Swirl Wine Bar & Market

Sunday, December 12, 2010

December Deal of the Week!

To help you with you holiday wine shopping, each week in December we will feature an incredible deal on a wine, 30% to 50% off of the normal retail price.  And these won't be just any wines, they'll be highly rated by respected producers that you may know from spending time in our shop.

This week we have 2 deals:
2007 Bonny Doon Cigare Blanc - Rhone Ranger producer Randall Grahm is well know in the wine world for both his crazy marketing techniques and winemaking skills, and the Cigar Volant is his rendition of a Cotes du Rhone blanc.  This wine blew us away for its quality, delicious pineapple and tropical fruit topped off with nice minerality and balanced acidity.  An absolute joy to drink, it lists for $19.99 but this week only you can purchase it for *$14.99!!

Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar, Nov/Dec 09; 90 Points: 
2007 Bonny Doon Vineyards Le Cigare Blanc Beeswax Vineyard Arroyo Seco ($22; 64% roussanne and 36% grenache blanc; 14.5% alcohol) "Light yellow. Peach, pear and honey aromas, with notes of green almond and dried flowers. Pliant and fleshy, offering fresh orchard and pit fruit flavors and a subtle undercurrent of smoky minerals. A dry, focused wine that will be extremely flexible at the table; the finish leaves mineral and pit fruit notes behind. I like this wine's blend of richness and energy." 

Deal Number 2:
2004 Bodegas Almansenas Adaras - I am a huge fan of Grenache, and Spain produces some of the best.  Gorgeous, deep, dark fruit with a touch of smoke this is a lush wine that retails for $40 and up but you can steal it this week for $24.99.  But I have only 3-6 pack cases, so if you want it call me!  If you love the Alto Moncayo wines, this will really make you happy at this price!

Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, #169, $40-$56, 90 Points
The 2004 Adaras is 100% Garnacha Tintorera aged for 18 months in new French oak. It presents an attractive array of mineral, scorched earth, vanilla, black cherry, and black currant aromas. This is followed by a medium to full-bodied wine with spicy, ripe flavors in a racy style.

Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar, Sep/Oct 07, 90 Points
($48; 100% garnacha tintorera) Deep ruby. Pungent blackberry and plum on the nose, with smoked meat, graphite and espresso nuances. Chewy dark fruit flavors are firmed by solid tannins that carry through a long but youthfully clenched finish.

*No other discounts apply

The Shotgun Paintings & Double Shotgun Wine Tasting

What do you get when you combine two creative passionate wine geeks with a love of Napa Valley and an absolute devotion to experiencing all that is good about their native city? Vending Machine Winery is the love child of Monica Bourgeois and Neil Gernon, native New Orleanians who bring a local twist to their small production, high quality yet incredibly affordable Napa Valley Wines.  We'll taste Loula's Revenge Chardonnay and the Crooked Mayor Cabernet, but it's the Double Shotgun that will take center stage tonight.  Louisiana born, Chicago based artist Grant Schexnider, creator of the artwork for the labels, will be in the house for this exclusive, one night only showing of "The Shotgun Series", his unique paintings of this New Orleans architectural icon.  Sounds like a great way to end our 2010 tasting series! The event is free and open to the public, Tuesday December 21, 6-8pm.

Vending Machine Winery Double Shotgun:  "Upon entering the front door you notice this room is scented with fresh herb and lavender bouquets. Proceed through the middle room where walls are painted a rich garnet and hung with pictures of pretty girls holding fruit pies.  In the back you reach the kitchen where someone is cooking up a meal of smoked andouille sausage."

Monday, December 6, 2010

December Deal of the Week!

To help you with you holiday wine shopping, each week in December we will feature an incredible deal on a wine, 30% to 50% off of the normal retail price.  And these won't be just any wines, they'll be highly rated by respected producers that you may know from spending time in our shop.  For example, this weeks deal is from Chateau Pesquie in the Southern Rhone.  The Quintessence is the top cuvee from this estate and will sell normally for $22.99.  This week only you can buy this wine for $15.99!  The shipment arrives Tuesday so come on over and check it out!  Here's what Robert Parker has to say about this wine:

Wine Advocate, June 2009, Rating 91pts, Price $21-$25, Drink 2009-2014, Reviewer Robert Parker:
"Pesquie’s top cuvee, the 2006 Quintessence Rouge, is made from the estate’s oldest Syrah (80%) and Grenache (20%) vines, spends 12 months in French oak, and is bottled unfined and unfiltered. This beauty boasts a dense ruby/purple hue along with abundant aromas of blackberries, charcoal, cassis, and forest floor. The sweetness of the tannins, purity, full-bodied mouthfeel, and richness are impressive. It should drink nicely for 4-5 years.  One of the Cotes du Ventoux’s top estates."
This week only $15.99!!  Shipment arrives on Tuesday, December 7th.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Savory Bites: Three Muses

"Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got till it's gone..." 

