Posts Tagged ‘benchmark wine company’

Waterstone Cabernet Sauvignon Experience, And A Few Words About Food

August 28, 2012 8 comments

If I’m not mistaken, last week was literally the first week in Connecticut when evenings became enjoyable – which also meant that we could have a family dinner outside!

Dinner outside is one of the little pleasures of suburban life, when you can get to enjoy the food twice. Not that cooking the food on the stove is not enjoyable – but somehow, doing it outside on the open fire creates the whole separate feeling. And then the whole process of having food outdoors also brings different level of pleasure – I don’t know about you, but whenever possible, in a restaurant I ask for the table outside, to be able to enjoy both food and the weather, and here I don’t even need to ask anyone to get the table outside!

Yes, I will get to the Waterstone cab in a second (after all, that should be the subject of the post, right?) – but let me talk about the food for a moment. Our local Fairway had jumbo shrimp and fillet Mignon on sale, so the menu was a no-brainer.  Of course you have to have something green on the grill, so I think asparagus is one of the best greens you can grill:

I have a feeling that the recipes’ page is coming up in this blog – little by little, I learned to make a few dishes consistently well, so I think sharing the recipes makes sense (but let me sleep on it). One important thing about my recipes – more often than not, I don’t use the exact measure. I can’t tell you to use a quarter of teaspoon of salt, a half of it or the whole one – I just rely on a “gut feeling” for “enough or not”. For the asparagus, I use a dash of salt, black pepper, granulated garlic, olive oil and a splash of balsamic – mix it all together and let it “marinate” for 30 minutes or so. And then of course the key part is not to overcook the asparagus, so it will retain the crunch. I typically have a grill at 400°F and put the asparagus down for 1 minute, turn around, and keep it for another minute – and it is done.

I made shrimp on a skewer. You need to clean the shrimp, and marinate it for 30 minutes to an hour in the fridge (don’t marinate for too long, or it will become a mush). For the marinade ( considering I had 1 pound of shrimp) I used about 1/4 of a cup of olive oil, 4 -5 minced garlic cloves, juice of one lemon ( you can add wine vinegar also, if you want) and a couple of Penzey spices – I used Cajun and Lemon Pepper. About 2 minutes on each side at the same 400°F grill, and … voila:

This shrimp was probably one of the best I ever had ( and made) – I also think kids were in the violent agreement with me – no shrimp survived the evening.

And the steak – everybody can make steak on the grill, so there is not much to talk about – here is the picture for you:

Quite honestly, I should’ve used more salt – but this you probably can’t tell it from the picture. I rehabilitated myself the next day by generously using Montreal seasoning mix, but I don’t this is important in the context of this blog.

And then, of course, there was wine. First I read about Waterstone Cabernet Sauvignon in the e-mail from the Benchmark Wine Company, where it was listed as one of the “stuff favorites”. Further checking on internet seemed to be hinting at connection between Harlan Estate, producer of one of the absolute top (“cult” is the word) California wines and Waterstone Cabernet Sauvignon – the rumor which Jancis Robinson unequivocally dismisses.

Whether the rumor is true or not is not that essential – Benchmark’s recommendation along with unpretentious label was enough to build my expectations (okay, I’m lying about the rumor – of course I want this wine to be made out of Harlan’s juice, at about 1/30 of a price of the bottle of Harlan Estate). Interestingly enough, if you will read about the Waterstone Winery, which was established in 2000, it doesn’t own any vineyards, which means that grapes should be sourced from the other vineyards, so the whole idea of  wine being made out of Harlan juice, entirely or at least partially, is not that impossible. Anyway, with all those expectations, I was still taking my time, until Zak (owner of Cost Less Wines) told be that he only has about 10 bottles left, so … (he took a pause after “so”) I realized that the time has come.

As you can see from the picture below, I approached entire matter of experiencing the Waterstone very seriously, using my “special occasions only” Cabernet set from Reidel (we have enough glasses for the regular use, and those Reidel glasses don’t last long):

Every time I use these special Reidel glasses, the first smell sensation I get is the one of a wet dog – I guess I don’t know how to use them properly… That smell has nothing to do with the wine, and it disappears after a few sips, but it sure gets in the way of your first impression. Well, let’s talk about the wine. This 2007 Waterstone Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley (14.5% ABV, $27.99) has 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, 3% Cabernet France and 1% Petite Verdot, and it was aged in french oak barrels for 22 months. The wine had a perfect nose of blueberries. Not blueberry pie or blueberry jam, but a clean, perfect, balanced nose of fresh berries. This was followed by nice dark fruit on the palate, luscious and round, with some eucalyptus and touch of licorice, excellent balance of tannins, acidity and fruit. Drinkability: 9-. It is interesting to note that the wine was a bit all over the place on the second day, and I had nothing for the third day ( while I expect that it probably would taste better). Here is an artistic rendering of the event by my daughter:

There you have it, folks. I think this is the wine to buy by the case, if you can find it, of course. If you tasted this wine, I will be glad to compare notes. If you didn’t taste it yet, try to find it – and then I will be glad to compare notes. Cheers!

