A Love Letter to Strasbourg

As I make my way through France in exploring my French roots in Cere and Southwest France, I had an opportunity to visit another family member in a completely different part of France – the Northeast capital of Alsace. Traveling with a local native is by far the best way to see and experience a city.  I didn’t need to plan a single thing, just enjoyed the scene and excellent company with my cousin/tour guide.

Strasbourg is most notable as the “Christmas Capital”: it holds the spot as the oldest and largest Christmas market in Europe. Unfortunately, I missed the markets as I visited Strasbourg in January, but I was still able to feel the city’s wintery warmth and witness the festive lighting that dons the beautiful 15th century houses, medieval churches and city buildings.  Aside from the food and wine, I was completely blown away by city’s architecture.

Strasbourg is definitely an overlooked tourist destination in France (at least for Americans), as everyone flocks to Paris, southeastern Provence region and Mediterranean French Riveria including the celeb-sighting, champagne-popping St. Tropez.

Well, I’m in love with Strasbourg, and here’s why…

What to do:

Cave Historique de Hospices:  This was the coolest, just because it combines history, culture, and my favorite – wine. My cousin’s fiancé works as a surgeon at the hospital and after we went to visit her during her break, we just hopped underground where you also happen to have the world’s oldest wine cellar. Created in 1395, it served as a place to store wine for the church’s holy communion, as well as for patients, since it was believed that wine lessened both pain and other side-effects of illness.  I agree with that statement to this day.

You can walk around to view the entire cellar, where at the end you’ll find an iron gate with a handful of relatively smaller barrels, but with a more ancient shape and architecture. One of these barrels contains wine from 1472. What does this 543-year-old vintage taste like today?  Winemakers at the cellar boast that it has retained it’s original vanilla and woody notes, and an alcohol content of 9.4%.   It has been served only three times over the course of its history, last tapped in 1944 for the general who led the army division in liberating Strasbourg from German occupation. Most regional winemakers are granted to age their wine in their esteemed kegs. Also available are private tastings and tours, and bottle browsing and purchases were available in the adjacent store.  I picked up a bottle of 2010 pinot gris but I have not tried it yet so tasting notes forthcoming.

Stroll through Petite France: The 15th century ginger-bread style houses and quaint cobble stone streets made me feel like I was frolicking through these magical alleyways straight out of a storybook. I later found out that Petite France, located on the Grand Île main island, was classified a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988, the first time such an honor was placed on an entire city centre.

Climb to the top of the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral de Strasbourg: You’ll be amazed by the overlooking view from the top, but beware of all the hype around the astronomical clock. Yes, the intricate design, architecture and multi-layered visual construction is something to see, but all said and done, incredibly underwhelming and wouldn’t recommend standing around for the 12:30pm queue.

Where to eat:

Chez Popol:  The second you walk in the door of this tiny, 12-seated restaurant you are immediately embraced by a jovial, portly, wise-cracking man with a a mustache Brooklyn hipsters would die for – Monseuir Popol himself. The warm, inviting atmosphere is what really makes this place great, as if you are being entertained at a friend’s house. We dined for lunch where the salads were simply well dressed with fresh shaved cabbage and vegetables, a healthy portion of fresh swiss cheese and ham. Complemented with a bottle of wine, of course.

Restaurant L’Aigle (located right outside of Strasbourg):  Tarte flambée is the specialty food d’Alsace and easily enjoyable for any American: imagine a wood-oven baked thin crust pizza with little bits of bacon or ham, swiss cheese, onion and heavy cream. Mmmm.  Drink the Picon bier.  For those not familiar, Picon is a bitter made from fresh oranges and is traditionally added to the beer in Alsace, which gave the beer a little spicy, earthy orange tint of flavor.

Les Haras Brasserie:  This former 18th century horse stable was renovated by Alain Duacsse’s design team and the menu hails from three-star Michelin chef Marc Haeberlin.  Whatever you do, don’t ever pass on the foie gras (served with a warm baguette and fruit chutney).

Grab a tasty treat:

Maison Alsacienne de Biscuiterie:  Apparently the lines wrap round the block during Christmas here as the bakery prepares the finest Alsatian gingerbread, macarons, raisin-stuffed kougelhopf and butter cookies flavored with nuts and spices.

