James Beard Dinner Benefits Local Restaurants
Wine & Spirits
Spiced Kentucky Pie
Miss Dixie • November 3, 2011
Turkey, sweet potatoes, cranberries and pumpkin pie. The mere mention of these foods conjures up images of a traditional Thanksgiving feast complete with all the trimmings. While many people choose to serve wine with their formal meal, I found a delightful cocktail at Rasika Restaurant in the Penn Quarter that should become a Thanksgiving classic.
Bartender Jason Strich has created a delectable fall cocktail he’s dubbed the Spiced Kentucky Pie. Jason’s seasoned sweet potato-based drink recently took first place in the Washington, D.C. bracket of the Domaine de Canton Bartender of the Year Competition. For his efforts, Jason will travel next year to French St. Martin to compete in the final round of the competition.
Jason came up with the idea while experimenting with ideas for autumn cocktails. He first thought about using pumpkin, but decided to go with sweet potatoes to create something a little more unusual.
The autumn creation begins with bourbon, hence the Kentucky moniker. At Rasika, Jason uses Jim Beam but also recommends making the drink with Basil Hayden’s, a light-bodied small batch bourbon. Next, as a sweetening ingredient, he adds Domaine de Canton. This French ginger liqueur is comprised
of Cognac, Provencal honey, Tunisian ginseng, and fresh baby Vietnamese ginger.
The principal component is Jason’s sweet potato water that he makes from scratch at Rasika. This liquid has a rich orange hue and is made by peeling and juicing fresh sweet potatoes. The extract
is then cooked with water and spices to infuse it with flavor. Jason’s unique spice mixture includes clove, coriander, ginger, star anise and black pepper. The end result is a flavorsome liquid
that tastes like sweet potatoes and maintains a good texture without being too thick.
The cocktail is topped off with a fluffy white head of toasted marshmallow that Jason toasts with a blowtorch and sprinkles with cinnamon. Jason uses a confection he calls “quick marshmallow”
forged from sugar, gelatin and egg white that finishes with a silky meringue consistency. Marshmallow
cream may be substituted, but the topping will not be quite as light and airy.
The robust bourbon taste shines through on my first sip followed by a distinctive kick from the Domaine de Canton and spiced sweet potato mixture.
With the whipped topping and opaque color, the cocktail gives the appearance of a sweet and heavy dessert, but in actuality it is thin and savory. As the marshmallow gradually melds into the drink, the flavor becomes slightly sweetened, but never overly cloying.
The cocktail’s overall appearance bears some resemblance to the tired casserole of canned sweet potatoes and marshmallow fluff that many will endure while dining with their in-laws. It’s sophisticated
and fresh flavor, however, are of no comparison.
Spiced Kentucky Pie
1.5 ounces bourbon
1.5 ounces Domaine de Canton
1.5 ounces sweet potato water
Combine ingredients in a glass and top with marshmallow. Toast with a torch and sprinkle with cinnamon.
Readers may sample the Spiced Kentucky Pie at Rasika located at 633 D St. Domaine de Canton, Basil Hayden’s, and wide selection of bourbons may be purchased at Dixie Liquor at 3429 M St. in Georgetown.
Champagne and Pearls
Maybe I should have paid more attention in science class. Chemistry sets, atoms, experiments — these projects tended to bore me when all I could think about was where I was going out Friday night.
But after attending a recent cocktail event sponsored by Cointreau, my interest in science was piqued — mainly because they found a way to combine chemistry and clubbing. It’s called molecular mixology and involves using science to turn a liquid alcohol into a solid. Looking back, if alcohol had been part of my lab days in chem class I would have shown up more often, at least for the samples.
Cointreau experts and Fernando Casellon, a well-known mixologist, harnessed their expertise to turn liquid Cointreau into solid droplets (dubbed Cointreau Pearls). These pearls are created through a scientific molecular mycology process called spherification.
Cointreau hosted a “How are they made” demonstration worthy of the Discovery channel at the newly redesigned St. Regis Hotel bar.
