31 Days of Halloween Wine Labels - Day 1 - Pinot Evil

Now that fall is in full swing, it's time to look forward to that scary fun day and night at the end of the month. I'm referring of coarse, to Oct 31st, also know as Halloween. I've notice more and more wine labels that have a scary Halloween theme. To celebrate, we will feature halloween wine labels every day in October. We will kick it off with Pinot Evil, a Pinot Noir from France. By the way, these labels are in no particular order.

Pinot Evil

Pinot Evil

The Right Wine In A Hurry

There is also a bit of a panic when a new wine is needed that night, and it has to be good. But panic not, rather than look for a good wine online and hope some local shop has it, or look at the shop blindly and hope the workers know wine; try using the internet to its fullest to make for a more hassle free wine shopping experience. Many large stores will have a website nowadays with the current wines on selection available to peruse or even reserve. Any wine of interest can be than be researched, see what other people thought of it. Write down the exact name of the wine, maybe a backup option just in case, and those wine carriers to take care of one thing that could easily be just a small part of a very hectic afternoon spent in preparation.                 While not a fool proof way to get the best wine every time, it is the most trustworthy way to get a good bottle of wine or two the day they are needed. Perfect for impromptu visits from family or friends or when nothing in house suits the meal for that night.

Wine Gift Guide

Thinking about all of the holiday gifts that are needed to get can really make even just over a month seem like too short a time to get everything bought and wrapped. It is easy to check any wine lover off the gift list without ever needing to know their wine preferences though. A wine aerator or nice wine bags are good options. These are good gifts because they are not dependent on what type of wine they like but instead are focused on wine enjoyment in general.                 Wine gifts cover a large spectrum of possible gift receivers too. From the old time friend to the grown up child, they are just as much needed gifts as invitations to socialize. A new corkscrew set for an old friend could suggest that getting together to catch up, over a bottle of wine, would be nice.  These types of gifts make an extra special impact when they have a personal touch. So even if the gift receiver already has one of the wine related gift given, it has a little something to make it special. Initial engravings are an excellent example of personalizing a gift. In general, a wine related gift is eagerly accepted.

               

Case Against Agressive Decanting

There is a temptation sometimes in this busy world to make things less chaotic, to cut corners or take easier options.  Some of these time savers are just that, a great way to shave a minute or two, but think carefully about which of these time savers are used because some will actually cost the overall experience by cutting into the quality.  Things like not thawing meat all the way have obvious consequences because the inside remains partly uncooked, but rushing a wine can have a subtle damage on the meal.  Enjoying wine is just one part of the ceremony like process that includes selecting the wine, bringing it home in wine totes, decanting it, pouring a glass with care, taking a whiff of its bouquet and finally taking that slow sip of indulgence.  The reason a slow decanting is vital to catching that perfect moment in a wine is because no two wines require the same amount of time to bloom fully. This means that making the decanting go too fast would easily mean blowing right past the ideal moment.  While aerators and specifically designed decanters may aid the process, it is best to keep an eye and nose on a wine while it heats up to closer to room temperature and releases its aromas.

                 

Entertaining Differances

Having guests and entertaining are broad terms; they really do not say to be able to give to advice on. A more specific definition, especially of the guests needs to be given for any advice, because it is really the guests that dictate the wine selection and etiquette of the evening. Hosting a dinner party for parents or in-laws for example is almost bound to be a little more formal than a simple cheese and wine thing with some friends. The difference between these two events is like night and day when the wine selection is concerned.                  A simple gathering of friends can involve an adventurous new wine; a risk may not be as good of an idea with guests to impress.  This is not to say that a conservative, tried and true wine is the only way to serve parents, but maybe have one on hand just in case.  Friends on the other hand are likely to enjoy anything from the two bottle wine bags because they are having a good time. But of course it is a matter of knowing the guests and some idea of what they would want in either a fun evening or a formal dinner.

Record Wine Exports for California

Last year saw a hike in wine exports like the US has never seen before. Thanks to a budding market in Asian countries as well as a still growing recognition for American made wine have combined with a higher domestic consumption to put a bit of a strain on California’s wine makers and a bit of a price jump on American wine.                 Not long ago, wine from California was looked upon as low quality and lacking in art. This is a drastic change from 2011 where it is being elevated to something closer to a luxury item.  After winning over some well-known wine lovers, Californian wine was given a chance to be ranked and compared to French wine, where it has since flourished.

