Pumping Iron – Why Fish & Red Wine don't mix.

05-29 Mercado (20) In this week’s edition of the ScienceNow Daily News, (full story, here) it was reported that Japanese researchers have discovered why fish and red wine so often clash.  Turns out there are minute traces of iron in some red wines, particularly those grown in soils high in certain minerals, and that these trace elements can leave you with a very unpleasant “fishy” aftertaste.  And I don’t mean the clean fish smell of the ocean, but more like the day-after fish smell of the trash bin.

The research also seems to answer why some red wines can actually compliment seafood and fish, while others make you run for the motion sickness bag.  The researchers identified an “iron threshold” of 2 miligrams per liter.  Any red wine containing more than this amount spoils the seafood pairing.

Scallops, perhaps the most notorious offender when it comes to foul red wine pairings, were used to test this theory further.  When dried scallops were soaked in wine whose iron content was below the threshold smelled fine, but those soaked in wine with iron above the critical 2 mg/L, smelled horrible.  Note, I’ve observed the same phenomenon when fresh scallops are rinsed using iron-rich water.  Now I know why!

Red Wine With FishBut I agree with Gordon Burns, the enologist who argued that the more compelling reason to avoid red wine with fish is that most red wines are big-bodied wines that over-power the lighter, delicate flavors of most seafood.  And that violates one of my key guidelines for food and wine pairing:

  1. Match high acidity in the food with high-acid wines
  2. Match sweet foods with equal or higher sweetness in the wine
  3. Pair light dishes with lighter wines, heavier dishes with heavier wines
  4. If the wine is high in fruit and alcohol, leave it on the cocktail bar when you go to the dinner table!

Others, such as Tim Hanni, M.W., suggest that simply adding a pinch of salt and a squeeze of citrus to your fish dish will make it surprisingly compatible with your red wine.  And still others, such as David Rosengarten, in his famous book (right) simply focuses on finding lighter red wines that can compliment fish and seafood prepared with red wine-friendly recipes.  Of course, his book was written in 1989, when it was easier to FIND a lighter red wine, i.e., lower in alcohol (average then was just 12.5%) and body.

By contrast, today’s contemporary styles for wine often dictate alcohol levels in excess of 14.5% along with “gobs and gobs of ripe fruit”.  If red wine with fish is your culinary preference, I’d seek the lighter reds of Burgundy, Beaujolais, Northern Italy, the Loire and other cool-weather growing areas.

Seek out such wine, and I think you’ll be finding Nemo never tasted so good.

Dave the Wine Merchant

Quote of the Day
Fish, to taste good, fish must swim three times.  First in water, then in butter, and then in wine!”  ~Old Proverb

Wine-Friendly Recipe: Robust Red & Goat Cheese Lamb Burgers

Bistro RalphI took my first of many wine vacations in 1988.  I was staying in what was then the small town of Healdsburg, quaintly nestled in Sonoma.  When it came time for dinner, the owners of the Camelia Inn B&B directed me  to one of the few restaurants in town back then – Bistro Ralph.  I’ve been in love with that place ever since.

I recently introduced some friends to Bistro Ralph, where we shared a leisurely lunch.  The combination of this lamb burger and the Rhone wine we selected was so memorable, it’s become one of my favorite easy meals.

This recipe originally appeared in the December, 2008 shipment to our club members.  It played chaperon to a bottle of the Tous les Jours syrah from Andrew Murray Vineyards, and that youthful wine remained well behaved under its careful tutelage.

Ingredients (serves 4 – 6)
Olive oil
1 Red onion, peeled, halved and sliced
2 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
1/2 Cup Crumbled Goat cheese, or to taste
1 ½ – 2 Lbs ground lamb
2 Cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp cumin
Freshly ground black pepper and Kosher salt, to taste
4 -6 Good buns
1-2 Heads Bibb lettuce

Heat a sauté pan over medium high heat until hot, add the olive oil then the onion.  Sauté until well caramelized and dark but not crispy – 10-15 minutes.  Add the balsamic and integrate well, remove from heat and add the goat cheese. Stir to coat and melt slightly. Set aside. Can be re-heated

In a large bowl, combine minced garlic, thyme, cumin, pepper, and salt. Add the ground lamb and combine. Be careful not to over-handle the meat (and I caution those of you with dirty minds to get them out of the gutter right now) or the consistency of your burger will be mushy.

