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.