Pains Westermann:  Christine Ferber, an internationally known master patissière nicknamed the “Jam Fairy” who has worked with culinary luminaries including Alain Ducasse, has more jam flavors than you can possible imagine.  She has concocted it all from the basic home-made strawberry to the crazy unique creations such as Black Cherry with Pinot Noir, Apricot and Spiced Apple, Rosehip and Vanilla, Rhubarb with Acacia Honey and Rosemary, and Banana, Orange, and Chocolate <<(WHAAAAT!) She even has a Christmas jam (confiture de Noël) which is a mingled mix of dried fruits, almonds, and walnuts with spices such as cardamom and star anise.

I picked up a jar of the specialty Mûroise, which is a loganberry (combination of bramble/blackberry & raspberry).  I wish I had grabbed a few more, until I did some digging and found you can order them online here (YOU’RE WELCOME): http://www.borneconfections.com/christineferberjams.aspx.


That’s it, now go out and plan your next French vacation in Strasbourg!


A love letter to North Fork (and wine)

I like wine.  Okay, I love wine.  And much as I love my city of Manhattan and state of New York, I must admit I didn’t know too much of anything about New York wine.  So I was excited to celebrate the Saturday summer solstice in North Fork vineyards combining a couple of my favorite activities – biking, drinking and eating.  I haven’t “cycled the wine lands” since Stellenbosch during Semester at Sea.  My parents and I drove the car from Stamford, CT (approximately 2-2 1/2 hour drive), strapped two of the bikes on the back of the car and rented one from a super nice guy named Dan in Greenport.

Our first pit stop was Duck Walk Vineyards.  As you enter the building, it opens up to a beautiful, massive event space suitable for 400 guests with high vaulted ceilings, two tasting bars and an outside scenery that includes an expansive outdoor patio and vines stretching acres across the residence.  At 11am sharp, tourist buses, limos filled with bachelorette parties and other walks of life storm through.  Some vineyards like Duck Walk can accommodate huge crowds, but others like to keep the intimate feel of the vineyard, and prohibit tourist buses and large parties.  The talk of the vineyard isn’t the red, white, or sparkling wine but its distinctive Blueberry Port crafted from wild Maine blueberries.  They serve it with a little piece of dark chocolate and recommend you sip, bite and sip again to really bring out the bright, fruity flavors of the port.  I was also a fan of the 2012 Chardonnay that received a New York Times Best Buy, and was a nicely balanced, crisp dry white wine.

 My mom and I were researching lunch spots in the car and came across my friend Charlotte Savino’s post in Travel + Leisure about the delicious scallop BLT at Southold Fish Market and it sounded too delicious to pass up.  It was about a 10-15 minute bike ride from the vineyards.  Sadly, the scallop BLT was not on the menu, but my mom ordered the fried scallops which were deliciously fresh and battered to perfection, while I stuck with a classic lobster roll and few raw oysters to start.

After lunch, our second stop was Croteaux Vineyards, where I was surprised to learn that it’s the only vineyard in the United States dedicated exclusively to producing Rosé wines.   In terms of ambiance and setting, this colorful, hip, European-style vineyard definitely took the cake.  Buses, limos, drop-offs and parties larger than eight are prohibited, keeping the backyard tasting area low-key with a killer view.  Unfortunately, none of the wines blew me away, but naturally I’d think the rosés should be left to the French. 🙂


Our next and last stop was Sannino Bella Vita Vineyardone of the newest wineries on North Fork with beautiful outdoor seating overlooking the vines.  I picked up a bottle of their ” 2nd Bottle Red”, a blend of red grape varieties that produced a high tannic and peppery wine with a subtle hint of berries.

So, that was three vineyards out of the many beautiful estates spread across the region.  You can bet I’ll be back to visit a handful more this summer, where I’ll continue to profess my love and raise my wine glass to New York’s North Fork vineyards.

Gros bisous,


Vino series: Wine regions of France

Another day, another wine tasting with my good friends at Chelsea Wine Vault.  Today we ventured through the various wine regions of the world’s largest wine producer.

Here’s a list of the delicious exploration from the marvelous growers hailing from Champagne to Bordeaux to Burgundy.

