Swirl Wine Bar & Market

Monday, November 25, 2013

5 Pairing Tips for Turkey Day


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!

Every year I give a few pairing tips and recommendations from our staff.   We've chosen traditional and some more adventurous options at different price points so there is something for palate and every wallet.  Each of the wines will have a tag with our silly turkey photo above to let you know who picked it and if you purchase any 4 of these wines for your celebration, we’ll give you a 10% discount.  Here's a sampling of our picks, but you'll find lots more when you come in to shop...

1.  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, combined with the wine's acidity, help cleanse the palate for the next course.

Our Picks: Budget Conscious (under $12) Matt: La Poema Cava; Beth: Montmartre Sparkling; 
Solid Values ($12-$29) Beth: Ca'Vittoria Rose' Prosecco; Erin: Gerard Bertrand Cremant di Limoux Rose'; Casey: Domain Spiropoulos Ode Panos Brut; Kerry: Graham Beck Sparkling Brut Rose';
Indulgent ($30 and up) Kimi:  Devaux Cuvée Rose Brut Champagne

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:  Budget Conscious (under $12) Erin: Herencia Altes Blanco; Kimi: Six Hats Chenin Blanc
Solid Values ($12-$29) Adam: 2012 Vina Robles White 4; Matt:  2011 Affinitas Furmint; Casey: 2011 Montintin Sancerre; Beth: 2011 Causse Marines Les Greilles; Kimi: 2010 Conreria d'Scala Dei Les Brugueres Priorat Blanco; Kerry: 2011 Albert Mann Gewurtztraminer
Indulgent ($30 and up)  Beth: 2011 Maison Roche de Bellene Saint-Aubin

Fruity reds and dry rosés are a favorite "go-to" pick for Thanksgiving. They bring 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: Budget Conscious (under $12) Casey: 2012 J. Ramos Loios Red; Matt: 2011 Honoro Vera Garnacha 
Solid Values ($12-$29) Beth2011 Velenosi Lacrima di Morro d'Alba; Kimi: 2012 Methven Family Gamay;  Kerry: 2010 Bellanotte Conte Lucio Pinot Grigio Ramato; Erin: 2010 L'Argentier Cinsault
Indulgent ($30 and up)  Beth: 2007 Travaglini Gattinara;  

 Bigger reds with spicy, dark fruit and berries like Syrah and Zinfandel can 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 Picks:  Budget Conscious (under$12) Beth: 2012 Roure Setze Gallets
Solid Values ($12-$29) Kimi: 2009 Vina Robles Petit Syrah; Erin: 2011 Juan Gil Monastrell; 
Adam: 2011 Clos de Caveau Vacqueyras; Casey: 2009 Allegrini Palazzo Della Torre
Indulgent ($30 and up) Matt: 2006 Marques di Grinon Petit Verdot; Adam: 2011 Vending Machine Wine Double Shotgun

The most popular 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:  Budget Conscious (under $12) Beth: 2012 Sea Glass Central Coast Pinot Noir 
Solid Values ($12-$29) Matt: 2009 Dominio IV - Oregon;  Kimi: 2011 Banshee - Sonoma; 
Adam: 2010 Saintsbury - Carneros; Casey: 2011 Sean Minor 4 Bears - Central Coast 
Indulgent ($30 and up) Beth: 2008 Moises Dundee Pinot Noir - Oregon; Erin: 2007 Amalie Roberts Vintage Debut - Oregon; Casey: Anne & Herve Sigaut Chambolle-Musigny

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!

Cheers and Happy Thanksgiving to All of You!!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Happiness is Pagoda Cafe

Tucked under the trees on a corner spot off of Bayou Road, there's a cool little Pagoda that has become one of our favorite stops. And while might be the distinct architecture that draws your eye, it is the fresh food, great coffee and smiling faces that will pull you in and keep you coming back for more.

Proprietors Shana & Daniel
Swirl regulars Daniel Etheridge and Shana Sasson opened the newest neighborhood hot spot in this little gem of a building that was, you guessed it, a Chinese Laundry.  We go for their coffee every chance we get, leaving work in the car to get something that we could walk around the corner for.  There are very few coffee spots in the city that offer a truly quality cup of joe, in fact I can count them on one hand.  Because quality for me is measured by espresso.  If the espresso is done right, chances are the other coffees will follow suite as good drip coffee is somewhat easy to achieve as long as you have a clean machine and fresh beans from quality sources.

