The Future of Wine Programs

Posted by | Posted in Accessories | Posted on 10-09-2013

Kapnos' James Horn.

Kapnos’ James Horn.

The name Mike Isabella doesn’t mean much to me.

I know just enough to recognize that he’s one of those celebrity chefs manufactured by some show. So when his new restaurant, Kapnos, opened a couple blocks from my house — an ambitious neighborhood joint consistent with the rapid-fire restaurantification of Washington, DC’s 14th St corridor — well, that didn’t mean a whole lot to me, either.

But I swung by one night on a lark, and I now believe I’ve seen the future of wine programs at hip urban restaurants.

If the “Isabella” name didn’t grab my attention, a long, by-the-glass list of aged Chateau Musar certainly did. Seeing the famed wines of Ghazir, Lebanon isn’t something I’m accustomed to seeing at the other restaurants in my neighborhood. I opted for a glass of the 2000 Musar; more profligate or eager wine geeks might splurge for a glass of the ’78, or any number of other vintages.

It was a perfect pairing.

Characteristically and purposefully desiccated — stylized “old world” — massive amounts of Brettanomyces and volatile acidity blasted out of the Musar. So why did I like it so much? And how was I able to afford it on my PBR budget?

Kapnos is able to serve Musar – together with a long list of other usually cost-prohibitive treasures, like a 2000 Chateau Palmer, a 1983 Spari Amaroni, and an 11-year-vertical of the Greek Skouras “Labyrinth” –because the restaurant uses a Coravin. (The Coravin was thoroughly explored earlier this week on Terroirist by Scott Claffee.)

I was giddy to see the Coravin in action — and even clapped like a wide-eyed kindergartener watching puppet theater. And I’m no gadget geek. Soon, I imagine, these things are going to pop up everywhere. Read the rest of this entry »

The Coravin: Wines by the Milliliter

Posted by | Posted in Accessories | Posted on 10-07-2013

Precision is everything

Lucas Paya pours ’82 Lynch-Bages by the milliliter at barmini

This summer, a groundbreaking wine device was released after years of research, and it immediately took the wine world by storm.

Online bulletin boards started buzzing, sommeliers started salivating, and collectors clamored to get their hands on one. So much has already been written about the Coravin that there’s not much more to be said about the device itself. In short, the Coravin was invented by a medical device entrepreneur as a way to access wine in a bottle without removing the cork, by piercing the enclosure with a slender hollow needle and injecting Argon gas that displaces the wine that is forced out.

The idea is, because the natural properties of cork allow it to reseal itself after being pierced, you can remove wine from a bottle, place it back into storage, and revisit the same wine days, weeks, or months (years?) later without it suffering the usual effects, such as oxidization, of an open bottle. As boutique wine importer Lyle Fass told me, “For old wines [the Coravin] is miraculous.” Fass tasted a 1971 Chateau Beycheville that had been accessed a month earlier and reported that “it was fresh, vibrant, delicate and had not degraded at all.” This understandably has many wine collectors excited about the ability to sample their bottles at various points on the aging curve, but as Fass notes, “[Coravin] will change the game for restaurants.”

Restaurants were basically the laboratories for testing the Coravin. Del Posto, the elegant temple of Italian cuisine in Manhattan, has been offering wines by the glass using a Coravin for the last year. The list includes glasses of Piedmontese superstars like Gaja and Conterno for $200. Like Eric Asimov, who was skeptical of astronomic by-the-glass prices at NoMad, I was not convinced that simply using a Coravin to serve a traditional 6-ounce pour would reinvent restaurant wine programs.

Enter barmini by José Andrés. The Spanish chef, long known for pushing traditional boundaries in his cuisine, has established a “cocktail lab” next door to his molecular gastronomy showcase, minibar. Under wine director Lucas Paya, barmini is using the Coravin in the most innovative way I have seen.

Read the rest of this entry »

Holiday Indulgences

Posted by | Posted in Accessories | Posted on 12-23-2010

Uploaded to flickr by neil conway

Ah yes, the holidays; historically known as the time of year to over indulge in everything, favorite food and beverages being no exception. If you’re like me, you have no qualms about gaining an extra layer of insulation during the holiday season. After all, it is freezing outside. However, if you should choose to suppress your inner holiday glutton, you will be happy to know that you don’t have to choose between an after dinner glass of wine or dessert. You can have both!

Dessert wine, folks. If you’re too full for — or can’t possibly bear the shame of eating — a slice of turtle truffle double fudge pecan caramel swirl cheesecake, why not opt for a glass of dessert wine instead? A 2 or 3 oz glass will more than quench the sweet tooth, and you won’t feel cheated in the least. Best part is that it will only run you 100-150 calories; much easier to rationalize than the, ahem, 700 calories in the monster cheesecake!

Several domestic vineyards up north make some really nice ice wines out of everything from Chardonnay to Cabernet Franc. They’re a bit pricier than your average bottle of wine, but they make a lovely gift for your host. No time to run a quick errand to Michigan? No problem. A bunch of vineyards in warmer climates that can’t make actual ice wine (by letting the grapes freeze on the vines before they’re picked) are making ice-style wines by picking late harvest grapes, and then freezing them before they’re pressed. Dessert wine will generally keep for 7-10 days in the fridge, so you can enjoy this treat all week!

Now, to tackle the new purse or new shoes dilemma…

Our First Contest, Complete w/ Prize!

Posted by | Posted in Accessories | Posted on 12-08-2010

If Life is a Cabernet, then Sex is a Zin. And if you're reading this post, you could win this shirt!

As the holiday season approaches, you’ll undoubtedly find yourself scouring the ends of the internet searching for the perfect gift for the wine-o(s) in your life. I encourage you to check out Shirley Copperman’s latest endeavor. Shirley has generously offered a free item to a Terroirist reader.

Here’s the deal: Post a comment telling us about your favorite wine gift (gifted or received!) OR the wine gift you’re hoping for this year. On Friday night, we’ll select a winner at random. The only catch is that you must live in the United States. Read on for more of Shirley’s story…. Read the rest of this entry »

A Minor Wine Emergency

Posted by | Posted in Accessories | Posted on 11-15-2010

Uploaded to Flickr by Rennett...

About three weeks ago, I came home from work to find my eight bottle wine refrigerator’s digital readout flashing 92 degrees. Sure enough, upon opening the unit, the bottles were warm to the touch, and several showed signs of seepage. The unit was working properly when I left for the office around 8AM, so the bottles were not exposed to extreme temperatures for any more than 10 hours. However, all of the bottles showed varying levels of seepage. I’ve since consumed seven of the eight bottles with varying results. You’ll find a list of the bottles below, as well as some information on their condition upon being removed from the refrigerator. Any care to guess how the bottles showed upon opening?

1. 2007 Sunset Hills Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon – Consumed within 24 hours
2. 1995 Burgess Cabernet Sauvignon Library Release – Consumed within 24 hours
3. 2007 Eric Kent Wine Cellars Pinot Noir Windsor Oaks Vineyard – Consumed within 1 week
4. 2006 Carlisle Russian River Valley Syrah – Consumed within 1 week
5. 2003 Girard Artistry – Consumed within 1 week
6. 2005 Chateau de Clairefont Bordeaux – Consumed within 2 weeks
7. 2007 Eric Kent Wine Cellars Pinor Noir Freestone – Consumed within 2 weeks
8. 2006 Patrick Lesec Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Bargeton –I’ve not yet consumed this bottle.

I’ll post later this week with a rundown of the results. Some of the results might surprise you. In the meantime, use the comments section to guess how the bottles showed upon opening.