Form 4 patties, each about 3/4 inch thick. Place on a medium-high grill for 4 to 6 minutes per side, or broil or sauté for ~5 minutes per side.

Brush buns with olive oil, toast slightly, scrape once with a peeled garlic clove, and set aside.

Assembly – Place burger on bun, top with lettuce, then with onions.  Spread goat cheese on underside of top bun, pour a glass of wine, and call me if this isn’t transcendent.

Wine Pairings
For my recommended Syrah and other Rhone Varietals, click here
For Zinfandels, click here
For Pinot Noir, click here
And if your idea of the perfect red wine is Cabernet, click here

Dave the Wine Merchant

Tapas Recipe – Chardonnay with Steamed Clams

07CHARD-bottleIn June, 2009, this recipe was paired with the Bonneau Wines, ’07 Los Carneros Chardonnay, Catherine’s Vineyard ($28), which was sent to members of our Maya’s Collectible Selections sampling program.  Click here to find alternative wines.

The richness of fresh clams provides a great foil for chardonnay, especially when white wine is used in the clam pot.  But please don’t use this great wine for cooking!  Its beautiful nuance would be cooked off, and that would be a shame. Instead, pick up a bottle of the $8 or $9 stuff for the clam pot – the less oak influence the better, as oak will concentrate and dominate the dish.  Just be sure it’s something you would actually put in your mouth – cooking with bad wine just amplifies its flavors!

3 Pounds fresh clams, well scrubbed.  Throw out any that do not close when cleaning.  They be dead.  Bad to the bone*.
1/3 Cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 Ozs diced Serrano ham (a dried ham similar to prosciutto, with a somewhat sweeter taste)
½ tsp Red pepper chili flakes
1 Pinch paprika
4 Cloves garlic, minced
¾ Cup dry white wine
½ Cup water
2 Tbsp chopped parsley

Heat a large (wide bottomed) skillet over medium heat, add the oil, then the ham.  Cook until almost crispy, stirring often.  Add red pepper flakes, paprika and garlic and stir constantly for about a minute, just until the garlic is gives up its aromatics. If you take a call from your mother and the garlic burns while you’re gabbing, ya gotta start over.  Focus.

Add the wine and reduce for about a minute, scraping up any brown bits from the pan.  Add the water and bring to a simmer for 2 minutes.  Add the clams and cover.  Increase the heat to high and cook until the clams begin to open – they get tough if cooked too long, so be ready with tongs in hand and a serving bowl at the ready.  They only take about five minutes.  Throw out any clams whose shells are not open and reduce the broth for another couple of minutes..

Pour the broth over the clams in the serving dish (or place four clams on individual appetizer dishes, if using as tapas!), sprinkle with parsley and serve with a side of toasted bread.

Happy Merchant

Dave the Wine Merchant

Quote of the Day:
Researchers have found that clams reproduce at 10 times their normal rate when Prozac is introduced into their aqueous environment.  Apparently, Prozac is an effective mussel relaxer!

*Yes, I KNOW clams don’t have bones.  It’s just an expression.  Would you rather I said “bad to the mantle?”  or “Bad Quahog”??  Sorry, neither works for me.

Tapas Recipe – Zinfandel with “Spanish Wings”

06Zin-bottleIn June, 2009, this recipe was paired with the Bonneau Wines, ’05 Zinfandel from Shenandoah Valley ($22), which was sent to members of our Maya’s Collectible Selections sampling program.  Click here to find alternative wines.

While eating at one of Barcelona’s hoity toity tapas bars, I was surprised to see what looked like Chicken wings.  They struck me as a sad concession to the McDonald’s crowd – tourists with highly domestic, non-adventurous palates.  But on the premise that all the other small plates we’d had there were memorable, and that even Spanish chickens provide two wings each, with which SOMETHING must be done in the kitchen, I decided to give them a try – I was risking barely a couple Euro, after all.