Upon my arrival I was introduced to mixologist Erin Williams, who was busy at work with a stack of lab equipment on the bar. Williams appeared more like a CSI character than bartender as she worked on creating a batch of pearls.
The equipment is part of a highly specialized tool kit provided by Cointreau that includes beakers, a magnetic agitator, syringes, jars of chemicals and the best part: liquor. The St. Regis is the only bar in Washington with this exclusive kit.
On one side of the bar, Erin had had a beaker filled with Cointreau and gold flakes. The edible gold pieces were added to give the finished pearls a glittery appearance. Meanwhile, on the other side of the bar, Erin meticulously mixed another beaker filled with a calcite bath made with Fuji water and a special “sphere gel.”
The actual pearls were formed when Erin dropped the Cointreau mixture, using a syringe, into the calcium solution. The droplets gently formed into tiny solid bubbles that glistened with an orange and golden hue.
I tasted a few of the jellified balls on their own. They had a consistency somewhere between caviar and gummy bears that burst open with an orange rush when bitten.
Next I enjoyed them served with Piper Heidsieck Champagne. The delicate orange spheres danced subtly in the glass along with the Champagne bubbles. The delicate texture of the pearls melded nicely with the crisp sparkling wine.
Cointreau pearls can be customized by bartenders and infused with other flavors. Fruits, herbs, and/or spices simply need to be mixed with the Cointreau before it’s dropped into the calcium bath.
In addition to the Champagne and pearls, two other pearly drinks are featured on the St. Regis’ cocktail menu. The Aphrodite’s Pearl is made with Cointreau pearls infused with cardamom, ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon, combined with a white wine fortified with tropical fruits and liqueurs. The Acai of Spring features pearls infused with acai berries, cherry-acai vodka and Piper-Heidsieck rose Champagne.
The cocktails were delicious, the overall demonstration entertaining, and I think I actually gained a bit of scientific knowledge. Who knew that drinking could be so educational?
Readers may try Cointreau pearl cocktails at the St. Regis Hotel, located at 923 16th St. Cointreau may be purchased at Dixie Liquor (3429 M St.) in Georgetown.
A Spot of Irish Coffee
Mark Twain once said, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” With its damp air and piercing Pacific wind, the City by the Bay can be nippy year-round. I recall a late-summer visit where the wind was whipping at my tail as I strolled along Fisherman’s Wharf after dinner.
Fortunately, a perfect remedy lurked nearby. The Buena Vista Cafe, which is known worldwide for their steaming cups of Irish coffee, was only few blocks up one of the city’s famous hills. As I trudged up the steep incline, the Buena Vista’s red neon sign served as a beacon signaling relief from the cold. The long and narrow bar draws devoted locals as well as out-of-towners relaxing after a day of sightseeing.
Watching the staff at the Buena Vista make the Irish coffees is a spectacle in itself. When the small cafe gets crowded, the bartenders line glass mugs up and down the tapered bar assembly-line style. Methodically, the staff pours blazing hot coffee into the waiting mugs, followed by sugar cubes and jiggers of Irish whiskey. Finally the toddies are topped with generous dollops of whipped cream before being served to eager customers waiting to warm their souls with steaming goodness.
Some mistakenly believe that the Buena Vista invented the Irish coffee. According to the Museum of the American Cocktail, Irish coffee was invented in 1942 by Joseph Sheridean, the head chef at Foynes Airbase in Limerick (now Shannon Airport), as a way to provide a warming beverage to cold and weary travelers.
According to the bar’s Web site (www.thebuenavista.com), on the night of November 10, 1952 Jack Koeppler, then-owner of the Buena Vista, challenged international travel writer Stanton Delaplane to help re-create the highly touted Irish coffee served at Shannon Airport. Intrigued, Stan accepted Jack’s invitation, and the pair began to experiment.
Throughout the night they stirred and sipped judiciously and eventually acknowledged two recurring problems. The taste was “not quite right,” and the cream would not float. Jack pursued the elusive elixir with religious fervor, even making a pilgrimage overseas to Ireland.