Chef Dan & Antonio

Remember the days when Chef Dan Esses was filling time with us while he was working on opening his now very popular restaurant Three Muses?   Oh how I miss those Friday nights when that sometimes cranky but always creative Jewish guy would be cooking up his tasty tapas dishes armed with nothing more that a wracked out toaster oven and a skillet. 

But luckily he hasn't gone far, so Kerry and I took a trip to the Marigny last night to visit Dan and see what's new on his very eclectic, incredibly affordable, and deliciously creative menu.  We like to sit at the bar and sip on a cocktail as we peruse the menu.  I'm quite fond of their signature drink, the muse, which is a refreshing gin, St. Germaine, strawberry and cucumber concoction that is dangerously good, while Kerry sipped on a perfectly mixed mohito.

We ordered a few dishes and I have to say that each one was an absolutely delightful blend of flavors and textures and given the chance I would order them all again next time except that I always want to try something new.  Accompanied by the live jazz vocals of Lindsey Zaworski, we feasted on small plates of the Miticana Gratin, Garlic and Sesame Asian Greens, Housemade Bresaola with Arugula and Shaved Parmesan, Lobster Egg Rolls with a Sweet Chile Lime Sauce, Braised Pork Belly with Apple Chutney and Scallion Pancakes and finished with Local Butternut Squash Ravioli in Sage and Brown Butter.  So as you can imagine at this point we are feeling a little over served, but we couldn't pass up the complimentary "Chocolate Heaven"  that Dan sent out.  And I have to admit that it was one of the best chocolate desserts I've had; moist flourless cake with a rich chocolate ganache icing, a sauce of brandied cherries accompanied by a creamy delicious scoop of their housemade candy cane ice cream.  Unbelievably delicious!

I unfortunately didn't have my camera with me, but just trust me that all of the dishes looked as good as they tasted and I can't wait to go back again!!

536 French­men St.
New Orleans, La 70116

(504) 298-TRIO

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Antonio's Italy, A Wine and Cultural Tour of Tuscany

Antonio’s Italy
July 16th-23rd, 2011

Join us in July 2011 as Antonio Molesini, Italian Wine Specialist and a native of Tuscany, takes us on a very special wine and cultural tour of his homeland.  We’ll be living like locals, spending a week in a villa in Cortona and visiting Antonio’s favorite wineries, restaurants, hill towns and wine bars. With its centralized location, Cortona is the perfect base from which to explore both Umbria and Tuscany, allowing easy access to Assisi, Montepulciano, Chianti, Montalcino, Florence, Lake Trasimeno and more.

Sorry, This Trip is Full!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Annual Thanksgiving Hit List

Those of you who shop with us know that we just love food and wine pairing so helping to make your selections for holiday meals is a real treat. What should you drink with all of those sides and mounds of turkey? There are so many answers to that question that sometimes the best choice would be to open a bubbly, white, red and rose, put them on the table and let people chose for themselves because it’s all about personal preference!

Here are a few pairing tips and recommendations from our selection. We’ve picked traditional options at different price points so there is something for every wallet. And for those of you feeling a bit more adventurous, I've thrown in a few non-traditional choice as well, which is more along the lines of what we'll be drinking on turkey day! The wines will have a special “holiday pick” tag on the shelves and if you purchase any four of these wines for your celebration, we’ll give you a 10% discount. And we’ll be featuring 5 of these wines in our Tuesday Night Holiday Wines Tasting, so come in and try to see what will best suit your menu!

For the wide array of flavors on the Thanksgiving table, sparkling wines are a no-brainer. Bright acidity, fruit and yeasty undertones make bubbly extremely food-friendly. Especially good are Brut rosé and Blanc de Noir, which can take you from the lox or chevre hors d'oeuvre to the vinaigrette salad right through the turkey and potatoes and onto the pie. The Pinot Noir grapes in these wines provide body, some tannin for texture, red-fruit character, complexity and acid balance. And in general, the bubbles from natural carbonation from the yeast, in concert with the wine's acidity, help cleanse the palate for the next course.

Our Pick: Pierre Sparr Cremant de Alsace Rosé, $18.99; Schramsberg Rosé, $32.99 or Taittinger Cuvee Francais, $44.99

White wines with lively fruit and acidity and little to no oak are also versatile. With its aromas and flavors of citrus, apple and pear and zippy acidity plus herbal notes, Sauvignon Blanc pairs with everything from butternut-squash soup to green salad to turkey with a dressing made of briny oysters and herbs. Even notoriously tough-to-pair Brussels sprouts will sing with Sauvignon Blanc. Alsatian and German whites like Rieslings, Gewurtztraminer, Pinot Gris with their tropical fruit, citrus, green-apple, pear and mineral notes combined with thirst quenching acidity, work with almost any Thanksgiving dish except the cranberry sauce.

Our Pick: Drytown Sauvignon Blanc, $12.99; Sineann Pinot Gris, $18.99; Pierre Sparr Riesling, $14.99, Vino Noceto Pinot Grigio, $16.99, Caseglio Arneis, $16.99

"Serious" dry rosés made from Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Syrah or Mourvedre grapes or blended proprietary rosés have acidity to balance the citrus, red and stone fruits and usually sport structure and a long finish but light tannins.

