Thursday, December 10, 2009

Five Secrets to Serving Wine with Style!

Networking, Women and Wine is a group created to help all women see the power they have in themselves. Wine tasting brings us together because the metaphor of wine describes us so well. As we women we display a unique a blend of traits, and we are all individual.

Perhaps you're ready to have a holiday party this season. Networking, Women and wine can help. We don't want the process of serving wine to be intimidating. These tips will give you the edge you desire!

1) The right glass: Now I’m not advocating you go out to the mall and buy 10 Riedel glasses, but the right glass does make a difference, and it’s not just presentation. Here’s why. When a wine is opened, oxygen begins its work of breaking down the structure of the wine and enhancing the aromas and flavors. This living breathing thing called wine begins to interact and the dance begins!

One of the most satisfying ways to understand wine is through your nose. Since we all taste via the sense of smell, making the most of this important step will put you on your way to being a wine aficionado. The wine needs space to release these aromas, and a glass which is large enough to allow those aromas to intensify is best. First, smell the wine without swirling. You will get one aroma. Now swirl, releasing the molecules and mixing the wine with air. Another sniff and you’ll get something completely different. Now no sissy sniffs. It’s time to get your face in there and breathe deeply. One trick is to put your hand over the glass as you swirl, and then move your palm aside just enough to allow your nose in. It’s fun!

2) The right temperature: Most of us Americans like our beverages cold. Milk, for example, is wonderful when it’s spiked with ice cubes and placed in a frosted glass. When served with cookies, only you can describe the ecstasy. But don’t confuse cold with serving wine.

If you’ve ever bought a bottle of wine, especially white, and then opened it at home and found it to taste flat and lifeless, it’s not the wine’s fault or the vendor. If you’ve had it in the fridge right before opening, it’s your fault. Just as you would never eat a frozen cake, wine is something that must be at the right temperature to release all of its flavors. Now you won’t get tarred and feathered if you’re one of those folks who adds ice to your wine, (shudder!) but give it a try at the right temp and see the difference it can make.

Here’s the EASIEST way to serve wine correctly. Take the white wine out of the fridge 20 minutes before serving. And put the red wine in 20 minutes before serving. You’ll chill the red down just enough and warm the white up just perfectly. Ideal serving temperatures will be posted on our blog.

(Tip, you can store opened red and white wines in the fridge to make them last up to three days. Keep them sealed airtight!)

3) Tasting the wine thoroughly: Another fun element of wine tasting is how much noise you can make and still be invited back to the party. As we’ve mentioned, the tongue doesn’t do all the tasting, it’s the nose that gives us most of our enjoyment.

Here’s how to do it. Take in a good amount of wine in your mouth. Let it sit on the tongue, all over your mouth. Let it sit there for 5 to 10 seconds. Swallow and breathe in. See how much more complex wine can be? Now try taking in a sip of wine, and then try and breathe air into your mouth while the wine is there, using your mouth and nose to inhale. Swallow and then enjoy the explosion again!

From we quote: “Smell and taste are the chemical senses because their receptors are stimulated by chemical molecules, rather than by energy from light, pressure, or sound. As little as one molecule in a million may be detected by the nose, but it takes a minimum of one part per thousand to stimulate the tongue. As sensitive and accurate as this organ is, relatively few people ever realize its potential for sensory enjoyment by learning how it works and the language of smells. Professional food and wine tasters and perfumers use analogies to common experience to describe aromas. Experts are those that practice and use their sense of smell most frequently.”

4) Pairing and sharing: There are really no rules that you can break in the world of wine. Many tell us to simply buy and drink the wine we like, and pair with abandon. They’re trying to sell you wine, I’m trying to elevate your experience. With that in mind, some rules, when followed, will allow you a much more significant experience with your wine. Before you go back to drinking only your cold Rieslings and Chardonnays, consider the logic we’re going to share.