Upon Jack’s return, the experimentation continued. Finally, the perfect-tasting Irish whiskey was selected. Then the problem of the bottom-bent cream was taken to San Francisco’s mayor, a prominent dairy owner. It was discovered that when the cream was aged for 48 hours and frothed to a precise consistency, it would float on the surface.
Soon the fame of the Buena Vista’s Irish coffee spread. According to a Frommer’s guidebook, the bar has poured more of these addictive pick-me-up drinks than any other bar in the world, and ordering one has become a San Francisco must-do.
The Buena Vista’s Web site offers step-by-step instructions on how they make their Irish coffee.
1. Fill glass with very hot water to pre-heat, then empty.
2. Pour hot coffee into hot glass until it is about three-quarters full. Drop in two cocktail sugar cubes.
3. Stir until the sugar is thoroughly dissolved.
4. Add full jigger of Irish whiskey for proper taste and body.
5. Top with a collar of lightly whipped whipping cream by pouring gently over a spoon.
A selection of Irish whiskeys may be purchased at Dixie Liquor, located at 3429 M Street in Georgetown.
Pina Colada: African Style
The piña colada is a well-known tropical drink. The sheer mention of it conjures up images of beach bars and tiny cocktail umbrellas. While the drink’s origins hail from Puerto Rico, this festive libation is a staple at vacation spots around the globe.
Recently while on holiday in Ghana, my interest was piqued by a sign at my beachfront retreat that boasted the “Best Piña Colada this Side of the Equator.” The sprawling complex, dubbed Big Milly’s Backyard, was a laid-back place filled with friendly locals and mellow Rastafarians. Small bungalows and huts were dispersed through out the palm-shaded grounds dotted with an oceanfront restaurant and 24-hour open-air bar which featured live reggae and African drumming shows.
One afternoon as the scorching sun baked everyone at the beach, I decided to test Big Milly’s cocktail claims. Paajoe Quansah, a helpful young man who seemed to be a jack-of-all-trades around the complex, volunteered to mix a piña colada for me.
He started off by taking off his shoes and leaving the bar. Puzzled, I followed him a short distance to a towering palm tree, which he proceeded to climb. I strained my neck to look up as he scampered to dizzying heights where the coconuts grew and dropped several of them to the ground. I was in awe — this was going to be one mighty fresh piña colada!
Once he safely made it back to ground level, he split the coconuts open with a machete. First he expertly carved a spout and poured out the juice, which he shared with two eager young local children that suddenly appeared nearby. Next he used a knife to scrape the meat from the coconut and added it to the water. After repeating the process with about four coconuts, he combined the coconut meat and water in a blender to make a thick and frothy mixture.
Once the fresh coconut puree was prepared, Paajoe began to build my cocktail. He added two shots of African rum to the liquid coconut. He topped it off with a generous splash of Big Milly’s freshly squeezed pineapple juice, which on its own was a popular refresher at the bar. The finished cocktail was served over ice.
Its flavor was bright and fresh and not overly sweet. It stood as a stark contrast to the sickly sweet frozen piña coladas made with commercially prepared mixes. However the generous portions of local rum did provide a noticeable burn.
After two of these elixirs, the sun seemed to mellow out a bit and I felt a little cooler. The rest of the afternoon flowed nicely into serene sunset followed by dinner and a late night wiling away at the bar.
Piña Colada – Ghanaian Style
Sugar to taste
Drain liquid from coconuts. Many coconuts sold in the U.S. will have little or no liquid inside. Scrape meat from coconut and add to blender. Blend until fluid, adding water as necessary. Remove fruit from pineapple and juice in a blender. Imported pineapples will be less sweet than locally grown African fruit, so add sugar to taste. In a tall glass, add 3 ounces rum; add 2 ounces pineapple juice and 2 ounces coconut mixture. Serve over ice.
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The Fireside Sour
They say that variety is the spice of life. During a recent seminar at the Museum of the American Cocktail, Tad Carducci, a multi-award-winning bartender and founding partner of the beverage consulting firm Tippling Brothers, demonstrated how to use a variety of spices to give new life to some basic cocktails.
