Saturday, July 18, 2009

Wines on Screen, SNL Edition

SNL recently aired an episode where Justin Timberlake does a monologue to open the show; it is available on Hulu, here. Towards the latter part of the sketch...wait for it...and there it is, the uniquely shaped bottle that is Domaine Ott's famous rose. The information sheet from Maison Marques, their importer, is here. It was the top rose in a tasting held here at the shop by Marcia Vanderlip, food columnist for the Tribune, last year; here is an article on rose from the New York Times that mentions Domaine Ott.

I have tasted two vintages of this wine and it tends to be a textually gorgeous wine, with a softness and delicacy that is almost velvety.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

From the Latest Wine Advocate

The latest edition of Robert Parker's Wine Advocate is out. There are several interesting sections, most notably reviews of older Australian and Bordeaux vintages. Unsurprisingly, Parker finds that top-notch Australian wines are still holding their own, awarding several 100 point scores. There is also a two page section on the last pages reviewing two wine dinners Parker attended; among the list of wines chosen is Verget's 2005 Corton-Charlegmagne, which Parker rates a 93 and speaks favorably about. While the rest of the wines are wines I only get to read about (as most of them are prohibitively expensive and extremely scarce) I have tasted this chardonnay from negociant Jean-Marie Guffens and agree with Parker that it is in fact quite good.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Wine on the Screen, Entourage Edition

Entourage season 3, episode 16 (Gotcha) has a scene where Vince and E have dinner with their new agent Amanda. During the shots of the dinner a bottle of wine is barely visible; it has a dark metallic maroon foil cap, a banana-yellow label with a red border, and large dark lettering. I've seen enough bottles of Caymus's distinctive regular cabernet sauvignon to know the label when I see it and as far as I can tell, that's the bottle on the table. The label doesn't ever really come into focus, so I can't make a call on the vintage.

Stay classy, Entourage.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Notes from the Weekend

1. I went to St. Louis on Friday and walked by Racanelli's Pizza in the Delmar Loop. They specialize in New York style pizza, and though I unfortunately did not have the time to stop in and dine, I noted that their sandwich board advertising wine specials. Specifically, they're offering 1/2 off Cakebread Chardonnay, Cakebread Cabernet Sauvignon, Newton Unfiltered Chardonnay, and A. Rafanelli Zinfandel. Assuming restaurant pricing (which is variable but tends to be 2-3 times cost), the Cakebread Chardonnay should be priced at between $80 and $100; half off would mean the wine is selling at approximately retail. To me, that's a pretty good indicator that the high end wine market is in a pretty bad slump; in typical economic conditions these wines are allocated and fairly expensive.

2. For the geeks: Biophysicist Luca Turin has a very interesting TED seminar on his work on the science of smell. Fascinating.

3. On Wednesday, July15 at 7:00PM we will have a representative fromthe 75 Wine Co. in the shop. The 75 Wine Company ( is a project started by Tuck Beckstoffer, arguably the most important vineyard owner in northern California. The list of award winning wines coming from his vineyards is too long to mention. You need to come by and listen for yourself. They make only 3 wines so this tasting will be coupled with the Wednesday Wine Group.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Great Lines in Wine, Terry Thiese Edition

The idiosyncratic and garrulous Terry Thiese is one of my favorite wine writers. His latest publication details his trip to Germany in 2008, the wines he tasted, and the characters that made them. This gem appears on page 93, in a side bar on Helmut Donnhoff's vineyards:

In essence the Brucke is a minerally wine; it shows a more masculine profile, it's more fibrous and nutty than many other Nahe wines, but just at the moment you think you're tasting everything in it, it comes at you with even more nuances, yet another facet of flavor. If new world-oaky-creamslut wines are like basic addition and subtraction, these wines are like integral calculus--except that any ragamuffin palate (even mine!) can grok them.

I like this quote for three reasons:
1. I love the phrase 'new world-oaky-creamslut wines.
2. He draws a parallel between mathematics and wine.
3. He uses the word 'grok', coined by the American science fiction author Robert Heinlein.