Our Pick: Houchart Rosé de Provence, $14.99; Terre Nere Rosato, $17.99

Fruity reds like Beaujolais are a favorite "go-to" pick for Thanksgiving. They brings soft, easy drinking affordability to the table that's perfect for the cornucopia of flavors and large group setting that Thanksgiving entails. With their bright fruit flavors, they can perk up the milder dishes and enough have structure to hold their own with the more robust courses made with sausage and herbs. As an alternative, a good Dolcetto or lighter style Barbera can offer similar characteristics and are real crowd pleasers.

Our Pick: Pierre Chermette Beaujolais, $15.99, Paitin Dolcetto, $15.99, Castello Poggio Barbera, $15.50

Syrah and Zinfandel have the spice, dark fruit and berries to bring out the best in cranberry sauces as long as the wine has soft tannins and ripe, forward fruit and the sauce is balanced -- moderately tart and not too sweet.

Our Pick: Drytown Red on Red, $12.99; Driven Primativo, $26.99; Nicholson Ranch Syrah, $19.99; Runquist 1448, $16.50.

The best single wine to choose for Thanksgiving is Pinot Noir. This versatile varietal has tangy red fruit of strawberry and cherry, with nice acidity to balance and low levels of tannin. With elegance and a touch of earthiness to lend complexity, Pinot Noir will subtly support most things on the Thanksgiving table without overpowering them. Cranberry sauce and dessert are exceptions again, with the sauce too tart and the dessert too sweet. Something a little more adventurous, but with a similar profile could be an Etna Rosso or a Sicilian Cerasuolo.

Our Pick: Ramspeck Pinot Noir, $15.99, Surh Luchtel Russian River Pinot Noir, $24.99; Moises Yamhill Carlton Pinot Noir, $39.99; Paul Garaudet Monthelie, $27.99
Planeta Cerasuolo, $23.99,  Frank Cornelissen Contadino Etna Blend, $28.99

So there you have it! But remember the most important thing is to drink wines that make you happy with people that make you smile, because that is what it's all about!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Support Your Local Small Business on November 27th

Shop at Swirl and other small businesses on American Express' "Small Business Saturday" and receive a $25 credit on your AMEX.  Click on the link for more info and to register your card!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Tuscan Style Steak

Chianina Cattle, Tuscany

For Kerry's birthday this weekend we took off to the beach with a few friends to eat, drink and be merry.  The birthday girl wanted steak and champagne so we popped a vintage Taittinger, a bottle of 2004 Tignanello (which was still a mere baby) and threw some ribeyes on the charcoal grill.

My version of bistecca fiorentina, the first time we made this was with freshly cut Chianina beef (photo above) steaks over an open fire in a villa in Tuscany with 8 of our close friends. Although we'll never be able to recreate that special experience, it is still one of my favorite preparations and it always take me back to that magical night.

Grill some fresh t-bones or ribeyes rubbed in olive oil, salt and pepper, they should be pretty rare. While the steaks are cooking, fry a big handful of fresh sage and some rosemary in a good amount of olive oil until the sage leaves are crispy.

When the steaks are done, put them on a cutting board and thinly (1/4") slice the meat of the bone. Put the meat on a serving dish and pour the hot olive oil and herb mixture over to finish cooking and seal in the juicy flavor. Salt and pepper to taste.

Buon Appetito!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Legendary Wines of La Spinetta Poured a Mano

Kerry and I are heading to our favorite New Orleans Italian restaurant on November 17, 2010 at 7 pm for a very special wine dinner at a Mano with winemaker Giorgio Rivetti of the famed La Spinetta winery of Piedmont (and now Tuscany as well). We are really excited to take the night off from the shop and spend it with Chef Josh, Giorgio, our friends from Lirette Selections and the wonderful staff at a Mano. So if great food paired with exciting wines in the company of a famous Italian winemaker sounds like as much fun to you as it does to us, join us!

The paired dinner, featuring classic and modern Piemontese dishes prepared by Chef Joshua Smith and his diligent staff, is $95 excluding tax & tip. Reservations are essential and seating is limited. Call 208.9280 today. Check out the menu and pairings below.

Grilled octopus, potato, and caperberry spiedino
Paired with: 2009 Vermentino Toscana

Due Crostini: Truffled toast points with Piemontese beef crudo; Grilled polenta with porcini mushroom ragu and Castelmagno cheese
Paired with: 2004 Barbera d'Alba "Gallina" & 2007 PIN Monferrato Rosso

Risotto al Vin Cotto with veal marrow butter
Paired with: 2006 Barbaresco "Bordini" & 2006 Barbaresco "Starderi"

Brasato al Nebbiolo:
Nebbiolo-braised Piemontese beef
Paired with: 2005 Barolo "Campe"

Gianduia torte with hazelnut torrone
Paired with: 2003 Moscato Passito Oro

About La Spinetta:

The Rivetti family story begins in the 1890s, when Giovanni Rivetti, grandfather of the three Rivetti brothers, Carlo, Bruno and Giorgio, left Piedmont for Argentina. Like many Italians of that time, he dreamed of returning rich and a powerful man, perhaps even one day able to make a great wine in his homeland.
He never did, though his son, Giuseppe (nicknamed Pin) did. Pin married Lidia, bought vineyards and began to make wine. In 1977 the family took up residence at LA SPINETTA (top of the hill) in Castagnole Lanze. It was the heart of the Moscato d'Asti country, home of a rather light and simple dessert wine. But the Rivettis believed that Moscato had the potential for greatness and set out to prove it by making Moscato Bricco Quaglia and Biancospino.

