Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Wine Wars Trivia Game

Here's a fun game that a friend of mine recently told me about.  This is the perfect game to curl up to during the winter - practice your wine knowledge, get a group of local friends together, pour some wines... what else could you want when it's cold outside?

Wine Wars Trivia Game - $13.50
(Available at: Uncommon Goods

Questions focus on grape growing, wine making, wine culture, production, wine business, art, science, selecting and storing wines, tasting wines, and random trivia topics.  This is a good way to test out your individual wine knowledge - or start learning about wines if you're just breaking into the wine world!
An example of the one of the wine trivia cards
(Photo from Uncommon Goods)

Need a change from wine?  Why not try it's sister game, Foodie Fight?  Just as entertaining and made like Trivia Pursuit... only it's all about food!
(Photo from Amazon)

Monday, January 30, 2012

Bring Wine to Your Super Bowl Party

Other than the commercials, one of the greatest thing about the Super Bowl is the food, drink, and fun times with friends.  The Super Bowl is definitely an iconic time in American culture for beer, but some of your guests may appreciate a good bottle of wine.  But what to choose from????

Well that's where I come in!  Super Bowl parties are traditionally made up of pretzels, chips, salsa, pizza, hot wings, hot dogs and hamburgers.  This is quite a large montage of foods.

For pizza, I'd recommend a Chianti - an Italian wine for an Italian dish.  You can find the traditional bulk Chianti's (like the one pictured above), or grab a regular bottle of chianti in your local wine store.  Can't find Chianti?  Then grab a Sangiovese, the grape variety used to make traditional Chianti!

With hot wings, especially spicy hot wings, try a Prosecco - that's sweet Italian sparkling wine.  What could be more refreshing?

Hot dogs and hamburgers can be difficult, but I'd grab a California Zinfandel.  The one up above is called "Sin Zin" but there are a lot of <$15 Zins out there worth buying.  Try your favorite and get the party started!

Chips and dip can be quite difficult, especially without knowing the dip.  I'd recommend a Chambourcin (a light-bodied red wine) or a Cava (Spanish sparkling wine), which is a real bargain sparkling wine! 

Grab some plastic tumblers or wine-beer glasses and have a great time!  After all, the Super Bowl only comes one time a year!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Friday's Wine News You Can Use: Starbucks to Add Wine and Beer to Menu in 2012

Not really a catchy wine-article, but it is one that may increase your likelihood to buy wine.  Starbucks, that famous coffee chain... is going to start offering beer and wine to customers.  As a wine person, I have a hard time wanting to walk into a Starbucks as it is (it smells funny) and I feel like the coffee/cream aroma is going to mask the wonderful essence of wine.  (But this is the wine snob in me...)

(Photo from Google Images)

I'm not really sure how I feel about this whole thing.  For me, I feel like people would want to go to drink coffee and/or wine in two different places with two different agendas.  For example, if I go to Starbucks for coffee I am doing one of these three things:
  1. Studying/Reading
  2. Waiting for someone to meet me or pick me up because I don't have a car
  3. Wake up or warm up from the freezing cold outside.
But if I go to, let's say a wine bar, I am going there for one of these three purposes:
  1. Meeting up with girlfriends
  2. Wanting some neat and interesting foods to pair with small wine pours
  3. Try some new wines and talk about them.
How will they manage to mix the two ideas?  If you're purchasing wine or beer, you'd have to stay there to consume it.  It's not something you can buy a glass of and then continue driving to work...  But if you're getting coffee, then you can take the product and leave.  Suddenly, Starbucks customers are going to compete for their space and purpose!  (Just saying... it could happen...)

And what kind of wine are they going to serve?  Do they have their own brand?  My guess is that it's going to be bulk California wine that they can sell for a nice mark-up by the glass.  What about the local producers?

I'm sure some of you may have some thoughts regarding this product expansion.   Perhaps your thoughts are way better than mine... as mine seem to be all over the place!

Starbucks store with wine selection
(Photo from Google Images)

Starbucks expanding beer, wine sales this year
By Lisa Baertlein
Tue Jan 24, 2012 9:06am EST
(Reuters) - Starbucks Corp (SBUX.O), which sells the coffee that helps many Americans get wound up for their day, is offering more of their customers a way to wind down.

The world's biggest coffee chain plans to sell beer and wine in as many as 12 cafes in Atlanta and Southern California by the end of the year, as it expands beyond its well-known coffee.

