A Rosé Wine to Remember: Five Favorites to Sip This Season from CorkBuzz’s Laura Maniec

Laura Maniec photo blog sizing

All hail the arrival of rosé wine season. Every year, sommeliers at top restaurants sample countless wines (A taxing job, really, but someone’s got to do it!) to bring diners the finest and funkiest rosés available in celebration of the summer. We asked Master Sommelier and owner of Manhattan’s CorkBuzz Wine Studio Laura Maniec for her must-try’s for the coming months. She shares her suggestions for a rosé to remember, highlighting those suited for everything from great grilling at your favorite restaurant to chilling to by the pool.

Rose Bowl

Christophe Lepage Pinot Gris Rosé ’12, Côtes Saint Jacques, Burgundy, France
“This is wine super light. It’s got more of a dry, French style. It’s pale pink in color and is an easy-drinking rosé. What’s interesting about this wine is that it’s made from a white grape, which is a really rare style of rosé.”

Altura ‘Chiaretto’ Sangiovese Rosé ’10, Isola del Giglio, Tuscany, Italy
“This is one of my favorite rosés of the moment. It actually looks like a light red. This wine is from an island just off the coast of Tuscany. It has a little more tannin than most rosé. It’s perfect for meat dishes like a grilled hanger steak salad or something with pork. It’s got a ripe, refreshing acidity that lends itself to pasta dishes also.”Continue Reading

Culinary Couple Lee Chizmar + Erin Shea of Bolete Make the Most of Mondays

bolete photoWhen you blend two hospitality professionals with one successful restaurant and fold in two children, you’re not talking about a recipe that yields a ton of time for romance. Still, chef Lee Chizmar and general manager Erin Shea find ways to connect whenever they get the chance.

The owners of Bolete in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, Chizmar and Shea opened their restaurant in 2008 to a steady stream of accolades, and the acclaim has kept them busy ever since. Shea says, “Honestly with a restaurant and two kids under four, there isn’t a lot of room left for reconnecting. We have Mondays off together and try to make sure that we spend that as a family, leaving date nights to few and far between. Romantic for us is if I stay awake long enough to make a sandwich for my husband and share a bottle of wine.  Literally a turkey sandwich.  I know it isn’t glamourous, but it is life right now.”

Uncorking a bottle of wine — and arguing its merits — is a common way Chizmar and Shea sneak in quality couple time. “We will often open a great bottle of wine, even if it isn’t a special occasion. We actually have very different tastes in wine (he is a California boy and I love old world), so great debate and conversation often go into these late night wine dates.  And, really, us both being awake is the special occasion,” she says.

Before starting their family and opening the doors at Bolete, Chizmar and Shea, a couple for the last nine years, dined their way around the northeast. “When we were first together, all our free time was spent enjoying food and drink. In Boston, we would go out to eat every night after work. And, pre-kiddos, we spent a lot of time traveling to New York when the restaurant was closed.” Prune is a perennial favorite of the pair. “The food is so delicious and simple,” notes Shea. They also enjoy discovering different restaurants in Philadelphia. Chef Chizmar’s recent birthday was spent at Townsend. “The cocktail program there is a standout, and I highly recommend heading to their bar for a drink and a snack.”

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In the Mood: What to Drink While You Dine on Valentine’s Day

At Cinghiale-Enoteca, owner/sommelier Tony Foreman + his staff invite wine drinkers to sign the special bottles they’ve ordered. There are thousands displayed.

Step away from the Chardonnay. Put down the pinot noir. Think outside the bourbon. That is an order. Seriously, though, you’ve carefully thought through Valentine’s Day dinner, picking an amazing restaurant with the perfect menu for you and your date; don’t stop there. You can make the 14th extra special with an unforgettable beverage experience that is anything but everyday. Eric Arnold, a wine and spirits expert and author of First Big Crush: The Down and Dirty on Making Great Wine Down Under, a book about a novice’s winemaking experiences in New Zealand, shared his four must-try picks to sip this Saturday.

Amaro
“The spirit that was once the afterthought downed by tired waitstaff and line cooks in Italian restaurants has suddenly become hip – and it was long overdue. Sort of a lighter, more nuanced version of herbal liqueurs such as Fernet-Branca, Amaro is slightly sweet but ever so alluring. Usually consumed after dinner, but certainly appropriate before the appetizers, Amaro never fails to bring a smile to a first-timer’s face.”

Vintage Champagne
“It’s perfectly normal if you’ve sipped a glass of Yellow Label Veuve, Moët, or Mumm and wondered what all the fuss is about. Vintage Champagne – all the grapes were picked in the same season, and a year is visible on the label – is an entirely different experience, especially if the bottle is upwards of a decade old. Vintage Champagne sometimes is a little lighter on the effervescence, but all those extra years of cellar aging make the wine richer in texture, fuller in flavor, and multidimensional in character. These are also the bubblies you can drink right through an entire meal, as these Champagnes tend to pair better with a wider range of foods.”

