And why we love it...

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Sweltering Friday: Meet Surprise wine tasting at Azul Tapas Lounge!

Ahh...Alas the week is over and today officially marks the beginning of another weekend in Shanghai.
Today's surprise tasting - kindly offered to my sister and I ("secret diners" for the TV show "Independent Inspector") was a perfect way to kick off the weekend...and to head full on into a heady weekend of lovely wine, fabulous people, and painting the town red. Eduardo Vargas of Azul Tapas Lounge brought over the glasses, and we did the tasting.

To begin our journey through the eight open bottles that are kept in an airtight contraption to preserve freshness and are expressly for customer tasting (I love how Eduardo insists the customer taste before purchasing a bottle,) we had a well-balanced Argentinian Malbec, which I thought (emphasis on the "I") found perfectly soft and fruity with just enough tannin and fruit to balance it out...but what Eduardo REALLY wanted us to try was this:

 A 100% Grenache that had was oh so much more complex! Some nice metallic notes to it with a rustic feel in the mouth. A grape that is typically used for blending, this pure Grenache version was everything a Friday evening Tapas dinner needs: A little soothing, a little spice, and just enough pizzazz to match the array of dishes you might order - and to send you off well for another Friday night out in Shanghai.

Several more tastes and I lost notebook = dealing with Kristin's short term memory! That's ok, I have the bigger memory of a lovely dinner...and after all, every part of a wine daze should have it's pure moments of enjoyment...right? Right.

If you go:

Ferguson Lane 8/F, 378 Wukang Lu, near Hunan Lu

武康路378号8楼, 近湖南路

5405 2252

Foreign Yet Familiar...

...And starting to feel a little like home. Who would have ever thought my wine daze would bring me to where I am today - in a little (ok, not so little, but you get the drift) place we call Shanghai, China! As a result, I have yet another "home away from home," where tonight I sip on the last of a 2010 Grande Cuvee Cabernet/Syrah blend from the Pays d'Oc region of France. Looking back to my arrival one month ago, I was indeed 100% a foreigner: illiterate, intimated by getting lost on the streets of the French Concession, and struggling to find “my place” amidst the sea of a foreign language, foreign surroundings and vast array of new, “foreign,” people.  Yet, there was one thing I knew I could count on to help me ease into this new world: wine. 
With that in mind, I set out to the nearby Tesco to pick up my initiation bottle: A 2010 Merlot from ‘Wines from France.’ Despite the hideous label with purple lettering reminiscent of the ‘Thriller’ album, it proved to be a perfect pre-out-on-the-town and quiet-night-at-home sipping wine. With  a soft, almost gossamer entry and aromas of blackberry, blueberry and hints of ripe plum, this light yet luscious wine was exactly what the doctor ordered. And at 59 RMB (approximately $9.50 USD) it’s one I will go back for. 
In the past month, I have catapulted myself into Shanghai’s wine scene - attending several tastings, meeting with some movers and shakers in the industry over here, and of course continuing my hunt for the best values (and out of curiosity the most expensive bottles) in boutique and chain retail shops, as well as supermarkets throughout the city. 
The best bang for my buck so far? That would have to be the 2010 Escale Grande Cuvee, purchased at a western style market called Parksons on Huihai Lu - and what a juicy and intense delight it was! Aromas of blue and black berries with hints of cassis invade the nose, leading into a mouthful of rich fruit and soft, velvety loveliness. A superb wine for everyday drinking as well as for pairing with a cheese plate or light appetizers. Again, at this price point (69 RMB/11 USD) you can stock up for the week. However, if the weather is anything like the sauna of summer in Shanghai (and I am pretty sure it is!) make sure you have proper storage...or thirsty guests!
As with many travel experiences, it is just as I am starting to settle in and get comfortable that the time begins to come to a close. Although with a month left, there is plenty of time to bask in the wine dazes of Shanghai...and to be more diligent in reflecting on them, of course! ;)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

So This Is What Happens When You Get to Shanghai...

...You are too busy tasting and drinking wine and imbibing in the nightlife that the posts are set to the side...until now!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Sometimes You Just Have to Jump...