Espresso with the most delicious rum cake!
Italians are the masters of espresso.  The term "espresso" is derived from the Italian word for express since espresso is made for and served immediately to the customer.   And those clever Italians developed an alliteration for perfect espresso preparation called the 4"M's": the Macinazione is the correct grinding of a coffee blend, Miscela is the coffee blend, Macchina is the espresso machine, and Mano is the skilled hand of the barista.  When each factor of the four M's is precisely controlled, the espresso beverage that is produced is the ultimate coffee experience.  And I have to say that in coffee shops here in New Orleans, a few of the M's are usually missing from the equation.

Macchiato fantastico!
Not so here at Pagoda Cafe. They get "it" and the result is a great pour with no bitterness, the perfect crema with rich texture, flavor and aromatics.  The coffee menu here is simple, as it should be. No caramel brulee latte's or peppermint mocha's just espresso drinks and great drip coffee.  And this is why we get in the car and drive from the shop to Pagoda Cafe.

However, as those in the service industry know, a good product isn't always enough.  So add to that smiling, happy people who genuinely love what they are doing and are eager to share it with you.  Then throw in the fact they are sourcing as much as they can locally - breads are from Bellegarde, their seasonal veggies from Holly Grove and Grow Dat and coffee and teas from French Truck - and you've got the perfect mix for a great spot that you will want to frequent as often as you can.

Open faced chicken sandwich w/artichoke spread and fresh arugula.
We finally got to go for lunch yesterday and were so happy to have fresh, healthy and delicious food at great prices. You can choose from a few breakfast items, sandwiches, stews and a handful of dessert choices.  Besides the coffee drinks there are fresh brewed ice teas (the Earl Grey with Lavender was super!), Italian sodas, Mexican sparkling waters and bottled coca cola. They are open 7am - 4pm Tuesday through Saturday so be sure to check them out and show them some love!  And don't forget to tell them swirl sent you ;-)

1430 N. Dorgenois, New Orleans, Louisiana 70119
(504) 644-4178

Friday, November 15, 2013

Antonio's Italy, Wine & Culinary Travel July 2014

Antonio’s Italy 
July 5 – July 12, 2014

Join Swirl Wine Bar & Market in July 2014 as Antonio Molesini, Italian Wine Specialist and 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 and experience their distinct wines, regional foods and cultural heritage.

Accommodations:  Our home for the next week is the beautifully restored Casa Berrittini, located just inside the ancient city walls of Cortona.  This 14th century house was the birthplace of one of Cortona’s most famous Renaissance artists, Pietro Berrittini, and has been lovingly renovated over several years by the owner in the traditional Tuscan style.  Casa Berrittini is wonderfully situated within the ancient city walls and offers incredible views, one of the largest private gardens in the town and four suites with a separate sitting area, queen size bed and bath.  Common areas include a large kitchen and living room areas as well as full use of the majestic gardens.
Cortona:  Antonio was born and raised in the medieval hill town of Cortona and his deep passion combined with immense historical knowledge of the region gives us a unique advantage.  You'll have his insider tips on where to shop, join him on private tours and eat in ristoranti owned by his friends and family. Tour frescoed churches from the 13th century; explore the original city walls; see an art exhibit in the 16th century fortress. You can also visit the local museums and libraries, tiptoe around ancient monasteries and tombs dating back to the second century B.C. Dine on the best Tuscan dishes as you look out on an historic palazzo or hike out to the beautiful countryside. As for shopping, you'll find local handicrafts, antiques, and of course regional wines and olive oils that will surpass anything you've ever tasted!  

Day One:  Saturday, July 5th - Welcome to Cortona!
We meet at the train station and bring you to the medieval city of Cortona.  Casa Pietro Berrittini is located with in the ancient city walls and gives us easy access to this beautiful historic hill town.  Today we’ll settle in at the villa, have lunch at a little enoteca and get oriented to Cortona with Antonio as our personal guide. We'll have dinner tonight in one of Cortona's top ristoranti located in a 13th century building overlooking the main piazza.  

