Saturday, April 4, 2009

Kosher Wine Tasting

Saturday's food-and-drink event at Coolidge Corner Wine & Spirits featured four kosher wines paired with pita and hummus from Jerusalem Pita & Grill.

A wine is considered kosher if very strict rules are followed during its creation. According to the magazine Gems In Israel, grapes from new vines cannot be used until the vine is at least four years old, the vineyard must be left fallow every seventh year, and no other vegetation can be grown in the vineyard. Only Sabbath-observing Jewish males can handle the grapes from the time they're harvested to the time the wine is put in the bottle, and therefore no work can be done on the Sabbath. No animal products are used in kosher wine production, and a symbolic 1% of the wine must be discarded as tithe. Some kosher wine is boiled in order to make it "mevushal," which means that a non-Jewish person can open and pour the wine and it will still remain kosher.

  • I started Saturday's tasting with the 2006 Byblos Unoaked Chardonnay, a kosher wine made in the Mendoza region of Argentina. I tasted some nice pear notes, but it's not a wine I would buy.
  • Next we tried the Yarden Mount Hermon from Galilee, a Bordeaux-style blend (cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc) that tasted mostly of dark berries. I also noticed a strange earthy aroma that gave the wine a really unpleasant taste. Other people didn't seem to mind the funkiness.
  • The third kosher wine in the tasting was Teal Lake Shiraz 2007, a spicy red wine made in Australia. Most of the customers appreciated the bold cherry flavor and fragrance.
  • We finished with Golan Moscato, a sparkling dessert wine made in Israel. I can't think of any situation in which I would enjoy something so incredibly sweet, but if I ever find myself craving a light, sparkling beverage that tastes like a bonbon, I'll remember the Golan Moscato.
The hummus from Jerusalem Pita & Grill was delicious and tasted especially good with the Shiraz.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

A Successful Sampling

Thursday's Coolidge Corner wine tasting showcased three very different wines: a Californian chardonnay (Clos Pegase), a pinot noir also from California, and a cabernet sauvignon from Chile (Cono Sur). The wines varied in price from the Cono Sur, featured on our "$10 and Under" rack, to the Clos Pegase, which is normally $26 but was 30% off. They also varied a lot in flavor, from the light tropical fruit of the chardonnay to the thick and smoky cabernet sauvignon.

The tasting was fun for the customers because almost everyone was pleased with at least one wine. It was even more fun for me because I actually liked all three selections.

  • I'm usually not a big fan of chardonnay, but the Clos Pegase had a nice balanced nose of peach and oak and a light tropical fruit taste.
  • I am a big fan of pinot noir, but I'm also picky about my pinot. After several tastes, I found it to be a full-bodied wine (even though some customers found it to be "thin and watery") with complex red fruit flavors and a velvety smooth finish. It's a wine I'd like to spend more time with.
  • Finally, the Cono Sur was a definite crowd pleaser. The flavor is bold, the price is great, and the bottle has a little "We're Green!" label (even though they don't seem to be certified organic ... they just mention that they ride bikes around their vineyard and have carbon neutral delivery).

I've worked at Coolidge Corner Wine & Spirits for a full week now, and I've already tasted a dozen wines - including several that I really like. I haven't learned everything we carry or where to find it, and I'm not very useful when it comes to beer recommendations, but so far I love the job. Come visit on a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday for a tasting!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Wine Tasting: Store Favorites

My oenological education continued on Day Three of my new job at Coolidge Corner Wine & Spirits. I got to leave the shop and attend an open house, where I served (and tasted) five of the staff's favorite wines.
  • The Hess Chardonnay was the most popular of our three whites, although it didn't really impress me.
  • I wasn't terribly fond of the Grüner Veltliner (pronounced Groon-er Velt-linner), either. Grüner is a white wine from Austria that is often compared to Reisling. It is described as producing "distinct white pepper, tobacco, lentil and citrus flavors and aromas." I didn't detect many (any) of those things, so I would like to try Grüner Veltliner again sometime.
  • The only white wine I enjoyed was the Seaglass Sauvignon Blanc. It was quite fruity - with some nice peachy flavors - and I could see myself enjoying it if I were in the right mood.
  • We served two red wines, and a lot of people enjoyed the Trumpeter Malbec Syrah. For some reason I had a really strong negative reaction. Maybe I had been tasting too much white wine without food and my stomach was doing something funny, which could explain my strong dislike for a wine that most people found pleasant.
  • My stomach seemed to recover, though, because I loved the Cannonball Cabernet Sauvignon. It has a dash of syrah (11%) which adds to the full and luscious taste. I liked the thick texture, the black fruit flavors, and the complex finish.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Ale Tasting: Route des Epices and Jack d'Or

Today, Coolidge Corner Wine & Spirits had an ale tasting. Samples from the brewery Pretty Things (near Boston) and Brasserie Dieu du Ciel (Montreal) were paired with sandwiches from 7-Subs (a local Coolidge Corner sub shop).

I don't know much about beer, but Paul The Distributor was there to explain the drinks while I handed out sandwiches and listened. My first impression was that both breweries are fun and playful. Not only do they offer creative beers (a rose-colored ale brewed with hibiscus was especially popular at the tasting), but their names and label art are also really cool. Paul was enthusiastic about the selections, and he was knowledgeable without being at all pretentious.

Paul asked me what beers I like. I could only name a few - mostly pale ales - but he poured me a sample of Pretty Things' Jack d'Or and told me I'd love it. Normally I would be suspicious of such optimism, but Paul was so sincerely smitten with this beer that I hoped I really would love it ... and I did. It's light and delicious with a nice dry finish. I would not hesitate to order it all by itself, order it with food, or take it to a party.

Paul wasn't as unabashedly exuberant about Brasserie Dieu du Ciel's Route des Epices, an amber ale brewed with peppercorn. He warned people that they should probably take a bite of a sub (served by yours truly) to offset the bite of the beer. My first taste didn't involve any food, and I was indeed taken aback by the powerful peppery bite. I said "Wow" out loud. But the spice wasn't at all unpleasant or overpowering. There are enough other flavors in this crisp beer to compliment its aggressiveness. Not everyone at the tasting loved Route des Epices, and it's probably only meant to go with food ... but I was very happy to finish one of the open bottles that was left after the tasting. It's a very distinctive ale that I would definitely drink again.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Italian Wine Tasting: Nero d'Avola and Soave

On my first day at my new job, I got to taste and serve five Italian wines.

Coolidge Corner Wine & Spirits
(located next to Finale on Beacon Street, across the T tracks from Trader Joe's) holds free tastings every Thursday and Friday evening from 6 to 8 p.m. On Saturdays, they pair drinks with food from local restaurants for a free tasting from 4 to 7 p.m.

For my first tasting, we served two whites: Kyos Grill from Sicily and Villa Rasina Soave Classico from the Veneto Region. We also served three reds: Kyos Nero d'Avola from Sicily, Illuminati Riparosso Montepulciano from the Abruzzo region, and Vignamaggio Chianti Classico from Tuscany.

  • I really liked the Kyos Nero d'Avola (pronounced Neh-roe Dah-voe-lah), and I'd like to try more wines of the same varietal. The grape is dark ('nero' means 'black' in Italian) and thrives in Sicily's Mediterranean climate to produce a rich, velvety red wine with dark fruit flavors.
  • I also liked the Villa Rasina Soave Classico. 'Soave' (pronounced Swah-vay) is the name of a town near Verona in the Veneto region of Italy. It can also refer to the zone surrounding the town and to the wine produced there. 'Classico' is a label given to Soave wines grown within the original Soave zone. These dry white wines are typically made from Garganega grapes.