Many people talk about the fact that they only like sweet wines. Reds are too intrusive and odd. But when you discover the tasting, smelling and texture of wine, your mouth begins to convince you otherwise. Wine can bring out the tastes of food, cleanse your palate and make you glad you have a nose! Wine is meant to be consumed with food. In many countries the thought of sitting with just a glass of wine would seem as silly as eating a meal without a plate. They’re meant to go together.

Wine is comprised of chemicals that are described in many ways. Two of the most significant are the acidic level and the tannic level in wines. Tannins are the sharp, dry feeling on your tongue, like when you eat a ripe banana and your tongue feels like sandpaper. Acidic levels are the tartness. Learning to blend, mostly the acidic level, with the flavors and the textures of your food is key to enjoying both in the right way.

Okay, this is getting complicated. Let’s simplify. You can begin to determine the right pairings by thinking ‘like goes with like.’ Lush foods with lush wines. Fruity and spicy food with fruity and spicy wines. Peppery foods with peppery wines. Earthy wines with earthy foods. These basics can get you started. There are literally hundreds of Internet resources for helping you pair food and wine. But please, by all means pair!!!

5) Ask everyone about their experience!: True, if you’re swallowing and someone starts talking to you, it could cause a mess if you try and reply. But I am a firm believer in making the wine a center of the conversation. First, it’s a good ice-breaker with new people. Wine is so personal, and it’s a good way to get people to move towards a more emotional experience.

Describing the flavors is fun and entertaining and everyone learns something.
If you have a group of novice and/or experienced wine drinkers, or even a combination, you can still follow these suggestions. In fact, have a mini wine tasting session, exploring the flavors and aromas as described above. You’ll find that your guests leave with a new appreciation for wine and for their own ability to enjoy it!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Bella Misto Masters at Work at Raffaldini!

I consider myself a pretty good cook. A pinch of this, a dash of that…sauté, broil, bake, and voila! – a new meal is presented. I am soothed by the symphony of flavors harmonizing in a broth, I love inviting herbs to dance on tender morsels. In short, I’m hooked on cooking.

With that in mind, you can certainly understand why I was drawn to the wine blending event at Raffaldini Vineyards, in the Yadkin Valley, NC, held a few weeks ago in their barrel room. This annual event is created to help the winemakers determine the right blend for their Bella Misto wine. We couldn't wait to get those beakers working.

The event began with a set of instructions shared by Jay Raffaldini himself. A former New Yorker and Wall Street aficionado, his approach to wine making is pleasantly spontaneous. Of course it doesn’t hurt that his reputation for making exceptional wine means he made the right decision replacing paper shares for vinification.

We listened intently, hands poised on our glasses and coats pulled up around our necks to keep out the slight chill in the air. He explained that we would first catalog a series of 5 wines to be used in the blending, carefully noting every element of color, texture, nose, flavor, structure and tannins. After our “tastes” were recorded, we divided into teams and began our foray into the world of wine-blending.

Here’s a few things you need to know so you can understand how complicated this can be. First, the wines we were tasting would still sit in their bottles for a few more weeks. The aging process was not yet complete and the wine could change either slightly or drastically over that short a period of time. Based on the grape and structure, we had to decide, if it went one way or another, what might be its best attributes to showcase when blending.

Two, alcohol and tannins behave quite wildly when mixed in your mouth. It’s not necessarily a grape thing as much as a biological result of our tongues, our sense of smell, and our personal choices. Quite simply, it ain’t like addin’ a little more salt to the gravy.

Thirdly, measuring out one small quantity into a beaker with a radius the size of my husband’s thumb is an exercise in making sure your reader glasses are sitting just right on your nose. Don’t want to spill any of this juice! And finally, the biggest roadblock is that we only had about 40 minutes to experiment with our blends. Keeping track of each percentage, keeping a bit of each blend to compare and still have enough left to vote on is tough, especially since you want to gulp down every sip of the stuff!!