While many food enthusiasts are fervent about applying herbs and spices to various foods, Carducci is passionate about using spices to make unique and distinctive cocktails.
The seminar followed the use of spices, herbs and bitters from 2500 B.C. to the present. Carducci discussed the historical importance of spices and herbs as medicine, currency, foodstuffs and flavoring agents for spirits, liqueurs and cocktails.
Carducci mixed five different tipples, varying in flavor from sweet to sour to bitter to fiery hot. The most versatile and striking cocktail of the evening was the Fireside Sour.
Sours are a category of cocktails that consist of a base liquor, lemon (or lime) juice and a sweetener. Carducci’s creation follows this formula by combining Applejack liquor, lemon and tangerine, and a homemade simple sugar and spice syrup. Laird’s Applejack is one of the oldest domestic spirits in the United States, dating back to colonial times.
Carducci tracked the origins of the Fireside Sour back to original concept of punch, which was brought from India to England after colonization. Punch originally consisted of spirits, sugar, lemon, water and spices (often tea), 95 percent of which are grown in India, Carducci noted.
Before mixing the Fireside Sour, Carducci pulled a volunteer from the audience to demonstrate the ease of making the cocktail. The process began with juicing a fresh lemon and muddling tangerine slices for an extra citrus boost. Next, Carducci added his homemade spiced simple syrup and Laird’s Applejack before showing off his cocktail shaking technique.
The “secret” to the Fireside Sour was, without a doubt, Carducci’s spiced syrup, made from a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, black pepper, ginger cloves and star anise.
The cocktail had several layers of flavor. At first sip, the tangerine provided a fresh and sweet smack, followed by a spiced apple pie flavor from the Applejack and spice syrup and finished off with a clear bite of cinnamon. Its taste resembled a bright and juicy version of mulled cider. While Carducci described it as a wintry drink that combined all his favorite flavors of Christmas, the sunny orange flavor makes this drink ideal for summertime.
2 ounces Laird’s Applejack (7 1/2 yr. preferred)
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/4 fresh tangerine, halved
1 oz. spice syrup (see recipe below)
Muddle tangerine. Add all remaining ingredients and shake. Double-strain into chilled glass. Garnish with floating tangerine wheel. Dust with cinnamon.
A simple variation on an Applejack Rabbit, this cocktail embodies all the flavors we associate with cold weather and the holidays and that we associate as being very American. They are actually very exotic.
1 quart simple syrup
3 cinnamon sticks
1 nutmeg seed
1 finger ginger, peeled and finely chopped
3 whole star anise pods
2 tablespoons allspice berries
2 tablespoons whole cloves
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
Laird’s Applejack is available at Dixie Liquor (3429 M St.) in Georgetown. For more information about upcoming events from the Museum of the American Cocktail, visit www.museumoftheamericancocktail.org.
The Mermaid Cocktail
Anyone who has seen the newly released “Sex and the City 2” will tell you that there’s nothing quite like vacation with your BFFs. Fans of the original series will also confirm that Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha enjoy a good cocktail.
On a recent girlfriends getaway, my posse and I decided to make a themed cocktail to match the mermaid theme of our vacation. The main characters were myself, Miss Pixie Windsor, a Washington antique storeowner and avid collector of Mermaid memorabilia, and Jamye Wood, an upstate New York Web designer who has written a novel about a young girl who becomes a mermaid.
The three of us traveled to Florida’s Gulf coast to visit Weeki Wachee Springs, the town of living mermaids. Weeki Wachee is one of Florida’s oldest and most unique roadside attractions. It is now a state park, where live mermaids (that is, women dressed in fancy mermaid costumes) perform graceful underwater ballet in an aquarium-like setting on the Weeki Wachee River. The mermaids perform to music, using air hoses to stay under water throughout the entire show. Many celebrities, including Elvis, have attended the mermaid shows.
Our group decided to base ourselves in Siesta Key, FL to clock in some beach time. When perusing through a wide choice of beach houses to rent, we were all in agreement on a little cottage dubbed “The Sand Dollar,” mainly because of the heated saltwater pool with a tikki bar in the backyard. The house itself was secondary.