1.  Jean Michel Blanc de Meunier Champagne 2007 (Champagne):  $54.99:  Made with 100% Pinot Meunier, this special grape to the region is also known as the “other red grape”.  And while most of the champagne produced today is “non-vintage”, meaning blended product of grapes from multiple vintages, this favorable year led the producer to create a “vintage” wine, where the bottle is composed of at least 85% of the grapes from vintage year.

2.  La Foret des Dames Sancerre 2012 (Loire Valley):  $18.99:  While this wine was one of the most reasonably priced of the group and received a sweet 90 point mark from Cellar Tracker I was, unfortunately, not a fan.  Many say that Sancerre is where the Sauvignon Blanc reaches its zenith of quality but I was catching more lime fruit and melon on the nose and palate that didn’t appeal to my liking.  Fun new fact I learned about sauvignon blanc – most producers favor the grape because it is a simple process where you can plant and produce a sauv blanc in a year, while a pinot noir generally takes 4-5 years.

3.  Albert Boxler Gewurztraminer 2011 (Alsace):  $39.99:  Once again, I’m not sold on the German-influenced Alsatian wine that all seem to taste like sweet dessert wines to me.  Steve tells us this is one of his favorites in the group.

4.  Château Coussin La Croix du Prieur Rosé Côtes de Provence 2012  (Provence):  $16.99:  Spring has sprung, which means I’m partial to a refreshing rosé, and this 87 point winner from Wine Spectator has a smooth texture and acidity.

5.  Domaine Pierre Gelin Gevrey-Chambertin Clos De Meixvelle 2010 (Burgundy):  $54.99:  The rare, remarkable 2010 vintage year with small supply and growing worldwide demand drives the pricey tag on this beautifully balanced pinot noir.  Aside from that, the producers are crazy conscious of the need to respect the growing environment.  The Domaine uses rain water to wash its tractors and has installed a “plant container” to process water used to rinse sulfating equipment.  That’s what I call dedication!

6.  J.L. Chave Offerus Saint-Joseph 2011 (Rhone Valley):  $35.99:  I’m a fan of the big, bold, earthy reds which makes this Syrah more up my alley.  Suggested pairing with lamb chops.

7.  Château Haut-Segottes Saint-Emilion Grand Cru 2006 (Bordeaux):  $38.99:  Definitely give this wine some time to open up its aromatics and flavor.   Notes of smoked cherries, cigar, peppercorn with an earthy texture.

See you at Pinot Palooza!

Vino series: Best American Wines

This was my third class at Chelsea Wine Vault, and I must say, I’m addicted.

Steve was been the instructor all three times but at this point I don’t think I could – or would want to – take a class with anyone else.  His wine knowledge astounds me, he has an incredible sense of humor and I always walk (or stumble:) away learning something new.  I’ve also noticed, and he has affirmed, that the class size has become increasingly bigger as more people express interest in the courses.

After expanding my knowledge surrounding the big and bold reds of Washington and exploring the bountiful wine selection among France’s Loire Valley, I was ready to hear Steve’s recommendation on the best wines America has to offer.  If you want the best sparking wine in the world you go to Champagne.  The best Chardonnay?  Burgundy.  But what about the United States?  Where is the best sparking wine and Pinot Noir?  Well, you want to know how awesome Steve is?  He prepared a convenient cheat sheet that outlined all of the varietals we were sampling in class and where they grow best.  I have shared this helpful little nugget with you below.

So, want to know the best of the best?  Here you go:

1.  Roederer Estate Brut NV (Anderson Valley, Mendocino County – $24.99)  This crisp sparkling wine hails from the “new, emerging hotspot for Pinot Noir” in the U.S., Anderson Valley, with 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir.  I learned that Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes grow very well in the same environment, making this beautifully balanced and super reasonable priced sparkling wine a hit on my list.  It made it’s way into my shopping cart and I think it will be a perfect apéritif for my family’s Thanksgiving dinner.

