Tuesday, December 30, 2008

So Much Good Juice

Terry post:

It wasn't that long ago that buying a bottle of wine was risky business. The dissimination of important quality and tasting information was held by a few professionals. The knowledge, understanding, experience (what ever you want to call it) was concentrated in geographic areas where people drank a lot of wine (California and New York) and in a few wine journals which were not widely available.

In the mid-1980's Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and Marvin Shanken's Wine Spectator began to get a strong foothold. Robert Parker (wine geek first, publisher second) reviews migrated from newsletters to monthly magazines while Shanken (publisher first, wine snob second) started with the large-format glossy magazine. With an expanding middle class the 80's was a prime time to become knowledgeable about wine.

Wine sales have benefitted from the proliferation of knowledge via the internet and sites dedicated to the product. It is this exhange of information which has made the purchase of wine less of a risky business. In fact, I would contend that the dissimination of knowledge has helped improve the quality of the product while reducing the price to the consumer.

I started enjoying wine when I lived in San Diego in the 1980s first drinking "box wine" and then graduating to something less embarrasing. In fact, it was Robert Mondavi and his innovative sales and marketing that lured me into what is called "premium" wine: and I am thankful most every day. The high profile products of Mondavi created a standard to which other producers took aim.

Which brings me (finally) to my primary point: there is alot of good wine out there. It has been over a year since I had a bad bottle of wine. And, in this instance it was an Italian red that a local wine shop gifted me on the condition that I provide him my opinion of the product. The wine was awful - thin, one-dimensional and tannic. But, it was free after all.

Since there is so much good (great) wine out there what wine should a person drink?

  • Drink what you like. If YOU like it: it is good wine. Don't worry about what other people think about your selection.
  • Expand your tastes outward. If you like whites, then try expanding your taste in other directions. Try varietals you've not tried before. Try wines from regions you've not tried before.
  • Try wine from small local wineries. One downside of the market is that the big guys get all of the shelf space - if we (as wine consumers) want a wide variety of products, then it is our duty to ensure the small guys get some sales.

~ Terry

Monday, December 29, 2008

Iowa and Wine?

Brad posts:

There is an old and tired joke among people who dabble in wine, it goes something like this: “Do you know how to make a small fortune in the wine business? Start with a large fortune.” Although I suppose there is more than a little truth to the dry wit of my wine-brethren, I still cannot help but cringe every time I hear that oaky passage. Alas, I must admit to the lure of bug-infested vineyards whose heavily fruit laden loads tease me with a waft of what might be. And as much as I am tempted by the green oasis and the constant attention demanded of the vineyard, I am also drawn to the back-breaking tedium of the crush as the grape-must calls out to me with her yeasty aroma!

Wine may not be “in my blood”, but I suspect there is a DNA marker hidden in my genes for some lone biologist to uncover after my last crush. In the past few years I have spent nearly all of my free time either making wine, reading about making wine, or taking winemaking classes… and of course enjoying a sip or two as I uncover the secrets of enology.

And of all places…in Iowa!

It is here, in the heartland, nestled among the cornfields and hogs, where the beginning of something impressive can be felt. Unless you have paid close attention, it is doubtful many outside of our modest Midwestern vineyards and wineries have noticed the accolades from international wine judges. Fine wines are now being made from grapes you may never have heard of before, such as Chambourcin, Marechal Foch, Norton, Frontenac, Marquette, St. Croix (some of the reds); and La Crosse, St. Pepin, La Crescent, Brianna, Frontenac Gris, and Seyval Blanc (some of the whites).

The grapes we raise for our wines must be, not unlike good Midwestern stock, hardy in order to make it through very cold winters. These grapes are made for extreme weather! Thanks to the researchers at the Univ. of Minnesota a new varietal called Marquette, a cousin of Frontenac and grandson of Pinot noir, can handle temperatures as low as -35F and still produce a crop – not to mention make excellent wine.

The good fortune joked about earlier may not be in the size of the winery or the funds needed to start, but the good fortune may be yours when you try something new (and yes, from Iowa) and find it to be delicious!

Cheers! ~Brad

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Pork and Clams

Terry post:
Typically, people will begin with a entree and then find a wine with which to accompany. Typically, but not always. Earlier this year I purchased a case of Castelo do Papa - a white Spanish Godello at a very good price and have been trying various dishes with the wine.

If you crack open a wine magazine they'll tell you that Godello is best when paired with seafood and for the most part I agree. The taste is dryer than a Pinot Grigio and having a nose reminiscent of a good Sauvignon Blanc: pear, almond and a little citris. The good ones are crisp and clean. The great ones have a deep golden hue, and concentrated citris flavors. The Castelo do Papa is a good Godello and at $3.47 a bottle - a great value wine.

This evening I tried the Godello with one of my seafood favorites: Pork and Clams. I highly recommend the Godello with the Pork and Clams.

2 lbs of clams (24 to 36 depending upon size)
1.5 to 2 lbs of pork loin
4 cloves of fresh garlic chopped
2 tablespoons of salt
1 tablespoon of red pepper flakes (the hot ones)
8 tablespoons of cooking oil
1/4th cup of Godello wine

1. Combine 4 tablespoons of oil, garlic, pepper flakes and salt and set them aside.
2. Cut the pork loin into nice sized cubes - about 1 to 2 inches per side. Add the oil mixture to the pork loin and toss well to cover the meat. Cover and allow the mixture to marinate for 12 - 24 hours.
3. Scrub the clams.
4. Purge the clams using a mixture of 1/3 cup of kosher salt and one gallon of water. I like to purge the clams over night. Expect to change the water at least twice. Some people advocate adding a little cornmeal to the water as it help the clams purge out the old nasty stuff inside.
5. Fry the pork in 4 tablespoons of oil using a hot pan. You'll want a nice browned pork. It is best to not fry all of the pork at one time - if you put all of the pork in at once the heat will decrease and the pork will "boil" in its juice and not fry.
6. After the pork is cooked. Return all of the pork back into the pan and get the pan very hot. Add the clams and the wine. Cover. You want to cook the clams in a hot pan so that they open quickly. The clams should all open in 3 to 4 minutes. Discard any that don't open.
7. Transfer the pork, clams and juice to a large dish. Serve with basic salad, Italian bread and (of course) the Godello wine.