Monday, April 27, 2009

St. Michael’s Food and Wine Festival Sizzles on the Chesapeake

Record-setting April temps struck during this year’s St. Michael’s Food and Wine Festival, which made the nice folks at the D’Marie booth very happy. They sell a mix that you stir into red or white wine, pop in the freezer, and a little while later you get an icy slush made with wine. Their little cups of red and white wine slush tasted great on such a scorcher, and as did crisp whites like Pinot Grigios—although I steered clear of anything red for the first couple hours.
Although the event officially began at 11:00, the local liquor laws required everyone to wait until 12:00 to pour. Someone shouted “ 11:59” the minute before and then it was “12:00, You can pour wine!”
My schedule only allowed me one day at the festival, but it was well worth the drive down Maryland’s rural eastern shore. The folks who run the fest have Southern hospitality down pat and welcome you with big smiles. The location of the event, right on the water at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, was scenic and fascinating. Our tickets to the festival also included entry to the museum’s exhibits. I climbed up a furnished 19th century lighthouse and got a fantastic view of the water and the festival.
Two large tents are set up where the wineries pour. There is also cheese sampling from a quality local producer Firefly Farms. My husband and I always take some of their fresh goat’s milk cheese home with us.
This festival has terrific speakers, but the supply of public tickets is unfortunately very limited. I arrived half an hour early for the first speaker, the Wine Coach, and was already too late. As the day wore on, I began to think that I could only get into one seminar due to the long wait. I choose to hear Danielle Cyrot, winemaker at Napa Valley’s St. Clement Winery, voted Best Boutique Winery two years in a row. She was a delight—young, upbeat, and informative. Her seminar focused on tasting the four Cabernet Sauvignons that comprise the blend of their signature wine, Orropas. As Danielle described the topography of each of the different vineyards, I imagined myself in California hiking in the vineyards again. I later introduced myself to Danielle, who was quite gracious. Hope I have the opportunity to visit her winery one day.
After the seminar, my husband and I strolled the tents and took time to chat with both the exhibitors and attendees. At the Lockwood booth, we drank Syrah and debated with another wine lover just who sang Que Sera, Sera….one I-Phone search later and we had the answer: Doris Day in an Alfred Hitchcock Film.
At the festival’s end, my husband and I scampered down the shore to soak our tired feet in the cool water of the Chesapeake. It had been a hot, fun time at the St. Michael’s Food and Wine Festival on Maryland’s scenic Eastern Shore.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Bordeaux Prices Show Signs of Dropping

During the spring, wine buyers flock to Bordeaux to taste the vintage of the previous fall. So in March, the 2008 wine from the great Chateau was being tasted. There is a tradition here when it comes to pricing the wine: the famous wine critic Robert Parker will release his reviews (on a 100 point system) and then the chateau owners will put a price to bottle, most often in June.
But the rarified world of Bordeaux wine cannot escape the world financial crisis. In addition, many observers believe that the pricing structure in Bordeaux became out of whack after the spectacular 2005 vintage. It seems that the prices for 2006 and 2007 Bordeaux did not drop much, even though the wines from these years did not compare to the 05. That was in the days when investment bankers with bulging wads of cash snapped up Bordeaux, pushing the prices out of the reach of the average wine collector. But those days are done. In light of the world financial crisis, many are concerned about the world’s most prestigious wines languishing without buyers.
Already, one Chateau owner has taken measures to deal with that. Chateau Angelus is offering their 2008 at a 40% price drop from their 2007. We’ll see if other chateaux follow suit. If they do, this could mark the year that sky-high Bordeaux prices fueled by flush investors finally float down to earth. While these are never going to be inexpensive wines, they could at least be a little more within reach, especially in the wines classified further down the traditional Bordeaux ranking.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

World Wine Guys Visit Windows on the World Wine School

Monday night I a met a dynamic duo of food, wine, and travel writing, Mike DeSimone and Jeff Jenssen, the world wine guys. While I'm always excited to talk to other wine & travel lovers, I was especially pleased to speak with them because I had recently read their article on visiting Rioja in Wine Spectator. The Windows on the World Wine class that I visited on Monday night was focused on Italy and Spain, and Kevin Zraly had invited the guys to tell us a little bit about what’s happening in Rioja – basically a construction boom that is attracting the world’s most innovative architects including Frank Gehry and Philippe Mazieres. After the class wrapped up, I chatted at length with them about their time traveling around Spain and other European wine destinations, including their recent trip to Hungary to visit the land of the delicious dessert wine, Tokai. When I later checked out their fun website, I discovered some yummy international recipes including fried calamari, Beef Bourguignon, and Sultan’s Chicken. Keep a look out for more of their journeys in upcoming issues of Wine Spectator or take a look at their site for their travel recommendations.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Valrhona Chocolates, Van Leeuwen IceCream & Mr. Cupcakes

O.K., I admit it. In addition to loving liquid refreshments, I have a sweet tooth. I can go days without eating dessert, but if I am going to indulge, I want something wonderful—no waxy chocolate bars or cookies filled with artificial ingredients. For whatever reason, it’s been an awfully sweet week. Here are the sinfully good sweets that were worth the indulgence:
Valrhona Chocolates – My dear friend James came home from a weekend in Amsterdam with a box of these decadent and beautifully crafted “bon bons” for me. Every day, we each have one. I am a true chocolate lover, and these may be the best box chocolates I have ever had. I understand that there is a Valrhona Boutique in the Trump Place Food Emporium—much closer than Europe!
Van Leeuwen Ice Cream – At a recent writer’s meetup, I started talking about the sample ice cream that I tried recently and a fellow writer cried, “The ice cream truck!” It seems that Pete Van Leeuwen has an honest-to-goodness truck that treks around NYC. But, we can eat his cool treats without running down the street to catch him—it’s sold at Whole Foods. To give you an idea of how good this is: my husband brings home several half-gallons of ice cream every week and I never eat it. Unless it’s scorching hot, I find ice cream pretty easy to resist. But this ice cream is so high quality, it might as well be in a different food group: there are only about four ingredients per container, including fresh cream, hazelnuts from Italy’s Piedmont (in chocolate hazelnut, my favorite flavor), and actually less sugar than the bigger brands.
Mr. Cupcakes – Well, you have to drive to Jersey for this one! Let’s face it: cupcakes are having a moment. I know New York has its share of bakeries like Magnolia that offer the darling little treats, but I’ve heard tell of a NJ spot that is worth the trip. This past Tuesday the whole family headed to Clifton and we were not disappointed. With flavors like Peanut Butter & Jelly, Chocolate Strawberry, Smores, Red Velvet, and more, this is a fun spot to pick up a box. And, at $1.50 a piece, it’s a super economical indulgence. We ate ours at Brookdale Park , a sprawling green space designed by the Olmsted Brothers of Central Park fame.
Back to the wine anon. Hope readers will excuse a girl for sharing a little dessert love.