Tuesday, December 31, 2019

What to Drink now that Winter is finally here!

Happy 2020!
Winter has finally arrived to NYC, and even though I have lived in the Tri-state area for longer than in my country (Argentina) fyi, I will celebrate my 29th anniversary in America next March, still snow and temperatures below 20 will never be my thing! Probably because in Santa Fe, where I was born and grew up, is not as cold, the coldest it gets is only 32, and that is something that doesn’t happen every year, either! So winters in NYC were always tough for me, will I ever learn to love the snow and freezing temperatures?

With this in mind, what can La Wina possibly drink to to keep warm and cheer up during the shortest and coldest days?  Williams & Humbert Crema De Alba, a delicious creamy spirit made with Brandy de Jerez Gran Duque de Alba Reserva and a concoction of cream, cacao and vanilla.

Smooth, velvety and sweet Williams & Humbert Crema de Alba is wonderful drink to have chilled, on its own or on ice. I loved it the first time I tasted this in the early 2000s, but then it was only available in Spain. To my surprise, I attended a Sherry master class by Williams & Humbert a few months back and there it was the Crema De Alba, now available in the US, and with suggested retail price of only $22. Wonderful!

It tastes very similar to a dulce de leche liqueur, I used to make in Argentina, behind my parents back….. Yes! once upon a time, me and my friends used to blend, 2 spoons of dulce de leche, 1 spoon of powder cocoa and 2 measures of cognac from my father’s stash…it was our favorite drink to watch soap operas at nap time, ah... those were the days!...Later that year, when I went with my friends to Bariloche (the Aspen of Argentina), my mother herself prepared a whole bottle of this drink…for us to make the cold weather more tolerable. I guess she knew what I was doing, all along😉

But back to our Crema de Alba, the base of this incredible liquor is Williams & Humbert Brandy de Jerez Gran Duque de Alba, made from Palomino and Airén grapes, and distilled in stills to perfection. This brandy is then aged in a solera system of american oak casks where previously Oloroso sherry had been aged. By all means, if you are Brandy drinker, I highly recommend you give it a try, too. 

Thank you, Williams & Humbert & Palm Bay Imports for providing samples for me to taste… I’m happy to report that the Winos were crazy about this one too! Silvina.

#thoughtsoflawina #lifeisbetterwithlawina #Williams&Humbert

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Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Value Wines, Where Art Thou?

This is by far the topic I like the most, where can I get value wines? Where as from which countries? But, also where to find the best prices?

As far as countries, most come from the New World:US: Finger Lakes, Washington state, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. It’s easier to find here great quality wines that are affordable
(costs less than $20) and made from the international grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Shiraz and blends etc.
In the Old World we can find the best values coming from Spain, Portugal, France (only at the entry label & Languedoc) Germany, Austria, and certain parts of Italy (Southern appellations but also there are values in Chianti/Tuscany and the Veneto).

Value can also come from varieties not very well known, Mencia, Nero d’ Avola,Tannat, Malbec, Pinotage, Torrontes, Godello,Touriga Nacional, etc. So don’t be afraid to open your horizons and try some of these! You will be pleasantly surprised.

As far as finding value, La Wina buys and endorses Trader Joe’s, though their selection is not big but they usually have some of the best prices. Also Wholesale clubs: both BJS and Costco sell wines, and their prices are much better than any other wine store.

If you are only buying at a Wine store, it’s good to check their discounts offered when you buy a case or more. Some of them offer up to 30% off. Check prices online often. One of my favorite stores is Gianonne wines, they reduce their prices up to $2 per bottle if you put the order via the internet. Since I buy most of my stuff online, for me is ideal, I put the order through, save some money and my case of wines is ready for me to be picked up later that the day.

You should know, that the big percentage of wines I recommend, are 1) wines that I have tasted and that I really liked, or 2) wines that have been received 90 pts minimum by trade magazines such as Wine Spectator/ Wine Enthusiast and James Suckling (who used to be with the Wine Spectator before). Sometimes both situations happen (the wine received a great review and I tasted it and liked it). If the wines received great reviews but then after I taste them, I don’t like them, I usually take them out of my list. I also check online that my recommendations are available in several stores in the US. The only exception to the 90 pts rule are value sparkling and Rosé wines, unfortunately sometimes these wines get only between 86 to 89 pts, in this case I'm willing to let this rule go. I will however dedicate a post about wine ratings and their importance in the future, so stay tuned for more.