Summer Bartending

Pete Wells in the New York Times writes a quick guide to summer bartending, with an emphasis on quality ingredients and how they're used to make truly refreshing drinks. As someone who rarely drinks mixed drinks (mostly because I dislike the bastardized versions that have become prevalent thanks in great part to syrupy high-frutose corn syrup additives in cola and tonic) I'm excited to try some of these at home, particularly the Pimm's Saigon.

As I noted previously, I rarely drink mixed drinks; when I do, it's usually at places like Cherry Street Wine Cellar & Bistro, Sycamore Restaurant, or Teller's. Where do you go for properly made drinks?

On a slightly tangential note, I'll be attending a blind beer tasting at Sycamore Restaurant this Sunday at 3pm (June 28th); the theme is stouts. More information on the tasting, hosted by Columbia Beer Enthusiasts, can be found here.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Reflections: Columbia Second Chance Fundraiser with Kysela

Our fundraiser for Columbia Second Chance Animal Shelter last Friday, co-hosted by Perlow-Stevens Gallery, Sycamore Restaurant, and the importer Kysela, went really well. 45 wines were presented, and though I don't know yet how much money was raised for the shelter, my early instinct was that it was very successful. Mark Grundy, who distributes Kysela in Missouri though Golden Barrel, intends to make this a yearly event for Second Chance. Much thanks to Guillaume Portalet of Kysela, who flew out from Washington DC to represent Kysela's portfolio.

A quick note about the wines. I didn't taste everything at the tasting (some of the wines I'd tasted before), but there were some wines that stuck out as particularly fantastic. Specifically:

2007 Guillemot-Michel Macon Villages ($31): For a village-level wine from Macon, this was fantastic and easily my favorite wine of the tasting. The wine is produced biodynamically and a wonderful example of a Macon: texturally sound, with vibrant undercurrents of fruit and mineral instead of explosive flavor. For people who've been disappointed with their initial experiences with white Burgundy, this chardonnay is a stellar introduction, and the price ($31) is very reasonable for wine of this quality. (buy the wine here).

2006 Alain Jaume, Clos de Sixte, Lirac Rouge ($25 ): The Clos de Sixte property in Lirac is roughly 22 miles from the Chateauneuf-du-Pape appellation; the wine itself is a typical GSM blend (grenache, syrah, mouvedre). There were other good red wines on the French table, including a good Lirac from Chateau de Segries, but this effort stood out. It was yummy, fruit forward without being brash, and seamlessly integrated with soft, yet dense tannin. (Buy the wine here).

NonVintage Rubuli Prosecco ($22)
: This Italian bubbly was very good, with frothy mousse and vibrant fruit and hints of spice; this bottling was a crowd pleaser. I personally keep a bottle or two of prosecco at my house for guests; it is a versatile companion to foods or people of almost all genres. (Buy this wine here).

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Wine Notes: 2007 Rhones

The wines from the 2007 southern Rhone vintage are in the process of arriving in the United States. For both noteworthy values and dynamite quality this vintage is without peer in this wine market. The vintage was given a 98 point rating by the prominent wine critic Robert Parker, indicating a consensus that the 2007 growing season was as close to perfect as it gets, with a long, warm growing season without hail or frosts; the harsh mistral winds coming from the north were not too harsh and came just in time to prevent rot and mildew from attacking the vineyards. The harvest was long and leisurely during the warm yet dry weather that persisted during September to mid-October, producing perfectly right fruit that resulted in ripe, intensely flavored wines with soft tannins, brisk acidity, and higher than normal alcohol levels.

Given that the Rhone Valley is still primarily an agricultural region, labor costs and land costs remain low. I spoke to Bill Kniep, president of Pinnacle Imports, who reported that an entirely different ethos pervades winemaking in the region with producers who don't expect to receive hugely inflated prices for their wines; entry-level Cotes du Rhone can often be had for under $20 retail in America. One can expect that white wines often are composed of the aromatic viognier, along with the minerality and acidity of roussane and marsanne; red wines are often blends of syrah, mouvedre, and grenache.

