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From the Wine Cellar: 12 Worldly Reds

From the Wine Cellar: 12 Worldly Reds



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By now, drinkers who are red wine aficionados are probably up to their ears in frizzy, sweet moscatos and wines that are anemic shades of pink. Don’t worry, summer is almost over, and you can soon get back to drinking room-temperature red wines without pouring them into a coffee cup and retreating to a spot of shade where no one will see you.

In the meantime, here are a dozen worldly reds to start getting you in shape for the winter wine leagues.

2010 Stéphane Ogier "L’Âme Soeur" syrah Pays de Seyssel (price not yet determined). A lovely spicy, smoky, lean wine that nevertheless has loads of dark raspberry flavors and mineral notes. Young Ogier is pioneering this promising, newly rediscovered region of northern Rhone.

2009 Jordan Alexander Valley cabernet sauvignon ($53). This wine has beautiful fruits that range from cherries to plums, but you should decant it an hour in advance to allow them to develop. Very much in the classic "claret" style, it is also lean in the finish to balance out the fruit. Decant now or drink in a dozen years, telling yourself how smart you were to buy it for this price back in 2013.

2011 XYZin California Old Vines zinfandel ($16). Nicely made with rounded, creamy fruit, and just a touch of heat. Light tannins, good finish.

2010 RouteStock "Route 29" Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon ($20). Fruit-forward, heavy, and jammy with mixed berry flavors. It could use more structure, balance and complexity for the appellation.

2011 William Hardy South Australia shiraz ($20). An enjoyable, basic wine — tasty mature fruit built on a nicely lean structure. The flavors are dark cherry, a touch of tobacco, and fine savory notes.

2010 Château Cantin St-Émilion Grand Cru ($28). Bigger (15.5 percent alcohol) and more pleasurable than many sing-song St-É’s, it is full, ripe and rich, yet doesn’t seem overly extracted. Dark berry flavors transition into a chocolate finish with a touch of Right Bank pencil lead.

2011 Clos Beauregard Pomerol ($50). It is frankly a little underwhelming with not much of a middle body. More savory than fruity. (I wanted something more…)

2010 Castello Banfi "Belnero" Toscana IGT ($24). Mixture of black, creamy raspberries and raspy, assertive blackberries. Medium body, but not a pushover, one of those welcome wines that can be sipped solo or taken to the table.

2010 Château Lestage Simon Haut Medoc ($21). A good, traditional Left Banker with currants and dark cherries, good mineral notes, full-bodied, still a little tight. These are the affordable cellar-stuffer wines that will still be drinking well for years.

2010 Flegenheimer Bros. McLaren Vale Reserve reserve red wine ($28). Should this be poured by the glass or by the shot? If you like big, big reds (almost 16 percent alcohol) with lots of port or heated eau de vie aftertastes, this is your wine. From shiraz and petite sirah grapes, it has pleasant jammy fruit in the seedy black raspberry style. We would be tempted to dip a triangle of toasted bread in it with our morning coffee.

2011 Vinaceous "Voodoo Moon" Margaret River malbec ($15). You may be tempted to hide its trailer-park label in a brown bag if you’re serving to friends, but, that aside, it’s a good, simple food wine with lean, earthy fruitiness of elderberries. Don’t judge this wine by its label.

2010 Waterstone Napa Valley merlot ($18). A well-behaved, rounded, not-complex wine with lots of balanced red cherry flavors and light tannins — a good, pleasant, sippin’ wine.


The 12 Best Orange Wines to Buy Right Now

These days, winemakers all over the world are enthusiastically producing orange wine, and the sheer number and variety of wines, flavors, textures, and styles is mind-boggling.

Here&aposs a fun question to amuse your wine-geek friends with: What style of wine is gaining in popularity all over the U.S., but can never be sold with its name written on the label?

The answer is orange wine, an unofficial but now globally popular shorthand that refers to "wine made from white grapes that were fermented with their skins." The challenge is that the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax & Trade Bureau (TTB), which oversees U.S. wine labeling, has pronounced that the term "orange wine" might confuse people and make them believe the wine is actually made from oranges.

Therefore, if you enjoy these wines, you have to hunt them down via various codewords: skin contact, amber wine, and skin-fermented white wine, or foreign language terms such as curtimenta (Portuguese) or vino bianco macerato (Italian).

The term orange wine has gained in popularity because it&aposs a simple way to refer to the darker amber or orange hue of the wines. Color in orange wines comes from prolonged contact with the grape skins during fermentation, the same way red wines are produced from red grapes. It&aposs the opposite of mainstream white wine production, where the grape skins are removed from the juice after just a few hours.

Orange wine has come in for its fair share of criticism, mostly because it&aposs seen as a poster-child for the natural wine movement. Natural wines, made with minimal intervention in both the vineyard and the cellar, often have startlingly different aromas and flavors that seem to worry wine traditionalists. But since orange wines often have a substantial textural component—tannins, as in a red wine, or a fuller body—they present a greater point of difference than their minimal intervention white, rosé, or red cousins.

There&aposs no need to get caught up in the debate, but just remember this: Orange wine (or skin-fermented white wine if you tend toward the verbose) refers to a winemaking technique, not to a philosophy. That&aposs where it differs dramatically from natural wine. And, bearing that in mind, orange wines are as broad and diverse as whites, reds, or rosés are.

While the roots of this winemaking style are ancient—it&aposs the ultimate zero-technology winemaking method—its modern-day renaissance only started to gather speed in the last two decades, thanks to pioneering producers in northeast Italy (Friuli), western Slovenia (Brda), and notably the country of Georgia (essentially its birthplace skin-contact whites have been made in Georgia for thousands of years).

Now, winemakers in every wine-producing corner of the globe have enthusiastically turned their hands to the style, meaning that the sheer number and variety of wines, flavors, textures, and styles is mind-boggling. Here are a dozen delicious orange wines from nine different countries, giving a glimpse of what&aposs on offer for anyone with an adventurous palate.

2017 Heinrich Graue Freyheit ($51)

If you thought descriptors like "elegant" and "fruit-focused" didn&apost apply to orange wines, think again. This Austrian bottling is zero-zero winemaking (no additives, not even a pinch of sulphur dioxide) done with exceptional skill, with the end result showing fruit purity and a juicy, tangy palate that just fizzes with energy.

The blend of biodynamically grown burgundy varieties (Grauer Burgunder, Weissburgunder and Chardonnay) from Heinrich&aposs Burgenland vineyards was wild-fermented with two weeks of skin contact, then aged 17 months in large-format used oak barrels. From the 2018 vintage on, Heinrich is swiftly replacing the barrels with amphorae, achieving yet more finesse and purity.

2018 Manon High Paradise ($40)

Tim Webber & Monique Millton farm their vines biodynamically 2,000&apos up in Australia&aposs Adelaide hills, on land which they acknowledge as spiritually belonging to the Peramangk Aboriginal tribe. High Paradise is a fascinating blend of Chardonnay, Savagnin and Gargenega (the key grape of Soave), with some components skin fermented and others direct-pressed (fermented without their skins).

The end result has a silken, refined texture with the zestiness of Garganega and a wisp of floral aromatics. Note that the 2017 also drinks beautifully right now, suggesting this is a wine that benefits from a few years of bottle age.

