Swirl Wine Bar & Market

Monday, July 21, 2014

Real Crispy Skin Salmon, For True


I admit that I am a bit obsessed with Salmon. Grilled, seared, plank roasted, baked it in parchment, topped with chermoula; you name it, I've cooked it!  It is a weekly item on our menu, especially when I need something quick, healthy, delicious and easy to pair with either red or white wines.

But my latest obsession has been crispy skin salmon, which I was never successful at until now!  I found a recipe a few months ago, which I'm sorry to say I could not find again to reference in this post, that I've modified a bit to create the perfect salmon.  The big crunch of the skin is truly the perfect contrast to a fat piece of tender, juicy salmon.  And when I say crisp I mean like a crunchy potato chip!

I will also admit that as beautiful as the Coho and the wild salmon looks, I love the fatty North Atlantic and King Salmon.  Much richer and more flavorful, I select which ever fits into my current budget.  The new Whole Foods on Broad has a really nice fresh selection and is easy to just pick  up a piece after work.  

So here it is, just a few simple tricks to create the perfect crunch:



Trick #1:  You have to descale it.
Take your salmon fillet ( I get about a pound to split between Kerry and I and we usually eat the whole thing!) and put it on a cutting board.  Then grab your chef's knife and run along the top of the skin with a bit of pressure, scraping the scales off.  You can tell they’re gone because the skin has a netting pattern to it:
Give the salmon a quick rinse to remove the scales.



Trick #2:  Water is the enemy 
Dry the salmon very well with paper towels. Water is the enemy of a good crisp sear so soak up as much as you can. Next, season the fish skin with a good pinch of salt (no pepper on the skin, it will burn) and let the fish sit for 5 minutes. Then touch the fish skin and notice that there’s moisture there. This is because the salt pulled out moisture from the skin. You've just set the skin up to be even CRISPIER.  Give the skin a good pat with paper towel again to soak up that excess moisture, and now it’s ready to be seared.


Trick #3:  Cut the salmon into even pieces.
The more evenly the meat is distributed the better it will sear.  With a large fillet you usually get the thick piece of the body and then the thinner part of the belly.  Cut off the thin part - you'll just cook it a little less.



Trick #4:  No non stick pans!
You just don't get the same sear and if your heat is high enough it won't stick anyway.  So start with an uncoated pan, fairly close in size to the piece of fish.  Heat up your pan somewhere between medium to medium high heat (6 or 7 on a 10 scale), and let it heat up for about 3-5 minutes (3 minutes for gas stoves, 5 for electric).  Since we are using an uncoated pan, you’re going to want to have a sturdy, metal turner that can really get under the fish, not one of those flimsy plastic spatulas.



Trick #5:  You need a high smoke point oil.
Olive oil or butter won't work here.  My preference is ghee or coconut oil but the ghee really helps to brown it evenly.  You could also use grape seed oil.   Add enough to really coat the bottom of the pan.

When the oil starts to shimmer, take your piece of fish and test it by touching the very end of it to the pan. If it makes that hissing sizzling noise, that means the pan is nice and hot, and go ahead and lay the fish down in the pan, skin side down, always away from you so the oil doesn't splash. (and if the fish doesn't sizzle, your pan isn’t hot enough).  Now you can season the top meaty side with salt and pepper.

Let the salmon cook for 90% of the time on the skin side. You need about 5 minutes per 1" thickness of salmon.  With the fillets I get I usually end up doing 7 minutes on the skin side.

While the skin is cooking, take a lemon and zest about half of the skin.  Take the rest of the lemon and cut into quarters to squeeze on the fish before serving.

When it is time, flip it over and give it a about a minute or so on the other side. Remove it, put a few pats of butter on it and the lemon zest and serve immediately with the lemon quarters on the side. Fantastic!!

Ok now what wine to serve?  The reason I had to make this was to give me an excuse to open the 2012 Terre Nere Cuvee delle Vigne Niche from Macrco de Grazia.  We just received our very very small allocation and half of it has come home with me!

TENUTA DELLE TERRE NERE
Etna White Cuvée delle Vigne Niche 2012
Wine Spectator Score: 92

Aromatic, with floral and spice notes. There's power to the racy acidity and smoky minerality of this finely meshed white, which is elegant overall, offering flavors of creamed apple, almond skin, apricot and preserved lemon. A vanilla-tinged, leesy overtone echoes on the finish. Drink now through 2025. 250 cases made.