Our visit to Weeki Wachee did not disappoint. We enjoyed a day of retro fun, watching live synchronized mermaid shows that included a replay of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” and a patriotic number with mermaids performing underwater flips with Old Glory. While we were unable to find a cocktail bar inside the park, one of the snack bars served drinks in mermaid-shaped souvenir cups that we took back to our beach house for later use.
Our first criteria in building our cocktail was that it had to be bubbly — sort of like the upbeat mermaids blowing bubbles underwater. We therefore decided to use sparkling wine as one ingredient.
Next, although the mermaids’ costumes at Weeki Wachee included bright red and gold attire, we decided that our drink should be the traditional green color. I determined the bright emerald hue of melon liqueur would fit the bill.
Jayme insisted that we include local ingredients, so we purchased fresh oranges at a nearby farmers’ market for juice. She even scouted out a starfruit to make celestial-shaped garnishes. In order to highlight the orange flavor, Pixie purchased Stoli Orange vodka for an added citrus boost.
Our finished cocktail turned out to be deceptively light and refreshing. The bright and sunny flavor from the fresh juice and sparkling wine masked the taste of the vodka. The melon liquor added a perfect hint of sweetness while giving our drinks a cool green glow. Not bad for improvising on vacation!
The Mermaid Cocktail
1.5 ounces Stoli Orange vodka
1.5 ounces orange juice
1 ounce melon liqueur
Combine the first three ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Pour into a long glass over ice and top with sparkling wine. Garnish with sliced starfruit.
Ingredients to make the Mermaid Cocktail may be purchased at Dixie Liquor at 3429 M St. in Georgetown.
The Josephine Baker
Cuba is many things to many people. For vacationers from Canada and Europe, it is a tropical Caribbean getaway. For cigar aficionados the island is renowned for its celebrated stogies. For music lovers, Cuba is a jazz hotbed that spawned legendary performers like Tito Puente, Celia Cruz, and the Buena Vista Social Club. It is a place to step back in time and wander the narrow streets of Old Havana and watch the antique cars cruise along the oceanfront Malecon roadway.
For drinkers, not only is Cuba the rum-soaked first home of Bacardi, it also holds an important spot in cocktail history. The daiquiri and mojito are two noteworthy drinks that trace their earliest roots to Cuba.
The Museum of the American Cocktail hosted a seminar at Georgetown’s Mie N Yu restaurant in June celebrating the rich cocktail history of Cuba. Phil Green, a founding member of the museum, and Charlotte Voisey, an internationally renowned mixologist, emceed the event. Attendees were treated to a range of drinks, including the historical El Presidente cocktail and the Moveable Feast, a Hemingway-inspired punch that Charlotte created for a Cuban-themed lounge in New York.
Charlotte and Phil discussed the history of Cuba, as a Spanish colony, during independence and post-Castro. Much of the evening was focused on Cuba’s role as a drinking destination during Prohibition.
When alcohol became illegal in the states, Havana became the unofficial U.S. saloon. It was easy for Americans to travel there. Airlines offered non-stop flights and steamer ships transported merrymakers from Florida. Popular bars such as the Floridita (Hemingway’s favorite), the U.S. Bar and La Bodega del Medio catered to American travelers.
During this time, a myriad of talented bartenders fled the U.S. in order to work in their professions. Phil described Cuba, along with England, France, Italy and others, as being one of the “carriers of the torch,” keeping the craft of the cocktail alive. In an effort to appeal to tourists, many cocktails were named after celebrities like the E. Hemingway Special, the Mary Pickford and my favorite cocktail of the evening, the Josephine Baker.
Famous for her risqué costumes and no-holds-barred dance routines, Baker, an American expatriate, became the talk of Paris during the Prohibition era. Her namesake tipple lives up to the hype of this notable entertainer.
The concoction is forged from a mixture of cognac, Port wine and apricot brandy, combined with an egg yolk for a frothy texture. The cocoa-colored cocktail has a sophisticated taste and a thick, smooth consistency. Its multi-layered flavor is subtly fruity and not overly sweet. A dusting of cinnamon adds a spicy kick.