2018 Pepe Mendoza Casa Agricola Pureza Muscat ($30)

This exciting wine from Alicante, in the far south of Spain, wows with its freshness and finesse. Pepe Mendoza dry-farms his vines, and has altitude on his side to help maintain all important acidity in the grapes.

Fermented in tinajas (small Spanish amphorae), the skin contact here gives incredible concentration to the perfumed peachy fruit, adding tantalizing scents of rosemary and mint. There&aposs nothing spiky about the texture, but it&aposs a structured and substantial wine, built to last.

And don&apost fear the Muscat—if you&aposre not a fan of the variety&aposs typically in-your-face lychee or rose petal aromas, this wine has you covered. Those notes are nicely reigned in and don&apost dominate the experience of drinking it.

2019 Domaine des Mathouans Mine de Rien ($27)

Some wines just have that intangible drinkability factor. And this one from France&aposs Roussillon region qualifies. For it, Muscat a Petit Grains gets the whole-bunch treatment, with a semi-carbonic maceration lasting about 20 days.

The result is an utterly joyful expression of grapiness and all things aromatic, with the merest hint of barnyard rusticity that says "don&apost take me seriously—just drink and be happy." It&aposs a total smoothie when it comes to texture, but in terms of body and depth is a different beast to a standard non-skin fermented Muscat.

And as for the name—mine de rien—it means "no BS." Indeed.

2019 Baia's Wine Tsitska-Tsolikouri-Krakhuna ($28)

While qvevri-fermented wines from eastern Georgia (Kakheti) are sometimes brutally tannic and dried out, the traditional style in the west (Imereti) has always been softer, with less skin contact.

The qvevri (a Georgian-specific type of large, buried amphora with a distinctive point at the bottom) has been at the core of winemaking here for well over 5,000 years. Baia and her sister Gvantsa Abduladze make low-intervention, traditional-style wines at their family estate in Imereti𠅎ssentially just grapes plus long fermentation and ageing in the clay qvevri. Baia&aposs wines have a delicate touch, and none more so than this blend of the region&aposs three most common indigenous varieties.

You&aposll taste tangy citrus, umeboshi plum and a bit of kiwi. It&aposs really zippy and leesy with a lovely tannic prickle on the finish. This basically has it all: fruit expression, structure and freshness. And it&aposs a super-accessible introduction to western Georgia&aposs qvevri tradition.

NV Croci Campedello Bianco Frizzante ($24)

Emilia-Romagna&aposs Massimiliano Croci is one of the more shy and retiring young winemakers I know, but his wines are outspoken and characterful. This lightly sparkling frizzante style is typical of the region (it&aposs not too far away from Lambrusco country).

He partly ferments it in tanks, and then bottles it to develop the all-important bubbles. Croci is situated in the Colli Piacentini sub-region, home to the very particular Malvasia di Candia Aromatica variety. As you might expect from its name, this is a very aromatic grape, with a distinctive candied-fruit and dried-flower perfume.

Campedello always has a few weeks of skin contact, and there are tannins as well as bubbles, a combination that I love𠅎specially in tandem with some of the pork-heavy cuisine that&aposs popular in the region.

2015 Paraschos Amphoreus Ribolla Gialla ($56)

The Paraschos family have Greek roots, but settled in an idyllic part of Italy&aposs Collio, right on the border with Slovenia. Inspired by their renowned neighbors Gravner and Radikon, their white wines are made with long skin contact and sometimes, as here, are fermented in amphora.

The Paraschos&apos amphoras of choice are small Cretan vessels. Evangelos and his sons Alexis and Jannis always achieve amazing tension in their wines, and this is no exception. Ribolla Gialla isn&apost a variety with a particularly strong fruit character, although here there are ripe yellow plums on the palate. But what it excels at (when skin-fermented) is a slightly honeyed, herby complexity and very serious structure. All of this makes for a wine that you can happily drink now (at almost six years old), but also cellar for years longer.

2019 Herdade do Rocim Amphora Branco ($19)

It&aposs extraordinary to think that in Portugal, southerly Alentejo&aposs clay-pot winemaking tradition remained almost invisible—hiding in plain sight𠅏or much of the last half-century. The simple technique of fermenting grapes with skins and stems in large clay pots (500𠄱,000 liters is typical) has a history going back at least two millenia.

Herdade do Rocim is one of a handful of producers who&aposve been inspired to take this ancient method and revitalize it with one key difference: they actually bottle the wine, so you get to taste it!

This amphora branco has remarkable fruit purity and a ripe pear character nothing rustic or clumsy about it. Even though it stays on the skins for many months, the extraction is so gentle that the finished wine has the merest tannic prickle. Earthy, herbal and slightly smoky notes add to the finish.

2016 Quinta da Costa do Pinhão Branco ($43)

The story of this Douro estate is typical: Until it was inherited by Miguel Morais from his grandfather, everything it produced was sold to major port wine houses, vanishing into their blends. But Morais felt the vineyards had more to offer for the production of still wines.

Since the winery was built for making port, it never had a press. So when Miguel came to make his first white wine (together with consultant winemaker Luis Seabra), the obvious solution was to use the skins. There&aposs a nod to tradition here, too, as white ports are also typically made with long skin contact.

The Branco 2016 tingles with chamomile and gunflint notes, pin-sharp orchard fruits and butterscotch. Texturally, it&aposs elegant and rich, with a long, smooth finish. It shows wonderful evolution and is firing on all cylinders right now.

2016 Ferdinand Brutus Rebula ($35)

Slovenia&aposs Rebula variety (a.k.a. Ribolla Gialla in Italy) is perfectly suited to long skin fermentation: It&aposs only with the skins that its true character, complexity and structure can speak. And Matjaz ჎trtič is an assured winemaker who really makes this style sing. Here, the Rebula has a whole year to commune with its skins and develop depth and gravitas.

The nose teases you with aromas of autumnal, stewed fruits and a hint of fresh sage, then the palate thrills with its tartness, plus assertive but fine tannins. It&aposs laser-sharp but somehow not in any way austere.

This style of structured orange wine deserves to be taken seriously𠅌onceptually, think of it as red wine rather than white. Don&apost serve it too cold, and it will go beautifully with a juicy pork cutlet or some steak tagliata.

2019 Deovlet Wines Pinot Grigio Ramato "This Time Tomorrow" ($35)

Edna Valley, where Ryan Deovlet sources the grapes for this wine, is a very warm part of southern California. Yet he found a few tricks up his sleeve to ensure that this first vintage of his ramato remains lively. And with winemaking experience culled from time spent in Australia, New Zealand and Argentina, Deovlet is no stranger to challenging climates.

Part whole-cluster fermented and part fermented in sandstone amphoras, with a whopping eight months of skin contact, this wine gets its charming hue from Pinot Grigio&aposs innately pink skins, along with aromas of rhubarb and redcurrant. And the texture is silky smooth and elegant.

Ramato refers originally to an old Venetian wine style, where Pinot Grigio was lightly skin fermented for 24-48 hours (the word translates as "copper"). Deovlet was partially inspired to make this wine after reading a book about orange wine entitled Amber Revolution, written by some fellow by the name of Simon J. Woolf (and yes,

2018 Donkey and Goat Winery Stone Crusher Roussanne ($40)

When Jared and Tracey Brandt started playing around with skin fermentation for their Roussanne back in 2009, they weren&apost even aware that "orange wine" existed as a thing or a category.