We've to date sampled many of these wines and find an enormous range of stylistic differences as fruit from around the region managed to attain particularly focused expressions of the soils they came from. This is a vintage to enjoy immediately though rewarding for the individual with the ability (and the patience!) to lay them down for a couple of years or more.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

News from the Rhone

Our friend Tammy Jones is in the Rhone Valley currently and has stumbled upon the Barruol family estate in Gigondas. Louis and Cherry Barruol are negociants in the Rhone, producing among others a wonderful 2007 Cotes-du-Rhone rouge from declassified Gigondas fruit. I've written about that wine before (click here).

Tammy's blog is worth a read. There are beautiful pictures of the region as well. The following is excerpted from Tammy's post on the Barruols.

North of Avignon by way of Carpentras, sheltered by the hauntingly beautiful Dentelles range is the famous wine producing town of Gigondas. I had heard of this part of the Cote du Rhone but it really picked up on my radar when Paul of Top Ten Wines turned me on to a glorious red wine from Saint Cosme. Imagine my surprise when we are driving down the road and voila - there in front of us was the place - the actual Chateau de Saint Cosme. Named for the patron saint of Gigondas, this working winery and vineyard dispenses quickly with any pretense. A friendly dog greets all who enter the small drive and provided a welcome diversion for Cameron and Caroline who have little interest in wine. The 14th generation winemaker, Louis Barroul and his family live on site. One would think it has nothing to do with viticulture or enology, but there was something reassuring and expected with seeing a bicycle and the of small children about. This was a terrior well connected to the human as the family to the land. The wines of Saint Cosme demonstrate this respectful symbiosis. One wine that stood out among all I tasted the was the 2007 Gigondas. I bought two bottles - with a silent prayer to the Customs God. One to watch is their table wine, Little James Basket Press Vin de Table. With Chateau direct prices at just over a mere 4 euros, word from the Chateau is US wine merchants are very interested in both the Little James and the Saint Joseph. The Little James is a whole lot of wow for the price - fat and round with berry and spice and those wonderful earthy notes I so love about good Cote du Rhone wine. The 2006 St. Joseph is selling for an average of around $45 in the US. It can be purchased from the estate for 14.20 euro.
There are 15 hectares (about 37 acres) of old vines around the estate with an average vine age of 60 years. Yields are kept very low at around 27 hectoliters per hectare (about 2 tons per acre). The soil is limestone and red clay but somewhat geologically complex. Grenache is king here, but often blended with Syrah, Cinsault, Carignane, Counoise or Mourvèdre.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


We're doing a tasting tonight at 7 with one of the representatives from Fran Kysela Pere et Fils (Father & Sons), a well-reputed wine importer.

Kysela originally worked as the national sales manager for importer Kermit Lynch before starting his own import firm, which American wine critic Robert Parker has praised for his dedication to demanding accurate, terroir-driven wines without intervening in the wineries stylistic vision.

Kysela is very proud of what he does. On his website is a running total of the wine he's sold during his career. Through 2008, the figure stands at a little under $192 million for his 26 year career, a respectable figure though far short of his stated goal of $1 billion in sales.

Paul has worked with Fran Kysela for over 12 years, including a trip to Argentinian wine country in August 2008. If his name is on the back of the bottle, I know it is going to be something special and it will not break the bank. While he does represent several high-end, collectible wines, he is best known for value. The fact that he is a Master Sommelier shines through the entire portfolio.

Guillaume Pourtalet, regional manager from Kysela Pere et Fils, will be presenting the arrival of the 2007 Rhone's, arguably the best vintage of our lifetime. Mark Grundy of Golden Barrel will also be on hand.

If you're interested in coming, we still have some spots left. The tasting is free but we ask a 2 bottle minimum purchase. Call 573-442-2207 for reservations.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Vintage Report, Missouri 2009

From Danene Beedle, of the Wine and Grape Board:
Despite sub zero temperatures, the freeze earlier this month was not a replay of the April 2007 freeze which severely damaged Missouri's grape crop. One major difference between the catastrophic freeze of '07 and now is that this year the vines were not in as advanced stage of bud growth as they were when the cold hit then.

