Win a Tapena Party Pack

Let the sunshine of Spain brighten your winter! With the wines of Tapeña you can add a festive feel to any holiday get together.

The name says it all. Tapeña is a fusion of “tapas,” the beloved Spanish dishes and dining experience, and “peña,” a gathering of close friends. Together, Tapeña wine with food and friends make for a great pairing.

Easy to spot at your local wine shop with its bright colors and fork image, Tapeña wines are both food and wallet friendly, costing less than $10 a bottle.

Bring the fun to your home by entering to win a Tapeña party pack. One winner will receive four bottles of Tapeña wine (Verdejo, Rosé, Garnacha and Tempranillo), a Spanish cookbook and other goodies that will make for a memorable get together with friends this holiday season.

To enter share your favorite Spanish wine pairing. In the form below tell us your favorite Spanish wine (Verdejo, Albariño, Garnacha, Tempranillo, Monastrell, etc), and how you like to enjoy it — with a favorite dish, setting or experience. Be creative — with Spain’s vibrant culture the pairings are limitless!

Need some ideas? Click here for Tapeña’s pairing suggestions and recipes or click here to listen to music inspired by Tapeña.

The deadline to enter is Friday, December 2, 2011 at 6pm EST. The winner will be chosen at random and notified by email on December 3rd. He/she will need to provide a U.S. mailing address to receive the Tapeña party pack.

You must be 21 years of age or older to enter the contest; by entering you verify that you are over 21 years old.

To learn more about Tapeña visit tapenawines.com or check out Tapeña’s blog.
You can also like Tapeña on Facebook or follow @tapenawine on Twitter.
Click here to find out where Tapeña is sold in your area.

Tapeña offers a rewards program where you earn points for purchases which can be redeemed for gifts. Click here for details.

Thanks to everyone who entered and congratulations to the winner!

Libby from Florida wrote her favorite pairing is “a beautiful albarino paired with a soothing, refreshing fish stew. It’s a marriage of flavors from a region where albarino and seafood evolved together, securing a place in Spain’s culture while educating the rest of the world about how a wine pairing is mean to be. Each taste makes the other taste better and together, they are elevated to a new flavor profile – the place where the pairings sing in harmony together.”

Here are some more favorite Spanish wines and pairings:

“Tempranillo with Jamon Serrano, Manchego cheese, some fruit, and fresh bread.”
Talia, Washington, DC

“Hard to pick a favorite, but I’ll go with Garnacha with lamb meatballs!”
Diane, California

“Rioja Reserva and Grilled Rib-Eye.”
Robert, Washington

“For a cold winter night, I’d make a pot of beef stew served with rustic bread. Add a little ambience with a fireplace lit, candles on the table, soft music and a nice tempranillo! Want to join me?”
Leonora, California

A Map for the World Traveler

Looking for a gift for the world traveler? Get him or her the Scratch Map.

Unique and innovative, this map helps you keep track of where you’ve visited in a fun way. Just scratch off the places where you’ve traveled to reveal a splash of color and local facts.

No passport is required — just keep a coin handy to mark your trips.

Hang the map on a wall to add a touch of whimsy to any room.

The map is made of paper and is 32.2″ wide and 22.9″ tall.

Scratch Map, $24, available online at UncommonGoods.com.

image from UncommonGoods.com

It’s Time for Wine: Corks vs. Screw Tops

Does the Debate Still Have Legs?

By Monty and Sara Preiser

As wine writers and educators, as well as publishers and vintners, we are constantly asked questions about varying aspects of the wine industry. Probably the most often asked question has to do with what we think about screw top closures on bottles of wine.

Like with so many other inquiries, a simple “yes” or “no” answer would be misleading. No matter which one word answer we would give, an explanation would have to follow in order to be accurate. Obviously, then, there are pros and cons to both positions, and these are affected by a myriad of factors, desires, and situations. We will try to cover the most important information and beliefs below, and finish with our own conclusions drawn on experience, study, and common sense.