Day Two:  Sunday, July 6th – Walk of the Etruscans
Tuscany is considered to be the cradle of Etruscan Civilization, which had its beginnings in the 9th century B.C. Ancient Etruria was centered on a confederation of twelve great Etruscan cities, including Volterra, Populonia, Chiusi, Arezzo and Cortona. Cortona’s importance is apparent with its archaeological sites and today we'll have an exclusive, private look at a dig site that dates back to the 7th century BC and a tour of Museum of Etruscan and Roman City of Cortona (MAEC) with Antonio as your personal guide.

Lunch today is in a one of a kind restaurant in Camucia,  but we can't too much because we will cook a special dinner for you tonight at the villa and focus on the food and wine of Umbria. With its border only 3 miles from Cortona, Umbria offers its own unique culture and culinary traditions for us to indulge in!

Day Three: Monday, July 7th  – The Wines of Cortona and Montepulciano 
We’ll spend today exploring the designated wine regions of Cortona and Montepulciano.  While the two regions border each other, you’ll learn how the unique micro climates and soil types of each area makes for very different grape varieties and wine production. We'll visit a winery within the Cortona DOC that is considered the benchmark producer for the region. After our private tour of the winery we'll enjoy a tasting of the complete range of their wines and have lunch on their terrace overlooking the Chiana Valley.

After lunch we’ll drive to the village of Montepulciano, without a doubt one of the most beautiful medieval towns of Tuscany.  Resting at 2000 feet above sea level, protected by still impressively intact walls, Montepulciano is known for its noble Renaissance town houses and for the elegant architecture of its churches. Montepulciano is also renowned for its enoteche (wine bars) and cantine (wine cellars) with most offering the chance to sample local products like pecorino cheese, salami, honey, olive oil, and, of course, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. We have special visit planned where we’ll compare and contrast the 3 methods of Sangiovese production in the region – Rosso di Montepulciano, Vino Nobile, and Vino Nobile Reserva.   Following our tasting you’ll be free to explore this amazing town before heading back to Cortona and dinner at one of town’s top 5 ristoranti!

Day Four: Tuesday, July 8th  – Exploring Umbria
Our base in Cortona makes the region of Umbria just a short distance and today we will be celebrating one of the region's culinary treasures with a local to guide the way.  After our morning foraging in the forest, we'll have a cooking lesson in his kitchen with this magical treasure and then eat what we cook accompanied by the local wines!

Afterwards we’ll visit a classical Umbrian hill town.  This is a magical, medieval city of ancient fortresses and medieval palaces known for its ceramics, woodworking, and metal crafts where we’ll spend a few hours exploring  before we head back to Cortona. Dinner tonight will be a real treat as Antonio's friend Paolo prepares a local favorite, beef steaks from the local Chianina cattle grilled in the famous style, Bistecca Fiorentina. His ristorante focuses on the rustic simplicity of Tuscan cuisine and most of the game as well as the wine come from his family farm.

Day 5:  Wednesday, July 9th  – Shopping!
Today you will have the option to go by train to Florence with Antonio on one of his infamous shopping trips, schedule museum tours or spend a leisurely day relaxing in Cortona.  Antonio loves to shop and he’ll take you to visit his favorite merchants at the Ponte Vecchio, the outdoor markets and main shopping thoroughfares in one of the most fashionable cities in the world.  Or if you would like, we can arrange for you to visit Florence’s incredible museums on your own and we will all meet at the train station in the afternoon to return to Cortona together.

For those who choose not to go to Florence, you can spend a relaxing day in the tranquility of Cortona, visiting the local merchants on the Via Nazionale shopping for gifts, touring churches and museums, or hanging out in an enoteca with a great glass of wine! 

We have a special treat for dinner tonight as we dine at the house of a Cortonese native.  Our hosts, Patrizia & Lucia will prepare for us a delicious traditional Tuscan meal served in their garden accompanied by the wines of two of Tuscany’s most famed regions, the Maremma and Montalcino. 

Day 6:  Thursday, July 10th -  The Wines of Chianti Classico
After an early breakfast this morning we’ll head west through the green rolling hills of the Tuscan countryside to visit a winery that has carried on the tradition of winemaking since 1150.  During our visit we’ll tour the historical, still working cellars, stroll in the late-Reinassance gardens of the Villa, and maybe have the chance to see the wild boar bred in the surrounding woods! We’ll have a wonderful lunch on the property accompanied by their range of wines.

In the afternoon we’ll spend a few hours wandering the streets of one of Chianti's classic towns to do some shopping and visit a famous butcher.  And if there is time, we’ll stop at a medieval castle for a guided tour and tasting of their wines.  Tonight we’ll dine in Cortona at a favorite of the locals for their delicious pastas.