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Worst Wine List Trends: #DinersChoice Award-Winning Sommeliers Speak

iStock_000022788693SmallThis week, we celebrated the 2014 Diners’ Choice Award winners for the Top 100 Wine Lists in America. Like snowflakes, no wine list is exactly like another. Each is a reflection of a sommelier’s unique perspective on the wines that will shine alongside a restaurant’s menu. Similar to menus, however, wine lists can fall prey to bad trends that diminish a diner’s experience. We asked this year’s award winners to share their thoughts on the worst wine list trends. Read on for their, ahem, juicy responses.

Lack of smaller pours. AIDA Bistro & Wine Bar proprietor Joe Barbera bristles at restaurants offering glass or bottles only with no option to try a taste with a two or three ounce pour, for example. “This also doesn’t provide the customer the ability to create their own flight.”

Too few wines by the glass. “For my personal taste, it is the lack of wine available by the glass. At Amelie, we offer more than 100 wines by the glass and we try to cover many terroirs, geographic areas, and various winemaking techniques. Our prices give our customers a chance to try new wines and see all the differences. Many wine lists have extensive options of wine by the bottle, but the high prices make it difficult for the guests to try these amazing wines. I think a wine list can be made with exceptional wines at affordable prices,” says Germain Michel of Amelie.

Showcasing only large production wines. “Everybody sells wine these days: Amazon, grocery stores, gas stations – you name it. And they all seem to be carrying the same mass-produced wines. This is the trend I am noticing in some restaurants. The wine lists are offering the same wines as a gas station. Maybe it’s because they think people will recognize the wine names,” says Tom Bush, retail wine manager, at Balaban’s.

Poor organization. As Dan Sachs of Bin 36 points out, “It’s difficult for typical diners to know how to navigate a wine list, and, often, lists can be organized by price or regions. While these may make sense from the restaurant’s perspective, if the diner is not familiar with, say, Italian reds, organizing the list by region is not very helpful. In the end, we want our guests to make a selection that will be enjoyed and enhance the rest of the dining experience – and it shouldn’t be stressful.  A wine list can be a tool to reduce or ramp up the stress level.”

Having a big list merely for the sake of having a big list. Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant winemaker Rob Warren says, “The worst trend that I see is overcomplicating the wine list for the sake of having a big list. Most customers choose wine based on familiarity and price. It is important to have the popular varietals on the wine list, and even some more obscure ones, but within those varietals there are often too many choices at or near the same price point. Pick a $20, $40, and $60 Cabernet Sauvignon that go well with the food you produce. Do the same for the other varietals on your list, and your customers will be much less intimidated.”

High prices and low quality. Amer Hawatmeh, owner of Copia Restaurant and Wine Garden, isn’t a fan of wine lists that feature low quality and high price or high quality with even higher prices and limited choices. “We strive to resolve all of this at Copia by offering a great selection of more than 1,100 varieties of wine that represent the world, at retail prices.”

Tired wines by the glass. “Exploring wines by the glass is a great way to learn more about the endless world of wine. But one of the disturbing trends we see is that of restaurants offering only predictable wines by the glass,” says Domaine Hudson proprietor, Mike Ross. “We offer a range of distinctive wines by the glass. We take pride in helping patrons expand their horizons. Very often, these discoveries become customers’ bottle favorites.”

A lack of cohesion. Elaia wine director and advanced sommelier Andrey Ivanov states, “Too often I find a wine list without a sense of purpose or theme. Whether it is regional, style-driven, whatever the tie that binds, a list should tell a story. It is a look into the creative mind of the person who put it together: what they enjoy, what they are passionate about, and how they choose to communicate that passion to their guests. Guests rely on the beverage professional to guide them through the sometimes-nebulous world of wine; this is our craft, this is our passion, this is our contribution. At the end of the day, without proper context, it is still just rotten grape juice.”

Refusing to evolve. Matt Roberts, wine director for Eno Vino Wine Bar and Bistro, says, “There are wonderful, established wineries, wines, varietals, and producers that have stood the test of time because they are consistent with their quality and are a MUST to be represented on any wine list. One thing that we try to do at Eno Vino is not only have these constants represented on our list, but always save room and space for the unique, the ‘boutiquey,’ and the small producer. It’s essential to always keep your list revolving and evolving! It’s not necessary to change everything; switch a few things up here and there. There is no greater feeling than someone trying something new and loving it!”

Focusing solely on arcane wines. Fearrington House Restaurant wine director Maximilian Kast reveals, “I find it troubling that some wine buyers are creating lists that focus only on esoteric wines. Don’t get me wrong; I love esoteric wines, and we have them on our list, but when a guest comes in to your restaurant and does not recognize a single wine on your wine list, you have set an uncomfortable tone for their evening. Having a list which has some ‘mainstream’ wines from good producers balanced with some more esoteric wines will actually make guests more prone to choose the esoteric wines, because they feel like they have a choice, as opposed to having it forced upon them.”

Lists driven by wine sales reps. “I have seen that, at least in our area, a lot of restaurants pay very little attention to their wine lists and leave it to their ‘liquor’ sales rep — not even a wine sales rep — with total disregard to the link between food and wine, offering what the reps need to sell and not what would be best with the food they are preparing. You can find the very same wines in seafood restaurant, pizzerias, grill, and barbecue places. To us, wine is as important as food to make it a complete experience,” says Griffin Market owner Riccardo Bonino.

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