It has always struck us as odd that in discussions about this subject we have never heard anyone question whether or not a finished wine is SUPPOSED to age. The only reason corks were used as a bottle closure in the first place was that there were no other substances available that could do the job and be opened in a reasonably simple manner. And does one suppose that the first people to employ corks thought about the slow aging process that would ultimately change the wine’s characteristics? Quite doubtful. Therefore, one might credibly argue that the changes caused by aging are NOT the natural or desired results of a finished bottle of wine. It could well be that a screw top, which inhibits aging for some indefinite, but longish, period, is the way things ought to be and would have been used long ago if available.

So at this point before any debate over screw caps vs. cork closures goes too far afoot, it would seem that the answer as to which is desired depends in great part on the individual and how s/he prefers his or her wine. If s/he desires higher fruit and youth, the screw top would be the way to go on wines of all types. If s/he prefers the emergence and ultimate flavors of secondary characteristics, then slow oxygenation permitted through the living and always somewhat porous cork is the answer.

For those who are certain they prefer the fruit forward, young taste of a wine, regardless of the varietal, the debate over which is better – cork or screw top – is moot. It should make no difference to them, except perhaps for some academic purpose. The pragmatic argument continues, however, for those who are interested in consuming wines affected by the traditional aging process.

As we know, natural cork is (or was) a living substance. As such, many factors can play on its makeup. The one that is most devastating to the wine industry is tricholroanisole (TCA), which transfers unpleasant musty smells and taste from the cork to the wine, which is then itself highly affected by losing fruit and structure. When this happens, a wine is referred to as being “corked.” Depending on one’s susceptibility to, and experience with, this smell, as many as 1 out of every 12-15 wines can be ruined to one degree or another. Obviously, the economic effect on the wine industry, which must replace these bottles and obviously lose its product, is serious. Consumers also suffer if they cannot get a refund, something that is sometimes impossible for many reasons.

Should you be thinking about synthetic corks (usually made of plastic so there will be no TCA), the problem with them seems to be that they have not shown much, if any, ability to stop oxidization, and so their use needs to be limited to wines that will be enjoyed relatively quickly. If chosen, then, one should realize the shelf life of a wine will become diminished, and there will be little chance for beneficial aging. All in all there is considerable doubt as to the efficient use of synthetic corks as a viable closure (not to mention that they are extremely hard on good wine openers).

To the screw top, or, if you like, screw cap. There is no doubt that, as a pure seal, these are better than anything else. They also, for all intents and purposes, eliminate the problem of a corked bottle and early oxygenation. What they do not allow is the romance of opening the cork, something not to be underestimated. Screw caps are also associated with cheaper wines – conversely, expensive and high end wines are associated with a cork. What is not yet conclusively established is whether screw cap closures allow for long term (perhaps decades or even generations) of aging.

The best known brand of wine screw cap is Stelvin, now owned by Amcor. Like people referring to all tissues as Kleenex, this closure is so common that many refer to all screw tops as Stelvins or Stelvin closures, regardless of brand. What sets the Stelvin apart from its competitors (not many left) is an aesthetically pleasing long outside skirt that resembles the traditional foil capsule on a wine bottle. Also, Stelvin uses polyvinylidene chloride (PVDC) as a neutral liner on the inside wadding of the cap, which creates a better seal than other substances.

While boxed wines using bladders and other closures such as glass are now on the marketplace and showing promise, their evaluations are ripe for another story at another time. The discussion here is limited to the two most common closures that spark the greatest numbers of questions and debates.

So here is our conclusion, which we think is quite credible under all the circumstances:

Most white wines in the U.S. will be consumed within a couple of years and so screw caps are they way to go. It just makes sense not to worry about TCA. For big Chardonnays designed to age, however, we think a cork is better and that the wines actually do improve if they age under proper conditions. As for red wines, once again we think screw caps would be fine for any of them designed to be consumed within a couple of years. But for most Bordeaux varietals and Pinot Noirs of quality, again we prefer a cork so that these wines can age and gain in sophistication. We are among those who love the wondrous secondary characteristics such as forest floor, leather, and dirt that are exhibited by an older red.

