Blends – White

The Advantages of Wine Tastings – Part 2

14 January 2012
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A little while back I wrote a post about a delightful tasting of small-batch wines organized by In Fine Spirits. Events like this can be amazingly helpful; tasting numerous wines in rapid succession can really clarify what it is you like in a wine. Then the next time you go into a wine shop, you can more clearly explain what you’re looking for (assuming you used the spit bucket occasionally, so that you actually remember what you like).

The other major benefit of wine tastings is meeting really fun, interesting people. At the In Fine Spirits tasting, I quite enjoyed the wines Ian of Vinejoy presented, we had a great chat, and he put me on his dinner party list. His wine company hosts periodic pot luck dinners in various atmospheric locations, gathering together wine geeks, chefs, friends and various other assorted folk.

A few weeks later, crock pot in hand, I descended into the old basement of Gentile’s Wine Shop on Taylor Street, where a bricked-up tunnel hinted at the space’s bootlegging past. Platters of delicious-looking food covered multiple tables, illuminated by the glow of Christmas lights hanging from the pipes and ducts.


Between Two Seas

6 August 2011
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I had been mostly avoiding cooking during this recent Chicago heat spell, but as the “spell” turned into a full month, the desire to get back in the kitchen became too great. Despite the 90+ temperatures and a non-air-conditioned kitchen, I decided it was time to get back to the stove.

My thoughts turned to the warm-weather cuisine of Morocco, since we had recently made a batch of preserved lemons. A tagine of slow-cooked chicken thighs, fresh green olives, preserved lemon and caramelized onion seemed just the thing.

But what to pair with this Moroccan stew? It may or may not surprise you to know that I had no Moroccan wine on hand. Instead, I made the most of Morocco’s connection to France and opened a white Bordeaux from Entre-Deux-Mers, which means “between two seas” (in this case, the Dordogne and Garonne Rivers). The name itself already seemed cooling.

Bordeaux may not be especially odd or obscure — indeed, it’s perhaps the world’s most famous wine region. But many people seem to think of Bordeaux as invariably expensive and out of reach, and so almost never drink it. When is the last time someone showed up to a party of yours with a bottle of Bordeaux in tow?  It’s arguably the ultimate snob wine.

Somehow it’s escaped the notice of the general wine-drinking public that Bordeaux can be a staggeringly good value. What many see as a snob wine, oddly enough, is some of the most accessible wine in the world. (more…)


16 May 2011

In the last couple of decades, Lebanon has unfortunately been more famous for its wars than its wine. It wasn’t always so. According to André Dominé’s Wine, excavations at Byblos, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, “…have shown that wine must have been made [in Lebanon] more than 5,000 years ago.” The Phoenecians exported wine to Egypt, and the Romans erected a temple to Bacchus in Baalbek, even now the heart of Lebanon’s wine industry.

Despite this illustrious history, Lebanon boasted just five wineries as of 1991 according to The Telegraph, and Dominé’s 2001 edition of Wine also lists only five wineries: Château Musar, Fakra, Ksara, Clos St. Thomas and Château Kefraya. These stalwarts have been joined by at least 25 more wineries in the last ten years, including “boutique” wineries such as Massaya.

This winery was something rather new, a partnership between the Lebanese Ghosn brothers, Dominique Herard (owner of Château Trianon near Saint-Emilion) and the Brunier brothers (owners of Domaine du Vieux Télégraph near Châteauneuf-du-Pape). In addition to producing highly regarded wines, Massaya embraced wine tourism, opening a welcoming tasting room and the idyllic Vineyard Restaurant.

I was fortunate to find a bottle of the Massaya Blanc at In Fine Spirits, my neighborhood wine shop. I secured the last bottle on the shelf, a bottle, the clerk confided to me, that he had intended to take home the night before.

“Massaya” means “twilight” in Lebanese, or in the more extravagant translation of Massaya’s distributor, “the time of day when twilight sets on the vineyard and the sky turns purple as the sun sets behind Mount-Lebanon.” The Massaya Blanc certainly made me want to see that sunset for myself.


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