The risk was well worth it!  These are about as far from the typical “Buffalo Wings” as culinary skill can take you.  Don’t get me wrong, paired with a cold beer, some celery sticks and a good hot barbecue dip, few snacks provide more pleasure per calorie.

And this version is equally easy, and can be prepared by those who are normally all thumbs in the kitchen.   This easy recipe requires about 15 minutes of prep, a few passive hours for marinating, then half an hour in the oven.  Serves 8 as an appetizer course.

2 Pounds chicken Drumettes (the meatiest part of “Wings” and easiest to eat without utensils!)
2 tsp Spanish paprika
1 tsp Coriander
1/4 tsp Cumin
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Freshly ground pepper
2 – 3 Cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp Brown sugar
1 Tbsp water
3 Tbsp virgin olive oil

Wash and dry the drumettes and set aside at room temperature.  In the bowl of a food processor or mini chopper, combine all remaining ingredients into a thin paste.  Place the drumettes into a large, sealable container, pour on the marinade and rub into each drumette before covering.  Marinade for at least 4 hours (up to 8 hours) in the refrigerator.

Heat oven to 425 degrees.  Line a baking pan with parchment or foil. Arrange wings in a single layer, brush on marinade to assure each piece is covered, then discarding any remaining sauce.  Bake for 15 minutes, then turn each piece.  Return to oven for a final 15 minutes.  Serve on a platter with a parsley garnish and plenty of napkins.

Dave the Wine Merchant

Wine of the Week – Peay Vineyard's 2006 Syrah "La Bruma"

2006labruma1Today’s featured wine is named La Bruma (The Fog) after the frequent morning mists that cover the Pacific Coast where the Peay’s vines call home.

The winemaker – Vanessa Wong – says this wine has less pepper than the 2005, which I find surprising, since the pepper notes are what registered most in my taste memory.  They remind me of the peppery Syrah-based wines of Provence, only without the rough-hewn nature of those delicious but brawny wines. The wine is delightful, and will really kick butt if left in a dark, cool place for another half decade or so, if you have such a place and the will power to use it.

Look for floral notes sitting atop pie spices and warm, dusty blackberries. A bit of Beef Jerky and smoked ham (or is it Asian pork ribs?) on the palate, and a dark fruit and peppery finish that lasts for several minutes. The scuttlebutt in the industry is that there is more Syrah available for sale than the market can bear, particularly if the wine is priced over $30.  If that’s true, it’s only becaue more of them don’t taste like this one.  This is a wine you’ll enjoy getting to know.

Try the La Bruma Syrah with this recipe for Lamb Meatballs.

475 cases produced.

Dave the Wine Merchant

P.S. I selected this wine for our Grand Cru members’ June shipment, and paired it with a recipe for Savory Lamb Meatballs.  For your very own copy, email me at dave@davethewinemerchant.com

A Wine for Cinco de Mayo, Palin's Birthday, et al

cinco-de-maypIt’s like cancelling the 4th of July to keep everyone at home” said one patriot, who shuddered at the idea.  But that’s what the fear of Swine Flu has done to Mexico’s traditional Cinco de Mayo celebration – an annual commemoration of their unlikely victory over the French in 1862.

What’s an online merchant to do?  The hordes of would-be Cinco de Mayo celebrants, once searching the internet for last-minute pairing advice, now sitting at home with idle keyboards. 

Unless, just maybe, I can find an alternative celebration that generates millions of alternative web searches.  And thanks to the power of internet search tools, I’ve found one – the birthday of Michael Palin (CBE) who was born back in, well, some years ago.

Michael Palin for President
Michael Palin for President

Palin Wine?

Palin is best known for his work with the comedy troupe Monty Python’s Flying Circus, back in the latter part of our prior century.  He then launched a second career as an award-winning travel writier and TV guide.   Then in 2000, he was beknighted.  Aftersuch career success most people would be content to fade into retirement.  But in 2008 Palin anted up his fame and fortune to launch a failed campaign for President of the United States, an ill-advised move that left a bit of a stain on his otherwise stellar and tasteful reputation.  I’ll bet McCain still won’t talk to him.