                A growing middle class in China is also a key player in this last year’s 123% demand from 2010. That is almost a quarter increase from the previous year. To the growing Asian market California wine is held as something of a gold standard and is sought after as a show of new found wealth. Picking some homegrown wine for those three bottle wine bags may be a little more expensive in years to come thanks to this striking increase in export demand, but many fans believe wine makers will keep a soft spot for loyal, local customers.

Orange Wine

Normally there is only two options when picking a wine, white or red. But an ancient technique used to make a white wine for the red wine lover’s palate is making a comeback. While technically a white, orange wine is becoming more and more popular as the common person’s taste for wine becomes more developed.                 Finding orange wine can be a real challenge though, if found it is a good idea to fill those six bottle wine carriers.  Orange wine is a great choice for parties or those that like both white and red wine because of having tannin structure similar to a red but with flavors more like a white. This bridging of the two typical wine varieties is achieved by leaving in the skins of the grapes just a little longer than typical and by oxidizing the wine a little for good measure.  Normally oxidizing wine is thought of as a bad thing, but when done in a controlled environment it can make a white wine with a tannic character and beautiful coppery color. Don’t expect to find a bottle of orange wine for cheap, but also expect the wine to live up to its price as making orange wine is a very painstaking process that is not undertaken by winemakers lightly.

Smoked Fish Pairing, Tricky

Strong flavors can be hard to deal with sometimes, smoked fish being an example of a harder flavor to pair with wine.  In fact for most pairing advice smoked fish seems like a paradox. Fish is full of delicate flavors that are typically paired with a white wine, but smoking foods almost always adds deeper notes to the fish as well as heightening the fish’s natural flavors in a way that could possibly make it too strong for some white wines to be enjoyed thoroughly in a pairing.  The chance of just a random wine from the six bottle wine totes suiting smoked fish is slim, as smoked fish is known for not working with wine well for a reason. Thanks to the great variety of smoked fish available though, there is a possibility for a match.                 The classic smoked salmon matches rather easily with a mildly dry red with light herb flavors and maybe even citrus notes.  This combination works so well because fresh wines clean the mouth between bits of fish, but salmon can stand up fairly well to a red.  More white meat fish like trout that have been smoked pair better with smoky, oaked whites like chardonnay. 

Sweet Cheeses Paired with Wine

Fruit is common at wine tastings and on cheese boards, but they are usually the only bits of sweet on a sea of savory, even when served with sweeter wines.  But just like there are sweet wines, there are sweet cheeses, but sweeter cheeses usually are not found at the normal parties’ cheese boards. This is a tragedy that seriously needs some help, because sweet wines are probably tired of being relegated automatically to being paired with cakes and other desserts. Wine naturally so it makes sense that sweet wine should be paired with similarly complicated and fruity cheese.  The complex flavors of wine are meant for equally complex flavors, so if it is too far out of the comfort zone for some to leave brie and the like off the menu, try just a simple dessert with cheese; like pears and stilton.                 This little thought about variety of pairing is a real treat to get into. More satisfying than the average piece of cake or doughnut, and with the added benefits of calcium in the cheese and antioxidants in the wine, these sweet pairings are one of the smarter ways to satisfy a dessert craving. Getting the hang of picking out the right cheeses can take some time, but there are a plethora of resources there to help.

On Freezing Wine

Frozen wine may seem like a tragedy but it is really a fast and easy way to keep wine fresh in a pinch. A partial bottle of wine can simply be stopped or recorked and put in the freezer and saved for another time.  Interestingly enough freezing wine does not damage its delicate tastes or smell. Time would harm a wine more than freezing.  The only possible chance of damaging a wine in the freezer comes from long term freezing or the bottle getting popped open or cracking from the expanding water. Even wine that may have been altered by long term freezing can still be cooked with, if drinking it doesn’t seem appealing anymore.                 Fill three bottle wine totes with care still though. Freezing cannot replace a good wine cellar for aging wine. In fact open bottles are the only ones that can be frozen. Due to water expanding as it freezes an unopened bottle could easily crack or shatter in the freezer.  Of course it is still a great way to save a partial bottle. For best results, let the wine thaw slowly over a day or so, otherwise some dissipation may occur.

