I often forget that much wine is not vegetarian. They use egg whites, gelatin, and isinglass to clarify it. And while I'm all for using every part of the animal, I'd prefer it be used on something I'm not drinking.
This blog has some more information on animal products in wine, and links to further information. This blog has information on animal products in beer.
In last week's battle to see what paired best with food- wine, beer, or cocktails, wine came out the winner. In particular, the wines chosen by Emily Wines, Master Sommelier at Fifth Floor Restaurant in San Francisco, beat out the beer and cocktails pairings by other local experts as voted on by the diners in attendance.
I was rooting for cocktails, but from all accounts it was a close race. Congratulations to Ms. Wines. My spies who attended spoke:
"It was excellent- Friendly, well organized, great service."
"The food was divine, spirit selections from all three experts were spot
on, and the company around the table perfect. Everyone seemed to have a
wonderful time, I know I did. Wine took the evening, Emily's pairings were awesome. However, Dave
(beer) and Jacques were right there with her, I think only a point or
two ever separated them."
I also got word that the next "Three on Five" competition will take place Wednesday, December 17th. There will likely be different pairing experts competing this time- sake? scotch? champagne? We'll know closer to the event date.
Say you find yourself in a hotel room on a cold London night, caught in a bout of sleep-free jetlag, but prepared to take the edge off with a bottle of wine. Unfortunately, you forget to bring a corkscrew. You don't have any cash to tip room service for bringing one up. What do you do? WHAT DO YOU DO?
I can tell you what I did tonight. First, I paid the 20 dollar wi-fi fee (note to Cumberland Hotel- screw you!) and looked up a solution. The suggestions included banging it on a tree and using a hammer/screw. Having neither a tree nor a screw loose, I gathered materials from around the room.
I tried the banging method in several ways- held in my knees with a shoe, against the wall with a pillow, against the floor, an unturned chair, using the hotel bible. None of them worked. Then I moved on to stabbing at it. The cork was synthetic, and seemed designed specifically to thwart me. I did get a paper clip through the cork, but that didn't accomplish much. Various methods of bending it and trying to create a hook were failures as well. Then I tried to make a two-pronged wine key out of... two keys, but I couldn't get them into the sides of the cork at all. Neither could I get the handle of the coffee spoon into the side of the cork.
I looked around the room for another time (this was an hour long process) and found something that I'd overlooked- the coat hangers! Without a moment to spare (I was really thirsty) I grabbed a hanger and bent it at the neck, so that the spiral part separated- a natural corkscrew! I plunged it into the cork, but was having a difficult time getting it all through. But in doing so, I must have loosed it up, because the cork began to slip into the bottle. I removed the hanger, grabbed the spoon, and banged in the cork using the hotel bible. The cork plunged into the wine, spraying only enough of it out of the bottle to make it dramatic.
The victory was delicious! If I only I could say that for the wine.
So all you need to open wine without a corkscrew is a hanger, a spoon, and a bible. If this information helps just one person get his or her drink on in equally dire circumstances, it will all have been worth it.
The other week I sat down on the patio behind Swirl on Castro with Marko Karakasevic and Jenni soon-to-be Karakasevic of Charbay and tasted through their line of products.
Charbay is a family-run winery and distillery in Napa Valley. And boy do these people like to play with the still- in addition to wine, they make flavored vodka, rum, whiskey, walnut liqueur, grappa, pastis, port, and now some aperitifs. It's hard to keep up with them.
The aperitifs are neither eau de vie nor typical liqueurs, but flavored fortified wines. Currently they produce a pomegranate and a green tea flavor, which they like to think of as cocktails-in-a-glass. Importantly for retailers, these can be served at beer and wine-only venues.
We then tasted through the vodka line. When they make vodka at Charbay, really they're making extractions that are added to plain vodka to flavor it. (Most flavored vodkas are vodka plus flavors purchased from flavor companies.) Not only is this unique, they make their extractions using whole fruit- not just the peel or juice. They throw the entire fruit (okay, not the pomegranate, but the citrus) into a leaf shredder and into the tanks, then distill the mixture to extract the flavor components they're looking for. Marko told me he was able to get the Meyer lemon flavor less bitter than before (emphasizing the pith less and peel more). The grapefruit flavor is as bitter as it should be.
The Tahitian vanilla rum is triple pot distilled and made from concentrated sugar cane juice (not molasses) from Hawaii. All rums are made from sugar cane products. Rhum agricole and cachaca are made from sugar cane juice. Most rums are made from molasses (the leftovers after sugar is extracted from sugar cane juice). Ron Zacapa is made from a form of concentrated sugar cane juice without the sugar taken out. The sugar cane juice used by Charbay is flash dehydrated under a vaccuum to remove the water and concentrate the liquid. I want to research how this is different from what Zacapa uses. Project!
I think they should just call their whiskey "weed-lovers-whiskey", because it really tastes like marijuana. This is the second release of the product that was pot distilled from pilsner beer with three kinds of hops (this is probably where the weed aromas come in) and aged six years in new barrels. The first release was after three years in barrels.
Finally, they're going to release a pomegranate dessert wine (they really like the pomegranate over there) that smells like it's going to be ultra-syrupy, but is just pleasantly sweet. A nice way to end a meal, or a tasting session.
To sample the products in person, check out the early happy hour at Tra Vigna in Napa Valley, during the weekly Charbay tasting. Hopefully Jenni and Marko will be there, because they're really fun people with whom to share a drink. Or ten.
The announcement that the Wall Street Journal was starting a wine club got me thinking: There sure are a lot of publications with wine clubs these days.
In the UK, there is the Sunday Times Wine Club,
but as with many of these clubs, the connection to the publication in
the name is unclear. Like the Wall Street Journal's wine club, this one
doesn't link to the original publication. There is also the Official Courier Newspaper Wine Club somewhere in the UK I think, but since it doesn't link to the Courier Newspaper (not an uncommon name) I'm not sure exactly where.
NewsDay, which I think publishes a few newspapers in the US, has a NewsDayInsider Wine Club, but you need to be an Insider subscriber to learn about it.
The San Francisco Chronicle's Wine Club makes the most sense, since they have a stand-alone wine section in the newspaper each week. At least, I thought it made the most sense, but when I searched for clubs from the wine-specific magazines like Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, and Wine & Spirits I couldn't find any.
Camper English is a cocktails and spirits writer for publications including Saveur (Contributing Drinks Editor), FSR Magazine (Spirits Editor), Whisky Advocate, Details.com, PopSci.com, Mixology, Drinks International, and many more. Learn about Camper and Alcademics, or read clips of his published work.