Now the world has caught up. Their chunky, expressive Roussanne is a highlight for me every year. Macerated for about two weeks on the skins, it shows vibrant apricot fruit with a fine salty seam and racy acidity on the finish. Interestingly, it feels far tauter and more lively than many varietal Rousannes from the grape&aposs home in the Rhône valley, where it can sometimes feel a bit flabby.

Stone Crusher is aptly named—it&aposs substantial, and could almost be a meal in itself. But packed with ripe fruit and mineral tension as it is, the balance is perfect. Best way to get it? Contact the winery directly𠅊nd then explore the rest of their fascinating portfolio.


Wine Cellar Sorbets: &ldquoVintage&rdquo Desserts

RECIPE: Rosemary Walnut Biscotti
From San Francisco chocolatier Michael
Recchiuti, they&rsquore delicious with cheese

Wine Cellar Sorbets have become our new BFFF (best food friend forever)&mdashto the extent that a person and a food company can be pals. We love sorbet, we love alcohol-based sorbets, and they&rsquove developed the first-ever line of wine sorbets. These precious pints are perfect as palate-cleansers, desserts and snacks (they make one heck of a Slushee). Vintage wines are frozen into sorbets, with just the tiniest amount of sugar plus a stabilizer and pectin for consistency. Now, you can toast with Champagne sorbet. and if you&rsquore the designated driver, you can indulge in Cabernet Sauvignon sorbet or Pinot Noir sorbet without getting snockered (the alcohol volume is no more than 5%,* as opposed to 12% or greater for wine). We love Wine Cellar Sorbets as an everyday treat and we love to impress guests with it. We&rsquore thrilled that we no longer have to make our own alcohol-based sorbets. We are happy campers at Camp WCS.

*Most beers are about 5% alcohol by volume, but although you may easily drink a couple of beer, your lips will freeze if you try to eat a whole pint of sorbet.

We have been feasting on these sorbets for about a year now, but since distribution was limited to the Metropolitan New York area, we couldn&rsquot elevate Wine Cellar Sorbets to Top Pick Of The Week status. Now, with new online ordering capability, no one need be deprived. (The young company continues to expand its retail distribution.)

What&rsquos That About Palate Cleansers?

For elaborate dinner parties, we like to make a sorbet or granita as a palate cleanser. A small dish of sorbet has traditionally been used as a palate cleanser in French and continental cuisines (you may have seen it referred to on menus as an intermezzo), to refresh the taste buds between the fish course and the meat course. At the simplest, it&rsquos a lemon sorbet that clears the palate from any lingering fish flavors, so the next course can be fully experienced. There&rsquos a similar practice in the serving of sushi and sashimi: Slices of pickled ginger are provided so that each type of fish can be appreciated without flavor carryover from the prior piece.

Over the years, creative chefs have added herbs and other flourishes (edible flowers, liqueur) to the intermezzo sorbet. Palate cleansers should not be particularly sweet&mdashraspberry sorbet would never do, for example&mdashbecause the next course is savory. One of the greatest palate cleansers we experienced was at a two-star restaurant on the French Riviera. It was a savory granita made with fresh herbes de Provence&mdashthyme, rosemary, basil and marjoram probably plucked that morning from the restaurant&rsquos herb garden. There was no noticeable sweetness, just the amazing flavor of a fresh herb ice&mdashand a memory that will endure a lifetime.

The palate cleanser is a nicety rather than a necessity. No fine meal has ever been impaired by the lack of one. Palates can be cleansed with bread and water (in the case of too much hot chile pepper, only time will help&ndashand some soothing sour cream). But just as some sushi aficionados have grown to love the ginger as much as the sushi itself, fine sorbet is a delight whenever it appears. Wine Cellar Sorbets was created as an all-occasion sorbet, but if it helps bring back the custom of the palate cleanser, that&rsquos another of its contributions to elegant dining in America.

At an elegant dinner, the flavoring we prefer in a palate cleanser is alcohol&mdashmarc, grappa*, an eau de vie, or now, Wine Cellar Sorbet&rsquos Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir. It&rsquos sophisticated, unexpected and never fails to delight guests&mdashto the extent that they&rsquod gladly blow off the next course and sit down with large bowls of it. But, it&rsquos just a palate cleanser: one tiny scoop, that&rsquos it! (To avoid mutiny, make sure your next course is really good.)

*French marc (pronounced mar) and Italian grappa are essentially the same product&mdashpotent and a somewhat harsh variety of eau de vie distilled from the pomace (grape residue) left over from making brandy.

Wine Cellar Sorbet Flavors

Like vintages of wine, flavors of sorbet will sell out. As Wine Cellar Sorbet&rsquos sommelier seeks the best wines for sorbet, flavors may change on a rotating basis. (Our favorite from the first year&rsquos vintage, Sauternes sorbet, has been replaced by Riesling Sorbet, which we like just as much.) The current &ldquovintages&rdquo include:

  • Three red wine sorbets: a 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon from California, a 2005 Pinot Noir from New York and a non-vintage Sangria from Spain.
  • Two white wine sorbets: a non-vintage Champagne from California and a 2004 Riesling from New York.
  • One blush wine sorbet: a non-vintage Rosé from New York.

Like most sorbets, these are low in sugar and have no fat. Unlike most sorbets, they are not particularly sweet (see the note about the red wine sorbets at the conclusion of the flavor notes, below). That&rsquos why they make excellent palate cleansers between courses, as well as sophisticated desserts. We also serve them with cheese, and more serving suggestions follow.

We found most of the flavors over a two-week period at our local Whole Foods Market. Since the store only gives shelf space to four flavors at a time, we&rsquoll have to keep checking back to update this review.

The Red Wine Sorbets

The red wine sorbets are less sweet than the white and blush wine sorbets. If you want a more &ldquoserious&rdquo palate cleanser, start here.

  • Cabernet Sauvignon Sorbet is the least sweet of the sorbets, tasting of dark berry fruits like currant and plum, with spicy notes. As with a wine tasting, you can taste all the varietal characteristics, even when frozen. Website recipe: Blackberry Noir Smoothie.
  • Pinot Noir Sorbet offers softer red fruit in a sweeter base. It&rsquos more approachable than the Cabernet, but also less complex. It reminded us of what all frozen drinks should taste like, if only manufacturers left all of that excessive sugar out of the mix. Website recipe: Pinot Noir Julius Smoothie.
  • Sangria Rojo is a spicy, dry blend of Rioja and Tempranillo imported from Spain, mixed with orange juice. We haven&rsquot tried this one yet, but it sounds refreshing, and a departure from the other two reds. Website recipe: Champagne Float.

The White Wine Sorbets

  • Champagne Sorbet, according to the release notes, is &ldquotart on the palate with a dry finish that contains hints of yeast.&rdquo We keep missing it at retail. Website recipe: The Champagne Float is obvious, but we&rsquore waiting to find it so we can make the ambitious Napoleon Wine Flight&mdashfour layers of chiffon cake alternating with four different sorbets, including Champagne Sorbet.
  • Riesling Sorbet seems like a regular sorbet with a hit of wine flavoring. The flavors are more sophisticated than the Rosé Wine (see next entry). Though not necessarily characteristic of the Riesling varietal, the flavors&mdashraisins and stewed fruits&mdashare quite tasty and sure to be crowd pleasers. Website recipe: Riesling Sorbet Stuffed Poached Pear.