P.S. you can also consider this post as an early contribution for #CabernetDay which is coming up on Thursday, August 30th.

Long Overdue–Notes From Michal Skurnik Wine Tasting

April 13, 2011 1 comment

Yes, this post is long overdue, as I hinted that it’s coming a while back. Better late than never, right? Here it is.

Let’s say you are in a wine store. Bottles, bottles are everywhere. Sometimes you know exactly what you want. Sometimes you don’t – and this is when it becomes challenging. How do you know if that bottle of wine is any good? Price is really not an indicator of quality. You can’t try the wine ( at least in the majority of cases). Yes, you can ask for the advice – then it really depends what store you are at (some of the store advice should be avoided at all costs). So, what do you do? Of course, using your iPhone is always an option, but this is not where I’m going right now. One possible solution is to look at the back label, which all the wines in the US have to have. Look for the name of the importer. And if it says “Michael Skurnik” or “Kermit Lynch”, you should smile, because you just learned that chances this bottle of wine is good just increased dramatically.

Why you are asking? Michael Skurnik Wines is so-called “importer” (they are also a wholesaler, but this information is typically not advertised on the label). It means that Michael Skurnik Wines company (MSW) works with thousands and thousands of wineries and other wine merchants all over the world to find the wines which will pass through their rigorous selection process and will be represented by Michael Skurnik Wines.

The wines chosen to be carried in the portfolio might not be all your favorite – but they all will be quality well-made wines. It means that MSW folks are doing all the hard work of selecting the best wines for you, and all you need to do is to enjoy the fruits of labor.

Few times a year wine importers and wholesalers organize special wine tasting events to present their portfolio to the trade. I was lucky to attend Michael Skurnik Wines Spring Grand Tasting, and I would like to share some of my personal highlights.

First and foremost, my personal “Best of tasting” is Peter Michael wines. Four 2009 Chardonnays were presented in the tasting (“Mon Plaisir”, “La Carriere”, “Belle Cote” and “Ma Belle-Fille”) – tremendous, all four are the best Chardonnays I ever tasted. Finesse and absolute balance – vanilla, toasted oak and butter all being present, but in absolute harmony with bright acidity, fruit and silky smooth tannins. I would put drinkability for all four at 9+. Just so you know, these are the cult wines, which affects the pricing and availability. These wines are available only through the mailing list or through select merchants – you might be able to find them at Wades Wines and Benchmark Wine Company.

The next highlight was an amazing line of Barolos. A mix of 2005, 2006, 2007 Barolos from Azella, Manzone, Renato Corino, Marengo, Altare, Clerico, Cavalotto – one was better than another, all beautiful and powerful wines. Anyone of the names I mentioned is worth seeking.

While the Barolos were great, they had a group of contenders, which were literally as good. Wines of Aldo Rainoldi come from the area in Lombardy region called Valtellina. These wines are produced from the same grape as all Barolos – Nebbiolo, with all the vineyards located at the very high altitude of 600+ meters (1800+ feet). I tried four different Aldo Rainoldi wines – 2007 Sassella, 2005 Crespino, 2006 Inferno Reserva and 2007 Sfursat Classico – all were truly outstanding and very comparable with great Barolos, but at the half price as the least.

In addition to all the wines in the tasting (about 700), there were some stronger spirits as well. One of the surprises was Calvados I tried. Calvados is a brandy which is made out of apples in the Calvados region of Normandy in France. Typically, I can drink it, but it is not something I would be seeking out. However, two of the Calvados presented at the tasting – Camut Calvados 6 years old and Camut Calvados Reserve 12 years old were simply incredible. Soft, smooth, elegant, great aroma of fresh apples, very delicate balance. They will not be easy to find, but I would highly recommend you will make an effort. You can try your luck at D&M, and believe me, you will not be disappointed.

That’s all, folks. There were many many more great wines, but you got to stop somewhere, right? Until the next time – cheers!

