcohol level of many of these Sherries, which hovers from 15 to 20 percent on average, will also keep you clear minded in front of the computer.

Last but certainly not least are Portugal’s beautiful Madeiras. This island has long produced fortified wines with notes of dried stone fruits, nuts and hints of toffee. They are delicious and relatively affordable given some of the age statements going back to the ‘70s and ‘80s that are still easily available on the market.

Other Wines for a Busy Monday
You may just want wines that warm the body, and the soul, as you sit home trying to stay toasty in front of the computer. Fruit luscious reds will do the trick. Some of my favorite winter reds are Rhone blends and tannic and complex reds from Piedmonte.

While Barolo may get all the attention, I prefer its softer and more complex cousin Barbaresco. Gattinara is another great 100 percent Nebbiolo choice. Barbara is also another great, affordable, every day, easy-drink red that goes with so many foods. Alcohol levels on Barberas can also be nicely balanced at below 13 percent alcohol by volume to keep you focused on that screen and finding what you need for your home.

If by chance you are sneaking in a little leftover turkey sandwich at the keyboard, Lambrusco is always a great choice. There is no need to meditate over it and it so refreshing and the fizz is so holiday festival. Happy shopping and drinking!

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza B. Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Wines for Fall Weather

By Liza B. Zimmerman

As temperatures drop it’s time to open some of those big, hearty reds we have been saving in the cellar all year. The last tomatoes of the season are being replaced by more chard and piles of root vegetables. I start thinking of what I can roast and what I can simmer all day in the crock pot.

The harvest is wrapped up in most of the Northern hemisphere so it is time to dig deep into the cellar for older vintages. Suitably Layne Heggen, beverage manager at Nevada’s Montbleu Casino Resort and Spa compares wine to a baseball, as it “fittingly coming to its end just as summer turns to fall.”

She adds that the cooler weather means that “Finally the wine lovers of the world get to drink liquid snobbery. It's time for the big red wines from places like Bordeaux, Burgundy, Mendoza and Napa to grace decanters everywhere.” Drinkers in Lake Tahoe, where Heggen works, have already started dipping into these big bottles as it already snowed once this October.

Fall Favorites
Some of my go-to cool weather wines include spicy Syrahs from anywhere, particularly the Rhone Valley or winding parts of the Sonoma Coast. I love the depth and peppery finish that many of them have. These are wines that can take on big flavors, like grilled steak and beef-filled stews.

“The truth is all Red Wines are made for this time of year. Bigger and gammier meats paired with the bottles at the bottom of the list,” says Heggen. This is the time to pop bottles that “haven't moved in a decade,” she recommends.

One of her favorite pairings is “Brown sauces and French Onion soups paired with Pinots that somehow live between the sweetness of the fruit and the spice of the table.” These could be the elegant and delicate versions from Burgundy or the wild children of the West Coast. Italy and New Zealand also produce some remarkable examples of Pinot that work with a wide range of foods.

Fall Fizz
Just because it is cold outside doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a glass of bubbly. Champagnes, and French cremants, go with everything in my book: particularly if they are rose. Alsace and the Loire Valley are great regions to seek out lesser-know producers making quality bottles. Gruet, made by a French Champagne house in New Mexico, has long been one of my favorites.

These are great wines both with which to start and finish a meal. They pair beautifully with Middle Eastern dips and cheese, before and after a meal. They will also cut through the spice on Indian and Chinese dishes and make butter-filled savory crepes and roasts taste even more delicious.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza B. Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Wines for Halloween

By Liza B. Zimmerman

Halloween was long one of my favorite holidays as a kid. Whether I was going trick or treating in the building where I grew up in New York or heading down to the parade in the Village I loved the crazy costumes and the chance to indulge in eating multiple peanut butter cups. These days I stay in and thought I would share some of my favorite wines for the evening with you.

I keep cloves of garlic around all year, to make roast vegetables and stews. So a handful of wines that stand up to intense garlic-infused flavors include rich Syrahs and Barberas as well as red blends and Chilean Carmenere.

You will want to find reds with soft tannins and a nice spice profile. Many of the Rhone reds from simple Cotes du Rhones to Chateauneuf-du-Pape have lovely black pepper tones and hints of rosemary, and other herbs, that pair beautifully with garlic-based dishes. Another great way to bring garlic into your meal is by roasting whole cloves and serving them hot and spreadable with bread instead of butter throughout the meal.

In terms of pairing the Barberas with garlic you will want to find ones with slightly longer alcohol, so the heat from the wine doesn’t overwhelm the dish. Dolcettos, especially from Italy, will work fine as well. Italian winemakers are masters of creating wines that pair seamlessly with a hint of garlic.

If you have kids and will be taking them out and about, don’t forget to bring a little tipple for yourself. Those insulated water bottles you use at the gym keep wine cool as well (good to know for those hiking and beach trips as well), and can be filled with the libation of your choice.

Candy and Wine Pairing
If your kids have leftover candy or the neighborhood children don’t come by to enjoy all of yours you can host a candy and wine pairing after dinner. Since much of our candy is very sweet you will want to seek out dessert wines with good acidity to balance out the pairing.