Friday, July 18, 2014

Bringing the Cinque Terre to Swirl - 2013 Bisson Ciliegiolo Rose'


If you've ever been to the villages of the Cinque Terre or Portofino on the Ligurian coast, chances are you fell in love. You probably hiked a few of the trails between the villages, ate the local sea food and fresh pasta with pesto in one of those tiny osteria perched on the cliffs.  You warmed yourself in the coastal sun, taken in view the of the ocean, waves crashing on the rocks below as the terraced vineyards above soaked up the summer rays and salty sea mist.  Really, there's nothing quite like it.


You also probably had the local wines; the crisp refreshing whites, the juicy, pure rose' and the light bodied fruity reds.  And like me, you wished you could have them here at home to try to recreate that amazing feeling you had by the sea...unfortunately Ligurian wines are a bit hard to come by.  They produce such tiny amounts on those steeply terraced mountains and keep most of it for their own consumption.  So you can imagine how excited we were to get our hands on the 2013 Bisson Ciliegiolo Rose from one of the top producers in the region!



Pure red cherry fruit, juicy acidity with that subtle salinity from the sea breezes - this wine is perfect for New Orleans spicy fare, has enough body for barbecued chicken, pork sausage and most food from the grill, and is a classic pairing with Zuppa di Pesce Alla Ligure



Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Hunting with Sole

Every year we take a group of Swirl guest on a wine, culinary and cultural trip in Tuscany and Umbria.  This year our visit included a truffle hunting excursion in Umbria...

Sunflowers in full bloom in Tuscany & Umbria
Driving the twisting narrow roads with seemingly endless switchbacks we go up and over the mountains that seamlessly join Tuscany and Umbria.  Even those who don't get car sick feel effect of the last 6 days on our stomachs.  Plunging down into the valleys we ride through the very rural small villages, peaceful land layered in a patchwork of color with brilliant yellow sunflowers, the silvery leaves of olive trees, golden wheat fields, and endless deep green tobacco.

View from the top of the mountain
Of course we make a few wrong turns but finally find the steep windy road that takes us up to the top of the tallest mountain yet.  Climbing higher and higher the forest changes from slender birch, ash and maple trees to thick trunks of oak and pine until finally reaching the top.  The GPS tells us we've arrived but all we see is a sleepy little hamlet of old stone dwellings and not a soul in sight.  As I try to find the phone number to get directions, a little white truck appears - our host out looking to see if we are lost.  We follow him further up the mountain road to his farm greeted by the breathtaking view of the villages below with the mountains of the Marche, Umbria and Tuscany stretched out before us.

Our host, the personable and soft spoken Matteo, brings us to one of the wood buildings on the property where we are greeted by his mother, father and two cats with their four young kittens.  Matteo and his family live here in this remote area of north west Umbria. They work the land as farmers, hunters and gatherers, living harmoniously with nature on their 30 acres of property.  It's not game or fowl that they hunt, but treasure in the form of elusive and mysterious funghi, truffles!  

We sit and spend some time talking first.  Matteo tells us that his passion and skill for truffle hunting was passed down from his father Carlos and he in turn wants to share his knowledge with others. He educates us on the fascinating world of truffles - what they are, the different types, colors, where they grown, how the animals find them, ripening, maturing and of course, the amazing dogs.

Walking to the forest to begin the hunt
Armed with our new found knowledge, we walk a short distance up the hill with kittens following close behind.  It's time to meet Sole, his dog.  As he talks about Sole, telling us stories of his training and first hunt, it's evident in his voice how much Matteo loves  his dog.  He releases him from the pen and the enthusiastic Sole bounds up the hill to greet us. Running, jumping, darting, constantly putting his nose to the ground and then the air, his energy seems endless.  Matteo softly commands and Sole obediently follows; their symbiotic relationship and mutual respect is the key to their success.

Into the woods we all traipse, Matteo leads us to one of his favorite spots. "Vai, vai Sole" Matteo says and Sole takes off, frantically searching, sniffing - you can actually hear his rapid breathing as he puffs his cheeks and puts his nose to the ground.  He hons in on a smell and frantically begins to dig.  "Piano, piano" slowly, slowly, Matteo softly calls and Sole tries to slow down but he's so excited, tearing at roots, flinging dirt behind him. Reaching down Matteo gently takes him at the neck and Sole immediately goes limp and lies beside his hole awaiting his next command. Matteo digs into the hole first using his vanghetto, a shovel like tool, and then his hands to see what Sole has found.  Out comes a black truffle about the size of a large plum with its dark knobby skin.  Matteo smiles, shows us all the treasure and then puts it into the pocket of his vest. Sole is generously rewarded with treats and affection.