Vineyards around the state are reporting no damage from the recent ultra cold weather. Only the early budding grape varieties, like Concord and Cayuga, were near bud break, however temperatures did not dip low enough for an extended period of time to do major harm. The buds on most grape varieties were still tightly closed, and therefore able to handle the sub freezing weather.

"The critical factor this time of year is how low the temperatures go. If temperatures stay in the mid to upper 20s then damage should be minimal. However, if temperatures drop below around 25 then there could be a significant amount of injury on several cultivars, particularly the early budding ones," explained Andy Allen, Extension Associate - Viticulturist at the Institute for Continental Climate Viticulture and Enology in Columbia.

Grapevines emerge from winter dormancy when budbreak occurs.Tender vine shoots and leaves push out from the dormant vine and are vulnerable to frost or freeze damage during spring. Missouri's grapevines are not out of danger until early May.

The current cold front actually helped the state's vineyards says Jon Held of Stone Hill Winery in Hermann. "The cold should slow the bud break down, which we definitely need since we really aren't out of danger from freezing weather until the end of the month."

Cory Bomgaars of Les Bourgeois Winery agrees,"Hopefully the cool temperatures will delay bud break and give us a little more protection from late season frosts."

April in Paris Industry Tasting, April 22nd

I will be going to an industry tasting sponsored by Missouri Beverage Company on Wednesday, April 22nd at Moulin in St. Louis at 2pm. Wines from the portfolios of Kermit Lynch, Boisset Family Estates, and Aquitane will be featured prominently. A few people from Sycamore Restaurant might be joining us.

If you're interested in hearing about any of the wines, leave a comment below. I should be taking video footage of the tasting and putting it up at our YouTube channel.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Talking Wine with Renee Hulshof

I'll be on 1400 KFRU AM with Renee Hulshof and Simon Rose today at 10:15am, talking about wine and economics. The live stream can be accessed at (button is at the upper right corner).

An article about Renee Hulshof and Simon Rose is here.

For the curious, you can follow Renee Hulshof at @ReneeHulshof on Twitter.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Assorted Thoughts and Links

1. A bacon sandwich really does cure a hangover - by boosting the level of amines which clear the head, scientists have found. Gratuitous.

2. Had lunch at the International Cafe (209 Hitt Street) on Saturday. It's a really good eating spot; the food is entry level Greek/Mediterranean that's pretty good and inexpensive. The baklava particularly was excellent.

3. I know this is a couple of years old, but in 2005 Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi sent 2 cases of Italian wines to Swedish PM Goran Persson, publically noting that "(Persson) was so aghast at the English wines at the summit that I promised to send him some of our wines." The English wines in question were Welsh wines served by former British PM Tony Blair at a function. Link here.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Tyranny of Tasting Notes

Scott Rowson of Show-Me Eats pointed me over to an article in the Riverfront Times by Dave Nelson, who discusses his disdain for the point-rating system employed by wine critics, most prominently by iconic wine critic Robert Parker. This discussion is an important one; Alder Yarrow of Vinography recently posted his thoughts on the subject in response to a talk given by Eric Asimov, head wine critic for the New York Times.

Some quick background is in order. Until the late 1970's, when Robert Parker decided to drop his law practice to start Wine Advocate and provide independent, objective wine criticism, there wasn't much if any independent wine criticism. It was a common thing for wine critics to be financially involved with wineries and other parts of the industry; not only that, but wine reviews from that era rarely aimed for any kind of objectivity and often provided little to no information about the wine's quality.

Whatever else you can say about the subject, the introduction of an independent wine critic was a fundamentally revolutionary force for the industry. But it didn't happen overnight. The 1982 Bordeaux vintage was panned by most if not all major wine critics; Parker alone went out on a limb, identifying 1982 as a banner year for Bordeaux. When the vintage was released, Parker's status sky-rocketed; since then, Parker has become the biggest single-person brand name in history. His rating systems are criticized precisely because they are so influential; a rating of 90 vs. a 89 can be responsible for millions of dollars in sales and ratings of 95 points and up can create such high demands that some cult wines auction for thousands of dollars a bottle (or at least they did prior to the global financial meltdown).