Paprika in Pairing

Sometimes the spices of a dish are the real stars, and pairing the wine with the spice in that case would be a tragedy to the enjoyment of the wine and the dish. Paprika for example can be a dominating flavor in a dish like chickpea stew or a traditional Hungarian fish and paprika soup that is red with the spice.                  Paprika is a common Hungarian spice and a great addition to any dish that needs warm pepper smokiness without too much spice.  Dishes where paprika is the dominant flavor, pairing it with chardonnay is a simple and great choice. An oaked chardonnay compliments the smoky perfection of good paprika.

                Trying to fill six bottle wine carriers based on favorite spices can be done. A spice can determine the whole tone of a meal, just as easily as meat can.  Think about the tone of the spice and wither it would be best for a wine to compliment or contrast the spice. The snappy, green woodiness of thyme would be a good note to have complimented in a wine, whereas the kick of chilies may want to be mellowed by a more refreshing wine. Use pairing with herbs and spices as an easy way to find the right wine when more common ways don’t quite hit the mark.

Wine Punch, Not Just Sangria

While normally called Sangria, a wine punch is more than just the Spanish classic drink of fruit and red wine. Breaking this thought can create some tantalizing wine punches that are suitable for occasions all year round. Instead of sticking to the traditional ingredients, add things based more on whim and season to create succulent wine punch that goes with anything. Wines punch really only needs to contain wine, added flavors from fruit and fruit juice, and hard liquor. That leaves the specifics up to personal preference.                 Good wine punch has a more complex flavor than the wine originally used in it, and while good wine is essential to a good punch, and using an extraordinary wine is not a guarantee for success.  Instead go for seasonal flavors, like in fall use apple and darker fruits like cherry to make a distinction from the summer favorite. Versions of wine punch can even be made with two bottle wine carriers full of white wine; it doesn’t have to be a red wine and fruit concoction. Experimenting with different flavors like cranberry or raspberry juice and fruits like apricot or pineapple  that are usually not included in sangria could make for a wine punch more suited to the season of occasion.  

The Pleasure Of Homemade Mulled Wine

                Mulling is the method of adding spices to a drink by heating it slightly and infusing it with other flavors. While cider, mead and many other beverages than wine can be mulled, they all bring to mind warmth and comfort. Mulled wine is very popular in colder climates because of this warming characteristic. But mulled wine isn’t just one drink; there are as many varieties of mulled wine as there are varieties of wine.                  In fact picking the right spices to go into mulled wine takes some thought. Different wines will make distinctive mulled wines if made with spices that suit the wine.  For example a strong red benefits from the perk of citrus, in particular orange. But each wine will have unique tastes that could benefit from the addition of unconventional spices like rosemary or anise or even sugar. Two bottle wine totes seem to be more filled with more warmth already than the refreshing roses of the summer. But even more warmth and holiday feeling can be found in a good mulled wine. But always remember that it is better to steep the spices in the wine for a long time than heat the wine too much.

Wine and Mood Relationship

A lot of children are resistant to trying new foods, they seem to know for a fact that just the look or smell of the food means it is going to taste bad. On a lesser scale even an adult can pull this mental trick on themselves, even when they don’t try to, because the mood one is in can affect the way they perceive tastes. While no one, hopefully, goes into a wine tasting or sits down with a glass planning for it to taste bad; but a foul mood can make even a beautiful wine taste unbalanced.                 To avoid this mental trick take a few minutes to de-stress before taking out the wine accessories, maybe even consciously try to be put in a more positive mindset. This will make for a more enjoyable wine tasting experience or a more delightful glass of an old favorite. Even a short cool down time at a wine tasting before any wine gets taken out, may improve perceptions overall. As an added benefit, happier guests at a tasting or party will talk more and make for a generally more jovial time.

Robert Finigan

The time of a great wine critic has ended on the first of this month with the passing on of Robert Finigan, who has been a prominent figure among wine critics since the 1970s when he broke into the wine world with honest reviews of both fine European and emerging Californian wines.  His opinions were highly valued during his life, especially his tastings of pinot noir and burgundy.                  While later in his career he became interested in being a food critic, he was always an influential wine critic that was brutally honest in his expectations of a wine.  He was an advocate for the consumers too with his praises of wine in all forms, great and small, and looking for the good in any price range. 

                Born in 1943 Robert found his calling to wine and the culinary in college at Harvard.  Thankfully for the world of wine, he became interested in because of his roommates’ associations to wine.  His reviews will be valued for years and years to come and influence selections in wine totes, even if he won’t be around to write more of them. He is survived by his wife and sister, who just like us will miss him greatly. 