Older Tawny Ports will pair beautifully with anything with caramel in them, even if it’s coated in chocolate. Rubies will work well with milk chocolate, while dark chocolate remains pretty difficult to pair well with a dessert wine and is perhaps best enjoyed on its own.

Sweet sparkling wines, such as Muscats and Moscatos, will also work well with caramel- and some coffee-flavors sweets. I am going a bit out on a limb here, but try them with buttered popcorn and caramel corn-flavored jelly bellies if you can find them.

If you are having ice cream for dessert, a simple flavor like vanilla, is great with a ribbon of ruby Port or Muscat reduction. You can make these easily by boiling the Port for about eight minutes in a sauce pan. Happy Halloween however you choose to celebrate it.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza B. Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Port and Food Pairing

By Liza B. Zimmerman

Port has long been a great closer for a meal. It is also often paired with chocolate, which I hardly think is its most flattering match. As it is both sweet and fairly high alcohol choosing the right dishes with which to pair it can be challenging. So I consulted two experts on the matter.

“Port wine is a complex drink,” says Francisca van Zeller, wine director at the Douro Valley-based Six Senses Hotel. “Ruby Ports have tannin, they are fruit forward and generally wines with great structure and power. Tawny Ports have a persistent dried fruit and a slightly more marked acidity when they are younger.”

Each type of Port, she notes, is best matched with different foods. “Ideally, Port wine is enjoyed with snack, due to its complexity and array of flavors and aromas.” Roasted almonds are a typical treat that Portuguese enjoy with their Port in the Douro. In an American twist pretzels might also be nice with Ruby Ports as well.

“Ports are intensifiers of the taste spectrum, as their sweetness and complexity easily match the caramelized and nutty sweetness and contrast with salty cheese or citrus and berry acidity,” adds Beatriz Machado, the wine director of The Yeatman Hotel in the city of Porto. “This Fall spoil yourself with a full bodied fruit port served a bit chilled and a game and mushroom risotto!”

A Pairing Premier
When matching Port to food you will want to use it in the dish’s preparation as much as you can. Van Zeller says she had an amazing meal of veal slow cooked in Reserve Ruby Port that was paired with the same Port.

“If a Ruby Port is used as a reduction to be poured over a dish, or as a sauce to marinate a meat or fruit, then it should be the same Port wine that is paired with it,” she notes. One traditional Portuguese dish is called Drunken Pears, in which the peeled pears are soaked in Ruby Port before they are cooked until they are crunchy and sweet. Another way to incorporate Port into dessert is by making a reduction of Ruby Port and pouring it, when cool, over vanilla ice cream.

White Ports, which are generally sweeter than their red siblings, need to be chilled down to around 60 degrees before they are served. Van Zeller enjoys both them, and aged Tawny Ports, with foie gras and paté. Machado enjoys them with tonic water and a twist of orange and so do I. She also suggests pairing them with Parmigiano and Manchego cheeses, apple crumble, crème brûlée, tarte tartin and nut-driven desserts.

Ruby Ports, both Reserve and Late Bottled Vintage, work well with mild cheeses or a rich, bitter chocolate dessert, suggests van Zeller. While Vintage Port, as it is fuller-bodied and more complex, needs a slightly stronger contrast, such as slightly stronger cheese like Roquefort and Gorgonzola or the opulent soft and intensely perfumed Portuguese Queijo da Serra.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza B. Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Bacon and Cocktail Pairings

By Liza B. Zimmerman

Luscious ribbons of well-prepared bacon are delicious at any time of the day. They are as great at breakfast as dinner and in the mid-afternoon. I had the great pleasure of attending the second  edition of The Great Big  Bacon Picnic in Williamsburg a few days ago.

Legions of top New York chefs were on duty turning out some of the best bacon-based foods I have had in a long time. They included everything from bacon-dusted burgers to bacon-inspired carnitas. The pairings were a wide range of Brooklyn-distilled spirits; mostly on the brown side of category.

Local distillers in residence included Doc Herson's and the New York Distilling Company. Their products ranged from Absinthe to rye and gin. The gentleman behind all  the distilling magic, Dave Herman, the partner and director of beverages for the festival, enlightened me about how some of the best drinks were pairing with the bacon-luscious food offerings.

The Key to Perfect Piggy Pairings
"The kind of well made bacon from high-quality pork that we use has a natural sweetness along with the unctuous and salty flavors so I like to balance it with sour and bitter drinks. The Paloma is an excellent cocktail ...[and]  I also love a Gin Fizz thanks to citrus acidity, juniper's natural affinity for pork and the light carbonation which helps scrub the fat from your palate. I like to avoid sweeter cocktails here."

Some of my favorite pairings were Rye based, because of its depth and intensity and also mescal infused. That smokiness is divine with many types of bacon. A hint of citrus in the glass also refreshes your palate as you sip and refresh you palate between bites of bacon.

"Whiskey neat can do great things with rich and salty pork, but I avoid Bourbon personally because of the sweetness. I love rye with bacon. But I think gins go well thanks to the juniper and pork connection. And the natural astringency in good mescal might be my favorite pairing," added Hernan.
"I like to provide counterpoint with the cocktails. Let the smoke shine from the bacon then let the cocktail come in and refresh your palate, getting you ready for the next bite," he shared.