Dave Nelson isn't the only person criticizing Parker's stylistic preferences; the criticism is often made that Parker's preference for big, massive wines loaded with fruit have driven winemakers all over the world to 'Parkerize' their wines, ie, make their wines in the style that Parker likes as it's easier to get a good rating that way. But the picture isn't so simple; while it's true that Parker does influence the stylistic decisions of many winemakers, the net effect is that wine around the planet has gotten better. The wines of Bordeaux and the Rhone particularly are good examples of this: Parker's reviews and ideas have pushed winemakers to understand the science of winemaking, to use clean equipment and better their vineyard management processes and to find the true potential of the grapes that they grow.

As a consumer, I'm glad of that. Here is Parker's rubric for scoring wines:

In terms of awarding points, my scoring system gives every wine a base of 50 points. The wine's general color and appearance merit up to 5 points. Since most wines today are well made, thanks to modern technology and the increased use of professional oenologists, they tend to receive at least 4, often 5 points. The aroma and bouquet merit up to 15 points, depending on the intensity level and dimension of the aroma and bouquet as well as the cleanliness of the wine. The flavor and finish merit up to 20 points, and again, intensity of flavor, balance, cleanliness, and depth and length on the palate are all important considerations when giving out points. Finally, the overall quality level or potential for further evolution and improvement—aging—merits up to 10 points.

Scores are important for the reader to gauge a professional critic's overall qualitative placement of a wine vis-à-vis its peer group. However, it is also vital to consider the description of the wine's style, personality, and potential. No scoring system is perfect, but a system that provides for flexibility in scores, if applied by the same taster without prejudice, can quantify different levels of wine quality and provide the reader with one professional's judgment. However, there can never be any substitute for your own palate nor any better education than tasting the wine yourself.

That's not so bad as an effort at an objective evaluation of a wine. But as far as a consumer cares about what they're drinking, context is extremely important and point ratings alone don't tell the whole story.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Cultural Meme Goes Japanese

The iconic wine country movie Sideways has been remade for the Japanese market:

The Japanese version of “Sideways” (which for the moment is still being called “Sideways”) is one of the most intriguing of these cross-cultural experiments. As in the original, the action takes place in California and the road trip involves plenty of wine talk, a leather-harness-clad chase, a jealous-rage beating and a wine-spittoon guzzle.

Plenty of other details, however, have been changed. The two male characters (Michio and Daisuke instead of Miles and Jack) now head from Los Angeles to Napa Valley, instead of traipsing up to Santa Barbara. While wine sales are on the rise in Japan — thanks in part to the comic-book sensation “Kami no Shizuku,” or “The Drops of God,” about a heroic odyssey to find the best wines in the world — a lesser-known wine region like Santa Barbara would still resonate little with audiences. And heading to Napa allowed the filmmakers to weave in some local landmarks. “You can’t do a road trip in California without going over the Golden Gate Bridge,” said Cellin Gluck, the new film’s director.

Link to the story, published in the New York Times, is here.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Sale at Top Ten Wines

While Paul's away, we're having a wine sale.

All Australian wines (over 100 different wines) and Pinot Noir from around the world and on the shelves are 20% off. Everything else is 10% off, except the those 25 wines at the bottom of the page which are listed. The sale starts Saturday, March 21 and ends on Wednesday, April 15. First come first served.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Mark Sulltrop Leaves Bleu?

Rumor on the street is that chef Mark Sulltrop has left Bleu Restaurant and Wine Bar on short notice. If true, I'm sorry to hear that; the restaurant seems to have hurdled many obstacles to opening and losing a chef is a really difficult thing, though not necessarily crippling. Owners Tina Patel and Travis Tucker seem to have a knack for dealing with obstacles and a vision that Columbia seems to have embraced.

Hat Tip: Scott Rowson, Show-Me Eats.