Eventually though the family's vision became even grander. In 1985 LA SPINETTA made its first red wine, Barbera Cà di Pian. After this many great reds followed: In 1989 the Rivettis dedicated their red blend Pin to their father. In 1995 they started to make their first Barbaresco, Gallina. In 1996 and 1997 the Barbarescos Starderi, Barbera d'Alba Gallina and Barbaresco Valeirano follow. In 1998 premiered the Barbera d'Asti Superiore.
In 2000 the family's ambition of also making a Barolo became reality. The Rivettis acquired vineyards in Grinzane Cavour and built a state of the art cellar, Barolo Campè. Since 2003 visitors are welcomed to visit also Campè, outside the town of Grinzane Cavour.

In 2001 LA SPINETTA expanded over the borders of Piedmont and acquired 65 hectares of vineyards in Tuscany, between Pisa and Volterra, to make three different 100% Sangiovese wines, as Sangiovese to La Spinetta is the true ambassador of the Tuscan terrain.
La Spinetta's Tuscan Line

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Truly One of a Kind, the Cornelissen Contadino 6

I've written a lot over the past year about Frank Cornelissen, a very controversial producer from the Etna region of Siciliy.  I began researching him while working with Cynthia Nicholson of The Farmhouse Table on our wine and culinary tour of Sicily last year and have been enthralled with him and his wines ever since.  Luckily our friend Matt Lirette, one of our favorite local wholesalers, has shared my interest in the region and his portfolio currently offers the largest selection of Etna producers available in Louisiana.

It is difficult to describe these wines to someone who has never tasted them.  Frank takes the terms "natural" and "non intervention" to a level that would frighten most producers and consumers.  He feels that anytime you add something to the process, be it herbicides, oak, sulfites, you take something away from the wine. Which is why Frank avoids all possible interventions including any treatments, whether chemical, organic, or biodynamic, to keep the process in tune with nature as it was done thousands of years ago.  From his vineyard practices to non-temperature controlled fermentation in plastic vats to the cellaring in clay amphorae buried into the volcanic soils of the Etna, you can't truly appreciate Frank's "hands off" approach until you've witnessed it yourself.  For my full article about our visit with Frank on the Etna, you can go to my post on The Madman of Etna.

On to the Contadino 6 (meaning 6th vintage), a wine that originally was never meant to be bottled. But a vat containing the musts of grapes and stems from both his red and white wines of his different bottlings was mistakenly tasted by a group of journalist and has gone on to be one of his most popular wines.  It's a field blend of mostly Nerello Mascalese but also with white varietals, Carricante, Dorato, Grecanico.  The grapes, twigs and leaves are all allowed to co-mingle to create an incredible cauldron of dark orange/pink liquid that teems with tobacco, cumin, cinnamon, citrus peel and tangerine. A one of a kind beverage that is the only wine of its type in the world. This is the most sophisticated vintage yet of the Contadino, unlike anything you've ever tasted, it is very intriguing, complex and enjoyable as an actual wine, not just as a study. 

However, the Contadino is not for everyone as there is nothing normal or familiar about any of Frank's wines.  You have to forget everything you expect or know about how wine tastes and approach them with a truly open mind. Drinking them is an experience, and one that I promise you won't forget even if you ultimately decide they are not for you!

To experience the full potential of Frank's wines, it is important to transport and store them at a cool temperature of 58-60 degrees.  Because the wine is unfiltered there is a lot of murky sediment in the bottle, so be sure to stand it upright for a few days before serving to allow the lees to settle.  Since they are natural there are no sulfites or preservatives added to protect against color degradation, so if left open a few hours, you will see the color evolve from granite red to volcanic black ash!!! Don't worry, the flavors become more complex with time, as the color turns. 

As you could expect, Frank does not make much wine period, so availability is limited.  But his wines are truly one of a kind and if what he does sounds intriguing to you, start with the Contadino.  Lirette Selections is also carrying the Munjebel Bianco and Munjabel Rosso so you will be seeing and hearing about those soon as well!

Also, the first time we drank this wine was with Cynthia during one of her visits to New Orleans to plan our trip.  I made a Sicilian dinner that evening and paired the Contadino with a simple but delicious dish called Pesto Trapanese and they worked beautifully together.

Cornelissen Contadino 6, $28.99

Babcock Wines, California Done Right!