At our table, beside my trusty co-grape mixer, Carmen, and our husbands, was a foursome who had pedigree. And they looked like they were ready to eat us for lunch. They were in attendance last year and their blend was instrumental in making the 2008 Bella Misto. We were in awe but feeling our competitive natures surface as we shook their hands and commented on the fact that some of us were wine club members. Hey, hokey, we know. But we had to show off somehow!!

Seriousness abounded. At least we tried to create some levity, but with all of us looking like mad scientists at a frat party, we concentrated on the task at hand. When the blending was complete, we had determined, out of 4 combinations, that we had one worth sharing! Named ANDIAMO in a frenzy to find a title we liked, our blend consisted of 20% of the luscious Merlot, 25% of the grassy and pungent Cabernet Franc, 40% of the Cabernet, a generous wine with a hint of cinnamon on top of it’s familiar, earthy tang, and 15% Petit Verdot, a powerhouse of tannins and soil added to ground our flavors. We opted NOT to blend with the Montepulciano for several reasons. It is not a customary blending wine, it tasted perfectly balanced all on its own so there was nothing we needed to tone down or bring out, and we wanted to be the rebels; there we go again.

When the confusion was over, and we had voted at our table, even the noble’s had to vote for our wine. And we literally pushed a taste onto Jay who exclaimed that this was most likely going to be very close to the blend they would choose! How’s that for the ameteurs! Here’s juice in your eye…a gift from table 6.

If you’re interested in this event, check out Raffaldini’s web site and sign up for next year’s blending. And when you buy a bottle of the Bella Misto this year, check out the label and see how close our percentages came to winning out. We think the Networking Chicks from Charlotte did okay.

Rebalance Your Life With Networking, Women and Wine!

For me, sixth grade was a long, tortuous year. In spite of having at least enough coordination and height to be the tetherball champion, I was always the last one chosen for four-square, teased incessantly about my A+ grades, and rode my Schwinn bike home alone each day.

However, I was able to find one element of triumph in this jungle of rejection, and that was during gym. In particular, the balance beam. It was only 6 inches off the ground, a detail not lost on my acrophobic brain. In fact my tall, lanky frame felt almost graceful as I trotted across the smooth, wooden path. When I reached the end, I dipped my foot and swirled around with ease, a move choreographed to compliment the arc of my dancing arms and solid posture. I found the journey mesmerizing. A calculated series of fluid movements that meant unwavering concentration on staying completely parallel to the bar, head held high, proud and confident.

As I reflect on those years, I realized that we all seek balance in one way or another. We crave that feeling of equality, weight distributed between two events, two people, or even two opposing ideas. Gravity and nature have created that in us, and we thrive on that dominant sense.

The trouble is, that it’s is constantly slipping out of sync. Each day our delicate intentions are thrown to and fro, tumbling about in our hearts and minds like so many bee-bees, stuck inside a closed sphere, causing us to obsess over how they got there and how to extract them. We are often drawn to the imbalance as opposed to celebrating those things that are in perfect harmony and wellness. A habit that causes us much pain.

I don’t think I’ve spoken to anyone this past year who hasn’t had some challenges on various scales. Two-thousand and nine is almost a memory and to some of us, a swift utterance of “good riddance” escapes our pursed lips. Even though the difference between 09 and 2010 is divided only by one greeting with the moon, we all look forward with relief to the reinvention of prosperity in 2010. We can’t wait to receive the balance we feel we are lacking and for the wheel weights on our vehicle of consciousness to be found.

For Networking, Women and Wine, 2010 will center around restoring balance in your life. Our events will continue to celebrate the metaphor of wine, its flavors and explorative elements. We will continue to emphasize the unique qualities of women, and we will offer you assistance in reestablishing balance in your life.

From social, to visceral, to spiritual, to practical advice, together we will find that harmonious balance bar, sweep gracefully along its path, and then, become beacons and strength to others around us seeking meaningful connections and true friendships!