The Blush Wine Sorbets

  • Rosé Sorbet is a re-naming of one of the original flavors, May Blush Wine&mdasha good idea, since Rosé is a contemporary favorite and May Blush Wine, while popular in Germany, sounds like something from centuries past. This is the most subtle of the sorbet flavors, almost like a grape sorbet enhanced with a bit of wine. Yet, the wine has notes of peaches and raisins and is the most accessible for a general group of diners, where it won&rsquot be perceived of as &ldquotoo sophisticated&rdquo but as different, special and delicious.

Website recipe: The website only offers up the Champagne Float, which is delicious. But for variety, we&rsquod like to add our own recipe. We think this sorbet rocks as a parfait with sliced fresh strawberries. You can drizzle a high-quality strawberry syrup, preserve or rose syrup (available at Middle Eastern stores, and not meant as a pun with the rosé) between the layers or over the top.

These sorbets are fragile. If not well-handled by the retailer or in your own home (e.g., if the sorbets are left to soften and then refrozen), flavor components can migrate&mdashsugary components can sink to the bottom of the pint, leaving the top less sweet. This doesn&rsquot mean that the sorbet isn&rsquot delicious&mdashjust that each bite might not be consistent in taste.

Another thing to watch for is that the first spoonful, especially of the reds, may taste exotic or unusual to many people, since one anticipates a sweet sorbet. The reds have sweetness, but are not &ldquosweet.&rdquo After consuming the entire dish, however, every tentative taster will be hooked. The white wine sorbets are a more easy transition.

Serving Suggestions

Wine sorbets are versatile products that clamor to be served in a variety of ways. We personally don&rsquot tamper with them, although one might easily be tempted to make cocktails with gin, vodka, cognac, framboise, etc. The beauty of this product is that the manufacturer has done all the work all you need to do is dish it out and take the compliments.

For starters, think of it as:

  • A frozen wine cocktail&mdashjust put the sorbet in a wineglass with a straw (wonderful poolside and at barbecues)
  • A palate cleanser between courses&mdashfish and meat, spicy or strong-flavored courses, or between cheese and dessert (serve small amounts)
  • On top of a fresh fruit cocktail or berries, poached fruit, or with a fruit plate
  • With cheese: as you serve fruit and wine with cheese, give each person a shot glass, cognac snifter or other small glass of sorbet, with an espresso spoon (if the sorbet melts, it can be drunk)
  • On a dessert plate, with other assorted goodies
  • A first dessert course, or an assortment of flavors as the main event

SERVING NOTE: Sorbet with an alcohol content melts faster than regular sorbet. To serve it as frozen as possible, scoop the balls in advance onto a plate, tray or cookie sheet covered with waxed paper, and freeze until ready to serve.

Do check out the recipes on the WineCellarsSorbet.com website.

Palate Cleanser Recipes

These recipes have no wine: Two have mint, a refreshing palate cleanser, and one is a very delicate Earl Grey. They can be enjoyed as palate cleansers or desserts.

Grapefruit Mint Sorbet

Grapefruit sorbet is one of our favorite refreshments. Dressing it up with mint makes it more elegant for a party dessert or intermezzo.

Ingredients

  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 1½ cups water
  • 1/3 cup firmly-packed mint leaves (any fresh mint) plus extra for garnish
  • 2½ cups fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice, strained to remove the pulp and seeds (4 large grapefruits)*

*You can use store-bought &ldquofresh juice,&rdquo but it will taste so much better if it is truly fresh-squeezed.

  1. In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and water and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and let cool.
  2. Add the mint leaves to a food processor or blender and purée add the sugar syrup and mix until thoroughly combined then blend in the grapefruit juice. (This base can be made up to two days in advance.)
  3. Chill the mixture in the refrigerator until it is completely cold, about 1 hour, then freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer&rsquos instructions.
  4. Garnish with a curl of grapefruit peel. Do not make more than 3 days in advance.

Lime-Mint Sorbet Recipe

This is a variation of the preceding recipe. In addition to serving it as a palate cleanser, the flavor profile makes it a terrific dessert with Mexican, Thai and Vietnamese cuisine.

Ingredients

  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 1½ cups water
  • 1/3 cup firmly-packed mint leaves (any fresh mint)
  • 2½ cups fresh lime juice (about 12 limes, more if using key limes)
  • Extra lime and/or mint leaves for garnish
  1. In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and water and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and let cool.
  2. Add the mint leaves to a food processor or blender and purée add the sugar syrup and and mix until thoroughly combined then blend in the lime juice. (This base can be made up to two days in advance.)
  3. Chill the mixture in the refrigerator until it is completely cold, about 1 hour, then freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer&rsquos instructions.
  4. Serve garnished with fresh mint leaves and/or a lime wheel. For a palate cleanser, you can dip the rims of the serving glass in kosher salt or decorative glass-rimmer salt, &ldquomargarita style. Serves 4 to 6.

E arl Grey Tea Sorbet Recipe

This unusual sorbet is a light and delicious palate cleanser. If you have culinary lavender, add some for a more complex flavor.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1½ tablespoons loose Earl Grey tea leaves
    (you can substitute 2 tea bags&mdashwe like Twinings Earl Grey tea)
  • ½ teaspoon culinary lavender (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • A dozen white or green tea leaves for garnish
  1. Boil the water and add the tea leaves and lavender, and steep for 5 minutes. Strain the tea and buds and return the brewed tea to a saucepan.
  2. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved, simmering as necessary. Then add the lemon juice.
  3. Chill the mixture in the refrigerator until it is completely cold, about 1 hour, then freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer&rsquos instructions.
  4. Garnish with a tea leaf. Earl Grey leaves themselves are not attractive (black tea leaves are oxidized) loose white tea leaves or green tea leaves make a very attractive garnish and are tasty, too.

As delicious as these recipes are, we, who enjoy a bit of something cold and sweet after dinner every night, will forsake them for in vino [sorbet] veritas.

FORWARD THIS NIBBLE to anyone who likes sorbet and to great cooks who don&rsquot have time to make their own palate cleansers.

WINE CELLAR SORBETS
Cabernet Sauvignon, Champagne, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Rosé, Sangria Rojo

Purchase online at WineCellarSorbets.com.

Check the store locator on the website for a retail location near you.

Price and flavor availability are verified at publication but are subject to change.


Read more about our favorite
frozen desserts and related products in
THE NIBBLE online magazine.

Check Out These Other &ldquoTop Pick Of The Week&rdquo Frozen Desserts:

ABOUT THE NIBBLE. THE NIBBLE&trade, Great Food Finds&trade, is an online magazine plus newsletters about specialty foods and the gourmet life. It is the only consumer publication and website that focuses on reviewing the best specialty foods and beverages, in every category. The magazine also covers tabletop items, gourmet housewares, and other areas of interest to people who love fine food. This e-mail from the editors features the Top Food Pick of the Week.

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How to Stock Your Wine Cellar

For me, the in-house wine cooler—the kind we discussed over here—whether it has space for 24 bottles or 48, is mostly for what you're going to drink soon. It's filled with wine for weeknight dinners and festive dinner parties, special occasions, and bottles to bring to friends. It's where you keep your wine safely at home for the short to medium-term, but it's not enough space for gathering a long-term collection. If you've really gotten into wine and you want to stash some away to drink at its peak in 5 or 10 or even 20 years, then we're talking about a bigger cellaring project.