But enough silliness (is there ever though, really?).  Speaking of tasteful, and of something completely different, I’d like to turn the conversation to wine.  As always.

Whether raising a toast to Cinco de Mayo, or to Palin’s birthday, here is a wine that makes the best of both celebrations.  This was one of eight wines selected for our various wine club shipments that went out in April, and it’s proven to be one of the favorites, if subsequent re-orders provides any indication!

contour-front-labelNevada City Winery, 2005 “Contour” Bordeaux Blend – Affordable Luxury 
The 2005 Directors’ Reserve Contour is a blend of all five of the classic Bordeaux grape varieties. This wine melds the structure, charm and personality of each variety into a balanced, complex wine.

Cabernet Sauvignon takes the lead role at first, but more complex and layered aromas and flavors emerge as this wine opens up in decanter or glass (or cellar).

A blend of 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, 7% Malbec, 3% Petit Verdot. Alcohol: 14.2% (perfect for food pairing).  Total Acid: .62 g/L (pH  3.79).

Click to Buy Nevada City 2005 “Contour”

$25/Bottle, $270/Case

Price does not reflect club member discounts

The Back Story 
More than a few small wineries have started in a garage. In Bordeaux they’ve even coined a word for it – Garagiste – generally referring to Mavericks who choose to operate outside the restrictions of their local winemaking traditions, and charging arm-and-leg prices for their product.

Nevada City Winery started out in a garage in 1980.  Since that time, this successful winery has enjoyed many expansions, but each has preserved the historic Miners Foundry Garage.  Visitors are often surprised by its smallness – about the size of a large living room.  The winery building, now centrally located, was on the outskirts of this two-street town back when the garage first served its residents.

By the way, the “town” is pictured on the label, the Gold-Rush town of Nevada City, California, where the wooden plank sidewalks and Victorian-era building facades make you wonder if you’ve just stepped into the film set for an old western.

But this is the second incarnation of this winery, the original was founded over a century ago during California’s first wine boom – sadly put asunder by the one-two punch of the devastating phylloxera epidemic in the late 1800’s, followed by the ruinous experiment in legislating morality known as “Prohibition”.  After that, the California wine industry was sidelined for four decades.

In 1880 there were over 300 acres of grapes in Nevada County. A century later the county was home to just one small vineyard. Today there are again over 300 acres of grapes and the wine industry is flourishing once more.

It's hard work, but somebody's gotta do it                     

Hard work, but somebody’s gotta do it

Dave the Wine Merchant

A Toast to Mothers Everywhere

A Toast to Moms
A Toast to Moms
As Mother’s Day approaches, wine specials have flooded in.  From this avalanche of offers, you may have noticed how wine writers (especially the men, it seems) recommend “feminine” wines for Mother’s Day.  What characteristics evoke femininity in a wine is a curious thing.  As far as I’ve been able to tell, wine bottles come with neither the innie nor outie sort of naughty bits.  If they did, surely I’d have noticed by now.
Perhaps the easiest way to engender a bottle of wine is through its label.  A bottle wearing a label emblazoned with fire trucks, motorcycles, airplanes, fast cars, skulls or anything with flames… probably not one for mom.  Unless her Harley is parked out back.  There are always exceptions.
Though a label can hint at gender through the immediacy of our visual senses, our sense of smell and taste take over once the bottle is out of site.  A wine’s gender is implied by its characteristics – those that are lighter in body, smooth, nuanced and elegant are often referred to as feminine.  Those that are big, tannic, high in alcohol, and deeply infused with the color and flavor of very ripe fruit are considered brutish and masculine (neither of which are good marketing terms, so the industry prefers the phrase “New World Style”, AKA “Parkerized” in homage to the man who made them popular).
Mother's Day Brunch
Mother's Day Brunch

But in my experience, these stylistic classifications don’t actually seem to work when it comes to predicting which sex will prefer a certain style.  In my unscientific observations, women are perhaps a bit more likely than men to be fans of the New World Style, and if not more so, certainly no less so.