I've been working a lot lately on expanding our California offerings.  It's a difficult task for an old world wine drinker, but I'm finding that if I seek out the smaller, artisan producers there's a better chance that something will pique my interest.  So when Scott Howett from Mystic Vines approached me about Central Coast winemaker Bryan Babcock, a little research told me I needed to pay attention to these wines.

It seems Bryan has been getting lots of recognition lately as the Los Angeles Times named him as one of the "Ten Best Winemakers of the Year", he was also named by this influential daily as "Most Courageous Winemaker of the Year" for his daring style. The prestigious James Beard Foundation chose Bryan as one of the "Top Ten Small Production Winemakers in the World," the only American to receive the title!

Located in the Santa Ynez Valley, the Babcock family has owned and operated the winery for over 30 years.  Pretty small production here, ranging anywhere from 300 cases to 5000 at the most.  They offer an excellent range of wines and to show you the scope of what they make we'll be tasting five of them in our Friday Free For All this week.  Definitely worth a look, what have you got to lose, it's free!

Chardonnay, $19.50                                                              
“Identity Crisis” Syrah  (a white wine, very interesting...), $16.99
“Rita’s Earth” Pinot Noir,  $24.99                                           
“Classic Rock” Cabernet, $21.99                                           
“Under the Radar”  Merlot,  $19.50                                    

Monday, October 18, 2010

Wine of the Moment, August Briggs Napa Valley Old Vine Zinfandel

Winemaker August "Joe" Briggs will be paying us a visit this week, so I thought it only fitting to write about one of his specialities, his Napa Valley Zinfandel.  Joe has been producing under his own label since 1995, and before that was the winemaker for La Crema as well as a few famous spots in the Willamette Valley.  He produces a total of 16 different wines, all in small quantities from some of the most legendary vineyards of the North Coast. 

The 2008 Napa Valley Zinfandel is a blend of three different vineyards. The first, the Luvisi vineyard, was planted in 1908 and is located just across the street from the winery. The other two are blocks of the Frediani Vineyard, also located in Calistoga, about 200 yards south of the winery on the Silverado Trail. The “old” Frediani vineyard block was planted sometime in the 1940s and the “new” block was planted in the 1950s. All three vineyards are head-trained and dry-farmed, thus yielding small, very concentrated Zinfandel grapes.

Each block was harvested and fermented separately. The clusters were hand sorted before being de-stemmed into open-top fermenters, and punched-down twice daily by hand. Following fermentation and pressing, they were inoculated for malo-lactic fermentation and barreled down. The barrels used were 30% new American oak, and 70% two to three year old French oak barrels and aged for 16 months. Due to the damaging spring frosts, Only 420 cases were produced.

From the winery:  "Our Zinfandel is flashy & fragrant with aromas of ripe black berry, black cherry, plum, cedar, and mocha oak tones. On the palate, it is rich & expressive with flavors of dark berry fruit and hints of coffee-mocha. This Zin is a bit old school in style showing great depth, but also having a balanced well structured finish."  $38 

Try this wine and 4 others with Joe on Wednesday, October 20 from 6-8pm.  The tasting is free and open to the public.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Fig Report, Coming to Fruition....

Today is the day, 365 days since Chiara Planeta gave me a small six inch cutting from their beautiful property in Sambuca di Sicilia.  The cutting, now a sapling, gave us a gift this week on its anniversary, a small fig.  Kerry says it's too young to bear fruit, but I can't bring myself to cut it off.

It is hard to believe it has been a year since that amazing trip, where everyone of us came away  knowing we were changed by it and we all had experienced something truly special by being in that place together at that particular time in our lives.  I am so happy to have our little fig tree as a constant reminder of all the wonderful experiences and memories from that magical journey across Sicilia.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Rachael Ray Checks out Swirl

Remember way back when, sometime last year, the Food Network and Rachel Ray paid a little visit to Swirl and a few other great spots in New Orleans?  Well, the episode FINALLY aired last month and they sent us a DVD of the segment.  It's a pretty cool spot, so check it out, and you just might see yourself on the Food Network one day soon!

MOA Beer Tasting & Cheese Pairing

 In honor of Oktoberfest we're holding our first ever formal beer tasting Tuesday night!  But of course this isn't just any beer tasting, we'll be popping the tops on 4 really unique beers from MOA Brewery in New Zealand and tasting them with cheeses presented by Richard Sutton of St. James Cheese.

So just what makes these brew so special?  MOA beers are the creation of Josh Scott, winemaker for Allan Scott Family Winemakers in New Zealand. Josh decided after years of winemaking experience to apply winemaking techniques to craft beer brewing. He starts the process off quite normally. The beer is brewed traditionally using mainly local hops, malt, wheat or barley. The beer is then bottled and a dose of yeast and sugar is added, and the cap is sealed. Just like champagne “methode traditionelle,” the bubbles produced by this second fermentation are dissolved in the liquid. When the fermentation is complete, the yeast plug that accumulates in the bottle neck is frozen and popped out. The beer is re-capped and good to go!

The result is a beer unlike any other — very crisp with fine carbonation, great mouthfeel and very refreshing!