While it may not be possible for U.S. passport holders legally travel to Cuba on a cocktail pilgrimage, the Josephine Baker is an easy drink to whip up at home.
1 1/2 ounces Cognac
1 1/2 ounces tawny Port wine
1 ounce apricot brandy
1/4 ounce simple syrup
1 egg yolk
Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish with lemon peel and dust with cinnamon. If you are concerned about consuming raw egg yolks, use pasteurized eggs.
Ingredients to make the Josephine Baker are available at Dixie Liquor at 3429 M St. in Georgetown. For more information about the Museum of the American Cocktail, check out their Web site at www.museumoftheamericancocktail.org. [gallery ids="99158,102944" nav="thumbs"]
Rumor Has It: Free Wine
So rumor has it among “the trade” (that’s wine industry speak for people who work in the industry) that there is a group of local wine lovers who taste wine every Saturday — for free. Want to get in on the action?
There are three great inexpensive ways to taste wine in the District: wine stores, local grocery store chains and wine bars/restaurants. The following is a list of recommended places that offer free or inexpensive tastings locally.
Whole Foods in Georgetown on 2323 Wisconsin Ave. has periodic in-store wine tastings for free called “Wine on Wednesdays” from 5 to 7 p.m. The store often offers wine samples, along with a bite of their favorite food pairing.
On March 25 from 7 to 8 p.m. there will be a “Wine Basics” class held in the 1440 P St. Whole Foods store for $15. To register contact firstname.lastname@example.org. $15 will be collected at the door.
Harris Teeter and Trader Joe’s have local stores with a surprisingly wide selection of wines from around the world, given their limited wine department space. Wine importers and distributors do free in-store tasting periodically at both chains. Call the store you are interested in visiting to check the date of the next scheduled wine tasting.
There is also a rumor that the new “Social Safeway” being built on Georgetown’s Wisconsin Avenue has planned a large wine department. [Editor’s note: It’s true. Current renovation plans include a expansive wine section, staffed by two experts.]
Pearson’s Liquor and Wine, 2436 Wisconsin Ave.
This Washington institution has since 1933 exuded the impression of a liquor store that sells wine. They offer daily tastings and have a knowledgeable, albeit intimidating wine staff. Beginners may not appreciate the curt reception and the “I don’t have a lot of time to spend with you” wine education, but knowledgeable wine enthusiasts will do fine here. Come for the free tastings and a chance to sample wines you may not get exposed to otherwise.
DeVinos, 2001 18th Street
This trendy wine shop is located at the lower tip of Adams Morgan. It’s a fun place to stop in to quickly select a bottle to go with Friday night dinner at home or on your way to a Saturday evening party when you are the one bringing the wine. Their selections run heavy on South American and Italian reds. Staff is friendly and knowledgeable. They offer free tastings Thursday and Friday evenings from 5:30 to 8 p.m.
The Wine Specialist, 215 M Street
This store has a great selection of Old and New World wines, a surprising amount of half bottle selections and some unusual finds (try a gewürztraminer from Italy and a red zinfandel from Australia). The staff is friendly and enthusiastic for you to taste. Their next tasting is being planned now for Italian wines on March 12. Check their Web site for a calendar of upcoming events or call the store at 202-833-0707.
There are more and more wine bars popping up all over the city and too many to mention here. Wine bars and restaurants are a great way to explore wine in an unrushed, relaxed setting, though there is usually a cost involved. These restaurants offer wine flights (usually one- to two-ounce servings of three different wines based on a theme or region) for a typical cost of less than $15:
Cork Wine Bar, 1720 14th Street
If you can tear yourself away from people watching, Cork offers several wine flights each weekend. On our recent visit they offered four wine flights, ranging in price from $10-15, which consisted of French and Italian wines including prosecco, southwestern French whites and a red wine flight made from montepulciano d’Abruzzo. Cork also has a retail wine store located up the street that offers daily tastings weekdays from 5 to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 3 to 6 p.m.