So where does that leave those in a quandary over a wine for Mother’s Day?  With lots of great options, actually!  
The Bantem Weight
Let’s start with pairing the wine to the meal instead of worrying about Mom’s palate preference.  The former trumps the latter in the end.  If selecting a wine for brunch the key is to find something with a light hand on the alcohol, a wine that doesn’t leave the group comatose after an hour at the table.  Both the earliness of the meal and the typical fare argue for wines light in alcohol and body (but then, I repeat myself). 
Sparkling wine lends itself nicely to the brunch meal, but here’s the twist – opt for the off-dry Demi-Sec instead of the usual Brut, or the often over-looked Prosecco or Moscato (sorry I have neither of these in inventory, but here are some favorites from other retailers – Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant, Arlequin Wine Merchant.  These options are particularly adept at complimenting fruit salads, sweet rolls and other mid-day fare.  And if you’re meal involves egss of any sort, a touch of sweetness will be key – dry wines and eggs fight like unhappy siblings. 
For meals with more robust flavors, don’t overlook the blush wines, though even many of these are being made with high alcohol these days – opt for something below 14%, if you can find it.  Other options abound, including a good Riesling or Gewurztraminer.
What About Mimosas?
Ahhh, the old mimosa.  The key here is to avoid the expensive stuff, as their nuanced flavors and lighter bubbles get crushed under the weight of the orange juice, without serving rock-gut Charmat-style bubbly.  I recommend the Charles de Fere ($19 no on sale for $16) mixed with no more than 1/3 to 1/4 orange juice.  And for a beautiful variation, top it off with a splash of grenadine, POM or (my preference) Framboise and a fresh raspberry.
The Middle Weights
Opt for Pinot Noir and bolder blush wines if your Mother’s Day meal is bigger than brunch.  These food-friendly wines span the range from light and elegant (such as the Molnar Family ’06 Pinot, $34, or the  Au Bon Climat ’05 Pinot from Los Alamos, $35) to the richer style with higher alcohol, deeper color, and warmer flavors (Oak Savanna Cellars, ’05 Pinot, $37 or the William James ’06 Pinot from Garey’s Ranch, $38).  For a fun and memorable change of pace, the adventurous will kick themselves for not trying the Cabernet Franc-based “Chukker” ($24) from Happy Canyon Vineyards – still a lighter red wine, it is richer than the  part way between the Loire style and the Bordeaux style, as this warm-weather vineyard comes into maturity.


The Heavyweights
The Heavyweights

The Heavy Weights

These wines are lush in sweet, ripe-fruit flavors with enough alcohol (14.5%+) to suggest they be saved at least until late afternoon.  These are the wines often described as “Masculine”, but I find them equally favorited by those with the double X chromosome as those with the X-Y.  



Wines made in this style includes many of today’s California Zins (a good example is the Brochelle ’07 Estate Zinfandel, $36), a wide spectrum of the Rhone world (such as Andrew Murray’s ’05 Syrah, $25 or the bigger and earthier ’06 Petite Rousse, $28 or even the uniquely Aussie-styled wine from Barossa Valley – Torbreck’s ’08 Cuvee Juveniles at $24.50).
Whether your Mother’s Day  plans involve brunch, lunch, supper or dinner, or whether your family structure requires all four, this spectrum of wine suggestions provides a pairing for every situation.
It's hard work, but somebody's gotta do it               

Hard work, but somebody’s gotta do it

Dave the Wine Merchant

Toasts & Quotes for Mother’s Day:
The moment a child is born, the mother is also born.  She never existed before.  The woman existed, but the mother, never.”    ~Rajneesh

You don’t really understand human nature unless you know why a child on a merry-go-round will wave at his parents every time around – and why his parents will always wave back.”  ~ William D. Tammeus

Sing out loud in the car even, or especially, if it embarrasses your children.”   ~Marilyn Penland

Never raise your hand to your kids.  It leaves your groin unprotected.”  ~Red Buttons

Trendspotting – Cheese Paper, Wine & Cheese Parties Return


Cheese Paper from Formaticum

Cheese Paper from Formaticum

Wine and cheese.  I’ve been enjoying them for  decades, and it’s difficult to say whether the cheese compliments the wine, or vice versa.  Of course, some combinations are horrible, but these can be avoided simply by matching weight and acidity.  Besides, the risk is part of the fun, the inevitable flip side to finding a perfect pairing.