The basics, at some level, are the same. If you're buying wine to drink later, you want to store it around 55 degrees, give or take. You want the temperature not to fluctuate too much. You want to avoid too much vibration, and you want moderate humidity to keep corks moist. You probably already know that stuff. But what sort of cellar space makes sense? What kinds of wine should you put in there? How many bottles of each? I gathered advice from wine pros around the country to answer these questions about getting your wine cellar started.

Do You Need a Cellar at All?

A wine cellar serves a few purposes. We won't be talking about wine as a financial investment here—for us, wine is for drinking, not selling. Having a cellar means that you have on hand that you want to drink, without having to go shopping. It also means you can secure the wines that might not be available at your local wine shop the next time you look—maybe they're bottles you can only buy straight from the winemaker or from a mailing list, maybe they're something that's made in small quantity or rarely available. If you have a safe cellaring space, you can buy a case to last you awhile.

But perhaps most importantly, a cellar is about aging wine. If you haven't spent much time drinking wines that have aged in the bottle, gather some friends together and seek out some wines that have aged. Explore a little, and take your time. If you get excited when to taste old wines, then cellaring might be for you. "Wine is a living thing—which makes it both fascinating and unpredictable," says sommelier Courtney Humiston of Charlier Palmer's Dry Creek Kitchen in Healdsburg, CA. "The joy of aging wine is discovering how the fruit from a single year can continue to evolve for decades." If you prefer the fresh, juicy flavor of wines that have been recently released, then it could be that you should devote your resources elsewhere.

If you explore your best local shop (and online resources), and do some wine-travel, you will likely get to taste and buy some aged wines. Some, like Rioja, are easier to find than others. One reason to have a cellar, says importer Terry Theise, "is to own wines you feel grow markedly better with age, but which can rarely be bought with the age they need—so you do it yourself. Simple example: you like Chablis, you really like it when it's 10 years old, so you identify a vintage you're especially partial to (2010 for me) and buy some wine for laying down."

Where Should Your Cellar Be?

If you are lucky enough to have a cool, dark basement or chilly area under your stairs, figuring out where to put your wine collection might be easy. But many wine pros argue that temperature-controlled offsite storage is a better idea. "The in-home wine cellar is the raided-at-the-end-of-every-dinner-party wine cellar," says Alex Finberg, who represents the Louis/Dressner, Rosenthal, and Jose Pastor wine portfolios in Northern California. Erin Sullivan of Acme Fine Wines in St. Helena recommends that you try a bottle early on to determine what you think and how long you'd like to age any other bottles you have, "and then hide the rest! For this purpose, I like offsite storage. The temptation to pull a cork can be too great for wine lovers like us. Out of sight, out of mind is key for accomplishing this goal, at least for me. "

How Much to Buy

Most wine pros recommend buying at least three bottles of anything you want to cellar. "Don't buy one bottle at a time. You'll never drink them. And if one is corked it will be the saddest day of your life, having toted around that useless time-bomb of misery around with you for years. Buy at least three of anything," says sommelier Steven Grubbs of Empire State South in Atlanta. If you have a few bottles, you can get to know the wine over the years as it develops, and have a replacement on hand if a bottle is flawed.

You might want to pick a focus for your purchases: "Pick one or two things you love and buy those regularly," says sommelier Jackson Rorhbaugh of Aragona in Seattle. "It's more fun to understand a few regions or producers in depth than it is to tackle everything. Pick a village in Burgundy and buy three different producers' wines from the same vintage."

On the other hand, winemaker Steve Matthaisson sees every dollar you spend on wine as an opportunity to try something different: "We almost never drink the same wine twice—each bottle of wine is a learning opportunity, and we try to drink as widely as possible."

Check Yourself

While wine experts can recommend general categories of wine that will develop nicely with age, before you go all out on a cellar-stocking spree, you should do a little self-reflection. Importer Terry Theise urges: "Think hard about how and what you actually eat at home. Don't buy a bunch of (let's say) Côte Rotie, even if you really like Côte Rotie, if you almost never eat red meat at home. Buy for your actual life, not for some ideas you've formed about the wines you admire, or that your friends admire."

Many wine lovers regret buying too much at the start, and then finding that their tastes changed over time. "Follow what you like to begin, but never stop challenging your notions of what's 'good' and what's 'bad'," says sommelier Jeremy Quinn of Telegraph in Chicago. Steven Grubbs agrees that over time, collectors tend to find joy in what are widely considered 'ageworthy classics': "Barolo/Barbaresco, Burgundy, etc. Go ahead and get some of those even if you aren't yet into them," Grubbs says.

Basic Qualities You're Looking For

What wines are worth storing for years before you drink? To over-simplify, it comes down to acid and structure. A cellarable wine doesn't need to be a super-expensive bottle: in fact, a producer's simple entry-level wine might be a haunting bombshell after a decade. Perhaps the tannin was a little intense and the wine seemed tightly laced at first—ten years later it can be soft and fine, as layers of earthy flavors have developed and the fruit has softened. For some, it comes down to just one quality: "People try to say it's about a lot of things, but really, if there's acid, then the wine will at least survive, if not get better," says Collin Casey of Weygandt Metzler Importing.

Wines with residual sugar as well as that all-important acid are a particularly popular category for collectors. Over time, says sommelier Carla Rzeszewski, "They begin to appear drier than they once were, and that trajectory is a magical one, in my opinion."

White Wines to Cellar

With those basics in mind, what are a few categories of white wines that will likely do well in the cellar?

Riesling is a slam dunk. "German, Austrian, and Alsatian Rieslings seem impermeable to time's pressures and most seem to only improve with ten years of age," says sommelier Jordan Salcito of Momofuku in New York. Some are gorgeous for decades. "With riesling, it would be easy to look to the Mosel and you would definitely be rewarded. But don't forget the Pfalz (Burklin-Wolf and Muller-Catoir), the Rheingau (Kloster Eberbach and Robert Weil), or the Wachau (Lagler and Knoll)," says sommelier Stacey Gibson of Portland's Olympic Provisions.

Chenin Blanc is another sommelier favorite. "Foreau Vouvray Demi-Sec is a no brainer," says Alex Finberg, also noting the cellar-worthiness of good sparkling Vouvray. Erin Sullivan of Acme Fine Wines puts a word in for another source of Loire Chenin: "Francois Chidaine is my LIFE. I buy these wines to age and unfortunately I break my own rules and pull corks too soon, I just love Chenin and these wines too much."

Looking for Chablis or white Burgundy? "Anything from Patrick Piuze rocks the HOUSE (or your cellar)," says Stevie Stacionis of Bay Grape in Oakland. "He's a rising star working fastidiously with killer vineyards in Chablis." Erin Sullivan says you'll need to "drop some coin and age as long as possible," but she loves Bonneau du Martray Corton-Charlemagne, and recommends Dominique Lafon for really delicious wine at a slightly better price point. (Importer Terry Theise notes that "If you want White Burgundy type wines that actually will age and cost you two-thirds less," the answer is Gruner Veltliner from Austria.)

Not everyone is on board, but several of our sources love aging Muscadet. Sullivan points to Domaine de la Pepiere as a favorite: "This wine ages like a total boss." Collin Casey concurs: "Muscadet is the most rewarding wine you can possibly cellar. Pepiere Clos des Briords at 20 years old is one of the most rewarding old wines I've ever drunk. I personally find the dense, super-complex, almost Burgundian aged Muscadet profile to be profound. They're great young too, obviously, but yeah. In terms of cheap wine that you can age, Muscadet is insane."