Whether it's a jump back into writing (for myself in this instance, though I have had a few writing spurts published on Snooth, my most recent full time wine venture) or a jump out of what is predictable and familiar (in this case life in NYC) and into a life of the unknown Asian abyss that is Shanghai, life is full of 'jumps,' risks, and incredible opportunities; opportunities that in turn would not have been possible without taking those leap(s) of faith. I don't know about you, but I cannot think of a better companion (friends and family aside of course) than a lovely glass of wine.

And with that my friends, I am back to coddle this baby blog of mine. The timing couldn't be better as I prepare to embark on the journey of a lifetime to the "Pearl of the Orient," also known as Shanghai, China!

There will no doubt be oodles of odd and "character building" experiences, but along with that endless glasses of wine and wine experiences...the precise inspiration for this blog I created over 2 years ago!
So I invite you to join me on this (wine) journey if it fits into your busy day - and at the very least stay tuned for some great pics!

I must not get ahead of myself...after all, I have a whole month left here in NYC (and lots of wine to taste) before I take off, so stay tuned!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

My "First" Review!

Okay, well not the first, but the inaugurate one after my first day as Tasting Coordinator at Snooth Media! What a perfect way to keep the momentum going on this wine (daze) writing blitz!
(At Heidi's House - Upper East Side)

Taste 1: La Chasse White Cotes du Rhone (CDR)
Clean and crisp with subtle mineral nuances develop into white stone fruit marked by a tinge of pencil lead. Floral notes on the back palette with a fresh bouquet of white flowers...parfait!

Taste 2: Chateau Grand Antoine 2009 (White Bordeaux)
Decidedly more citrus on the nose an palette and even more crisp than our lovely CDR.

The Decision: COTES DU RHONE! Bring it On!
Why the CDR, you ask? Less bite and more savory notes with some grassy notes and a medium finish. Depth and body are balanced out with crisp notes and a tinge fresh lemon rind that reveal itself after a few sips (ok, 3 or 4...;)

(Well that was quick!)

I find myself musing over the concept of Acclimation:
Acclimation to new surroundings; acclimation to a new 'horaire du temps' (bosser, bosser, work work!); and last but not least, acclimation to a whole slew of new wines - whether I am cataloguing them into the inventory grid at Snooth, researching them, contemplating them, or, best of all, TASTING them!
So, which wine have I (and you!) been acclimating ourselves with in the recent weeks?
Well...many @ Heidi's House (way to state the obvious) including:

The delectable and oh so utterly lovely:
  • Estandon Cotes du Provence Rose
  • Thomas Henry Pinot Noir (CA)
  • Penny Farthing Cab Franc (CA)
  • La Jaufrette Cotes du Rhone 2001 (FR)
  • Montagne St. Emilion (FR)
Hmmm...time to expand the horizons beyond Heidi's House, Kristin the Wine Vixen!?
Well, one thing can be said about habit:
Once you acclimate yourself with a certain wine(s), a certain wine bar, a certain schedule, and certain surroundings, it brings you to next step, and new experiences...

So as I said about the CDR tonight: Bring It On! :-)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Good Wine Comes to Those who Wait...

"Day 1" as Tasting Coordinator at Snooth Media. To celebrate/inaugurate this occasion (and to keep up the tasting momentum) I find myself at Heidi's House to get the writing going!

Taste 1: La Chasse White Cotes du Rhone:
Clean and crisp, with mineral nuances, white stone fruit are singed with a tinge of pencil lead. A second sniff reveals floral notes reminiscent of a bouquet of white spring flowers. YUM!

Taste 2: 2009 Chateau Grand Antoine White Bordeaux (aka Sauvignon Blanc)
Decidedly more citrus on the nose and the palette and even more of a crisp 'bite' than our lovely CDR.

The Decision: Cotes du Rhone! (Bring It On!)
Why? Less bite and more soft and savory notes - exactly what the Doctor ordered for a week of change and adjustment!
Grassy tones lead to a medium length of finish. The depth and body of this white is indeed balanced out with its (slightly) uncharacteristic crispness. A tinge of fresh lemon rind reveals itself after a few sips (ok, 3 or 4...) and my palette welcomes this perfect choice of wine for this momentous occasion.

