Tuesday, October 27, 2020

And we found a wine treasure in a laundry room!

I swear this story is true! We found a treasure in a laundry room. It was Summer of 2020, one of my winas (this is how I call my students at NSSR Economics who learn and taste wines with me) sent me a picture of a bottle via WhatsApp.

She had gone to do her laundry during the pandemic at her sister’s building and surprise, surprise, she found a basket full of wine bottles with a sign that read “free for all”.  She and her sister took some of the bottles to drink at home.  There, she found a treasure: a bottle of Carruades de Lafite 1985. Her sister said to her, “leave it, that is probably not good”. Luckily to all of us (included me), she had been for the last year and half, learning and tasting wines with me, so she asked me, Silvina, is this any good? My answer was, ”take that bottle and keep it safe, until we can drink it together.” 

If you read my blog, you know I’m a fan of aged wines, especially those that have the ability to age gracefully, this was after all, the second label of Chateau Lafite-Rothchild, one of the best producers in the world from Pauillac, Bordeaux. Immediately I checked the price online, the bottle that she had found was only available in auction, and the current price was $200. 

When we met to celebrate one of our friend's birthday, we decided to open this coveted bottle. Off, I went to New York, exactly two Tuesdays ago, bringing with me a bottle of Abbona Barolo 2016 and a bottle of Gonzalez Byass Nectar PX Sherry (I’m already tasting for my post to be published next week about sherry), plus olives filled with smoked salmon, grape leaves filled with lemon rice, a potato tortilla (Spanish omelet). Plus, what the others brought: pita chips and dips, cheese, cold cuts, cake and of course we added her wine, the party was on!

At around 4:30 pm, when I uncorked the Carruades de Lafite 1985 , the cork broke into tiny pieces in my hands. This has happened to me before, every time I tried to open a wine that is at least 10 years old. Thankfully, she had a fine colander, so we passed the wine through it and put the content of the bottle in a decanter.  I was so excited and couldn’t wait to taste this wine, smelling it, was enough for me. Because when you taste /drink the good stuff, all you need is to smell it, to know that is really good. Here is my tasting note: inky, superb wine, full of cassis, roasted coffee, tobacco and dry leaves notes, smoky with a long finish. Divine! Robert Parker gave this wine 94 pts and Wine Spectator 93 pts.  

If you are curious, this wine is usually a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, usually aged in French oak from 16-20 months, 10% of which is new.

We had other wines at this tasting too, yet we finished this one first, and continued with the Abbona Barolo 2016 ($40) another great wine featuring black cherry and rose notes with dusty tannins. We served the birthday cake with the Gonzalez Byass Nectar PX Sherry, super sweet, featuring prune, fig and date notes. Simply delicious! ($25).

What a night! Great wine, great food and great company! 

Thank you to my dear winas for being here for me, especially at these times. Yet, for a few hours, I was able to leave all my problems behind and truly enjoyed myself. Let’s do this again, you know you can count on me, to keep providing the good wine!

And if you ever bump into any free bottles and don't know what to do with them, send me a picture, I will gladly tell you if you should keep them or use them for cooking. Cheers! Silvina. 

PS: make sure to subscribe to continue receiving Thoughts of La Wina in your inbox. For more wine recommendations, follow me on Instagram @silvinalawina.

Monday, October 19, 2020

10 Tips for Wine Beginners

It's well known that choosing a wine can be an overwhelming experience but it’s also super gratifying to know and learn about wine. With that thought in mind, here are my two cents, for all of you in the beginner's line. 

1-Taste, taste, taste, yes! like everything else, practice makes perfect here too! try to taste as much as possible, take advantage of in-store tastings, go to events (when those are back), and experiment buying a different wine every weekend.  Don't be shy, think outside the box, nobody says you must drink always the same variety or brand.

2-Smell, Smell, Smell, yes! if you really want to recognize all the aromas in wines, you will need to train your nose. Smell everything, not just wine, fruits, flowers, herbs, minerals, earth, spices, meats, etc.

3-Buy a set of good wine glasses, of course you can drink from a cup too, but if you are going to be serious about wine, you need proper wine glasses: Riedel, Spiegelau, Jancis Robinson’s or Andrea Robinson's are my favorites. 

4-Become friends with your wine store guy/gal. Until you know what you like, your wine store guy/gal can let you know about sales and specials, but also he/she can give you advice about wine styles, grapes, matching of food and wine, etc.

5-Don’t always buy the most expensive wine or the cheapest in the list. Well, those that have money think that this is the easiest shortcut, I’m going to buy the most expensive wine and it should be good? Well, sometimes that happens and sometimes it doesn't. Buy things that you like, and trust your palate. I have a confession to make, I do read wine scores, but only follow the critics whose palates I like. I had my share of surprises in the past, when I purchased wines that received 90 + pts and yet I didn’t like them and couldn't understand why they received those ratings. 

6-Visit wine regions, you can start small, like finding out if there are any wine regions near you, for those that live in NY, go to Long Island or the Finger Lakes. Take a winery tour, learn how wine is made (so nerdy of me to plan vacations near wine regions!). Of course, check before hand that they are open and keep social distance.

7-Learn to spit your wines, I know what you are going to say but I want to drink my wine and feel the booze! if you are tasting only 1 or 2 wines that will be ok, but if you plan to taste more, the only way you will be able to do this is by spitting. If you don’t want to make a mess, keep a plastic cup handy with you to spit and then dump it into the sink or bucket (if you are at a wine event).

8-Drink plenty of water, though wine is divine… it will dehydrate you... so drink water to avoid this, and avoid getting drunk too. 1 glass of water per glass of wine should prevent you from making a full of yourself. And have some food, plain crackers will work, avoid tasting with an empty stomach.

9-Read wine books, here are some of my favorites: Karen MacNeil’s "The Wine Bible", Andrea Robinson’s "Great Wines Made Simple", Mary Ewing Mulligan and Ed Mc Carthy’s "Wine, all in one for Dummies" , Jancis Robinson's "The 24 Hour Wine Expert". You want to get technical? Jancis Robinson's "Oxford Wine Companion", Oz Clarke's "Encyclopedia of Grapes", Emile Peynaud's "Knowing and Making Wine", David Bird's "Understanding Wine Technology", etc. 

10-Lastly, read my blog, you can start here: Tasting Basics, Vinification, Basic grapes: Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Matching Food and Wine, Buying a mixed case of wine. So, there you have it, my 10 tips for wine beginners! Cheers, Silvina. 

Don’t forget to subscribe to keep receiving Thoughts of La Wina in your inbox, and for more wine recommendations, follow me on Instagram @ Silvinalawina.