These are the latest gems I have found, and if you haven’t finished your holiday shopping, these could be great gifts for the wine lover in your list:

Jermann Pinot Grigio 2017 $19
Mohua Sauvignon Blanc 2018 $15.99
De Wetshof Estate Chardonnay Limestone 2019 $14.99
Mionetto Prosecco NV, $12
Jaume Serra Cristalino Cava NV $9
Famille Perrin Cotes du Rhone Villages 2017 $14.99
Borgo Scorpeto Chianti Classico 2016 $20.99
Alma Negra Malbec Bonarda 2017 $21.99
Luigi Bosca Malbec 2017 $18.99

Happy Holidays, Dear Winos! I wish you an incredible 2020, full of good wine and memories. Cheers! Silvina
#thoughtsoflawina #lifeisbetterwithlawina #winewednesday

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Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Matching Foods with Wines, plus Holiday Recommendations

With the holidays a few days away, and thinking about all the wonderful food you are about to enjoy soon, I decided it was time to talk about matching food and wine. Especially, because wine plays always a very important role in all of your holiday gatherings. Let's start by the beginning with rule #1: when matching food and wine, it's important to keep the balance between the two.
All of my winos have heard me say this, many times: the most important quality a wine can have, is its balanceBalance of the elements is the holy grail of any wine producer in the world, it’s important to integrate all key components in a wine: fruit, acidity, tannins, alcohol, sweetness and body; so, that no element overpowers the other, the same rule applies when matching food and wine, we don’t want the wine to overpower the food or worse the wine to disappear when matched with the incorrect dishes. No, Cabernet Sauvignon with chicken or turkey please!

A few things to keep in mind here, when in doubt, keep it local, meaning match wines and dishes from the same region. One of the best matches is Goat Cheese with Sancerre (Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley), Beef Bourguignon and Pinot noir, Sausages and Alsace Riesling etc, do match local foods with local wine.

Body in wine is a key element to match with food, if you eat/cook light dishes, then the obvious choice will be a light bodied wine: Baked Flounder and Pinot Gris for example and match big dishes with big wines: Steak and Cabernet Sauvignon or Lamb with Syrah. Match, light with light and big with big, and there’s plenty of medium bodied wines to match with everyday meals, such as Pizza, Hamburgers, Quiche. Also not only consider the main component in the dish but also the sauces, since these can change the texture of any dish.

Acidity: in the case of acidity, we can apply the law of opposites: high acid wines will go well with sweet dishes. I’m not talking desserts here, but dishes with sweet sauces. Acid can also be reduced when matched with fat, french fries and champagne (try it, it’s so good) And of course acid will match with acid, or in place of acid, if you use lemon in your dishes, then match this dish with a high acid wine.

Tannins: these are usually drying in your palate and bitter, so when considering a pairing look for dishes that will soften them in your mouth. Protein and fat can help reduce and soften the blow of the astringency found in tannins. That is why most red tannic wines will pair beautifully with hard cheeses and red meats.

Oak: oaky wines are better matched with dishes with butter and cream; these two ingredients will make dishes big so choose big wines. A good example of this, is lobster with oaky Chardonnay. Also, consider here the spices that oak in wines may provide, like coconut, or vanilla, caramel, coffee, chocolate, etc.
Match savory foods with savory wines, spicy wines (I will dedicate a post about these wines soon, Carménère and Malbec are two examples) are perfect with savory foods, but be careful with the spices, some may be too hot. Spicy wines go well with Middle Eastern foods. Now, if your dishes are very hot like Chili, it will be best to match them with an off dry or sweet wine, applying the law of opposites: do match Riesling and Indian Food.

Sweet dishes such as dessert will go very well with sweet wines, or a sweet wine can replace dessert, instead of eating cake, you can have a glass of Sauternes, or Port. Match Port with Chocolates, Ice Cream with PX Sherry, Tarte Tatin with Sauternes, Moscato D’Asti and Birthday Cake.

More recommendations in the chart below:
Beef, Lamb Chops, Hard Cheeses
Powerbombs: Barolo, Bordeaux, Priorat,  Rhone Valley reds, Ribera del Duero, Argentinean Malbec, CA and Chilean Cabernets.
Veal, Salmon, Tuna, Chicken, Turkey
Light and Classic:Pinot Noir, Burgundy, California or Aussie Chardonnay, Rosé
White Fish: filet of Sole, Pollock, Cod
Medium Whites:Sancerre, Pouilly Fume, NZ Sauvignon Blanc
Charcouterie, Hamburgers,Pasta
Light Reds:Beaujolais, Rioja Crianza, Chianti, Barbera D' Alba
Vegetarian Dishes
Light Whites: Pinot Grigio, Alsace and German Riesling, Austria Gruner Veltliner
Oysters, Shrimp, Sushi
Dry Whites: Muscadet, Chablis, Manzanilla and Fino Sherries, Champagne
My Holiday Recommendations:
Below are some of the wines I tasted lately and loved! Some of these are a bit pricey but they are so worthy of once or twice a year splurge.

Amiraut Crémant de Loire Les Quarterons NV $31.99
Delamotte Champagne Brut NV $65.99
Laurent Perrier Brut NV $45 

Big Reds:
Famille Perrin Gigondas La Gille 2017 $38.99   
Marqués de Cáceres Gran Reserva 2011, Rioja $39.99
Charles Krug Cabernet 2016, Napa $30

Allegrini Amarone della Valpolicella 2014 $60
Alion 2015, Ribera del Duero $125

Cheers! Silvina
#thoughtsoflawina #lifeisbetterwithlawina #winewednesday

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