2.  Ravines Dry Riesling (Finger Lakes, New York – $17.99)  “What do you think of when you hear Riesling,” Steve asks.  Everyone responds in unison, “Germany” or “sweet”.  Well, we knew this was a Finger Lakes wine, but apparently the terroir is very similar to Germany making it an ideal environment to grow Riesling.  We were all so surprised to taste the more delicate, acidic and mineral finish of the wine.  It tasted nothing like most German Rieslings I’ve tried – all so sweet, almost like a dessert wine .. the reason I’ve never been a fan.  Despite the very similar terroir, the sunlight hits the region differently and, of course, the treatment of the wine is what really differentiates the taste across vineyards. Steve says there are some excellent drier Rieslings but the Germans keep all the good stuff for themselves.. so apparently I need to book a flight to receive a more rounded point-of-view and understanding of the German Riesling varietal.  I think I need to favor a few more before I’m convinced Germany moves up on my list of wine region destinations.

3.  Chalk Hill Estate Sauvignon Blanc (Chalk Hill, California – $28.99) Two things affect the taste of your glass of wine: 1) the temperature of the room you are drinking in and 2) oxygen.  As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Steve has us do two rounds of tastings for the wine so we can see how the flavor profile and aroma changes in our glass over time.  It’s very interesting for the whites because it does get a little warmer, yet if you are drinking at home you are most likely placing your wine bottle in the fridge.  This sauv blanc changed the most drastically the second time around, where it started with a smooth apple crisp profile and developed to a more savory herbaceous aroma, where many caught scents of onion, garlic or scallions.

4.  Gary Farrell Chardonnay (Russian River Valley, California – $34.99)  From tasting the Sauvignon Blanc to the Chardonnay, one thing we noticed right away was the difference in the viscosity of the wine.  Something else Steve taught me – the fuller, thicker tannin wine generally is grown in the warmer weather regions and the smoother wines in the cooler regions.  How come?  The sun and heat dries the grapes, creating a thicker skin.

5.  Alloro Vineyard Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley, Oregon – $44.99)  I loved the perfect balance of the sweet fruit, black cherries and subtle spice in this Pinot Noir, but just a little too expensive for me!

6.  Seghesio Zinfandel (Sonoma County, California – $28.99)  Fun fact – this is THE ONLY wine that has been on the Wine Spectator Top 100 List seven times – all within a twelve year time frame!  Although the Zinfandel varietal hails from Croatia, it is really only grown in America – and has been for over 125 years! If I hadn’t purchased two bottles of the below cab sauv and the sparkling wine, I probably would’ve picked this up as well.  It’s a great find!

7.  Trust Cabernet Sauvignon (Columbia Valley, Washington – $34.99)  If you read my post on Washington reds you’ll see this was my favorite wine I left with from that class.  Despite the heftier price tag, my one regret is picking up only one bottle.  Ever since that class in May I’ve been on the lookout for another with no luck.  Well, I was besides myself when I walked into the store and saw the bottle on display, only to find out Steve purchased more from the supplier so he could highlight it in this specific class.  Someone asked him out of all the wines, if he had to pick one to go home with, which one would he choose.  He said this one.  It’s really that remarkable.  Another thing I learned is that Cabernet Sauvignon generally carries pricier tags because it ages so well.  Essentially meaning I can love this wine, but need to find a new favorite variety pronto!  Along with my sparkling wine, this bottle will be a Thanksgiving treat this year with the family.  Hope everyone comes thirsty!

Here’s the list of where the varietals grow best (thanks again, Steve!):

Sparkling wine:

  • Sonoma County
  • Willamette Valley
  • Los Carneros
  • Anderson Valley
  • Rio Grande River Valley


  • Washington
  • Finger Lakes
  • California’s Central Coast
  • Michigan

Sauvignon Blanc

  • Napa Valley
  • Chalk Hill
  • Long Island


  • Russian River Valley
  • Sonoma Coast
  • Napa Valley
  • Virginia
  • Santa Maria Valley

Pinot Noir

  • Russian River Valley
  • Sonoma Coast
  • Los Carneros
  • Santa Ynez
  • Finger Lakes
  • Willamette Valley
  • Santa Barbara


  • Dry Creek Valley
  • Amador County / Sierra Foothills
  • Napa Valley
  • Sonoma County
  • Paso Robles

Cabernet Sauvignon

  • Napa Valley
  • Paso Robles
  • Alexander Valley
  • Columbia Valley
  • Walla Walla

Paris in 2 days? C’est possible!