Where Do I Buy Wine

March 25, 2011 1 comment

I had being contemplating this post for a while, and [finally] here it is. I’m not getting the wines for free, and they are not growing in my backyard. Same as most everybody else, I’m buying my wines. So what’s a big deal about it? Why does buying the wine  worth a blog post?

Buying wine is somewhat of an art. Huh=, you say, what kind of nonsense is that? But the challenge is that on one side, there is an oversupply of wine, so trick is to find place with the right service and right prices (!). At the same time, there are way too many wines which are often referred to as “cult”, which are literally impossible to find – and may be information in this blog post might be able to help you.

As you know by now, I’m obsessed with wine – and it translates into finding good wines at good prices (this is often referred to as QPR – Quality Price Ratio). Here are the ways I found so far to satisfy that QPR requirement.

Wine Searcher – When I’m looking for specific wine ( or any type of alcohol for that matter), I always start from Wine -searcher. I always get full information on the price range and availability of options to acquire that specific wine.

Cost Less Wines and Liquors – local store in Stamford, CT. In the interest of full disclosure,  store owner, Zak, is my friend. But this is not the reason for me to mention the store. There is an amazing wine selection in the store (I would think that in terms of using the space, this is the best store I even saw in ability to utilize every square inch of the store space. There is great representation of all wine making regions, and his selection of Kosher wines and Champagnes is literally best in Stamford. Plus, Zak has a talent to find the close-outs and makes very quick decisions when he can seize a good value. Also, if you are looking for a specific wine, Zak will get it for you (as long as it is available in Connecticut). All in all, this store is my primary wine shopping destination.

Bottle King – chain of the wine stores in New Jersey. Each store might have slightly different inventory, so I can’t speak for all of them. I’m personally using the one in Glen Rock, NJ. Overall, wine prices are very good. This store has excellent selection of Portuguese wines (great QPR!), plus good selection of French, Italian and Californian wines. Australia, Chile and Argentina have limited representation. Bottle King has loyalty card, which gives discount on many wines, plus periodically they run very good special sales – Red Tag Sale is in effect now (until April 4th, 2011), and some of the values are simply incredible. Need an example? 2000 Vintage Port for $27.70? Wow! Bottle King also have a division which sells wine online, called The Wine Buyer @Bottle King – I get their newsletter, however, never ordered anything.

PJ Wine – excellent store in New York. If you are looking for a Spanish wine – this is the right store. Probably the best selection of current and old releases of Rioja and Ribera Del Duero in the tri-state area. Also very good selection of rare and hard to find European wines from France, Italy and Austria. Very good service. Full store inventory is available online. Plus, there are excellent [free] educational seminars in the store ( hard to get in as seating is limited). (Wine Till Sold Out) – great place to look for the bargains. I already wrote about WTSO in one of the previous posts. It works in a very simple way. You get on the mailing list. Then you get e-mail once the new wine is available for sale, at an incredible price – often, not always, of course. You can always check if offer makes sense by going to the Wine-Searcher and then also consulting Wine Spectator or another ratings database. Please be aware of the fact that while you are trying to figure out if particular offer makes sense, the wine might be gone by the time you reach the conclusion. Definitely great place to buy wines at a great price. Just sign up for the mailing list and see for yourself.

Benchmark Wine Company – to give you a short description – amazing. Outstanding customer service (really – try it). Wine selection? Incredible. Yes, this is not for everyday shopping, but if you look for a particular wine, especially from the older vintages – this is the place. Give it a try and you will not regret.

Wades Wines – might be one of the best secrets in the wine shopping. US regions have great representation, with lots of cult wines being available (at least on the list – but sold out in reality). I have to admit that I hadn’t bought anything yet from this company, but all the e-mails look very tempting.

D&M – another incredible store. Specialty? Scotch, cognac, champagne. The store is located in San Francisco, and it is literally hole in the wall. But once you look around in the store to see the selections surrounding you on all four walls, you get absolutely amazed. Incredible selection of scotch and cognac. Plus, there is a number of clubs offered, and actually these clubs make sense (compare to most of the wine clubs, which don’t worth a penny). If you are in San Francisco, and you like scotch or cognac, definitely find time to visit the store.

Of course there are many other places to buy wine – I had great experience with Yankee Spirits store in Sturbridge, MA, Beltramo’s in Menlo Park, California (outstanding service),  K&L Wines (good selection, service – so so) in multiple locations  in California.  I had an interesting experience with Drink the grapes (online only).

This post happened to be much longer than I thought it should be. Nevertheless, I did my best to share the ways I go around to find the wine I want. If you got your favorite store or a web site to buy the wine – let me know, as I will be glad to learn about it. And until the next time – happy shopping!

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