Starbucks introduced those beverages to a Seattle cafe in October 2010. It now sells beer and wine, as well as evening snacks like cheese plates, flatbread and desserts, in five Seattle-area stores and in one cafe in Portland, Oregon. Beer sells for $5 and wine prices range from $7 to $9.

The company, which is testing beer and wine sales in Spain, previously announced plans to bring the new "adult" beverages to as many as seven Chicago-area cafes by the end of 2012.

Monday's news about the addition of California and Georgia cities to the beer and wine test prompted thousands of comments on social media site Twitter from people excited about the company's plans.

But some restaurant experts told Reuters that selling alcoholic beverages could anger community groups and complicate the company's operations.

The new business opportunity may not outweigh the headaches, said Bob Goldin, executive vice president at consulting firm Technomic, pointing to possible opposition from people who live near the cafes, difficulties obtaining liquor licenses and alcohol laws that vary from state-to-state.

"I think it creates more problems than it may be worth," Goldin said.

Clarice Turner, Starbucks' senior vice president of U.S. operations, told Reuters that many other restaurants sell beer and wine and that Starbucks is no stranger to venturing into new territory.

"It's just a natural place for people to connect and unwind," Turner said.

She added that the company had carefully chosen the roughly 25 U.S. cafes that will be selling alcohol in the afternoon and evenings and that it has no plans to offer beer and wine in all of its 17,000 cafes around the world.

Quick-service restaurant chains in the United States are adding morning and late-night menus and extending food and drink options in an effort to boost sales.

Starbucks, Burger King BKCBK.UL and Sonic Corp (SONC.O) are among the chains experimenting with alcohol sales.

California-based industry watchdog Alcohol Justice has criticized the moves by Starbucks and Burger King, which offers beer at some of its new Whopper Bar restaurants.

"The more places that open, the more risk there is of alcohol-related harm," said Sarah Mart, the group's director of research, pointing to underage drinking.

Seattle-based Starbucks recently completed a restructuring and has been reporting some of the restaurant industry's strongest sales growth.

Starbucks' shares closed down about 1.7 percent to $47.34, ahead of its quarterly financial report on Thursday, but remain up more than 40 percent from a year ago.

Starbucks also plans to open juice bars in the United States this year, a move some analysts said is more compatible with its main business.

Some experts said the chain may be wisest to stick to its knitting.

Edward Jones analyst Jack Russo said restaurant chains historically have had difficulty moving into new meal time slots. He would rather Starbucks focus on its core breakfast and lunch businesses by coming out with new drinks and tastier food.

"I'd prefer to see the company be more focused. You can't be all things to all people," Russo said.

(Reporting by Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn, Tim Dobbyn and Carol Bishopric)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Q: What is Ice Wine?

A: Ice wine (Eiswein in German) is a term that is designated for wines that are produced from grapes that are left to freeze on the vine.

Frozen Grapes
(Picture from Google Images)

Production of ice wine is a very time intensive and difficult process.  Yields are decreased because berries actually shrink in size.  However, the sugar and acid is concentrated in each berry when the water inside the berry freezes.

Typically, harvest occurs when the temperatures are extremely cold and all the picking is done by hand.  It's quite a cold process!!  

(Photo from Google Images)

(Photo from Google Images)

The grapes are immediately pressed in the cold tempeartures.  The frozen grapes create a solid block when pressed while a thin stream of sugary, acidic juice is released from the berries.  That juice is then fermented to make wine!

Iced Grapes Pressing Block
(Photo from Google Images)

The most common varieties that are used to hang through the super cold winter months are Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Vidal Blanc, and Cabernet Franc.  You will often see these varieties marked as "Ice Wine."  Many of these wines are produced in 375-mL bottles to emphasize the delicacy and small yields that come with making ice wine.  But they are delicious!

Riesling Ice Wine
Pair with peach or apricot cobbler (or almond apricot cobbler) or chicken glazed with an apricot sauce... or cheese cake... ok, or vanilla ice cream!
(Photos from Google Images)

Gewurztaminer Ice Wine
Still a good match for spicy Asian cuisine or my mom's sugary apple crumb pie.  I think it could also go well with pumpkin pie, but that's because I like pumpkin pie.  :)
(Photos from Google Images)

Vidal Blanc Ice Wine
Pair this with pecan pie or sweet potato souffle topped with pecans... or hazelnuts wrapped in chocolates
(Photos from Google Images)

Cabernet Franc Ice Wine 
Pair this with dark, dark chocolate or roasted lamb
(Photos from Google Images)