It isn’t the matching that’s been my problem.  It’s the waste!  I can’t tell you how many fortunes I’ve turned  into compost because my left-over cheese went bad, sometimes in just a couple of  days.

Placing left-over cheese inside plastic wrap or a baggie left the cheese damp and sweaty within a day, and after a few days, a bit moldy and ammoniated, good for nothing but feeding worms. 

So it was with great interest that I recently stumbled onto the secret to well- preserved cheese – a product called “Cheese Paper”.   First, I read about it online and asked my wife “Cheese paper!?  Ever hear of it?”  And she hadn’t.  The very next day it was mentioned in passing on a PBS food show, and I decided to keep an eye out for it.  

Within a week I found it at our neighborhood cheese shop, making me wonder how long it had been waiting right under my nose (about two years, apparently!).  Turns out the French were the primary source of cheese paper, and not much made it to this side of the pond, at least, not for home use.  Then a couple years ago, an Oregon company began marketing it in small quantities intended  for home use.

Of course I had to buy some.  And that night, tests were begun.  I don’t know why it took me so long to hear about this product!  At close to $9 suggested retail (we paid $6, so shop around), it IS ridiculously expensive relative to other  (less effective) wrappings.  But its cost should be considered relative to the price of what it’s preserving – two bits worth of paper seems a frugal expenditure if it preserves $7 worth of left-over cheese.

And it does preserve the cheese!  We tested it by wrapping various cheeses (Blue, parmesan, manchego, gouda, and cheddar) and monitoring their progress over two weeks.  While the cheese’s quality was definitely compromised towards the end of our 2-week trial, it was far more enjoyable than cheese preserved using any other wrapping.  I was a believer, so now I had to know why it works.

Turns out cheese needs high humidity AND a slow exchange of oxygen in order to stay fresh.   Which means it should be stored in a semi-permeable container, and plastic, as any kid knows who’s ever played with a dry cleaner bag, doesn’t breathe (I know, I hear my mother’s cautionary admonition in the back of my head too).

Finding Cheese Paper Online

If your local cheese shop doesn’t carry this useful product, look for it through the following online sources.  

  • Formaticum – this is the product pictured above, and the one I found at my local cheese monger.  I received a message indicating their security certificate had exprired, so you may want to check that before ordering direct [UPDATE – the day after this originally posted, I was contacted via email by Formaticum and informed that this problem has been fixed, so feel free to order away. ~Dave]   They seem to be the leading domestic source for cheese paper, and provide a video useful for those new to cheese wrapping.
    How To Wrap Cheese from Formaticum on Vimeo.
  • Of course, Zabars in NYC sells cheese paper online.  But again, it’s the Formaticum paper, also at ~$6.   Does anyone else make this stuff?  Let me see what Google turns up…
  • YES!  The New England Cheese Making Supply Company offers two types, one for white rind and one for red rind cheeses.   Their pricing is roughly the same, with the smallest size running $5 for 25 sheets, their largest running $10 for 25.
  • But that’s about the extent of sources for cheese paper.  At least, if your online search budget is limited to about 20 minutes, as is mine.  I should note that a cheese dome is also an excellent way to preserve cheese.  It lasts a lifetime, is rarely found wallowing in landfills, and nicely preserves a small amount of cheese.  But plan to spend a bit – up to $100 after tax and shipping.

I’ve decided cheese paper is a useful product to have on hand.  Then if your next wine and cheese party has left-overs, you’re covered.  And so’s your cheese.

Planning A Wine & Cheese Party?
We freature some great wines for cheese pairing.  