And after a few sips, I am onto this concept we call Acclimation; acclimation to new surroundings; acclimation to a new 'horaire' (work schedule); and acclimation to a whole slew (374 and still going) of new wines - whether they are to be catalogued, researched, contemplated, or best of be tasted!
But first things first; you have to pay your dues before indulging and reaping the benefits of working around wine with fellow wine lovers (though in my eyes this is payment in itself!)
So, which wines have I been acclimating myself with in the last few weeks?
Well...many here at Heidi's house (way to state the obvious!) including:
  • L'Estandon Provence Rose
  • Thomas Henry Pinot Noir (CA)
  • Penny Farthing Cabernet Franc (CA)
  • 2001 La Jaufrette Cotes du Rhone (FR)
  • Montagne St. Emilion
(Note to self: Time for Kristin the Wine Vixen to expand her horizons...!)
Okay, there was the hand-picked (by one of our all time favorite bartenders Joel) Rosso di Montalcino (an indulgent $15/glass at Uva)
And speaking of Italian reds, here is Freddie's (our favorite bartender at Heidi's House) house favorite:
Caburnio Toscana (Tenuta Monteti):
Delicious red fruit with an ample amount of tannins and finesse...
Full-bodied with a slight hint of baking spices (clove in particular) that linger on the finish...

A perfect wine to end my tasting with, and the ideal way to ring in the beginning of another adventure in this daze of wine, life, changes, and most of all acclimation and appreciation.

--Kristin the Wine Vixen (ha!)

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Wine/Life Mirror

What a whirlwind of a weekend back home, graced by some truly delectable wines that warmed my heart, and traveled alongside me at home.

Frigid weather in the good old (612) was assuaged by some warm hearty reds. And thank god, given the debacle I ran into on in -14 temperatures! A flat tire on the freeway (more like burned to the rim if you ask me) on Interstate 35-W North in that inhumane temperature would have been much harder to manage had I not just ingested the following:
1) A delightfully balanced Vacqueyras, appropriately named Les Trois Couronnes since it was fit for no less than a king - or queen, which I may or may not be admitting to flying back from NYC for since we did not have time to consume it over the 2010 holiday wine lineup. This floral yet substantial red wine from the southern Rhone Valley of my beloved France is almost 100% Grenache, which lends the body needed to stand up to those Watts-style appetizers that are indigenous to the homestead of 721 West Minnehaha Parkway (yes, laugh as you'd like at the street I grew up on ;)
2) A versatile Barbera enjoyed with our delightful dinner at In Season. Though it was our alternative choice to the Cotes du Rhone they had no stock of (enter harried distribution woes...) it was worthy of every drop in the bottle.

Looking back on the bitingly cold weekend now (with a glass of plain 'ol Trader Joes Chardonnay/Viognier blend beside me; good, but no Vacqueyras) I am struck by how much can happen within the span of three days of a quick weekend trip home to be present for a dear friend's CD release show. I am even more struck by the how much these jam-packed days mirror all that goes on in the senses and through the mind upon that first sip of Vacqueyras - or Barbera - or even this $4 bottle of TJ's white blend that has been sitting in the fridge for a little over a week now (yes, that was a confession...)
The nuances that present themselves through the wine remind me of the varied emotional levels that can happen in so short a time:
One sip of that Vacqueyras and my palette was dancing with a blend of dark and light fruits with tinges of soft tannins around the edges; One moment of realization that I was stuck, alone, on a freeway in -14 temperatures, and my mind danced first with panic, then settled on methods of problem-solving and an eventual 'rescue effort' from my dear father.
Much in the same realm, sipping and savoring to the very last drop that delectable Barbera at In Season mirrors every moment that I took in and cherished at my friend Natalie's show that Saturday night - taking in the energy, the crowd, the music, and yes, even those horribly over-priced glasses of wine at the Fine Line in downtown Minneapolis.

Wine, heart, home and mind...sometimes that's all it boils down to.