How was I going to go back to France after 15 years and not visit Paris?  I was departing ways with my family in Cere but it would be a great disservice if I didn’t at least carve out some time to refamiliarize myself in the City of Light.   I am pretty well-traveled and have traveled independently for business, but this was my first time solo mission as a tourist.  I was excited and nervous at the same time, but I felt confident about not having a set itinerary.  I had a list of places and things I wanted to see and do and so I knew I would just figure it out from there.

I flew in from Bordeaux at 2pm on Thursday, August 15 and then had to leave by 3pm on Saturday, August 17 so I really only had two full days.  I knew the city would be fairly quiet in August with some smaller shops potentially closed for summer holiday.  Because I was set on not having a run-of-show I was hesitant to make restaurant reservations but then caved and emailed a restaurant high up on my list, Les Papilles, only to receive the disappointing news that they are closed during the month of August.  That’s when I decided I’m really just going to ‘wing it’.

An important note:  I walked EVERYWHERE.  Didn’t take the metro once.  I know it’s a very user-friendly public transportation system but my objective for these two days was to absorb as much of the city as possible.  Even though I was there a long time ago and too young to really appreciate the culture and history, I do remember visiting landmark sights inside the Lourvre and Notre Dame Cathedral.  I didn’t have time to mosey through the museum for five hours or wait in line to ascend the Eiffel Tower.  This was a two day drive-by and my mentality was I’ll stop and savor the moments when I feel it’s right.

Here’s how my itinerary mapped out for the two days: green is half day 1, red is day 2 and black is half day 3.

Krystina's Paris Map

Thursday, August 15

By the time I checked in to my hotel at the Hotel Danemark it was around 3pm so I had to get moving.  I didn’t have a plan but I started freaking out as I walked down the streets because literally EVERYTHING was closed.  Shops, cafes, EVERYTHING.  It wasn’t until much later I was informed it was a major religious holiday and that all establishments should re-open on Friday.  Phew!  Well, there were places I knew would be open today where the huge swarm of tourists were, so I decided to get that out of the way.  Pont des Arts, check.  Lourvre, check.  Tuileries Gardens, check.  August festival in the gardens, double check.  Place de la Concorde, check.  Seine, check.  Av des Champs-Elysees, check.  Arc de Triomphe, check.  Eiffel Tower, check.  Last time I visited I went to the top of the Eiffel Tower so the one thing I was hoping to do was catch a couple aerial views atop the Arc de Triomphe but once I saw the tourist line I immediately about-faced to carry on my tour.

By the time I was done frolicking around with the tourists I had been walking for 5 hours and was ready for dinner and a couple glasses of wine.  Problem:  many restaurants were closed.  I went back to the hotel and had them call six places down my list.  All closed.  Finally I realized one place a friend suggested, Relaise de l’Entrecote was about a block away from my hotel.  I asked the concierge to make one last call and thankfully they were open.  It’s received decent reviews, but they only serve one thing: steak frites with this “special sauce” which is something I have to be in the mood to eat and shocker: I wasn’t really in the mood to eat it at the time. I didn’t care, I just wanted a glass of wine.  Not sure if the restaurant is always like this or if it was just because of the holiday but it was jam-packed.  I ended up leaving semi-satisfied.  In summary, I wouldn’t recommend it.

Friday, August 16

Today I was dedicating my time walking up to Montmartre to see Sacre-Coeur, take in the views of the city at the highest point of Paris and get lost through the beautiful cobble-stone side streets crowded with local artists, galleries, and food markets galore.    It was convenient that I was passing through Centre Pompidou then also strolled up Rue Montorgueil, a popular market shopping street for local Parisians.   And that’s where you get your really good, real taste of Paris.  Don’t bother with a bistro or cafe.  Walk to the market, stop in La Maison Kayser to grab a freshly baked baguette, hit the fromagerie to check out the morning’s fresh cheese and finally pluck a few pieces of fresh fruit, take a seat in the park and bon appétit! You have yourself a delicious petit dejeuner.

After walking up and around Montmartre, I stopped at Pierre Herme on my way home.  Sarita informed me that they have the best macarons with flavors ranging from caramel brûlée, milk chocolate passion fruit and apricot pistachio.  I am generally an ice cream girl and have actually never tried them before, so I picked up a couple to take home.  OK, they were pretty darn good.