Day Seven: Friday, July 11th -   Lago Trasimeno &  Vino Colli del Trasimeno
We’ll spend a peaceful, relaxing day today around Lago Trasimeno.  Rolling  green hills dotted with fields of sunflowers, olive groves and vineyards, Lake Trasimeno is  located right on the Umbria Tuscan border and is one of Italy’s largest lakes.  In the morning, we’ll visit a small, family owned winery with beautiful views of the lake for a tasting of their wines. Then take a boat out on the lake to one of the islands where we’ll have lunch in a waterfront ristorante and afterwards spend time hiking around the island or enjoying the lovely churches and museums.  

We’ll get back early enough for you spend some time in Cortona, visiting the local merchants on the Via Nazionale to do your last minute shopping before our farewell dinner at Antonio's family ristorante tucked away in a little piazzetta (little piazza) off the main Piazza Repubblica in the center of Cortona.  This multi coursed feast of local Cortonese specialties will be an excellent end to our culinary travels!

Day 8: Saturday, July 12th -  Arrividerci Cortona! 
We sadly say goodbye to Cortona this morning, take you to the train station in Camucia and help you get to you next destination.

Trip Price is $2750 per person, double occupancy only.  A $750 deposit by cash or check and a completed registration form are required to book your spot.  The balance of $2000 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

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Premium Reds Tasting Event

Premium Reds
a selection of world class full bodied red wines
from Washington and California
Presented by Mystic Vines

Join us on Thursday, November 21st @ Swirl Wine Bar & Market for a tasting of artisanal red wines retailing between $30 - $80 from Washington and California. This exclusive, walkabout tasting is limited to 25 participants.  $25, Reservations and prepayment required, 6:30-8pm, 504.304.0635

2010 Anderson's Conn Valley  Estate Reserve Cabernet - Napa 
The estate’s 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Reserve is endowed with serious power and depth. Layers of blue and black fruit, smoke, tobacco and licorice are woven together beautifully. Vivid yet rich and resonant, the 2010 stands out for its exceptional purity and overall harmony. Here, too, the oak needs time to integrate, but tha shouldn’t be an issue, as readers should not plan on opening bottles anytime soon. A creamy, layered finish laced with expressive blue and black fruits rounds things out in style. Anticipated maturity: 2018-2032.  
WA 93-96 points
1400 cases

2010 Anderson's Conn Valley Right Bank - Napa
Freshly cut flowers, violets, leather and spices jump from the 2010 Proprietary Red Right Bank. There is an element of freshness and vibrancy in the 2010 that is highly appealing. Today, the 2010 is a bit compact, but I expect it will flesh out over time. Hints of leather, licorice, menthol and tar add complexity on the close. Anticipated maturity: 2016-2020. 
WA 94 points
700 cases

2010 Anderson's Conn Valley Eloge - Napa 
65 Cab, 25 CF, 5 Mer, 5 PV - Although naturally still very much a baby, the 2010 Eloge offers significant potential. Juicy dark cherries, flowers, spices and French oak all emerge from the glass. Today, the French oak is a bit dominant, but that should be less of an issue over time, as the balance of fruit, acidity and tannin is superb. Violets, menthol and sage are some of the nuances that add complexity to a huge, resonant finish. There is plenty of potential here. Anticipated maturity: 2016-2030. 
WA 92-94 points
450 cases

2009 Adelaida Viking Cabernet - Paso Robles 
Dark ruby.  Cassis, licorice, tobacco and loamy earth on the nose.  Plump and pliant in the mouth, with spice-accented flavors of dark fruits, bitter chocolate and black pepper.  Finish smooth and sweet, with lingering spiciness and gentle tannins. 
IWC 90 points
155 cases

2010 Januik Champoux Vineyard Cabernet - Columbia Valley 
A big step up, with a deep, layered and pure profile that oozes Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Champoux Vineyard (100% Cabernet Sauvignon) is loaded with classy aromas and flavors of black currant, crushed stone, coffee bean, lead pencil and spring flowers. These flow to a full-bodied, perfectly balanced wine that has a seamless, polished texture, no hard edges and ripe, sweet tannin that emerges through the finish. Elegant and slightly understated, it grows in stature with air. While it’s certainly superb now, it will be even better in a handful of years and have a total of 12-15 years of longevity. Drink now-2025. 
WA 93 points, WS 91 points
358 cases