If you're a Champagne lover, it's likely you can predict more than a few occasions each year when you'd like to have a good bottle around. Importer Terry Theise is a big advocate of cellaring Champagne: "The wine you lay down 4-5 years beyond its disgorgement will be twice the wine you paid for, when you finally open it," he says. Erin Sullivan named a few favorites to age: "Paul Bara, Vilmart, Pierre Peters, and André Clouet 1911. The Jacques Lassaigne wines imported by Louis/Dressner are a current favorite of mine. Their current release of their 'Le Cotet' is made with additional bottles of '02, '04 and '06 added to the cuvée, so some wine in that blend has been fermented and refermented five times."

Red Wines to Cellar

It's rare to find a wine fanatic who doesn't hoard Nebbiolo. But not all bottlings age the same. "Beware of oaky, ripe Barolo crus and anything over 14% ABV," says Alex Finberg. "Often an estate's 'normale' releases and or cheaper Nebbiolo from Alba or the Langhe are better for the cellar: higher acid, lower alcohol and oak. More alpine Nebbiolo appellations like Ghemme and Boca are increasingly wiser decisions with the scourge of climate change and score chasing in name brand appellations," Finberg warns. Lucky for us, those entry-level releases are cheaper, too. Finberg urges everyone to explore other Italian reds, too: "More than any other country in the world, the wines are frequently released WAY too young and before their time. The bloody sourness of Chianti, the impenetrable tannin of Barolo, the opaqueness of Teroldego—these are all products of prematurity. Cellaring tannic but unoaked/lightly oaked Italian red wines offers perhaps the best opportunity for 'sleeping beauty' red wine collecting—and a real learning experience."

Cabernet Franc from Chinon is another favorite that's beautiful fresh and even more beautiful with age. When I tasted a bottle of Olga Raffault 'Les Picasses' from 1989 at a restaurant a few years back, I knew I wanted to track down more of this wine. Bottles from 2002 were selling for about $25 on sale, and a half-case quickly found itself into my possession. "Cabernet Franc is the Riesling of red wine: cheap and built for the cellar," says Alex Finberg. Grab some.

Everyone we spoke to urged those starting a cellar to chat with a professional before going too deep in Burgundy (and some even called it a 'money pit), but Collin Casey insisted: "Burgundy is one of the most legendarily age-worthy wines in creation, and while taking a gamble on a wine you've never heard of can be risky, I've never had Burgundy from a great grower surprise me in virtually any way. Buy Burgundy at vintage (buying old wine actually is risky) and from great growers whose wines you trust. Buy Bourgogne rouge all the way up through the cru stuff, only very rarely bothering with Grand Cru. Depending on the vintage, some will be accessible earlier than others. I recommend growers who make hyper-structured stuff first (like Michel Lafarge) and mix in stuff like Gouges and De Montille that's softer in its youth. That way, you'll have something to drink early on. Your Dujac and Lafarge will live forever and your De Montille reds will pretty much drink whenever you want them."

And what about domestic reds? "We do keep adding reds from domestic wineries like Arnot-Roberts, Ryme, Demuth-Kenos, and Forlorn Hope to our time capsule, and the classically structured Napa cabs like Togni, Ritchie Creek, Mayacamas, Corison, etc.," notes winemaker Steve Matthaisson. Erin Sullivan adds: "I buy these domestic Cabs to age. They are above my average price point for weeknight drinking, but after trying versions of these houses' offerings with 10, 20+ years of bottle age, I feel confident socking a few away at a time: Forman, Spottswoode, Farella, and Corison. Also to consider: the best aged California wines I've tried in recent memory came from vintages that critics panned on release."

And Other Cellar-Worthy Wines

Of course, there are more great wines to cellar than those listed above. Some of our advisors cellar Bordeaux and wines from the Northern Rhone such as Saint Joseph. Others sock away Jura wines, Cru Beaujolais, Assyrtiko from Greece, and Semillon from Australia. Sweet and fortified wines are their own world of exploration. While Rioja ages beautifully, you can find a fair amount of already-aged wines on the market, so you can grab them to drink now while you wait on your cellar. Because it's gonna be awhile.


Best Single-Zone: Kalamera Built-in Wine Cooler

If your collection consists of mostly reds, then a single temperature fridge is your best bet. “Keep in mind that all wine—red, white, sparkling and fortified—ages properly at the 53 to 57 temperature range,” notes Tilden.

In other words, if aging is your priority versus serving temperature, then a single temperature fridge will do the job well. Kalamera’s 18-bottle single-zone wine fridge is sleek in design yet highly functional, featuring vibration-reducing advanced cooling technology, smart digital control, a double-pane locking glass door, and six adjustable beech wood shelves that won’t scratch your bottles. The fridge’s minimum temperature is 40 degrees with a maximum of 66 degrees. The front vent also allows you to build it into your counters or keep it as a freestanding fixture.

Capacity: 18 bottles | Dimensions: 33.9 x 11.6 x 22.4 inches | Temperature Range: 40° - 66°F


Hailing from Bordeaux , this is a red blend worth trying. Just like the Saint Émilion Grand Cru, this bottle possesses an air of elegance featuring oaky notes and tones of black fruit like plums—but at a fraction of the cost.

This red blend is pure Grand Cru quality and has rich notes of red berries with an aromatic floral finish. Although a bit less intense than the Saint Émilionn Grand Cru, it makes for a lovely glass of wine.

Main Similarities

Key Differences


Wine-Based Sorbets Are &ldquoVintage Desserts&rdquo

EDITOR’S NOTE: We regret that this company is no longer in business.

CAPSULE REPORT: And now for something completely different&mdashserious sorbets made of vintage wines. Sweetened but barely sweet, these are not sugary frozen desserts but sophisticated refreshments and palate cleansers. The most special of specialty foods, they&rsquore just what the gourmet doctor ordered! The products currently are in limited distribution. We urge you to have your local stores call up the manufacturer and have it shipped in to your area posthaste!

Occasionally when we have elaborate dinners, we will make a sorbet or granita as a palate cleanser between fish and meat courses, using marc, grappa* or an eau de vie. As much as it&rsquos a hit with guests, we say occasionally because this extra course takes time and focus from preparing the main meal.

*French marc (pronounced mar) and Italian grappa are essentially the same product potent and a somewhat harsh variety of eau de vie distilled from the pomace (grape residue) left over from making brandy.

Thankfully, Wine Cellar Sorbets has come to our aid, launching the first-ever line of wine sorbets that will do perfectly as palate-cleansers. The sorbets are not simply wine-flavored, but are wines frozen into sorbets, with just the tiniest amount of sugar plus a stabilizer and pectin for consistency.

Carded For Sorbet

The container&mdashlid and base&mdashadvise that one must be twenty-one years age to buy the sorbet, and the register scan advises the cashier to verify our age. We roll our eyes. How inebriated can any minor get eating sorbet, even though the pint is up to 5% alcohol by volume, as much as beer (wine is typically 10% to 14% alcohol, with fortified wines like Port higher)?