Bistrot Lepic and Wine Bar, 1736 Wisconsin Ave
The venerable French bistro located at the top of Georgetown offers free tasting every Tuesday from 6 to 8 p.m., and all wines by the glass are half price Wednesday to Monday 5:30 to 7 p.m.
Some parting tips:
Most wine shops have one or two days a week they have bottles open for complimentary tasting. Call around to local shops near you to check their schedules to verify tastings are being held and which day.
Sign up for your favorite store’s wine department e-mail notices. You will often be the first to learn about in-store or special tastings.
Don’t be afraid to talk to the person serving the wine. They are usually the wine distributor representative or importer responsible for placing the wine in the store. They get paid to educate you and stir up interest in the wines they offer free samples of, so use them as a source of information. Ask them where they will be doing their next in-store tasting. If you have more questions or don’t have time to get all your questions answered, ask them for their contact information or business card.
Use the dump bucket! It’s okay to spit and/or pour the wine out into the dump bucket, especially if you are going to be driving around afterward.
And one last tip: Enjoy!
Forces of Nature
-Organic wine is a hot concept in this age of green, but a survey of some area wine stores and restaurants turned up a paltry few venues that carry more then one or two offerings. Most wine bars I’ve surveyed carried none.
Then I hit pay dirt one Saturday at Vinoteca’s, located at 1940 11th Street. They offered a whooping eight organic or green wines by the glass.
For those interested in not only practicing environmentally responsible living but drinking will have to search for green wines. Luckily there are varying degrees of “greenness” to choose from so the field of choices widens. There are two types you will encounter: organic and biodynamic wines.
Organic wines are produced using organically grown grapes without pesticides, herbicides or anything ending in “-cide” or added sulfites. A truly organic wine is not only expensive to produce, but hard to bring to market in a stable and palatable condition because no chemicals are used. The number of truly organic wines available is small, hence the challenge in finding wine bars who carried more then a few.
Biodynamic wines are also made from organic grapes but, according the www.theorganicwinecompany.com, the farmer also employs principals that cause the grape vines to respond to “all the forces of nature.” Biodynamics is based on the concept of a holistic system of “living agriculture” whereby the soil is nurtured through the “natural forces and rhythm of the cosmos,” writes Karen McNeil, author of the book “The Wine Bible.” The vineyards are viewed in a year-long growing cycle where nutrients and special preparations are added to the soil at the right time and season. Therefore soil nourishments and farming techniques take into account the flow of energy emanating from the sun, moon and stars. The practice is said to have begun in France in 1959, based on the principles of the Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner.
Wines that are organic or green are said to have brighter and fresher tastes and colors. They are purported to express better connectedness to the region or land they are grown from, their “terrior.” Intrigued that there might be something to the healthy growing of grapes and all the sun, moon and stars talk, I explored a few mentioned below.
So you can judge for yourself, here are a few to try:
Alma Rosa chardonnay, 2008
Santa Barbara, CA
Made in the French Chablis style with a hint of oak. The chardonnay shows classic notes of pineapple and orange peel with a minerally finish. Crisp and refreshing.
Alexander Valley Vineyards gewürztraminer, 2009
Apple, lemon, grapefruit flavors with a beautiful floral aroma.
Gavala Vineyards assyrtiko, 2008
Made from one of Greece’s most popular grape varieties. Yellow gold in color. Aromas of peaches and candied fruit are evident. Lanolin-like mouth feel. This wine exhibits the assyrtiko grape’s signature minerality.
Telmo Rodriguez Dehesa Gago tinto de Toro, 2007
This Spanish tempranillo-based wine is dark red and rich. First sips experience spicy pepper, then a hint of chocolate. This wine is top rated by several notable wine critics for its quality and value.
Campos de Luz Old Vine garnacha (grenache), 2008
One hundred percent grenache, which normally is a thinner-skinned red grape that produces a thin light red wine; however, this Grenache is rich and supple. Exhibits dark cherry, black plumb and blackberry flavors.
