Shana Speaks Wine

Wine Journalist, Copywriter, and Marketing Consultant

Drinking out loud. 

Filtering by Category: "Minetta Tavern"

Pizza! Pizza! (and more dessert)

New York is a pizza town.  From the classic slice to the gourmet pie, nearly every international style of pizza is represented.  Neapolitan?  Grandma square?  Dollar slice drunkenly consumed on the street corner?  We've got 'em all.

Wine enthusiasts often debate what's the best wine to pair with pizza and more often than not, Italian wines reign supreme. With their high acidity, Italian wines are very complementary to the tomato-based dish. It also harks back to one of my general rules of thumb: when in doubt, pair like with like.  A wine from the same country of origin as the cuisine will match well. Yes, you can start to drill down to specific regions and grapes and debate what goes best with all those fancy toppings, but in general, Italian wines are a sure thing.

A recent Saturday night brought us to a new place, Sotto 13.  Perusing the wine list, we opted for a Valpolicella, a red from the Veneto region of Italy.  This wine was produced in the Ripasso method, meaning that a percentage of the grapes were dried out on mats for weeks (a technique called Passito) in order to increase natural sugars and flavors.  These grapes are then fermented with other grapes in order to increase the intensity and flavor profiles of the wines.

So, did it work with pizza?  You bet.

Impero Valpolicella Superior, Ripasso, 2009

This wine was a blend of Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara  grapes, very traditional for a Valpolicella. Immediately, this wine revealed plums, raisins and cherries, along with some black tea and earthy notes.  It was juicy and round with notable wood tannins. The acidity of the tomato sauce mellowed out the wine's acid levels and a rich, complex wine, with a slight chocolate essence at the end, emerged.

I'm almost embarrassed to admit this, but after, we went to Minetta Tavern for that infamous soufflé.  Yep, two weeks in a row.  Feel free to stage an intervention at any point.

(this sucker didn't even stand a chance)

With it, we paired a Michele Chiarlo Moscato d'Asti.  The beautifully perfumed notes of orange blossom, honeysuckle, candied apricot and honey matched the gooey chocolatey center of the soufflé perfectly.  Heaven.

Keep tasting, friends....

Blizzard-Worthy Bottles

Ah, blizzards. Some people opt to ravage grocery stores like bears at a campsite then hibernate for days. I view it as a chance to go out and play, a wonderland devoid of traffic and crowded sidewalks.  In this alternate universe, a snowball fight in the middle of the street during rush hour is entirely possible.

In a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment,  a blizzard hit NYC a couple of weeks ago.  Two days later everything melted, but for a nanosecond the city was something out a Disney movie:

(photo courtesy of Jennifer Hill)

My other favorite part of a blizzard?  The ease of getting into restaurants that normally require reservations weeks out.  Taking full advantage of this situation, we scaled snowdrifts for some fabulous food and, of course, wine.

Friday night we hit up Louro, a new neighborhood spot which absolutely lived up to all the buzz it's been generating. The dishes were inventive yet accesible and felt playful but yet made you stop and think about what the hell was going on in your mouth.

Reviewing the wine list, I paused at the Grenache from Spain. Grenache is more commonly referred to as Garnacha in that country - why the other terminology? Regardless, the juicy pluminess of the Garnacha sounded like a warm, enveloping hug, perfect for the night.

Once the bottle arrived at the table, I understood the French labeling. The wine was actually a Rhone blend: 70% Grenache, 10% Carignan, 10% Syrah, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. How would this compare to a French Cote du Rhone?

Clot D'Encis, Rhone Blend, Agricola Sant Josep, Spain
The Grenache was prominent as the fruit hit our noses immediately, Cherry, raspberry, and a bit of plum sprang up, with a little bit of spice trailing behind. The first couple of sips followed suit in flavor and the medium body, comparable to a classic Rhone, was also present. However, I noted more tannins in this wine over other CdR wines and the acidity felt a bit higher. Overall, though, it was very balanced and smooth and intensely enjoyable.

The next night, we went to Minetta Tavern, one of my all-time favorite NYC restaurants.  Reservations are difficult, to put it mildly, and walk-ins are unimaginable before 11pm, but as it's in our neighborhood, we've lucked out more often than not.  The blizzard aided in our dinner quest and before long we were indulging in their famous Black Label burgers and of course, wine.

Domaine le Sang des Cailloux, Vacqueyras 2010, France
A neighboring regions to Chateauneuf du Pape, this Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre blend showcased deep dark berry fruits, herbaceous spices, notes of artichoke, and plenty of rootsy earthiness.  On the palate, the same notes, along bit plums, drank very smoothly, enhanced by a medium plus body and pronounced tannins.  The burger and wine were having a lovefest in my mouth.

As a total aside, they serve one of the best desserts in the city - a classic chocolate souffle for two.  We have occasionally come into the restaurant just for this dessert.  We are also not embarrassed to admit we have ordered two of these on the same visit.  Yep, souffle for four people but only two people eating it.  Don't judge.

Keep tasting, friends....