Sips and Tips

Information regards food and wine flies by me at a sometimes overwhelming rate throughout the day and night, seven days a week. Some of it I snatch down, some of it I review and move on and a lot of it just goes away. I edit through what I find useful especially as it pertains to recipes for food that I may find interesting for class or catering presentations. I store more wine information than I should especially about vintages and the best Zinfandel’s and only occasionally get around to using them, want to know what was great in 2010?

Two very interesting pieces of information recently dropped through the web hole within days of each other. Danny Meyer, the brains behind the Shake Shack hamburger chain based in New York (there’s two in downtown) was interviewed by Food and Wine magazine about wine and hamburgers. Bill St. John, the very fine wine columnist for the Chicago Tribune (who has since announced his departure) posted a series of statements and comments he’s gathered from winemakers throughout the world that offer tremendous insight into wines’ process and flavor profiles.

I have taken the liberty to edit and offer comment on these remarks and I hope the next time we see each other you’ll walk up to me and say, “Woody now I understand what you were talking about and you were right”, thanks.

shakeshackDanny Meyer sounds like a down-to-earth person relating how he and his wife went to a small pizza place following the IPO funding (creating $1.6 billion in value) of Shake Shack but they didn’t have a wine list. So his wife went hurried to a nearby a Shake Shack location and got white and red wine in milkshake cups and brought it back.

Beer and wine are on the Shake shack menu and he says the two most successful wines are American Merlot (Shack Red) and Syrah, private labeled from California’s Frog Leap winery. Meyer says people want that bit of sweetness; more often than not, they’re using ketchup. Without a little sweetness (fruit not sugar sweet) in the wine, the ketchup (vinegar) makes it taste sharp. Plus, those wines are sort of beefy in a way.

My aside – You may recall in my last whine I did a tasting of three fast food burgers and frankly wine did not come to my mind as I ate them. I’ve thought about that since and even with the bacon and cheese which should take us towards us Syrah, I’d have to say that maybe a gentle Beaujolais would be the best fit, or of course a good Diet Coke.

danny-meyerMeyer muses that people don’t want to park their good taste at the door just because they want to have a quick lunch. He even sold Opus One by the half-bottle ($130 @ retail) for a while at several of his trendier neighborhood locations. And as for pizza wine, he says pizza tastes good with almost anything, but I love Sangiovese (the grape of Chianti) with it – especially if the pizza’s got pecorino (Romano, salty) cheese on it. Pecorino and Sangiovese are amazing together.

Here’s his perspective on anyone just starting to drink wine and frankly it applies to those of you who been drinking for a while.

The inside door of your refrigerator has 25 condiments that invariably live there. You have three different kinds of olives, four different kinds of mustard, capers, anchovies, pickles, four kinds of hot sauce. Wine’s a condiment, too; it’s meant to go with food. There’s no reason not to also have five or six open bottles of wine on the bottom shelf of your fridge and will they last,

If you cork an open bottle of red wine and stick it in the refrigerator it will last at least a week, white wines last three to four weeks, (I’d stick with a week here too) that way you can go back to a wine with different dishes on different nights.

And now a fine thought about why the wine tasted so much better at the restaurant or at the winery than it does in my kitchen. Meyer says the best bottle you’ve ever had in your life could be a simple white, if you’re sitting in the right spot on the coast of Liguria,(or Madison street) eating the right fried little fish, with the right person. That could be the perfect wine, because context is just as important as anything.

So let’s move on to wine makers and a thought regards alcohol.

There are so many other chemical things (besides alcohol) that make the wine what it is – more than 20 families of elements and wine is a synergy of them all. When one of them is out of whack, then the wine isn’t going to be pleasurable. Looking at alcohol alone is a wasted effort. It’s about the balance, the ratio, the interaction of all these things that are in the wine.”

— Kale Anderson, director of winemaking, Pahlmeyer; and co-owner and winemaker, Kale Wines, both Napa Valley

‘Terroir” is a term that we have invented to express what cannot be expressed, the mix of soil and microclimate. But the human is in the middle of it; because the person’s decisions about winemaking influences the translation of the terroir into the wine…as soon as you impose your ego on the wine, your wines will taste like little of anything. Too much of the human is a travesty of winemaking.” Edouard Moueix, Etablissements Jean-Pierre Moueix, and winemaker, Chateau Magdelaine, Bordeaux, France

And for the wine you love to hate

Chardonnay is the red wine of white grapes: Without barrel fermentation and malolactic fermentation, (that’s the buttery flavor) it’s emasculated. … Any color in white wines comes from tannins; (and the barrel toast) they’re in white grapes too.  – David Ramey, Ramey Wine Cellars, Sonoma, Calif.

rocksThe role of soil: “Wines made from grapes that grow on limestone soil are linear; that’s Burgundy, of course. If the soil is granite, the wine is very different: All the energy is upfront.  The wine is powerful but not lengthy. Then, the more clay there is mixed with the rocks, and you obtain ‘round’ wines, super-soft, all black fruit flavors. Merlot is clay; Pomerol (west bank of Boudreaux) is the best example.”

And for some final “go outs’

“In tough economic times, Europeans lower the quantity of their wine consumption, not the quality; whereas, in the same situation, Americans lower the quality of consumption, not the quantity.” Marcello Lunelli, vice president, Cantine Ferrari, Italy

In a red wine, “wood should be the frame, not the picture.”  – Bruno Prats, Prats & Symington, Douro, Portugal

“If it’s fine for everybody, it’s perfect for nobody.” Benoit Gouez, chef de cave, Moet & Chandon, Champagne, France.

Couldn’t have said it better and drink Rose’ for the rest of the summer

That’s my whine and I could be wrong.

Woody Mosgers, cooks, caters, drinks and matches wine and food at