And here is the real bottom line. The question of cork enclosures has been around for a long time now – easily 20 years or so. Tests performed by screw top manufacturers or wineries with inexpensive portfolios are suspect for obvious reasons. Only high end wineries that lose a great deal of money from corked wines have the impetus to actually find a reason to use the screw top. So one can expect they have tried to discover some proof that screw tops are at least as good for all wines.

In all these years, however, there is no persuasive study (that means zero) that concludes screw tops allow a wine to age well and obtain those luscious flavors and nuances preferred by so many of us. If such a finding existed, you can bet the house that you would have heard it trumpeted to the mountaintops by now. We predict, then, that corks will be around for a long time to not only add aging ability, but to help maintain that special feeling that naturally comes with the opening of that anticipated bottle.

——————————————————————–

It’s Time for Wine is a column published by wine writers and educators Monty and Sara Preiser that is featured on the Amateur Gastronomer.

Monty and Sara Preiser reside full time in Palm Beach County, Florida, and spend their summers visiting wineries and studying wines on the west coast where they have a home in Napa. For many years they were the wine columnists for The Boca Raton News, have served as contributors to the South Florida Business Journal, and are now the principal wine writers for Sallys-Place.com.  Monty and Sara also publish The Preiser Key to Napa Valley, the most comprehensive guide to wineries and restaurants in the Napa Valley, published every March, July, and November.  Click here to read more columns by the Preisers.

Barbecue and Moonshine at D.B.A.

If you think moonshine can only be good when it is illegal, you haven’t tasted Junior Johnson Midnight Moon paired with D.B.A. Barbecue.

The Virginia Highland restaurant recently held a Harvest Moonshine Dinner – four courses paired with a different moonshine.

The infamous spirit is made by distilling corn – a process that is legal if the distillery is licensed by the government and pays taxes. Moonshine is clear and without color, and has an alcohol percentage around 40% (80 proof).

Junior Johnson’s Midnight Moon can appeal to fans of the illegal stuff as well as cocktail drinkers. Though today’s distillation process is state-of-the-art, Midnight Moon stays true to its origins.

The moonshine recipe was handed down through several generations of the NASCAR legend’s family. It is still made in Johnson’s home state of North Carolina using American-grown corn.

It is the triple distillation that sets Midnight Moon apart from other moonshine. This gives the spirit a smooth and clean taste (and presumably won’t make you go blind).

Midnight Moon can be enjoyed neat, on the rocks or in cocktails. More flavorful than other clear spirits, the moonshine adds a different dimension to mixed drinks. Shake it with a touch of vermouth for a martini or add it to Bloody Marys for a new version of the brunch favorite.

Junior Johnson imparts even more flavor to his moonshine by adding fresh fruit. The range bottled in mason jars includes cherry, blueberry, cranberry, strawberry and apple pie moonshines.

These flavored moonshines go great with barbecue – and D.B.A. owner Matt Coggin offered up some of his best dishes to show how delicious sweet and savory can be.

Mouthwatering pulled pork sliders were paired with a cocktail made with Junior Johnson Cherry Moonshine. Covered in a tangy barbecue sauce and topped with coleslaw, the juicy sliders were nicely complemented by a touch of sweet cherry in the dangerously easy to drink cocktail.

Smoked maple bourbon glazed pork belly and creamy parmesan grits were paired with Junior Johnson Strawberry Moonshine that was served on the rocks. The cold moonshine was nice and refreshing after each bite of pork belly.

For the main course D.B.A. served up a standout dish — smoked beef short rib with horseradish mashed potatoes and caramelized Brussels sprouts. Alone each item was excellent; together they were extraordinary. The short rib was served with a Pickled Moonshine Martini. Junior Johnson’s original moonshine was mixed with pickle juice and served over ice for a unique take on the dirty martini.

Both separately and together, the dish and drink were the highlight of the evening. The flavors in the cocktail went really well with the short rib and especially the Brussels sprouts, which are one of the more difficult foods to pair. The martini was dry and crisp, a great palate cleanser after each bite with a kick from the brine.