When we get home and taste the sorbets&mdashwoo hoo! It is like drinking frozen wine. Who knows what might happen to kids foolish enough to freeze their mouths numb by eating an entire pint to see if they get a buzz. We did eat the equivalent of a pint at each sitting. While we may have gotten a tad tired, it could have been from lack of sleep, or from an overload of eating all those carbs in the space of half an hour.

Wine Sorbet Flavors

Flavors will change on a rotating basis. The &ldquocurrent vintages&rdquo include:

  • Three reds: a 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon from California, a 2005 Pinot Noir from New York and a non-vintage Sangria from Spain
  • Two whites: a a non-vintage Champagne from California and a 2004 Riesling from New York
  • One blush wine: a non-vintage Rosé from New York

Like most sorbets, these are low in sugar and have no fat. Unlike most sorbets, they are not particularly sweet (see the note about the red wine sorbets below), but are serious gourmet products that make excellent palate cleansers between courses, as well as sophisticated desserts. We would serve them with cheese. They also can be used as frozen cocktails.

We found most of the flavors over a two-week period at our local Whole Foods Market. Since the store only gives shelf space to four flavors at a time, we&rsquoll have to keep checking back to update this review. Plus, since we first reviewed this line, the company has revised its offering, discontinuing some of the original flavors and adding new ones. We haven&rsquot tasted the new flavors yet, but here&rsquos the current lineup along with our original tasting notes, and pointers to recipes on the company&rsquos website:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon Sorbet is the least sweet of the sorbets, tasting of dark berry fruits like currant and plum, with spicy notes. Yes, as with a wine tasting, you can taste all the varietal characteristics, even when frozen. Website recipe: Blackberry Noir Smoothie.
  • Pinot Noir Sorbet offers softer red fruit in a sweeter base. It&rsquos more approachable than the Cabernet, but also less complex. It reminded us of what all frozen drinks should taste like, if only manufacturers left all of that excessive sugar out of the mix. Website recipe: Blackberry Noir Smoothie.
  • Sangria Rojo, another new addition to the line, is a spicy, dry blend of Rioja and Tempranillo imported from Spain, mixed with orange juice. We haven&rsquot tried this one yet, but it sounds refreshing, and a departure from the other two reds. Website recipe: Champagne Float.
  • Champagne Sorbet, according to the release notes, is &ldquotart on the palate with a dry finish that contains hints of yeast.&rdquo We keep missing it at retail. Website recipe: Champagne Float.
  • Riesling Sorbet seemed like a regular sorbet with a hit of wine flavoring. The flavors were more sophisticated than the May Blush Wine. Though not necessarily a characteristic of the Riesling varietal&mdashraisins and stewed fruits&mdashthey are quite tasty and sure to be crowd pleasers. Website recipe: Riesling Sorbet Stuffed Poached Pear.
  • Rosé Sorbet is a re-naming of one of the original flavors, May Blush Wine&mdasha good idea, since rosé is a contemporary favorite and the May Blush Wine, while popular in Germany, sounds like something from centuries past. This was the most subtle of the flavors, almost like a grape sorbet with hit of wine. Yet, the wine has notes of peaches and raisins and is the most accessible to a general group of diners, where it won&rsquot be perceived of as &ldquotoo sophisticated&rdquo but as different, special and delicious. Website recipe: Champagne Float.

Some caveats: These sorbets are fragile. If not well-handled by the retailer or in your own home, flavor components can migrate&mdashe.g., sugary components can sink to the bottom of the pint, leaving the top less sweet. It doesn&rsquot mean that the sorbet isn&rsquot delicious&mdashjust that each bite might not be consistent. Still, we think the product line is spectacular: If it had national distribution, we would have named it a Top Pick Of The Week. (Hopefully, the online ordering mechanism will go live one of these days.)

Another thing to watch out for is that the first spoonful, especially of the reds, may taste exotic or unusual to many people, because one anticipates a sweet frozen dessert. The reds have sweetness, but are not &ldquosweet.&rdquo After consuming the entire dish, however, everyone will be hooked. The whites are more of an easy transition.

Serving Suggestions

The wine sorbets are versatile products that clamor to be served in a variety of ways. We wouldn&rsquot even tamper with them, although one might be tempted to make concoctions with vodka, cognac, framboise, et al. The beauty of this product is that the manufacturer has done all the work, and all you need do is dish it out and take the compliments.

For starters, think of it as:

  • A frozen wine cocktail&mdashjust add to a wineglass with a straw (wonderful poolside at barbecues or anywhere)
  • A palate cleanser between courses&mdashfish and meat, or cheese and dessert (serve small amounts)
  • On top of a fresh fruit cocktail or berries, or with a fruit plate
  • On a dessert plate in a shot glass
  • By themselves, as a sorbet dessert

Do check out the recipes on the website.

We, who enjoy a bit of something cold and sweet after dinner every night, will not be purchasing &ldquoregular&rdquo sorbet for our personal consumption anytime soon. In vino veritas.

WINE CELLAR SORBETS
Cabernet Sauvignon, Champagne, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Rosé, Sangria Rojo

There is good distribution in Whole Foods Markets and specialty food stores in Florida, New York and New Jersey. Check the store locator at WineCellarSorbets.com.

National distribution is planned, and online sales are anticipated shortly.

Price and flavor availability are verified at publication but are subject to change.


Reuben sandwich from Nebraska

It is claimed that the Reuben sandwich was created by a wholesale grocer in Omaha, Reuben Kay, in the 1920s. The recipe was originally shared with a few of his friends, but someone in Omaha entered it in a national recipe contest and won.

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Preheat the broiler.
  2. Spread Russian dressing on 6 slices of rye bread.
  3. Place 3 slices corned beef, 1 heaped tablespoon sauerkraut and 2 slices Swiss cheese on top of the Russian dressing.
  4. Top with a second slice of rye bread and place the sandwiches in the broiler pan.
  5. Broil for 2-3 minutes, until cheese melts and bread is lightly toasted, about 6 inches (18 cm) from the source of heat.
  6. Cut each sandwich in half, hold each ahfl together with a cocktail stick, and serve.

Notes

Use vegetable oil cooking spray to grease the broiler pan. Alternatively, place the top slices of rye bread by the side of the sanwich while cooking. They will get toasted and the cheese will melt faster with direct heat. You can enjoy a natural Reuben, without grilling, and it is still a fine sandwich.


Steven Spurrier obituary: Connoisseur who upended the wine world

Steven Spurrier
Born: October 5th, 1941
Died: March 9th, 2021

The world was paying little attention on May 24th, 1976, when a small wine tasting was held in Paris at the Intercontinental Hotel. But the echoes of that tasting, later called the Judgment of Paris, have resounded for decades. The instigator, Steven Spurrier, an Englishman who owned a wine shop and wine school in Paris, had set up a blind tasting of 20 wines – 10 white and 10 red – for nine French judges, including some of the top names in the French wine and food establishment.

Of the white wines, all made from the Chardonnay grape, six were from California, four from Burgundy. The reds, all made largely or entirely from Cabernet Sauvignon, included six from California and four from Bordeaux.

It was hardly thought to be a fair fight. As has been recounted countless times, the judges were thoroughly convinced that California wines were inferior. “Ah, back to France,” one judge sighed after tasting a Napa Valley Chardonnay. Another, sniffing a Bâtard-Montrachet, declared: “This is definitely California. It has no nose.”