Then I ventured over to Ma Salle a Manger where I sat outside and enjoyed a foie gras and rosé dinner with a perfect view of the sunset over the Seine.  And of course dinner wouldn’t be complete without dessert.  I strolled through Rue de Bac on my way home and spotted a Berthillon ice cream cart.  Now THAT was my kind of dessert.  One scoop pistachio, one scoop salted caramel.  Yes please.

Was that a lot of food for one day?  I didn’t think so either.  This is a food blog – keep up!

Saturday, August 17

I am feeling a little bloated but there’s no stopping me now.  My hotel is two blocks away from the Jardin du Luxembourg so I was saving that visit for my final afternoon, along with a couple other nearby markets.

First stop was Rue Mouffetard for breakfast.  You know the drill – baguette, fromage, fruit.  The chèvre was stuffed with fresh figs and it was absolutely divine.  They won’t cut pieces off for you so you need to just eat a little and walk around and save some for later.

There was another nearby market my grandmother’s friend recommended called Market Maubert.  It is a very close two minute walk from Mouffetard so I passed through there on my way back to the gardens.

By the time I reached the Jardin du Luxemboug I was exhausted but it was a gorgeous day and I was completely in awe by the beauty surrounding me.  I plopped down on the grass, pulled out some more of my cheese and baguette and thought to myself, ‘I could get used to this…’

Vino series: Vin blanc en français!

I was excited to take my second vino class at Chelsea Wine Vault centered around the country de ma famille:  France!  My first class I delved into the full-bodied delicious red wines of Washington.  This class was focused specifically on white wines, where most white varietals are grown in the cooler northern regions of the country and the reds are produced in the warmer climates in the south.  Once again, our instructor Steve had a nice spread of cheese and crackers laid out for us as we’d make two rounds of tastings with our glasses to compare notes after the wine was able to open up a bit more.  It was a little harder for me to pick my favorite this time around, but obviously I left with at least one.  I wanted to pick up another bottle of my favorite Cab Sauv from the Washington class but they were already sold out.

Here’s the list of the wines we tasted along with a few of my personal notes and learnings:

  1. Pol Roger Reserve Champagne NV (Champagne, France):  Hailed as Winston Churchill’s favorite champagne, this bubbly happens to be very well-known for its bubbles, which are smaller due to colder cellars which slows the second fermentation (Steve tells us smaller bubbles = better champagne.)  Comprised of four different years of crops and about 35 still base wines, I was digging this crisp, citrusy refresher which seemed like a perfect complement for a summer day outside.
  2. Lucien Crochet Sancerre 2011 (Loire Valley, France):  Grown in limestone soil, Steve tells us he gets grapefruit on the nose and palate, with a metallic taste to finish.  Like many of these white wines, the suggested pairing with scallops or fresh white fish like dover sole.
  3. Gerard Duplessis Chablis Premier Cru 2009 (Burgundy, France):  An interesting tidbit I learned about Burgundy wine: By law, all white Burgundy has to be 100% Chardonnay and all red Burgundy has to be 100% Pinot Noir.  This chardonnay from the northern Chablis region produces wines with more acidity and flavors less fruity than chardonnays grown in warmer climates.  Since Steve likes to make up his own words and adjectives to describe wine, I liked to call this one “minerally”.
  4. Morey-Coffinet Bourgogne Blanc 2011 (Burgundy, France):  When tasting it was fascinating to think this is same grape as #3 and learn it’s grown only 50 miles away, but has a completely different taste and aroma.  From one of the top growers and winemakers in the hallowed vineyards of Chassagne, this wine was my second favorite of the group.  Just as Steve described, it was beautifully balanced with an acidic mineral structure and oaky finish.  And for only $22.99 for the bottle, it’s quite a steal!
  5. Domaine Vigneau-Chevreau Vouvray Sec Cuvée Silex 2011 (Loire Valley, France):  Vouvray is the most famous and respected appellation in the Loire Valley’s Touraine district.  My top pick of the bunch, I ended up leaving that evening with a bottle.  I think I preferred this Chenin Blanc because it was dry (sec = dry) but also a little ripe; juicy pear and floral notes in counterpoint to lemon zest acidity and clean-cut minerals.
  6. Paul Coulon Domaine de Beaurenard Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc 2010 (Rhône Valley, France): This wine blend is selected to produce a tangy wine with deeply perfumed aromas: 30% Clairette, 20% Grenache Blanc, 25% Bourbenblanc, 22% Roussane and 3% Picpoul Picardan.  This wine won the evening’s award for the weirdest descriptions including the smell of wet wood that has been sitting out in the rain and one classmate even described the aroma reminiscent of play-doh…And then Steve chimed in in the second round of tasting, “you know when you make a cup of tea, and you leave the tea bag around after you take it out and you say, ‘I wonder what a wet tea bag tastes like'”… Despite the hilarity that ensued, this wine was pretty enjoyable to me, just not worth the $46.99 price tag in my opinion.
  7. Domaine Paul Blanck Pinot Gris Patergarten 2010 (Alsace, France):  I wanted this wine to be my favorite so I could tell Meme since she grew up in Alsace, but unfortunately I felt like this wine was almost too thick and fruity for me.  It was a nice finish after six pretty crisp white wines, but this almost tasted like a dessert wine to me.  Steve recommends pairing this with chicken, or Asian dishes like Thai cuisine.