For organic or green wines close to home, try these local vineyards:
Wine and the City
With all the hype surrounding the opening of “Sex and the City 2” that has hit this city, I accepted an invitation to attend one of the exclusive pre-screenings and VIP receptions heralding its opening. Moet et Chandon, a promotional partner to the movie, sponsored a reception at the Georgetown Ritz followed by a private prescreening last Wednesday at Georgetown AMC Lowes theater. Although the characters of the movie are known for drinking the ubiquitous Cosmo, Moet appeared to be the official wine of the movie, (product placement notwithstanding). During the wedding scene, Moet White Star was in the ice bucket, Dom Perignon was served in the desert scene, and champagne appeared in beautiful glasses almost exclusively during the entire movie.
As I sat in the theater watching fans file in, dressed to the nines, some like their favorite character, I thought about the distinct personalities of four main characters: Carrie, Charlotte, Samantha and Miranda. The costume designer, Patricia Field, subsequently dresses them in four distinct styles. Carrie is all haute couture and eclectic; Charlotte is very ladylike and preppy; Samantha pulls off chic and sexy; Miranda, of course, is all business. They even have four different hair colors- a blond, a burnett, a redhead and a mix of sort.
It dawned on me that wines are the same way. Wines can be light and blond colored, like a chardonnay. They can be dark like a cabernet, or rich red like a shiraz. And wines undoubtedly have their own personalities, express different characteristics, and evoke different emotions – not unlike the Sex and The City foursome.
If Carrie Bradshaw and Co. were wines, what wine would they be? And what wines would match their personalities? Each of the SATC women have strong personalities and quirky nuances, much like great wine varietals. This is our casting call:
Miranda: Australian Shiraz
The saucy redhead, a lawyer, strong, blunt, and all about business. But she is still a mother and wife who, in the movie, revels her fun side. I immediately think of an Australian Shiraz. This red wine is peppery, serious, and complex. It is full bodied with strong tannins. The aromas suggest smoke, tar and sometimes even rubber. It’s serious business, but it can be fun too. On the lighter side, Shiraz can express strawberry and dark plum fruit flavors-kind of like Miranda, who realizes that all work and no play is boring.
Try: Penfolds Kalimna, Bin 28 Shiraz 2006 (approx. $22)
Charlotte: Pinot Noir
Delicate, traditional, well structured. Prim, proper, and sensitive. Nurtured and kind. Pinot Noir would suit Charlotte like a velvet glove. This light red wine is made from a thin skinned grape and is thus very temperamental, like Charlotte. It is sometimes a challenge to grow, so climate and soil conditions have to be ideal. The wine expresses aromas of black cherry and raspberry. It is the wine of Burgundy, France, but Oregon and Chile have produced some shockingly good lighter-styled efforts.
Try: Terranoble Pinot Noir Reserva 2008 (approx. $15. Wine Advocate gave it 90 points.)
I often think of chardonnay as the Marilyn Monroe of wines, particularly California chardonnay. Like Samantha, it is a big, bold, blond, sexy and often times loud. But chardonnay, particularly from Chablis or South America, can also be elegant and intriguing, just like Samantha.
Try: 100 Tree Hill Chardonnay California, 2006. (approx. $17)
So, what about Carrie?
Carrie is not like other women. She is not traditional. A quirky dresser, she loves France and couture. She’s spontaneous, fun loving, and a bit fickle. My first reaction would be Rose or Blanc de Noirs Champagne. It’s fun and fruity but elegant. Definitely not traditional in the realm of American drinking habits. The obvious producer given the movie would be rose from Moet. But also try: Taittinger Brut Rose (approx $70) or G.H. Mumm Brut Rose (approx. $55)
And let’s not forget something for the boys.
Mr. Big: Barolo
He’s the tall, dark, handsome, and brooding husband of Carrie. He is strong and steady, and Barolo is too. This rich Italian red is made from the nebbiolo grape in the Piedmont region.
Try Boroli Barolo 1999 (Piedmont), $38.
For a fun night out, go see the movie and then seek out a glass of wine that matches your favorite character’s personality. Have a great night of wine and “Sex and The City.” Cheers.
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