Sole's first find
The ritual repeats, over and over in this spot and then another.  Matteo and Sole hunt each morning for several hours.  They are fortunate to live in an area where different types of truffles are available year round. And the reward can be great; the jewel of Italian gastronomy, white truffles, retail for over $3000/lb., the black for around $1200/lb. The black summer truffles that we found sell for around $500/lb.  Each type of truffle is available only certain months of the year.  Some days are plentiful but others might not yield a single truffle; it's a roll of the dice.

Today is a good day for Sole and Matteo.  In about an hours time Matteo has a pocketful of truffles and we head back to reception area where the delicious smells from the kitchen tell us lunch is almost ready!   Matteo shows us how to clean and store truffles as we sip on Prosecco in the courtyard.  We move into the dining area, beautifully and humbly set for our lunch. The intoxicating smell of fresh truffles permeates the air. Matteo sits with us but goes into the kitchen with each course to help his mother. Crostini with many different types of truffle sauces, carafes of local wine, fresh pasta shaved with our catch of the day, Matteo's fennel roasted pork with rosemary potatoes followed by dessert and of course espresso; we are served a simple, rustic family meal with local fresh ingredients, prepared with the utmost care.

The fruits of Sole's labor

Our fresh pasta with his catch of the day
Matteo's generousity,calm demeanor and infectious smile gives the experience an incredibly intimate feeling - his spirit, love of the land, his relationship with Sole are expressed throughout the visit.  Matteo is a young farmer dedicated to his trade and enthusiastic about sharing it with others.  We will be back...And so with full bellies and warm hearts we load back into our cars, with a new found understanding and appreciation for the now not so mysterious funghi and the people and dogs who bring them from the mountains of Italy to our tables.

If you'd like to visit with Matteo and Sole email him at bartolini.matteo@gmail.com or check out his website at Ca' Solare Agriturismo.  Please tell him Beth from New Orleans sent you :)

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Temperature Matters

Serving wine at the proper temperature is something we all struggle with here in New Orleans.  It's really an issue in the US in general; we drink our reds to warm and our whites too cold.  Especially here in the sub tropics - our reds suffer severely from the idea that they are best served at "room temperature".

The beautiful underground cellars at Antonio Caggiano's winery in Campania
The whole room temperature red wine thing came out of Europe where those lovely stone castles and chateaus, lacking in central heat,  remain a constant 60 some degrees. Then there are those cool underground cellars at where their whites rest at a perfect 55 degrees.  That is a far cry from our poorly insulated below sea level homes in our stifling humidity and 90+ degree temperatures!


So what's the big deal?  What does it really matter what temperature you serve your wines?  I guess that all depends on the drinking experience you are looking to have.  If your goal is to guzzle down a big high alcohol red so you can get a quick buzz to start your weekend, then chances are you don't really care how it's showing.  But if you really want to experience a wine at it's best, temperature matters.

When we pour a white wine directly from our frosty 35 degree refrigerators to our glass, the aromatics and flavors are suppressed. The cold brings out greater astringency, which means the wine can  tastes sharp and tart.  And our room temperature average of 72 degrees for reds?  They lose all their finesse and freshness to an overpowering sensation of alcohol and tannin.  They're flabby, out of balance and not as enjoyable as they could be with a little help.

But you don't need to have an fancy wine cellar to serve/drink your wines at the proper temperature.  If you store white wine in the refrigerator, take it out 20 minutes before you want to pour it. To cool down reds (or room-temperature whites), all you need is an ice bucket filled half with ice and half with water. If you’re in a hurry, throw in a cup of salt.  You can get to the right temperature in 10 minutes in an ice bath; or you can put reds in the fridge for about 45 minutes if you are thinking ahead, with whites, 2 hours in the fridge should be perfect.  That’s all it takes.

Kerry is more of a stickler about the red wine thing than I am - I'm usually impatient and just want a glass of wine.  Sometimes I think she waits too long and the wine gets too cold!  With whites, I like them a bit warmer, Kerry- super cold! So to help us both out, I got these little wine bottle digital temperature cuffs. You put them on a bottle, give it a few minutes and it reads the temperature of the bottle.  

So I  put one of the digital thermometers ($16 at swirl) on a bottle that is down in the dark corner where we store our wine at home and got this: 72 degrees.  Upstairs in the kitchen while we are making dinner? Yikes! 75 degrees! In the fridge 30 minutes? A perfect 63!  

Here's what we should be shooting for:  Typical temperature for serving red wine ranges from 52ºF - 65ºF, and 45ºF- 50ºF for white wines.  If you really want to get picky about this, there are different temperature suggestions for different varieties (see chart below).  But I think if we just shoot for the averages for now, we'll all be happier wine drinkers!  
Cheers!