Monday, March 16, 2009

More New Stuff

1. A couple blogs I recommend: Chert Hollow Farm, by Eric Reuter and St. Louis Eats by Joe and Ann Pollock. I met Joe Pollock last night at the Bommarito tasting in St. Louis; really nice guy and his blog seems to be very detailed and well written. Both are good resources if you are interested food and agriculture in Missouri.

2. Great article on Springfield's iconic regional staple cashew chicken in the NYT. A little known-fact is that Springfield is probably the nation's most competitive restaurant industry and serves as the testing ground for most national chains. Tyler Cowen, economist at GMU, posts here briefly about the labor market economics of Chinese restaurants.

3. As previously noted, Jon Poses of We Always Swing Jazz Series is offering customers of Top Ten a $5 discount on seats to the Blue Note 7 concert this Thursday at the Missouri Theatre. The Blue Note 7 recently received some really good press in last Thursday's Tribune.

4. Paul is leaving for South Africa on a wine-buying trip on Thursday! He will return on the 2nd or 3rd of April. We will be posting videos from the trip on your YouTube channel, here. (I haven't uploaded anything yet but check back within the week). If anyone has recommendations or travel tips pertinent to South Africa, leave a comment.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Back from the Bommarito Tasting in St. Louis

Paul and I just returned from the A. Bommarito tasting in St. Louis at the Ritz-Carleton in Clayton. There is a lot for me to talk about; I tasted wines from many different producers and many different regions that are represented in the Bommarito portfolio. There were lot of notable personalities there; for now I will note particularly Dan and Connie Burkhardt of Bethlehem Valley Vineyards in Marthasville, Missouri, as the only Missouri winery represented in Bommarito's portfolio.

I did get a lot of video footage from the tasting, including interviews with both Tony Bommarito Sr. and Tony Bommarito Jr. Tony Sr. is an iconic figure in the Missouri wine market, known for his commitment to integrity in his business; unlike the vast majority of wine distributors he does not play the discounting game. The theory is that heavy discounting signals that your product wasn't a good value in the first place, either because the product is inferior or because you haven't been able to invest appropriately in the kind of activities that add value to your product. I was particularly glad for the chance to talk to Tony Sr. and Tony Jr. as they are very highly regarded in the wine industry and have operated a successful and respected business for many years.

As I mentioned, I did get a lot of video footage (31 clips!), and I will be uploading it to our YouTube account and blogging about specific winemakers in the coming week.

I did run into some interesting industry people: Glenn Bardgett, the wine director at Annie Gunn's; Curtis Reis of Billington Imports, who's done tastings with us in the past; and Andrey Ivanov of Vin de Set.

I will note that Paul and I weren't the only Columbia folks making the trip; Tina from new downtown hotspot Bleu were also in attendance with a good chunk of her staff. It's one thing for owners and managers of restaurants to attend industry events like this by themselves; taking your waitstaff with you is an easy investment that reaps great dividends in terms of the ability to provide sophisticated, intelligence restaurant service. Kudos!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Popping the Cork

Old friend and former co-blogger Jason Rosenbaum stopped by my house last night with a rather tricky problem: the cork on a bottle of pinot noir he was having for dinner had partially disintegrated and the remainder of the cork seemed irredeemably lodged in the bottle. I thought this was a good starting point to sound off about a couple of things.

First, I don't know why producers of low to medium end wines still bother with cork. Screwcaps are much much easier to manage and you can easily recycle. Cork is also susceptible to bacterial infection that on occasion can taint the wine and produce some rather ghastly aromas of moldy basement and putrid socks. And some producers use composite or synthetic corks that are hell to open...sometimes it seems like synthetic corks are superglued to the bottle.

As a former waiter, I can assure you that you're not alone. Many times I've been in embarrassing situations opening bottles of wine for people. Some of these times have been actually rather dangerous: I particularly recall once trying to remove a synthetic cork from a bottle that just would not budge; ultimately I applied so much pressure with the corkscrew hinge that part of the neck of the bottle cracked in my hands, leaving me with a minor but bloody flesh wound. Not something I prefer to happen during table service...