  • Goat Cheese/Chevre – the high acidity in these cheeses require the same in your wine.  And their grassy flavor bridges nicely to such flavors in the white wines of Sauvignon Blanc, such as those found here.
  • Pungent White Cheeses – as a rule of thumb, the more pungent the cheese, the less dry the wine will need to be.  But dryness is fungible, as some wines with zero residual sugar have a ripe fruit profile that still suggests sweetness.  I recommend wines from warmer regions (Rhone Whites, or big Chardonnays) as well as sweeter white table wines (an off-dry version of Riesling comes to mind, as do Gruner Veltliner and Gewurztraminer)
  • Hard CheesesRed wines are the classic pairing with these milder flavored cheeses.  And don’t forget pinot!
  • Blues – These can fight a tannic wine, unless it has sufficient sweetness of fruit to balance the tang of the cheese.  I like the classic pairing with port or other sweet wines, though a California Zin or other big red wine often work well.
It's hard work, but somebody's gotta do it              

Hard work, but somebody’s gotta do it

Dave the Wine Merchant

Quote of the Day:
Dude, you going to eat your cheese paper?” 
~ From the Urban Dictionary which defines cheese paper slightly differently than I have… “the wax paper cheeseburgers come in.  Called so from the cheese remnants stuck to the paper.  Often a delicacy.”

Trend Spotting – Food & Wine News

Click for wine club info
Click for wine club info

Lots of interesting things popping up in the headlines this last week…

Alice Waters of Chez Panisse
Alice Waters of Chez Panisse


Alice Waters Pioneers New Compensation System– Alice Waters, a powerful food advocate and founder of the iconic restaurant Chez Panisse, was interviewed on 60 Minutes a week ago Sunday. Her comments were picked up by US News & World Report. Seems she’s abolished tipping, at least in its traditional form, at her stalwart restaurant Chez Panisse. A guest’s voluntary tip has been replaced with a flat 17% service charge (more can be left if desired) which is split amongst the front and back of house (FOH/BOH) to create better parity. Alice indicated the discrepancy between FOH and BOH pay scales was affecting the quality of her custoemrs dining experience. This story became #5 on Google searches for the past week…

California Teaches French Students About Wine – Wine marketing, that is.  The Napa Valley Register reports a group of Masters students from the famed French University of Burgundy in Dijon studied Napan’s marketing techniques for a week. They are taking home the word that Napa Winery’s are “la Bomba!” when it comes to wooing customers.  I envision a group of Galoise chain smokers learning how to Twitter, create Facebook groups, and send email invitations for exclusive subscriber events…

Ultra Violet Man to the Rescue! – No, it’s not a character from Bay to Breakers, San Francisco’s costume/alcohol extravaganza and foot race. It’s this week’s S.F. Chronicle (long may it live) report that wineries are turning to ultra violet light waves to destroy the microbes once killed by the Winemaker’s addition of sulfites. Why do we care? Because sulfites are what cause some of our bodies to create histamines, and histamines create headaches in those with allergies. Another solution? Age your wine until the free SO2 is absorbed. But for the 98% of wine drinkers who prefer more immediate gratification…

Robot Pruner at work
Robot Pruner at work

 Robots To Save The Wine Industry? – Wine growers rely on immigrant labor to harvest grapes and prune vines. American workers are no longer adept at such tasks, or able to live here on the wages winegrowers can pay. Now tightening labor laws have created a short supply of this important imported labor force. Not wanting to be caught with ripe grapes and no pickers, winegrowers have been testing the waters of automated harvesters for some time. I expect more will make the jump each year. And this week Wines and Vines reports that a robotic vine pruner may replace human laborers for that most tedious of carpal tunnel tasks. Introduced in 2007, the only hurdle remaining for the innovator of this robotic system is about $2.5 million for development and testing. Want a piece of the action? The company is looking for partners to ante up $125K each…

Good times about to happen...
Good times about to happen...

Dave the Wine Merchant

Removing Red Wine Stains – Video

Redwine_spill_2 Before I was fully immersed in this business, I dabbled.  Among my many wine-realted activities, I hosted wine classes several times a year.  The evenings would often go late, and my usually tidy guests would let their standards slide.  Let’s just say, "spills happened".

So my permanently-stained tablecloth became something of a visual journal of prior classes.  I began asking spillers to sign their stain, indicating the date and the type of wine spilled.  The tablecloth was finally retired after one well-served guest decided to use the Sharpie for more than signing her name, rendering a male nude that looked surprisingly like the instructor.  She had a good imagination.

Had I but known then what I know now…

Continue reading “Removing Red Wine Stains – Video”