Monday, May 5, 2014

Aperol Spritz, a Classic Italian Beverage


While you can order an Aperol Spritz just about anywhere in Italy, its beginnings are in the north.  It is particularly popular in Venice and Verona where it is the aperitivo drink of choice.  It's bright orange color is unmistakable and while it is served in a variety of different glassware, the recipe remains the same.  This is the classic recipe from Aperol, the company who has produced this low alcohol spirit since 1919.  We'll be serving these at our first Aperitivo Thursday this week at Swirl.  Come over and try one with a complimentary plate of snack from our friends at Good Eggs!

Aperol Spritz
3 parts Proscecco
2 parts Aperol
Splash of club soda

Fill a wine glass with ice. Add the above ingredients and garnish with half an orange slice. Insert straw, close your eyes and imagine yourself sitting in a lively piazza it Italy! 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Aperitivo, The Happiest of Hours

Verona from Lamberti Tower in Piazza Erbe
It's somewhere around 5pm.  The sonar sound coming from my ipad tells me it's time to wake up from my very brief nap.  I hear Kerry rustling around in the livingroom as I slowly try to focus my eyes and will my self from the bed.   After an exhausting 3 days sampling hundreds of wines at Vinitaly in Verona, we only have a few more hours left to explore this beautiful city and I need to perk up.

The Adige River in Verona
Out of the apartment we take a right and walk the few blocks toward the Adige River which winds around in a crescent shape with the historic center of the town nestled inside.  A city that dates back to the Romans, the ancient cobblestone streets are lined with Medieval palaces, elegant churches and bars and restaurants with small terraces perched over the banks of the river.  We duck inside one for a much needed espresso and the icy orange drinks being prepared at the bar can mean only one thing - it's aperitivo time in Verona. A trend that started once upon a time in Milan and can now be found all over Italy, an aperitivo is a glorious couple of hours, a little something before dinner; an aperol spritz or maybe a prosecco or a glass of wine, accompanied by a small snack, great people watching and lively conversation.

Bars and cafes line the piazza.
Continuing our walk, we contact James for a meeting time in Piazza Bra for our last aperitivo of the trip.  We get there early and I start perusing the perimeter of the square checking out the cafes to see who has the best offerings. Some simply provide olives and chips, others get a bit more elaborate with a plate of small nibbles like bruschetta, focaccia, or even meats and cheeses.  I of course chose the latter and James appears just as we are about to sit down.


A round of "spreetzs", the beckoning bright orange drink, for all as we settle in to take in the scene around the piazza while nibbling on our snacks.  The bars and cafes are buzzing with activity, the evening passeggiata is in full swing as the locals enter the marble lined Via Mazzini and stroll to nearby Piazza Erbe.  The coliseum towers mystically over the square reminding all of ancient beginnings of this beautiful place.  There is a joyfulness here that is hard to capture in words, a lightness in the people, an energy in the air that is positively enchanting.


Hoping to recreate that special feeling, we're excitedly starting our own aperitivo at Swirl on Thursdays. There will be a special drink menu for the evening, all Italian of course.  Your first drink will be accompanied by little something extra; a small plate of nibbles, local fare provided this week by our friends at Good Eggs.

So please join us this Thursday, May 8th anytime  between 5:30 - 7:30 for our first aperitivo, a joyful couple of hours after work to relax with friends, take in the lively scene around Faubourg St. John while sipping on a delicious Italian beverage.

Ciao!





Coravin, Drinking High End Wines and Never Popping the Cork!



It's Sunday night and I've cooked a really nice piece of crispy skin salmon.  For some ridiculous reason, Kerry wants to drink a beer.  I, of course, want wine.  Digging through the wood boxes stuck in the dark corner of the downstairs hallway, I'm in search of something for me to drink with my meal.  I realize I have a dilemma - the only appropriate wine, in my mind, to have with my fish is the 2008 Moises Holmes Hill Willamette Valley Pinot Noir and at almost $40 a bottle, it's not the one to pop open on a whim, drink a glass or two and put in the frig hoping it holds until the next time I'm at home and looking for something to drink.  But now my mouth is watering thinking about drinking this wine and how lovely it will pair with my salmon....

Enter Coravin, the solution to my problem!  I had brought home our new gadget and this was the perfect opportunity to give it a try.  Unwrapping the box, I'm a bit nervous - it looks like a cross between a microscope, a drill press and one of those silly rabbit wine bottle openers.  I take my time, read the directions and follow the steps to readying  the "device" - take the yellow safety piece off of the needle, insert the gas capsule and test the gas.  Ok. looks like we're good to go.  