I’m still working on refining my palate, but can’t say I’m not learning a few great things about wine.  Next up:  Oregon wines for summer!  Pencil it in, people.

xoxo, Krystina


Vino series: the wines of Washington

Throughout my travels I’ve had the luxury of cycling through Stellenbosch in South Africa and sampling many local wines across South America.  People think I know a lot about wine…well, I don’t.  I’m a wino in the sense that I love the taste of wine and it’s always my alcohol of choice at a party or in the comfort of my home, but my knowledge is limited…okay, very limited.  As long as it tastes good to me, right?  It doesn’t help that I have a terrible palate.   Ask me to identify a food taste or aroma blindly and probably 9 out of 10 times I won’t get it until someone says, “did you get that boysenberry aroma and candied mango finish?” And then I’d anxiously shout, “Yes!  I was just going to say that!”   But, that’s the fun of trying new things.

Located within the famed Chelsea Market in New York, Chelsea Wine Vault offers many events and classes each month with various seminar themes ranging from food pairings, grape variety or honing in on a specific wine region.

Last night wine professor Steve Lieder took us through an educational, aromatic and palate-pleasing adventure exploring some of the best wines the state of Washington has to offer.  In fact, Washington wineries have increased 400% in the last decade!  Despite popular belief because of the state’s notoriety for rain, Washington is an ideal place to grow wine – specifically east of the Cascade mountains.  The state is located in the same latitude as some of the great French wine regions of Bordeaux and Burgundy, and now includes thirteen federally recognized appellations.

There were twelve to fifteen “students” (aka winos) in this class.  We were situated along three long rectangle tables forming an open square so we were all facing the professor and his powerpoint presentation that was projected on a TV screen.  In front of us we were each poured six glasses of wine and a glass of water along with platters of brie, crackers and red grapes.  I gazed at the pen and informative papers also placed in front of me wondering if professor Steve was going to throw in a pop quiz at the end.  Should I beeline for the door?  Then I thought of one of the fun wine posters I pinned the other day and just made the mental note in my head: “when in doubt, drink more wine.”

The class was a little over an hour so this is how it works:  professor Steve provides a brief geographical overview on the various appellations in the state.  Then he takes us through each wine to taste and reflect on the mouthful of flavors while he provides a little background on the seller, region and variety.  Thankfully, he emphasized right away not to drink the whole glass because we were going to make two laps around to see how our palates have changed and after it gave the wines more time to open up.   It was quite interesting to sample the wines twice around because the flavor profile really did change for me.  I’ll let everyone make their own decision, but I will tell you that I picked up a bottle of the Trust Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon afterwards.  It’s actually a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (83%), Merlot (12%) and Cabernet Franc (5%) but by law, anything over 75% of a varietal can have its name on the label.  I just tend to attract more to the oaky reds (this wine was treated to 16 months in French oak), and I love the peppery finish from the Cabernet Franc.  Well, now that you know my favorite, check out the wines below and try them out for yourself!

In case you need another reason to sign up, you get 10% off a bottle of wine after the class!  I’ll be back, professor Steve.