Dessert offered two sweets: D.B.A.’s wonderful apple cobbler and Junior Johnson Apple Pie Moonshine. Infused with apples and cinnamon, the moonshine was sweet enough to enjoy on its own.

One meal and you’ll be hooked. Dine at D.B.A. Barbecue for a pairing so good you’ll be glad it’s legal.

D.B.A. Barbecue, 1190 North Highland Avenue NE Suite B, Atlanta, 30306.
(404) 249-5000.

Click here for more information on Junior Johnson Midnight Moon.

STK Atlanta to Open Mid December

The wait is almost over. Sexy NYC-based STK has announced its Atlanta restaurant will open in mid December.

The combination modern steakhouse and chic lounge located at 12th & Midtown is set to become the place to go for an exciting night out.

Adding a local touch to the STK brand will be General Manager Marcus Marshall who was formerly with Concentrics Group, and Executive Chef Jeremy Miller who was formerly at BluePointe.

The menu will feature high quality steaks of various cuts and sizes along with seafood, side dishes, appetizers, desserts and cocktails. In addition to specialty items created by Chef Miller there will be STK’s popular Jumbo Lump Crab Salad, Beef Tartare and lil’ BRGs.

The signature decor is a mix of black gloss, violet and cream, with creamy leather banquettes, black platform seats, a large central lounge area and an exclusive dining room for more formal occasions. Theatrical lights, smoky mirrors and a DJ booth add to the sleek and energetic vibe.

Dress to impress. And if STK Atlanta is like the steakhouse’s other locations you’re likely to spot a celebrity or two.

STK, part of The ONE Group hospitality company, has locations in New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Miami.

STK Atlanta, 1075 Peachtree Street, Atlanta, GA 30309. (646) 624-2400
Soft opening on December 15th, now accepting reservations.
Dinner Monday through Sunday beginning at 5:30pm.

To stay connected like STK Atlanta on Facebook or follow STK Atlanta on Twitter.

A Trio of Ravenswood Zinfandel — Great Pairing for Your Holiday Meal

Zinfandel makes a great pairing with holiday meals. Flavors that range from bright and fruity to dark and spicy make Zinfandel an extremely food-friendly red wine, whether you’re serving turkey, ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes, vegetables or beyond.

If your holiday get together also includes a variety of tastes when it comes to wine, Ravenswood has you covered. The Sonoma, California winery produces a variety of Zinfandels that are worthy of a spot at your table.

If you or your guests prefer red wine on the lighter to medium side, try the 2009 Ravenswood Vintners Blend Old Vine Zinfandel. This wine spent 14 months in 25% new French oak barrels.

Fun, fruity and approachable, this Zinfandel is bursting with ripe berries. The Vintners Blend has mouthwatering flavors of raspberry, plum and boysenberry, with a touch of black pepper at the end.

For those who like a little more oomph to their Zin there is the 2008 Ravenswood Sonoma County Old Vine Zinfandel. This wine is 84% Zinfandel rounded out with 8% Petite Sirah, 6% Carignan and 2% mixed black grapes. The grapes come from vineyards in the Dry Creek, Sonoma, Alexander and Russian River Valleys.

Compared to the first Zinfandel, the Sonoma Zin has darker fruit notes. Black cherry, plum, blueberry and blackberry mingle with black pepper, cedar, tobacco and baking spices. The tannins, while more pronounced than with the Vintners Blend, are still soft and give a fuller structure to the wine. Well-balanced acidity and a nice lingering finish are sure to make this wine a crowd-pleaser.

For those who like their Zinfandel dark and intense there is the 2008 Ravenswood Teldeschi Zinfandel. The grapes for this wine come entirely from the Teldeschi vineyard in Dry Creek Valley. The Zinfandel is blended with 20% Petite Sirah, 3% Carignan and 2% Alicante Bouschet. The wine spent 20 months in French oak, of which 31% was new.

