Thursday, January 26, 2017

Wines to Warm You Up after Ice Skating

By Liza B. Zimmerman

When I was a little kid I used to love to go to Wollman rink in Central Park and do loopty loops with my friends. When that closed for renovations we went, on special occasions, to Rockefeller Center. It would a special treat to have a hot chocolate or even breakfast at one of the restaurants that facing the ice skating rink.

Now that I am a grownup my post-skating choice of beverage has changed a little. Nothing says winter, and celebration, like sparkling wine. I am really enjoying exploring cremants from different areas in France: although the Loire and Alsace remain favorites.

A little rose bubbly is never bad either, and pairs with so many kinds of foods. Some of the classic California sparkling houses make lovely versions as do many of the great Champagne houses.

Other Winter Whites
As oysters are so good and fresh—and great for lunch after a twirl on the ice—another festive way to celebrate would be pairing them with some of the wines with which they go best. The sea-smacked flavors of the whites of the Loire, especially Muscadet, are always great with them. The layers of salinity in the mollusks and these wines are phenomenal when they mix in the mouth.

Other favorite whites include those clean and fresh Northern Italian gems such as the well-known pinot grigio and the esoteric—and delicious—Kerner. A little bone-dry Riesling from Alsace or one with a hint of residual sugar from Germany is always a delight.

Big Reds to Warm You Up
When it gets colder out I do shift to drinking more hearty reds. If you are heading in for a lunch by the fire—at home or a cozy restaurant—after skating earthy reds are a great way to start a meal. The tobacco-infused and tangy, red fruit-driven reds of the Loire, almost any region, are always favorites of mine to start a meal. The Beaujolais Crus are also such gems and sometimes don’t get the respect they deserve with all the ruckus in fall over the Beaujolais Nouveau.

If you want your reds even bigger go for some Syrah-based blends. While this gem of a grape is often misunderstood in the states, producers in the Rhone know just how to produce these fruit-and earth-packed wines. Walla Walla is also making some stunning examples as are many producers in California. An interest in the grape certainly seems to be on the rise as when I judged the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition in January we had a big group of Syrah-based, domestic red blends: many of them were delicious.

Cabernet Sauvignons are also great after a little workout on the ice. I tend to prefer the blends from California and Right Bank, Merlot-heavy versions from France. All of these are good with rich meat dishes like stews and roasts. Zinfandel is another great, cool weather grape that pairs with lots of hearty winter food.

Cheers from all of us at 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.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Wines for the New Year

By Liza B. Zimmerman

We all like to celebrate the passing of any year with memorable wines. However this year--given its combination of political and cultural loss of beloved musicians and other icons combined with political friction worldwide--is one to which many of us may be happy to say goodbye. So let's send it out with some festivities, including great wines.

We should all toast the New Year with wines that we love. For me, my favorites of all time would range from Champagne to the Loire Valley's austere whites and gracious reds and dipping down to Piedmont's simple Dolcettos and Barberas. Let's not forget about South Africa and Chile's stellar red blends and almost anything made anywhere in Portugal.

I encourage you to seek out and experiment with new wines and food pairings. It is always better done in company, so you can veto and embrace what you like about wines in a group. A great retailer can provide you with a mixed case to do just so.

Advice from a Sommelier
Jill Weber, owner and founder of Philadelphia's Jet Wine Bar and Rex 1516, loves to have big meals to celebrate the  holidays. She says that she "always pair the wine to the food. If I’m making a Bagna Cauda [a typical Piedmontese dipping sauce made of olive oil, anchovies and garlic] for a celebratory meal, I’ll pair that with a Barolo from Piedmont."

She adds that an intensely local dish such as Bagna Cauda is not one  that everyone would make all year long as it is super-garlic driven. Above and beyond serving wines linked to specific culinary pairings she adds that Proseccos produced in Congeliano, in North-Eastern Italy, are also another favorite of hers. It is also a favorite of mine.

Most Proseccos have a fair amount of finesse but those from Congeliano do even more than some of the best in the bunch. I would equate them with some of the  best sparkling wines produced outside the Champagne region of France: think Alsace and the Loire Valley.

For Weber most types of bubbles are phenomenal with tamales. However with her carnitas tamales, "I recommend a Lambrusco. And for the chicken green chili tamales, a Prosecco is perfect." Light meats, such as pork, with a hint of chilies do brilliantly with  fizzy wines of either color. Lambrusco is also an ever-ideal match for most  holiday  foods.

Weber is also a fan of "oysters with something sparkling or a crisp white that’s rich in saline and minerals." My favorite wines with these babies from the sea would include Muscadet, because you can almost smell the sea salt in it, as well as Loire Valley Whites and most sparklers (particularly Champagne).

Happy New Year from all of us at 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.