Clamping it on the bottle, it's time to insert the needle. Making sure everything is lined up properly, it goes in with an easy push from the palm of my hand, right through the foil and into the cork. I pull out one of my awesome Reidel Oregon Pinot Noir glasses and get ready to pour.  Tilting the bottle above the glass I give the trigger a quick press, release, and out it comes - the translucent but deeply tinted perfect shade of garnet lovely Pinot Noir. Into my glass it flows until the bowl fills to my desired amount.  Turning the bottle upright, I hear the quick hiss of the argon gas being released into the bottle.  Out comes the needle, the bottle goes back in its resting place until its services are required on another day, the perfect pairing just a pour away... After a glass and a half I thought about having a little Barolo, but then realized I was just being greedy :)

The top of the bottle - you can see where the needle pierced the foil.
Coravin offers a revolutionary way to drink or serve high end wines without worrying about oxidation - the cork is never pulled and the instant insertion of gas means that it never sees air.  For more info on how it works, check out the Coravin site or sign up for our Special Coravin Flite Nite this week where we'll be offering the following wines to chose from.  A flite of 3 will be $25.  Reservations are recommended as we are only pouring 12 flites.  You can reserve here with a credit card, Coravin Flite.  

2007 Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino, $85
Winemaker's Notes
Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino is ruby red tending to garnet. It's very intense, with a persistent nose with red fruit notes. There is a warm, balanced flavor with velvet-smooth tannins and long-lasting aroma. A beautiful Brunello made in the traditional style, produced exclusively from Sangiovese grapes picked by hand from vines at least 20 years old.

Critical Acclaim
"The estate’s 2007 Brunello di Montalcino has developed beautifully over the last year. Freshly cut flowers, dark raspberries, spices and mint all take shape in a 2007 that impresses for its freshness and pure energy. Sweet roses and violets linger on the finish. I imagine the 2007 will enjoy a very broad drinking window. Today it is drop-dead gorgeous. The combination of dry extract above 34 and acidity north of 6% is exceedingly rare and suggests the wine will age for several decades. Anticipated maturity: 2017-2047."
95 Points The Wine Advocate

"Medium red. Reticent nose hints at red berries, marzipan and nutty oak. Fine-grained, fleshy and highly concentrated, without any undue impression of weight. Lovely sappy sweetness accentuates the wine's inner-mouth perfume. Really builds on the very long, even, sweetly tannic back end, which stains the palate with red fruits, flowers and complex soil tones. This strikes me as more typical perfumed sangiovese than the darker, more locked-up, more obviously structured 2006 riserva."
95 Points International Wine Cellar

"A wine with roasted meats and dark fruits on the nose and palate. Full body, with soft and velvety tannins and a juicy and fruity aftertaste. So delicious and seductive. Drink now or hold."
94 Points James Suckling

2008 Fisher Coach Insignia, $87
Winemaker's Notes
The Coach Insignia honors our family's tradition of craftsmanship, first represented in fine automobiles of the 20th century with Body by Fisher and now in Fisher Vineyards' wines of the 21st century. The Coach Insignia Cabernet represents the pinnacle of our winemaking craft, comprised of the finest selected lots of Bordeaux varietals from our Napa Valley Estate.

Critical Acclaim
"Deep ruby. Highly fragrant aromas of red and blackcurrant, dried cherry, anise and herbs, with sexy oak spice and floral qualities adding complexity. Sappy and expansive in the mouth, offering sweet cherry and dark berry flavors. Turns spicier with air and finishes quite long, with fine-grained tannins and a late note of black cardamom. "
93 Points International Wine Cellar

"The 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Coach Insignia is a gorgeous, refined wine laced with expressive red fruit, flowers, mint and licorice. The elegant, feminine side of Cabernet comes through, along with a hint of mocha and spice from the presence of 8% Cabernet Franc in the blend. Hints of sweet herbs and licorice reappear on the finish. Today the 2008 looks to be a fairly early-maturing wine, but I don’t think that will be much of an issue based on how delicious it is."
92 Points The Wine Advocate

2010 M. Chapoutier "Les Granits" Saint-Joseph Rouge, $76.99 
Notes:
In Saint Joseph, as in Hermitage, elevated soils of high granite composition give Syrah a unique style. Made from 60-80 year old vines this rich and expressive Syrah is dark garnet in color and features aromas of black fruit jams (blackberry) and mineral overtones. Smoky, peppered notes, with a long persistency in the mouth.
Chapoutier owns some of the most famous plots in the Rhône, including 34 hectares within the tiny Hermitage appellation. This collection of highly sought after wines is coined "Selections Parcellaires".