And as an added bonus we'll be tasting/pairing two of Josh Scott's wines as well.  His Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir will finish out the event.  We're still working on the cheeses, but Richard loves beer and cheese pairings, so you know they'll be awesome!  And the wines, beers and cheeses will be for sale after the event.  Here's the lineup for the night:

Moa Original - Pilsner style lager. This beer has an abundance of hoppy notes with hints of sweet fruit and grassy aromas.

 Moa Noir - Dark lager. Seductive flavors of chocolate and richly roasted coffee beans dominate, with a long, smooth finish.

Moa Blanc - White beer. Brewed from 65% wheat and 35% barley malt, it is elegantly smooth with hints of spice.

Moa 5 Hop - A powerful malty character and creamy sweetness imparts serious weight and mouth-feel to this beer.

 Allan Scott Sauvignon Blanc - An aromatic mix of tropical passionfruit with a hint of varietal herbaceous notes. The palate is crisp and lively with tropical passionfruit and pineapple with zesty citrus acid giving this wine great mouthfeel and a well balanced refreshing finish

Allan Scott Pinot Noir - Subtle yet textured tannins and well balanced acidity. Blackcurrant, dark plums and ripe cherry dominate the flavor profile with a hint of savory mushroom and smokiness.

Curious?  Call us, we've got 5 spots left for the tasting!  Tuesday, October 12 at 6pm, call 504.304.0635 $20

Do You Yelp!?

Kerry and I are both big fans of Yelp!, an online urban city guide that helps people find cool places to eat, shop, drink, relax and play, based on the informed opinions of locals in the know.   We use it a lot when we travel, (remember that great little coffee shop we found in Chicago and the cool Italian wine bar/restaurant, 3 of Cups in New York?) It's a fun and easy way to find, review and talk about what's great, and not so great, in your world.  For example, our friends over at 3 Muses are listed on yelp!, and of course have lots of great reviews (including mine), check them out here, 3 muses on yelp!.

We have a yelp page for the shop, swirl on yelp!, and have just started to use a new function they offer for people to list activities and events.  So if you want to know about great things going on in our fabulous city, check out the New Orleans Events page, and if you have something to say about what we are doing over here at Swirl Wine Bar and Market, please give us a yelp!

Swirl on Facebook

Want to know our tapas menu before you come over on a Friday or what our drink specials are this weekend?  How about up to date info on wine tastings, special impromptu events, featured cheeses, or when our Bittersweet Chocolate order or citizen nola shirts arrive?  It's easy to become a fan on facebook, just go to the Swirl page, click the "like" button at the top right of your screen and you're in!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

A Week of Wickedly Good California Wines...

Those of you who are frequent readers of my blog know that I talk about little else but Italian wine.  Every once in a while I'll throw in something from France, Spain or South America, but I rarely talk about California.  And I'll be honest, it's because I get bored quickly with the over extracted "cocktail wines" that dominate the market.  But something must have happened with that new moon last week, because I had a week of tasting some pretty amazing wines from the big C that made a huge impression on me.....

It all started with our friends Monica and Neil from Neat Wines showing up at the house last week to show us their new wheels and we figured we might as well taste some wine while they were there.  Neil pulls this delicious blend of two of my favorite French varieties, Carignan and Grenache, with a little Syrah and Petit Sirah thrown in.  The Mark Herold Winery's "Flux" is all that is good about Southern France (fans of the Tribouley wines would love this) with a California twist.  Deep, almost roasted black fruits, tobacco, chocolate; dense and delicious, this was a real treat!  Look for it next week...

Then there was Jason's visit with the new vintage of the Rosenblum Rockpile Zin.  For those of you who like a more rich and savory style zin, this is a stunner!  Beautiful black raspberries and cherry fruit, with notes of smoke and black pepper this is a wine you have to try!  To make that easy for you, we decided to do a complete Rosenblum tasting in November featuring our favorites in the Rosenblum lineup that will include the Rockpile, Petit Sirah, red and white blends and more!  So mark your calendar for Tuesday November 9th, more details later!

 Next up was Randall Petit from Dry Creek Vineyards with a great lineup of reds and whites at amazing price points.  Again, I was very impressed from start to finish with these wines, so we decided Randall would come back on a Friday so you could check them out as well.  He'll be here November 19th....

Now probably the biggest surprise was a presentation of wines from Amador County.  And just where is that you ask?  Located just east of Napa in the Sierra Foothills this little known area has tons of small family owned wineries that you usually don't see outside of California.  While Zinfandel put the area on the map, I tasted some amazing Sangiovese, Petit Sirah and blends that really made me want to see more about what this area has to offer.  I ordered 3 different wines on the spot and will be tasting more next week that we will feature in a tasting we scheduled on Tuesday November 30th and we'll probably throw a Friday in to introduce you to a few more as well!  In the shop now are the Runquist 1448 (great blend of zin, petit sirah and syrah) that is a killer bargain at $16.50, the Runquist Petit Sirah, around $30 and a cool, easy drinking red blend of zin and merlot from Drytown Cellars that is a steal at $12.99.  Look for the tasting dates in November, you gotta try these wines!