To Mix or Not, On Combining Wines

While it may not seem like a big deal to the average person with only a half class of one bottle left and a want for a glass of wine. Pouring the remainder of that bottle in with a little of the new bottle though can actually be seen as an insult to winemakers and even devout wine drinkers. This is not to say that it is a bad habit, just be aware that not everyone will want to drink mixed wine and that the mixing may not always turn out good.                  A wine is already a delicate balance of so many compounds that mixing it with another wine is really a roll of the dice.  If two flavors or compounds clash with each other or if the two wines have high levels of one flavor, the result will take on a very unpleasant unbalance.  There is a place for wine cocktails, a good mix can be perfect for parties, but make sure to let guests know that it is not all of the same wine. It would be a disappointment to a guest to ask what the wine was and have to look through three bottle wine carriers

Small Harvest for California This Year

When knowledgeable wine drinkers talk about “a good year” they may still be talking about this year despite California’s meager grape harvest.  This is because even though yields are at the lowest in years, the weather has been delightfully mild. While a gauntlet of bad luck gave the grapes a hard start, what did survive got a mild growing season that promises low, stable sugar levels. Heat and cold spikes make the plants push sugar into their fruit, a lack of excessive sugars gives winemakers the green light to let the flavors develop.                 This season’s wine is going to be a considered a really sought after. Years like this may make it hard to find wine made from thin skinned grapes like Viognier may be in short supply but the wine that is for sale is expected to be quickly taken home in six bottle wine bags.  This may be a good year to invest in a bottle to age for a few years. The anticipated quality of this year’s wine will mean a slightly higher price on everything, but a chance too for some extraordinarily deep and developed flavors in the wine.  

Wine Vacations and Extras

Going on a vacation to a wine region is not only a great lesson in what goes into making wine, but a great way to taste new wines. Of course though a whole vacation based on that would mean that a good deal of the beauty and entertainment in the wine region would just get passed over. Incorporating other activities into a wine tour is easy because many wine regions also have rich histories or pristine natural beauty to lure visitors away from the grape plants.                  The Loire Valley of France has a great history of being one of the biggest wine producing regions of France, but most of its tourists are more interested in the castles that are scattered along the Loire river and surrounding valley. Finding a nearby castle when on a vacation to Loire’s winemakers could even inspire the wine enthusiast. Some of the wine cellars in the castles are the stuff of stories. And even if making a wine cellar is not an option, maybe wine accessories as reminders of the style and natural beauty that is the Loire valley. Adding other activities makes for a more well-rounded vacation full of memories of all kinds. 

Canadian Wine

Many are surprised to find that Canada has a thriving wine producing region. But indeed it does have a handful of suburb vineyards that are trying very hard to make a name for Canadian wine. Some of the regions known within Canada for their wine are Okanagan Valley, the Niagara Peninsula and Nova Scotia just to name a variety of them.                 For those looking to put some Canadian wine in those wine carriers, a trip up North may be the easiest way to really experience the wine of Canada. Maybe Nova Scotia, the coldest wine region in the world, may be a bit of stretch for a wine tour vacation; try the Niagara Peninsula. The Niagara Peninsula grows over three quarters of the grapes in Canada and has a variety of climates often compared to the Loire valley of France. They grow chardonnay, Riesling and Pinot noir in this area as well as the classic ice wine that more people link to Canada than other wines.  Not to mention this region is known for its pleasant villages and country inns make it feel more like a normal wine region to vacationers. Giving a new wine region a try makes for not only a unique experience but maybe a sneak peek into some of the best upcoming vineyards. 

All in the Aftertaste

The tastes and smells that linger with the drinker after the sip of wine has left their mouth, either having been spit out or drank, if the most important factor in truly enjoying a good wine.  The aftertaste is also called the “finish” and expert wine reviewers pay extra attention to how long a wine’s finish lasts. This is because a quality wine will have a long and complex finish, often which includes tastes not even present in the initial sip.                 Wine with a good finish make a great part of wine gifts to those just starting to appreciate the subtleties of wine drinking. Paying extra attention to how long a wine leaves its impression on the palette is how to really taste the wine like a professional.  They take note of any taste that lingers in the mouth, or any taste that appears only in the aftertaste. All too often people will take a sip of wine and not wait patiently for the aftertaste to finish before taking a bite of food, or another sip of the wine. Not only is this an amateurish move to pull at a wine tasting, but also a way to get cheated out of a lot of the wine enjoying experience. Give thirty seconds between sips minimum to really take in a wine’s true flavors.