Critical Acclaim
"Most of the fruit comes from hillside vineyards in Larnage. The 2010 St.-Joseph Les Granits (870 cases produced) is a more flowery, elegant, feminine-styled effort than Les Varonnieres. A deep purple color is followed by sweet aromas of Chinese black tea, graphite, blueberries and black raspberries. With a flowery character, superb purity, full body and a precise, crisp finish with plenty of wet rock and powdered stone-like notes, this 2010 should age well for 15-20 years. "  
94 points Robert Parker's Wine Advocate

"Bright purple. Potent aromas of black and blue fruits, incense, licorice and black olive, with a bright mineral topnote. Sappy and precise, offering deeply pitched blueberry and cassis flavors and an exotic floral pastille nuance. The mineral quality comes back strong on the finish, which lingers with outstanding tenacity and clarity. There's a tension to this wine that suggests it will be a long-distance runner."
93 points Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar

2010 Gaja Ca'Marcanda Magari, $79.99
Winemaker's Notes
The word "Magari" has several meanings: "if only," "would that it were true," "perhaps." Ca'Marcanda's unique combination of terre brune (dark soils: loam and clay) and terre blanche (white soils: stones and pebbles) is reflected in Magari. Deep garnet with blue tinges. Lush Merlot fruit and spicy Cabernet aromas. Magari showcases the essence of the upper Maremma. It's a full, rich, well-rounded wine with an elegant, silky finish.

Critical Acclaim
"Showing spectacular traits of the vintage, the 2010 Magari (50% Merlot and 25% each Cabernets Sauvignon and Franc) is a dark and modern wine with a thick fabric of dark fruit, blackberry preserves, spice and tobacco woven tightly together. The mouthfeel is exceedingly plush and there’s a sweet oak note of toasted almond or Spanish cedar on the close. Anticipated maturity: 2015-2026. "
94 Points The Wine Advocate

"Fresh and bursting with black cherry and plum fruit, this red has density and a well-integrated structure. Builds to a long finish of fruit, spice and mineral. Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc."
90 Points Wine Spectator




Sunday, April 27, 2014

10 Reason to Visit Swirl During Jazz Fest 2014!


This is one crazy time in Faubourg St. John and the fact that the entrance to this grand party is right around the corner from us, it makes Swirl a popular place to stop before, after and during Jazz Fest 2014.  And while we don't hold our free tastings or happy hour over the weekend, we're giving you lots of reasons to come by and shop for party beverages, check out all of the local art and fun t-shirts, have a drink at the bar and bring your out of town guests in for a taste of the local culture.

10 Reasons to Visit Us During the Fest

Fat Falafel Food Truck, Tuesdays from 6-8pm
1. Check out one of New Orleans Own Famed Food Trucks - Trying to figure out how to feed all of those out of town guests?  Bring them over on Tuesday as our favorite food truck, the Fat Falafel, pulls up to Swirl from 6-8pm. They dish out delicious Mediterranean food ($5-$10) that you can bring into the shop and let us pair it with our favorite specials by the glass.  6-8pm

Vending Machine Wines made by some pretty awesome locals!
2. Wine by Local Producers - People are always looking for "local" wines and we feel these great labels produced by some of our favorite New Orleanians fit the bill and deliver a whole lot of quality.  We've got James Moises' 2008 Holmes Hills Willamette Valley Pinot Noir and his 2013 Pinot Gris in stock from Oregon and the entire lineup of Vending Machine Wines from Napa including the brand new relase of Horror Show IV! Open a bottle in house, take a few home, or we can ship!

Get some vitamin c for your walk to the Fest!
3. Refreshing Mimosas to Kick off Your Day at the Fest - Join us on Thursday, Friday and Saturday this week from 10:00-2:00 for our $5 mimosas - a Jazz Fest Swirl tradition. Relax  with us in the air conditioning for a bit or we'll serve 'em to go!

Shaun Aleman; 1 of 5 local artists we show

 4. Great Local Art on the Walls - Check out the really cool New Orleans themed work with local art from "in nola words" and Shaun Aleman, Lizano’s Glass Haus, Carnival Sculptures, Jeanne Catahula Vidrine and Julia Stefanski! Their original works start at just $20!!

Italian wines are our favs, but we have an adventurous international selection.
5.  Quality Selection of Wine and Beer - Besides stocking 300+ labels of interesting and adventurous wines from all over the world, we serve over 25 wines by glass.   How about picking up a nice cold rosé to sit on the bayou with in evening, or having a glass at the bar while you are waiting for the taxi cab line to ease up? The perfect end to a wonderful day at the fest!

