Posts Tagged ‘cost less wines and liquors’

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.

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!

Tasting Series At Cost Less Wines – Part 1, Grown Up Champagne (Growers Champagne, It Is)

December 21, 2010 1 comment

Holidays are great (hmmm, that’s a deep and original thought, huh). On one side, life gets really hectic – too many things to do, and not enough time. On another side, it is a special time, and people do special things. Wine is important part of any celebration, so holiday times are rich with great wine experiences. Particularly, starting from last Thursday, there were different wine tastings at Cost Less Wines in Stamford, which will continue until the end of this week. And if you are looking for special experiences – you don’t want to miss any of them (I know, it is Monday already – but better to start late than never!).

Thursday was a special day for the Champagnes. Indisputable king of any celebration, and ten times so for the New Year – Champagne requires no introduction. There are many many other similar wines, which are called “sparkling wines” as a group –  but this is not the subject of this blog post, as it was not the subject of the wine tasting. Talking about Champagne, a number of familiar names comes to mind – Moët & Chandon (makers of famous Dom Pérignon), Louis Roederer (makers of Cristal), Taittinger, Veuve Clicquotbut we will not be talking about them here.

As wine overall is getting more popular in US, year after year, more of the interesting wines are becoming available here. In regards to Champagne, there is a growing phenomenon called Growers Champagne. All the Champagne names mentioned above belong to so called Champagne Houses. Champagne Houses do not grow their own grapes – they source their grapes from the whole Champagne region, and then blend the grapes to achieve particular taste profile, specific for each individual House. When it comes to the Growers Champagne, all the grapes are by the winery, which then makes the Champagne wine – only 5% of the grapes can come from outside to be eligible for “Growers Champagnes” designation. Growers Champagnes had being around from the beginning of actual commercial Champagnes, but only in the last 5 years or so, such wines became known in the United States. Before we talk about tasting, just one last note – you can recognize Growers Champagne by initials RM, which stands for Récoltant-Manipulant, which can be found on the label. Traditional Champagnes are typically designated as NM, Négociant-Manipulant. If you want to read more on the subject – wikipedia, as usual, provides great wealth of information.

Let’s talk about the tasting. There were 4 Growers Champagnes represented in the tasting: Chateau Aubry, Chateau Chartogne – Taillet Saint-Anne, Champagne Pierre Gimonnet & Fils and Champagne Gastone Chiquet 2002. The first one, Chateau Aubry was  a bit all over the place – yes, it was sparkling wine, but I didn’t get much pleasure out of it. The next 3 delivered different experience. Chateau Chartogne – Taillet had nice yeasty nose and aromas of brioche and fresh bread. Chateau Pierre Gimonnet had nice clean nose and good refreshing acidity – totally different ffrom the previous one, it was still warmly inviting and asking to take another sip.

The best in tasting, however, was Chateau Gaston Chiquet 2002, the only vintage champagne in this tasting. Light and effervescent, medium to full body wine, showing its pedigree with aromas and taste of apples and fresh bread – definitely very nice bubbly (should we also mention great QPR at $50/bottle?).

Great wines, great experience. It would be very interesting to compare the Growers Champagnes with the other sparkling wines – I’m sure you can see the the blind tasting working its way in here. But don’t wait for me – experiment, try something new – find the bottle of Growers Champagne and tell me if it will brighten your Holidays. And just to give you a hint – we are traveling from France to Scotland with the next post…

Wine Retail: Cost Less Wines and Liquors, Stamford, CT

November 16, 2010 23 comments

In order to drink wine (better: drink GOOD wine), we all have to get it somewhere. Outside of getting the wine as a present, “get wine” equals “buy wine”. There are few ways to go about buying wine. You can do it at the winery – often works well, you can try before you buy and get information. Then of course you can buy it online – this is most difficult method, as you have to know precisely what you are doing, wine can be damaged during shipping (I don’t mean broken bottle, think about summer heat, for instance). And the simplest way – buy the wine at the good local wine store. Well, it is simplest if you happened to know where this good local wine store is.

I want to bring to your attention my favorite wine store in Stamford – Cost Less Wines & Liquors (1073 High Ridge Road, (203) 329-2900), the good wine store. What am I looking for in a wine store? Yes, of course wine, but this is not the point. In no particular order, but good prices, selection, service, knowledgeable staff and overall store organization are all very important for the good wine store. Lets talk about these elements.

Store organization: Cost Less is easy to navigate. All the wines are grouped into the regions with easy access, with sparkling wines and kosher wines located in the separate sections. Beer and all different types of liquors (Scotch, whiskey, cognac and so on) located along the wall:

Great Selection: Store offers great selection in every section. Despite the limited size (store is not huge), all wine making regions are well represented – California, Washington, Oregon, France, Spain, Italy, South Africa, Germany, Austria, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Chile, Israel (I’m sure I forgot something) – and all sections are well stocked. There is a lot of interesting wines on the shelves, such as Staglin Cabernet Sauvignon (96 points from Wine Spectator, and don’t forget to look at the price):

Another point on the subject of great selection is Growers Champagne. Demand for Growers Champagne is quite recent phenomena, so very few store carry them. Here is a brief description from Wikipedia: “While large Champagne houses, such as Mumm, may use grapes sourced from as many as 80 different vineyards, Grower Champagnes tend to be more terroir focused, being sourced from single or closely located vineyards around a village.” Cost Less got great selection already, and probably will offer even more in the future (if you had not tried one yet, I highly recommend that you will try it rather sooner than later):

Great selection of beers, with a lot of quite unique offerings (you can see one of my previous posts on this subject – all beers came from Cost Less). Excellent selection of cognac, tequila and vodka, and amazing selection of scotch, including some very unique offerings (note to self – not to use “unique offerings” repeatedly… but what should I do if I think they are?):

If I may, I would like to mention that Rosebank distillery is closed, so I don’t think there are too many bottles left as the one shown above. And if you take a look at the prices (30 years old single malt for $220 – WOW) that brings us to the next characteristic of a great store – good prices.

Good prices: as you can already see from the pictures, there are great prices all over the store. All the wines and liquors are well priced, compare to any other wine store in Stamford and around. There is also 10% discount on the mixed case purchases (as long as the wine is not sold at the minimum state price). On this subject, I must bring to your attention one of my favorite California Cabernet wines, Ladera:

Take a good look at the price – the best price for magnum ( 1.5L) on the Wine Searcher is $59.99 (don’t forget to add shipping!), so I pretty much rest my case on the pricing.

Service and knowledgeable staff: you got it all. Store owner, Zak, is always available to answer questions, recommend wine or simply stand aside and let you browse through the selection without any pressure – I think this is the great talent ( I really don’t like being attacked in the store as you walk in – that never happens at Cost Less). If the wine you are looking for is not available in the store all you need to do is to ask Zak to get it for you – it is that easy.

And to add one more point: if you reading my blog, you know how much I value opportunity to “experience” things. Along these lines, every Friday and Saturday, there is wine tasting at the store, where you can experience great wines, such as, for instance, Charles Mara or Duckhorn:

With the holidays coming, and wine being definitely important part of any celebration – head on to the Cost Less, you will not regret you did (hmmm, sounds like an advertisement, and I really didn’t mean it… or may be I did, just a little bit). Ahh, and don’t forget that Beaujolais nouveau will be released on Thursday (November 18, 2010) – who knows, I might run into you at Zak’s…

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