2010 Januik  Cabernet Franc Weinbau Vineyard - Columbia Valley  
 A blend of 91% Cabernet Franc, 7% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Sauvignon that’s from the warmer Wahluke Slope AVA, the 2010 Cabernet Franc Weinbau Vineyard is a beauty! Seamless, supple and polished, with a medium to full-bodied, layered mouthfeel, it offers up outstanding aromas and flavors of ripe red and black fruits, baking spices, potpourri and flowers. While showing a hedonistic slant, it nevertheless has beautiful purity, notable focus and enough ripe tannin to keep it drinking well for upwards of a decade from the vintage. Drink now-2020. 
WA 91 points, WS 92 points
288 cases
2010 Januik Petit Verdot Ciel du Cheval Vineyard - Columbia Valley 
'10 Petit Verdot - The 2010 Petit Verdot Ciel du Cheval Vineyard is remarkably civilized for the variety. A blend of 96% Petit Verdot and a splash of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, it delivers lots of spice-coated red and blackberry fruit, cedar cabinet and dried flower-like qualities to go with a medium to full-bodied, supple and beautifully textured palate. While up-front and very drinkable, it has enough back-end tannin and concentration to evolve gracefully for upwards of a decade (or more). Drink now-2020+. 
WA 91 points
116 cases

2011 Januik Columbia Valley Cabernet - Columbia Valley 
This rich, full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon is brimming with cassis, raspberry, cocoa and warm vanilla notes in the nose. Its texture is amazingly supple and lingers across the palate, imparting a long, polished finish that was developed in part from aging in new French Oak barrels. 
2000 cases

2010 John Anthony Cabernet - Napa
Combines a tight, vibrant, juicy mix of dark berry, herb and olive with a dash of cedary mocha-scented oak and licorice, gliding along on the finish, with supple fine-grained tannins and good length. Drink now through 2024. 2,325 cases made. 
WS 92 points
2300 cases

2010 Sleight of Hand The Archimage, Columbia Valley  
More earthy and gamey, the 2010 The Archimage checks in a blend of 45% Cabernet Franc, 43% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Sauvignon and 6% Petit Verdot. Aged 20 months in 50% new French oak, it delivers a wild, Cabernet Franc-dominated profile with loads of chocolate covered red and black fruits, wild herbs, tobacco and damp earth all showing on the nose. Deep, rich and layered on the palate, with a medium to full-bodied, elegant texture, lip smacking levels of acidity and quality tannin on the finish, it will benefit from short-term cellaring and drink nicely for upwards of a decade. I’d like to see more mid-palate depth here, but there’s no denying the overall quality. Drink now-2020. 
WA 91 points
346 cases

2011 Sleight of Hand The Conjurer - Columbia Valley  
Starting off the reds, the entry level 2011 The Conjurer is a Bordeaux blend of 53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot and 13% Cabernet Franc that saw 14 months in a scant 26% new French oak. Perfumed, classy and with a traditional, herbal slant, it has loads of charm and a juicy, up-front and lightly concentrated feel. Showing plenty of currant bud, underbrush, smoked earth and mineral aromas and flavors, this medium body, fresh, focused and slightly lean 2011 opens up nicely with air and should be consumed over the coming 3-4 years. Drink now-2017. 
WA 88 points
469 cases

Monday, November 4, 2013

Super Secret Swirl Wine Deal - 95 Point Rioja!

Vineyards in Rioja Alavesa

95 points - Decanter Magazine calls this 2008 Reserva Rioja "outstanding". Menthol and cola on the nose with classic cedar and leather aromas. Ripe and spicy with concentrated fruit. Deep, rich, fruit-driven, serious juice! 

If you drive south from Txakoli, the vineyards of Rioja Alavesa hug the shadow of the mountains to the north and run to the River Ebro in the south. Tempranillo is the king here with the mountains creating a distinct micro-climate by offering some shelter from the Atlantic weather and wind.

For this reserva the grapes are hand selected, coming from vineyards in Rioja Alavesa and Rioja Alta. Soils are a mixture of chalk, sand and clay and the vines used for this have a medium age of 40 years old. The wine is aged in American and French oak barrels for 24 months and further bottle ageing for two years prior to release.

Only at swirl, $21


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