When all was done, a shocking consensus revealed the favourite wines to be a 1973 Chardonnay from Chateau Montelena and a 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon from Stag’s Leap Cellars, both in Napa Valley. The Americans celebrated, the French shrank in consternation, and everlasting fame awaited Spurrier, who went on to have a long career as a wine entrepreneur.

Spurrier died on March 9th at his home in the English village of Litton Cheney, Dorset. He was 79. The cause was cancer, said Simon McMurtrie, chairman and publisher of the Académie du Vin Library, a wine imprint founded by Spurrier.

The Paris tasting might have swiftly been forgotten had not a single reporter, George M Taber of Time magazine, been on hand to witness the events. His article Judgment of Paris gave the California wine industry a much-needed boost, lending its vintners international credibility at a time when they were searching for critical approval and public acceptance. Marketers used the tasting to sell California wines all over the world.

“It rocketed us to fame,” said Bo Barrett, whose father, Jim Barrett, was the proprietor of Chateau Montelena. Warren Winiarski, the founder of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, said in 1983: “The phone started to ring pretty quickly. The wines really took off.” For years afterwards, wine professionals – occasionally joined by Spurrier – and amateur enthusiasts re-enacted the tasting.

Taber, the reporter, in 2005 published a book, Judgment of Paris: California vs France and the Historic 1976 Paris Tasting That Revolutionised Wine. A 2008 film Bottle Shock, with Alan Rickman playing Spurrier, depicted the tasting as the climax of a triumph-of-the-underdog story.

Most recently, Jason Wise, the director of the Somm series, a trilogy of documentaries available on Amazon Prime Video about sommeliers, made a documentary about the 1976 tasting, The Judgment of Paris, which is to be released this summer.

As for Spurrier, he leveraged the tasting into different careers in wine, with both triumphs and failures. With the shop Caves de la Madeleine and the school L’Académie du Vin as a base, he built a successful mini-empire in and around Paris. By 1980 he had opened two wine bars, Bistrot à Vin and the Blue Fox, as well as a restaurant, Moulin du Village.

Other schemes did not work out. A plan for a wholesale wine storage cellar was an expensive mistake, and while efforts to open distant outposts of L’Académie du Vins succeeded at first, they did not end well. In France, tax problems ensued. As Spurrier put it in Steven Spurrier: Wine – A Way of Life, a memoir published in 2018, “The Spurrier House of Cards was to collapse in 1988.”

Moving back to London in 1990 with his wife, Bella, and their two children, Spurrier sought to revive his career. He was an indefatigable traveller, giving talks on wine, and advised airlines on what to serve passengers. He wrote a series of educational wine books and, in 1993, began a long association with Decanter, a British consumer magazine, writing columns and leading tastings.

Steven Spurrier was born on October 5th, 1941, to John and Pamela Spurrier in Cambridge, England. His father, a tank officer during the second World War, joined his family’s sand-and-gravel business in Derbyshire afterwards, which boomed with postwar construction.

Steven attended Rugby, a boarding school, and the London School of Economics. He was an indifferent student, more interested in pursuing art, jazz and wine. His early impression of wine was formed as a 13 year old, when his grandfather offered him a taste of port at a family Christmas Eve dinner – Cockburn’s 1908, Spurrier recalled. “There was never any doubt in my mind that I would make wine my career,” he wrote.

He landed his first job in 1964 at Christopher’s, a leading London wine firm. That year, at a Bayswater skating rink, he met Bella Lawson, whom he married in 1968. She survives him, as do their children, Christian and Kate, and four grandchildren.

The family gravel business was sold in 1964, and the substantial cheque Spurrier received for his shares – the equivalent of roughly €6 million today – was to finance adventures and business opportunities for years. As part of his wine education, Spurrier was sent on trips to what were then considered the great wine regions – mostly French, but also the Rhine, the Sherry region of Spain and Portugal’s port lodges. With his new wealth accruing to him at a time of perilously high British tax rates, the Spurriers decided to decamp for Provence in 1968 and then to Paris in 1970. There, expecting their first child, they found an apartment on Rue des Martyrs, in the fashionable ninth arrondissement, on the right bank.

While walking the streets one day, Spurrier passed a small wine shop, Caves de la Madeleine, in the Cité Berryer, an 18th-century shopping arcade. He soon purchased the shop and set about making it his own. It might have seemed rash for an Englishman to presume to sell wine to the French, but Spurrier made a go of it. Soon, with two partners, Jon Winroth, a wine writer for the International Herald Tribune, and Patricia Gallagher, a wine-loving American expat, he opened L’Académie du Vin in an adjoining building.

“There is a myth about Frenchmen, that they know all about wine simply because they grew up drinking it,” Spurrier told the New York Times in 1977. “In fact, most Frenchmen don’t know anything about wine. They don’t really care. They care about food. They can talk for hours about the nuance of a sauce, but wine is really just something to clear the palate for the next food taste. So we’re trying to change that a bit.”

Whether selling wine or simply drinking it, Spurrier was a debonair figure, hair perfectly coifed, a handkerchief peeking out just so from his jacket pocket. In his later years he became an elder statesman to wine writers.

He had one last adventure in wine to come. In 1987 the Spurriers bought a farm in Dorset, near the south coast of England, and he decided that the chalk soil, similar to what can be found in Champagne and Chablis, was a perfect place for vines.

They did not start planting until 2009, by which time a burgeoning sparkling-wine industry had taken root in southern England. Their sparkling wine, Bride Valley, had its first release in 2014.

While wine had been Spurrier’s professional life, art was his passion. He built a sculpture garden in Dorset and filled his home with his favourite pieces. “Wine is a way of life, but art is the real thing,” he said in an interview with Club Oenologique, an online wine magazine. “Art means more to me emotionally than wine – there’s no contest.” – New York Times


Explore the Worldly Wines of California at Stave

“The nice thing about California is that we have such a great climate for growing grapes,” says Jeff Birkemeier, the Wine Manager of Stave Wine Cellar at Spanish Bay. “Literally any grape that is grown in Europe can grow in some place in California.”

Birkemeier can introduce you to the worldly wines of California at Stave, a unique wine cellar offering a creative menu of more than 200 specialty bottles and 50 wines by the glass, along with thoughtfully themed flights designed to help you discover fun new wines.

“You could drink California wine for the rest of your life and never try it all,” says Birkemeier. “The climate is pretty easy for grape-growing here. It’s sunny and dry during the growing season, and it rains during the off-season. It’s perfect.”

“You could drink California wine for the rest of your life and never try it all”

Napa Valley forever chiseled California into the international wine map at the 1976 Judgement of Paris, when the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay and the 1973 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon scored landmark upset victories over France’s finest whites and reds. The California wines beat the French in both the red and white categories, shattering the notion that only France could produce top-caliber wines.

Now, nearly 3,000 vineyards cover half a million acres in California, growing more than 110 varieties of wine grapes. Vineyards dot the 800 miles of California coastline, creating celebrated wine regions such as:

  • Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino in the North Coast
  • Livermore, Santa Cruz, Monterey, Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara in the Central Coast
  • San Diego and Temecula in Southern California

California’s rugged coastline exposes nearby vineyards to natural “air conditioning” in the form of fog and breezes, making for exceptional Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and other cool climate varieties. Warmer interior valleys receive the same cooling effect thanks to rivers, lakes and deltas.

Meanwhile, vines planted along our hillsides get a fine mixture of cooling air and bright, unfiltered sun-conditions that Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot were born to love.


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