"Obviously I edge towards bitter and sour flavors  from the drinks. You can't hope to out-bacon bacon so for me keeping the sweetness in the drink to a minimum and using bitterness and acidity to provide contrast is the way to go," he said. As a resut, I so enjoyed the fantastic drink synergies on a beautiful sunny day in Brooklyn.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza B. Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Mimosa Madness

By Liza B. Zimmerman


Adding a little sparkling wine to your fresh-squeezed juice at brunch makes everything more fun on a lazy weekend. However given the number of sparkling wines on the market these days what’s in the mix need not be boring. So here are a couple of ideas about different ways to serve those drinks at home when you have guests over.

You don’t need to keep the juice monotone or the bubbly predicable. Let’s go beyond regular orange juice today and play with dragon fruit nectar or apricot juice. Banana juice is heavenly and decadent and makes for a wonderful final drink. I enjoyed way too-many banana juice-based drinks when I was introduced to the good stuff in the Dominican Republic.

You can also play with the color and consistency of the sparkling wine you use. It could be Champagne, which might be a waste to pour into such simple juice. It could also be a Cava from Spain, Prosecco or even a sparkling Lambrusco. What is on the shelves these days is better quality than ever, so it is time to experiment and have some fun.

How to Choose the Drink Mix
There is something spicy, and a bit renegade, about using a red wine in a mixed drink. All the ladies did that in the ‘70s and ‘80s with their red sangria, overflowing with floating bits of citrus on top. I grew up with my mom’s divine, and somewhat down-market, cheap Rioja-fueled sangria on the porch by a lake in Connecticut.

That less-than-tasty wine can now be replaced by some great red sparklers. Most of the Aussie shirazes are likely to be too sweet, but subtle Lambrusco can certainly play a part in a great cocktail. As could a little Blanc de Noirs, or sparkling wines made primarily from Pinot Noir.

Some of these wines can be slightly more expensive but can add complexity and richness to the drink. Try some of the less-expensive California or Spanish brands and maybe mix them with a little of that less-than-dry rose wine that is coming out of Northern Italy.

Getting Down to the Juice
Orange juice can be sugar heavy and can weigh down the palate. A slightly more acidic juice, like grapefruit, can be a nice alternative. So can lesser-known juices such as Dragon Fruit juice, which because of the fruit’s bright red exterior, that has been a favorite in trendy bars on both coasts these days.

Stone fruit juices will also make your Mimosa resemble a Bellini in such as great way that you won’t be able to turn back. Seek out fresh-squeezed and organic peach nectar.

You can also add flavors to fruit juices such as vanilla or other spices like cardamom or star anise. This can be done by dipping a little vanilla stick or star of anise in the pot while you heat the juice briefly before then chilling it down in the fridge. It is a great recipe for fall th

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza B. Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Wines for Labor Day

By Liza B. Zimmerman

The official close of the summer is, sadly, around the corner. The last real beach days will come to a close and we should celebrate with wines that really taste like summer in a glass.

Wines from Mediterranean climes to me say summer louder than any place else. Maybe roses, which never seem to taste as good out of season, are the ones that bring it to your glass the most succinctly.

While I love the beaches of Southern France and the sea in Sicily, my favorite roses are from cooler climates. The Spanish region of Navarra produces some of the biggest, most luscious versions in town. They tend to be dripping in fresh red berries and have balanced acidity. Another favorite is South African roses, as they do seriously know how to make them around Cape Town.

Whites for the End of Summer
Sauvignon Blanc remains one of my favorite, and among the wine world’s most flexible, grapes. I could without the grassy ones and adore the fresh stone fruit flavors that you find in the New World, everywhere from Napa to Chile.

Let’s not forget that France’s Loire Valley also makes some of the finest examples in the world. While I am in the neighborhood geographically I will add the Muscadets are none too shabby and pair perfectly with fresh seafood (from both our oceans and theirs).

I am also a huge fan of the delicate and balanced whites made from Rhone varieties such as Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier. While France makes some great ones, so do California and Washington State. Thankfully winemakers are falling ever harder for these grapes so we should see them cropping up in more vineyards around the world.

In terms of esoteric whites I would also put in the good word for Northern Italy gems, such as Soave. Pieropan is a stunning example. I also think the Trentino region is making some lovely wines from the little-known Kerner grape. I would also like to put in a good word for some of those Portuguese indigenous white grapes, wow are they delicious.

Red Winners
For the last warm evenings I would keep my red choices crisp with vibrant acidity. Wines you can serve slightly chilled such as Lambrusco or one of the Beaujolais Crus are amazingly refreshing. So are some of the stunning Chinons produced in the Loire Valley.

Pinot Noir is another grape that is bewitching in so many styles, that also works so well with food. Beyond the classics in Burgundy, New Zealand is making some stellar cool-climate examples. Oregon is also crafting some elegant Pinots that are an appealing blend of Old and New World influences.

No matter what bottle you choose to open this weekend, make sure it is something you want to share with friends on the porch or in the

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza B. Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.