Fortunately, there are some simple solutions. First, breaking the seal between the cork and the bottle is extremely do this, just insert the corkscrew into that space between cork and bottle instead of into the middle of the cork. That should weaken the grip between cork and bottle. Second, don't worry too much about disintegrating corks; worst case scenario is that you'd have to pour the wine into a carafe to filter out cork.

I'll finish off here with a note that I hope you enjoy your weekend. And for people looking to keep up with a really good Missouri political journalist, it doesn't get better than Jason's blog, Capitol Calling.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Sushi And Wine Tasting, Friday, March 13th, 7pm

In preparation for the Sushi and Wine Tasting this Friday, here's a few of my thoughts regarding sushi, sake, and wine pairing.

On Sake
Sake, or Japanese rice wine, comes in a wide array of styles and flavors, but here’s a brief rundown of some of the most useful things to know. First, the styles vary from light to full-bodied, with the lightest being nama zake and progessing to ginjo, daiginjo, junmai, and aged sake. Sweetness is also a variable to take into account; sweeter sakes, like the unfiltered nigori or some aged sakes can be excellent next to spicy foods or desserts.

Sake is made through a process that’s kind of a blend of wine and beer fermentation. The grains are polished to some degree (with more polishing generally being associated with finer sakes), soaked, and cooked. They are then dosed with a dose of a fungus that turns the starch to sugars and a dose of yeast that turns the sugars to alcohol. Some sakes have brewer’s alcohol added before the final step (pressing the rice solids from the liquid sake) to enhance flavor extraction. Some sakes see a secondary fermentation in the bottle and become sparkling sakes; the sparkling sakes found in the US are tend to be sweet and acidic and thus fairly versatile.

Beverage Pairing with Sushi
Opinions are split on serving sake with sushi. Some people find that the ricey qualities of sake are an overwhelming complement to the rice in sushi and that flavors of things like wasabi tend to completely overwhelm the sake; these people tend to serve sake with sashimi or as an aperitif or with dessert exclusively. Others alternatively find much pleasure in matching the more delicate flavors of sake to specific sushis, but sake in general is not a optimal pairing for most foods, tending to be low in acid. Junmai sake particularly tends to have higher acidity; combined with its weightier nature, it can stand up to comparatively richer dishes than most, including and especially cream sauces.

Some prefer serving teas like oolong with sushi, but these are in the minority. Some ales also work. Successful wine pairings will take more care and thought, but they can be extremely rewarding. Low alcohol wines made from Chenin blanc, Riesling, and Gewurtztraminer will do well with spicier sushi; unoaked, minerally chardonnay from Burgundy will have the body, fresh fruit, and minerality to work with most preparations; and the heavier flavors associated with eel or seaweed have been known to do well with Californian Zinfandel or Italian Amarone. Sparkling wine, from Champagne to the sparkling Vouvrays of the Loire or the cavas of Mediterranean Spain, are all well suited to deliver a pleasant accompaniment.

If you'd like to come to the tasting, call us at 573-442-2207 to make reservations. The cost of the tasting is $15 and we request a two bottle purchase.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Playing Catch-Up

A few things from last week that I think are worth mentioning.

Was in St. Louis Thursday night/Friday morning. Dropped by Iggy's Mexican Cantina (located right across from Laclede street classic Humphrey's) for a beer, then made my way to Llewellyn's on MacPherson for a couple more pints. Iggy's wasn't much more than a college bar with a vigorously drunk karaoke scene; Llewellyn's is much more of a pub, with a bartender pulling cask-conditioned beer.

I myself had the good fortune to run into an old high school friend who, like me, followed other academic paths and ended up in the wine and hospitality business and is now working with the acclaimed Vin de Set on Chouteau Avenue. I have not yet been to this restaurant but look forward at perhaps dropping by in the near future. If you've been to this restaurant, leave me a comment below...I'd love to hear about it.

Coming tomorrow: Posts from our Wednesday Wine group and some discussion on sakes in preparation for our Sushi and Wine tasting on Friday.