The Teldeschi Zinfandel lures you in with aromas of black fruits, spice and chocolate. The taste is rich and exciting. Blackberry, dark plum and black cherry are layered with coffee, dark chocolate, nutmeg, cigar box and a hint of vanilla. Silky tannins give the wine a lush and velvety mouthfeel. The flavors in the wine continue to expand as it mixes with air so you may want to decant the bottle before serving.

Have your guests taste each wine and pick their favorite to enjoy during the meal, or start with the lightest Zinfandel and move to the heaviest as your feast progresses.

If you would rather pick one Zinfandel to serve at your meal, match the intensity of the wine with the intensity of the flavors in the food. If the dishes you’ll be serving are lighter, go for a fruit-forward, juicy Zinfandel. If your dishes are rich and hearty, serve a full-bodied Zinfandel that has spicy and earthy notes.

Ravenswood Vintners Blend Zinfandel 2009, $10. 13.5% abv.
Ravenswood Sonoma County Old Vine Zinfandel 2008, $16. 14.5% abv.
Ravenswood Teldeschi Zinfandel 2008, $35. 14.5% abv.

More Red Wines | White Wines | Under $20

A Taste of the Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau 2011

Le Beaujolais Nouveau 2011 est arrivé!

Beaujolais Nouveau is produced in the Beaujolais region of Burgundy in France. In accordance with French law it is released on the third Thursday in November — November 17, 2011.

Beaujolais Nouveau is a light bodied red wine made entirely from Gamay grapes. It pairs well with turkey, ham and other favorite holiday dishes.

Harvest for the 2011 Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau began on August 22nd and finished on September 15th. According to Georges Duboeuf, the ideal weather during harvest was a perfect end to a great growing season.

“It looks as if the 2011 vintage will top every excellent year in the Beaujolais wine hall of fame. It is like nature has granted, under the sunshine of April and June and the heat of late August, a dazzling crop of Gamay. The grapes were a splendid, beautiful deep black. Each small grape shaped perfectly with ripe, thick, sweet and dense thick skin; everything it will need to become an exceptional vintage under the skill and talent of the winemaker.”

Beaujolais Nouveau fans around the world can now take their first sips of the 2011 vintage.

The wine is purple-magenta in color, with aromas of fresh dark fruit. The fruit-forward flavor shows off notes that are darker and more intense than the 2010 Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau. The wine has silky flavors of fresh boysenberry, blackberry, plum, blueberry and raspberry, with a smooth mouthfeel and crisp finish.

Click here to read about this year’s graffiti-inspired label designed by Brooklyn artist Kaves

Beaujolais Nouveau should be served slightly chilled, around 55 ºF. Place the bottle in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to achieve this temperature.

A bottle of the Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau 2011 costs $10.

alcohol 12.5% by volume

photo of grapes from Georges Duboeuf

AG Pick: Craggy Range Chardonnay 2010

With all the attention paid to New Zealand’s Sauvignon Blanc it may be easy to overlook the country’s Chardonnay. While Craggy Range Vineyards produces lovely Sauvignon Blanc, the Chardonnay should not be missed.

Refreshing acidity, pleasing minerality and just the slightest touch of oak make the 2010 Craggy Range Chardonnay reminiscent of its French counterpart.

Craggy Range is a family-owned winery that specializes in single vineyard wines. Their 2010 Chardonnay is produced entirely from Chardonnay from Kidnappers Vineyard in Hawkes Bay. The Hawkes Bay region is located along the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island.

Grapes for the Craggy Range Chardonnay were mainly harvested by hand. Fermentation took place in stainless steel and closed oak tanks. The wine spent five months in 8% new French oak barrels.

This Chardonnay is pale straw yellow in color with tart aromas of citrus. The taste is light and crisp, with flavors of lemon, white grapefruit, starfruit and a hint of toasted almond. Mineral notes of flint and chalk give the wine added depth. Overall the wine is refined and elegant, and highly enjoyable to sip as an aperitif or with food.

The Craggy Range Chardonnay can be paired with shellfish, salads and light seafood or pasta dishes.

A bottle of the Craggy Range Kidnappers Vineyard Chardonnay 2010 costs $22.

13.5% alcohol by volume

More White Wines | Red Wines | Under $20