Small selection but mighty good!
6.  Artisan Cheese, Chocolates and Breads - Fresh breads from Bellegarde Bakery, a nice selection of imported cheeses, olives, cured meats and local chocolates from Bittersweet confections await!  Cheeses are cut into perfect cheese plate sized chunks and breads are delivered fresh on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.


7. Try a Wine Flite at the Bar -  Stop by on Wednesday for a special flite nite this week when we hold our first rose' tasting of the season!   Flites feature 4-2oz pours of really great juice and while reservations are not required we do limit the number of flites we pour so you may want to be sure to get a spot by prepaying here:  '13 Rose' Round 1! Selections for the flite are posted on our Facebook page on Wednesday. $15

A few of our 2013 selections from Provence
8. Rosé! Rosé! Rosé! -  Did I mention that we have one of the best rose' selections in the city?  The perfect wine to pair with New Orleans food, porch sitting, picnics in the park, canoeing on the bayou or sitting at the shop and watching the festers go by; we have lots of 2013 rose' from all over the world.  And this Wednesday we'll hold our first rose' flite nite of the season!

Great gifts or "festive" wear!
9. Citizen Nola Tees  - We're stocked up with those cleverly designed tees from our friends at Citizen NOLA so come over and check out the new designs coming in on Tuesday! They make great gifts and "festive" wear!

10.  More than 25 Wines by the Glass - Have a drink at the bar or sit outside with a cheese plate and watch the festers go by! I am putting a new list together this week with lots of adventurous, crowd pleasing glass pours!






Monday, April 14, 2014

Artisan Oregon Wine & Culinary Travel 2014

Alloro Vineyards, 2013 Tour
Join Swirl Wines and James Moises of Bizou Wines October 8th - 12th  for a unique, hands-on experience of small production, artisanal winemaking at its best!  We'll take you to the stunningly beautiful Pacific Northwest where the lush foothills of Oregon's Willamette Valley await.  Nestled between the Oregon Coast mountain range and the snow-capped Cascades, the many different terroirs and microclimates makes this one of the most distinctive places on earth for grape growing.

On this five day tour you will visit small, off the beaten path wineries and vineyards; meet, taste and dine with winemakers and witness one of the most exciting times of the year in wine country, the harvest!  You will get an exclusive, insiders look into what goes on behind the scenes as you'll have the opportunity to pick grapes, sort fruit and see many aspects of the grape harvest and early stages of production first hand.

Our home away from home for the week will be a lovely bed and breakfast located in the heart of one of the Willamette Valley AVAs.  McMinnville is a beautiful town with treelined streets, restaurants, shops and of course, tasting rooms! Bon Appetit magazine, in its annual feature on Best Foodie Towns in America, rated McMinnville number two giving us many superb restaurants to choose from for both lunch and dinner.  And for breakfast?  We'll take over the entire Tuscan Estates B&B and have our very own French trained chef on site to cook us the most amazing gourmet meals. Our base in McMinnville also puts us in close proximity to Carlton, Yamhill and Eola Hills as well as the new winemaking facility at the Holmes Hill Vineyard site.  

So, have we gotten your attention yet?  Then keep reading and check out the daily itinerary!

Wednesday, October 8 
We will await your arrival at the Portland International Airport and whisk you off down Highway 99 through the heart of the Willamette Valley as we head towards the charming town of McMinnville.   We’ll get you off to a good start as we stop at a surprise winery and make a toast to a fantastic trip.  After checking into the B&B we'll turn you loose to explore the tasting rooms that line the streets.  Eyrie Vineyards, Panther Creek, R. Stuart, Willamette Valley Vineyards and more are all within walking distance and will give you many opportunities to taste a variety of wines from the McMinnville AVA.   Tonight we'll walk to dinner at a local restaurant for our first of four winemaker dinners.  Tonight's guest will be presenting his biodynamic wines to pair with the food.

Thursday, October 9
Following a lovely gourmet breakfast at the B&B we'll meet up with our winemaker from last night again at the old granary where he makes wine and have a lesson in natural and biodynamic winemaking.  Afterwards we’ll drive over to the Yamhill Carlton to a larger producer where you will see their state of the art facility that focuses on gentle winemaking through gravity flow. We’ll tour the winery and vineyards and taste through their lineup of wines.  Next we’re off to the charming community of Carlton where we’ll spend the day exploring, tasting and eating around the town.   After a quick lunch at one of our favorite cafes  we’ll turn you loose on Main Street where you’ll find great tasting rooms and shops to explore at your leisure.  Scott Paul, Ken Wright/Tyrus Evans, Omero Cellars,  WildAire, Carlton Vineyards and more are all within a few blocks.  Just when you think you’ve had your fill, we’ll meet up with one of our winemakers at the Carlton Studios, an eco-friendly, recycled-material-using and cooperative winemaking facility where a group of top-notch Oregon winemakers all share equipment to turn out award winning whites, roses, reds, sparklings and dessert wines. We’ll tour the facility and see what it takes for all of these personalities to exist under one roof!  Tonight will be an early dinner in a wonderful French restaurant in Carlton, accompanied by wines from one of our favorite producers in the Chehalem Mountains presented by the owner of the winery.