Monday, September 20, 2010

African Animals Getting Crazy Drunk

Our new friend Marco de Grazie shared this you tube video link with us today.  You gotta watch it!

Pepper Addict Gone Wild!

Kerry in the midst of her pepper plants.
She's always been a bit of a pepper fiend, but after smuggling in a pepperoncino from Sicily, Kerry's addiction to peppers has reached new heights.  During a cooking lesson at the Mandranova Olive Oil Estate in southern Sicily, Kerry got her hands on a fresh pepperoncino, an essential ingredient in many Sicilian/Italian recipes. Like my fig cutting, the pepper made it home to New Orleans where she dried it and used the seeds to grow pepper plants which she put in our garden in the front of the house, planted in pots in the back and gave away a few plants to some lucky friends.  And now that the weather has cooled just a bit, the garden has gone crazy with pepperoncino, cayenne, habanero, jalepeno, Hungarian and some varieties of peppers that we can't even identify!

Sicilian pepperoncino grown from smuggled seeds

We put them in/on everything from soups, stir frys, sandwiches, sautees and on the grill, adding heat and incredible flavor to lots of our favorite dishes.  One of our staple weekly side dishes is brown jasmine rice with sauteed peppers and garlic.  Deliciously spicy, you have to love the heat of habanero's to appreciate it, but if you can handle that, you'll love it!  The coconut oil is one of the key ingredients, as it adds a nice tropical flavor, complimenting the spicy habanero and jasmine aromatics of the rice.

Spicy Fried Brown Rice

2-3 cups cooked brown jasmine rice (available at whole foods)
2 T. Coconut Oil (available at whole foods)

2 Habanero Pepper, seeds and ribs carefully removed (wear gloves if you can)
3 cloves garlic

Stir fry garlic and peppers in coconut oil over medium heat until vegetables begin to caramelize.  Add cooked brown rice and stir until grains are coated with the oil.  Continue to fry for 5 to 10 minutes while rice absorbs the flavors.  Enjoy!

Check out the rest of the pics!

The other pepper fanatic in the family...

Our hot hot hot habaneros.

Anyone know what this is?

Hungarian Peppers

Coming Full Circle with The Etna

The first time I tasted a wine from the Etna, I knew that something very special was happening in the eastern part of Sicily.  We were in New York in late January for an Italian Trade Commission wine event and we needed a bottle of wine for our friend Lisa's birthday party. I had become intrigued by the region while researching the wine producing areas of the island for our wine and culinary tour later that year, but there was nothing from the Etna in any of our wholesaler's portfolios.  In fact, like me, most had never even heard of the region until I started inquiring about the wines.  

So, needing a bottle of wine to take with us to a little party, we popped into a shop in the East Village, that actually had a decent selection of Sicilian wines and there on the shelf was a wine by one of the producers I had been researching, Terre Nere.  The 2006 Etna Rosso was under $20, which was very reasonable for anything coming from the area, so I was really excited to try it.  And needless to say we were all impressed as it was lush (a prominent quality in the 2006 vintage) and easy drinking, with a purity of fruit and hints of dark cherries, tobacco and wild herbs, it had an earthiness and texture reminiscent of Burgundy but is distinctly Sicilian. Made with Nerello Mascalese, a native grape to the region, I was hooked and needed to know more about this region.

 Fast forward, almost 2 years later, having now spent time in the region, I had been working with 2 of our wholesalers, Uncorked and Lirette Selections, on getting some of these wines to New Orleans. Pietradolce and Salvo Foti's wines were on the shelf, Frank Cornelissen's were on their way, and the Terre Nere wines would be here for Uncorked's portfolio tasting this month.  And arriving with the wines was the producer himself Marco de Grazia, one of the pioneers of the region and the man really accredited with putting the Etna on the map.

So last night we had the pleasure of Marco's company in the shop for an intimate, seated tasting of his wines as well as a few others he is importing.  Soft spoken, loquacious and extremely passionate about the region, it was wonderful to hear about his approach to wine making on the Etna, to taste the wines with him and hear his stories about what makes this reason so special and one of the most exciting wine producing regions in the world today. His approach is one of minimal intervention, using certified organic practices, and an almost indiscernible use of oak, allowing the expression of the true character of the wine.  And what a beautiful expression it is!  Unbelievably fresh with incredible aromatics, finessed tannins and a weightless quality reminiscent of Burgundy and Nebbiolo, the wines speak for themselves.

It was a wonderful experience, coming full circle with this region that has so intrigued me now for almost 2 years. So the second time I drank the Terre Nere Etna Rosso was with Marco himself in our shop with friends and customers, and I'm still just excited as ever about this wild, crazy volcano and the incredible gift it gives us in these unique wines. 

Thanks to our friends at Uncorked, our inventory should arrive next week and we'll be carrying the Rosato, Etna Rosso and single vineyard Gaurdiola.  Trust me, you need to try these wines!

From Robert Parker: "Proprietor Marc de Grazia is one of the pioneers of the Etna. Not only was he among the first producers to recognize the value of these once-forgotten, ancient terroirs, he also was the first producer to bring attention to the specific qualities of these vineyards by bottling single-parcel Nerellos that have become reference-point wines for the Etna."  Wine Advocate, June 2010

Monday, September 6, 2010

Visiting Planet in Sambuca di Sicilia

I've always loved the wines of Planeta, but they've occupied a very special place in my heart since our visit to the winery last year during our wine and culinary tour of Sicily.  While they produce wines from five different vineyard sites on the island, the estate in Sambuca is the oldest, having been in the family since the 1600's.

On a windy Sunday afternoon, Chiarra Planeta met us at the winery in Sambuca for a tour, tasting and lunch. It is quite a journey to get there, lots of winding roads through small villages that ends with the town of Sambuca, Lago Arancio and the simple but elegant centuries old buildings of the estate.  The property is beautiful with the vineyards gracefully sloping down to the shores of the lake.  Chiarra was a gracious host who led us through wonderful tasting of wines that are produced at the various vineyards sites and many of which are not available in the US.

Having just finished the tasting, we were heading into the dining area of the 16th century farmhouse for lunch, when I noticed a beautiful fig tree on their property. After more wine, a delicious lunch of local foods including the best fresh ricotta any of us had every eaten (believe me, we ate a lot of it on this trip!) I asked Chiara if I could possibly have a cutting from their fig tree. She said of course and cut off a small piece about 6-8" long. And most of you know that I was able to get the cutting through customs and now have a sapling that will be ready to put in the ground this fall!

It was an enchanting afternoon, as most were in Sicily, but Chiarra's warmth and hospitality made it all the more special.  And I am now a Planeta fan for life!

Click here to view a slide show of our visit: Slide show

Kerry's Hatch Chili Enchiladas

A few weeks ago, on one of my dreaded trips to Whole Foods on a weekend, I was so excited to see the giant display of Hatch Chilies.  If you aren’t familiar with this particular variety of chili, let me explain. “Hatch” chilies are in actuality a variety of the common New Mexico green chili. These particular chilies are harvested in the Mesilla Valley of New Mexico for only a few weeks out of the year. The Mesilla Valley lies in the southern part of the state, running from Las Cruces north about forty miles to the small town of Hatch, from where the chilies get their name.

These chilies are grown nowhere else in the world, and connoisseurs consider this one of the finest. They are large (for chilies), about 6 to 7 inches long, with a distinctively robust and earthy flavor not found in any other chili.

I bought a few for us to grill, but Kerry was so excited to see them, she went back out the next day and bought a pound.  She got out the grill, roasted them and made us the most delicious Hatch Chili Enchiladas, that my mouth waters just thinking about them!

Unfortunately the season is short, and I'm a little late with this post, so they are no longer available, but you can substitute Anaheim, or Pablano chilies or save this recipe for next year!

First the Roasting
Get your charcoal grill white hot and lie the peppers directly on the grill.  Let skins bubble up and get black and then turn so that they are evenly cooked.  The goal is to blacken the skin without burning the flesh.  Put the hot peppers in a brown paper bag to stem for 10-15 minutes.  This will help loosen the skins and make them easy to remove.

Scrape the skins off the chili peppers with your fingers or a knife. Remember to use caution with hot chili peppers, the capsaicin is still in the skin even though it's been charred. Remove the seeds, stem, and veins if desired as well. Most of the heat is contained in the seeds and veins so removing them will take out some of the heat if the chili pepper is uncomfortably hot.

Chile peppers can also be peeled under running water in the sink. The water will usually wash the skins right off the flesh. Before rinsing, be aware that this can also wash away some of the smoky roasted flavor of the chili pepper.

Make the Sauce
3 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1lb Hatch Chilies, roasted, peeled and chopped (stems, seeds and ribs removed)
2 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground coriander

In a heavy saucepan, warm the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until well softened, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the garlic and sauté for an additional minute, then add the flour and continue cooking for another 1 or 2 minutes.

Mix in the chili. pour in the stock and add the seasonings. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to a low simmer and cook for about 15 minutes, until thickened but still very pourable.

While the sauce is cooking, prepare the enchiladas:

10  (7- to 8-in.) corn tortillas
2 1/2  cups shredded cooked chicken from a rotisserie chicken
2  cups coarsely shredded cheddar or jack cheese, divided
Sour cream


Prepare tortillas: In a small frying pan, bring remaining 2 cups chicken broth to a gentle simmer. Working one at a time, very briefly dip tortillas into broth to barely soften. Transfer each tortilla plate, add some of the shredded chicken and cheese, wrap tortilla around filling and transfer, seam-side down, to a 9- by 13-in. baking dish.  Use 1-1/2 cups of the cheese for the filling, the other half will be scattered on top.

When the chili sauce has finish cooking, pour it over enchiladas and top with remaining 3/4 cup cheese. Bake until cheese is bubbling and golden, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve with sour cream.
Makes 5 servings; 10 enchiladas (serving size: 2 enchiladas)


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