Friday, October 10
After our breakfast at the B&B we'll take a beautiful drive to the Chehalem Mountain AVA. With panoramic views of Bald Peak and the sweeping valley below, the producer we will visit is said to have one of the most beautiful views in the entire Willamette Valley. Following our tour and tasting there, we’ll stop at the Red Hills Market for to pick up our picnic lunch while we head into the Dundee Hills AVA to visit a small producer and have lunch on the property. And just to make sure you are getting your fill of Oregon wines, tonight’s dinner will be at the home of a winemaking team located in the Eola-Amity AVA.

Saturday, October 11
After breakfast at the B&B we’ll head over to the Holmes Hill Vineyard where James and his partner/winemaker Mark Wahle have built their new winery. You'll take a tour of the property with James and have the opportunity to spend some time in the vineyards picking grapes.  Weather permitting we'll set up a late lunch in the vineyard where James and winemaker Mark Wahle will treat us to their lovely wines. After lunch we'll head back to McMinnville and  you'll have a little time to yourself before a very special dinner at  a new wine hotspot opened by our friends at Nick’s Italian Cafe, where one of our favorite winemakers will join us for dinner and present his lineup of Chehalem Mountain wines.

Sunday, October 12
Following a hearty send-off breakfast with our French chef at the B&B we’ll pack up and head back to the Portland airport and sadly say good-bye to the beautiful Willamette Valley.

Reservation Information:
Total trip cost is $1700 per person, double occupancy only, and does not include airfare.  Cost include all scheduled meals and tastings as listed above and transportation to and from Portland Airport as well as transportation to all sites listed above. Basically we take care of everything.  The only thing you have to think about is which tasting rooms you want to visit during your free time!

A $500 deposit by cash or check and a completed registration form are required to book your spot.  The balance of $1200 is due 90 days from trip start date.

Our trips book very quickly!  If you are interested in more information, please contact me at 504.304.0635

To view photos from our previous trip:  Artisan Oregon 2013


Bizou Wines and Blue Dot Donuts Team Up For Unique Tasting Event!


Wine and donuts? Why not! Local winemaker James Moises of Bizou Wines has teamed up with the donut making experts at Blue Dot Donuts to create a tasting experience like no other — A savory donut and wine pairing. The unique tasting experience will be held on Wednesday, April 16 from 6-8pm at Swirl Wines (3143 Ponce de Leon St.) Guests will sample four savory donuts paired with four fine wines, including Moises Pinot Noir, for $25 per person. Proceeds from the event will be donated to Companion Pet Adoption, a small non-profit animal rescue group based around foster homes. Purchase tickets at 

Savory donuts include:
-Fresh Fig wrapped in Prosciutto created by of Blue Dot Donuts
Italian Sausage with Red Sauce and Mozzarrella created by Chef William Mauk of New Orleans Tomato Company
Chorizo Dulce and Manchego created by Chef Glen Hogh of Vega Tapas Café
Mocha Cappuccino with Mascarpone created by Jessica DeVay of Saint James Cheese Company
 
 
ABOUT MOISES WINES:
A reflection of his celebrated Lebanese heritage, Dr. James Moises has been producing a premium line of limited production pinot noir and pinot gris wines from Willamette Valley, Oregon since 2009.  The part-time ER doctor turned part-time winemaker is firmly committed to the practice of sustainable farming and strongly believes that minimal handling in the cellar produces wines of depth, grace and character. Moises’ wines are available exclusively in the New Orleans area (at top retail wine shops and restaurants.) Moises wines are made in a Burgundian style: elegant and supple with rich, ripe fruit flavors impeccably balanced by the careful use of oak.
 
ABOUT BLUE DOT DONUTS:
Blue Dot Donuts, founded by three New Orleans policemen —Ronnie Laporte, Dennis Gibliant and Brandon Singleton — is a boutique bakery offering uniquely flavored gourmet donuts. The first location opened on Canal Blvd on April Fool’s Day in 2011 and a second shop, a franchise operated by Singleton, recently opened Uptown.

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