The Cork v. Screw Cap Debate: Could Cork Be the Green Alternative?

Here is a very interesting article from John Witherspoon over at Anything Wine. John references this article in the Seattle Times, which argues that cork usage is actually better for the environment than screw caps. The gist of it is that cork trees are not killed in the process of making corks, and that the process actually helps to keep them healthy over their 200-year life span.

I find this very interesting. While I have become a believe that screw caps are the better enclosure for the wines, red and white, I think the effects on the environment should be carefully considered, especially since wine is ultimately an agricultural business. Does anyone have any thoughts on this? I would be curious to hear if there is an environmental argument for screw caps.

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Don’t forget to VOTE!

Published in: on October 29, 2007 at 11:04 pm  Comments (4)  
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Proof: Livin’ the Dream

Many articles have been written about Mark Kuller and how he walked away from his lucrative career as a tax lawyer to follow his dream of opening a wine bar. Being an attorney myself — albeit an unemployed one at the moment — I have tremendous respect for Mr. Kuller’s decision to follow his dream of “making a small fortune out of a large one.” There is little point in rehashing the whole story here, since sites such as Law.com have already told it well. What I can add to the discussion are my impressions of the result of Mr. Kuller’s labors: Proof.

Proof is ideally located in Chinatown, just one block from the Verizon Center in the heart of Downtown Washington, D.C. One of the first things you notice when you walk in is the glorious Enomatic Wine System stationed behind its fully-stocked bar, designed to provide wine in 2 oz. or 6 oz. tastings, or full 8.5 oz. glasses. (This is a key piece of my dream wine shop, though I am probably many years from following that dream.) The system provides a wonderful opportunity to sample many of Proof’s forty wines by the glass. The wines offered, some of the best of which I have listed below, reflect a broad range of styles, varietals, and geographic regions. The bartenders are friendly, knowledgeable, and always ready to answer questions or make recommendations. If you are looking for a place to unwind after work, or just to sample some great wine, the bar at Proof is the place to go. That being said, be ready for a bit of a crowd at peak hours — the word is out.

After my first visit to Proof, where I spent a couple of hours enjoying wine and cheese at the bar, I was curious if the food would live up to the wine. Mrs. Wine with Dinner was kind enough to call on a Thursday evening for 7:00 p.m. reservations the following Tuesday, only to find that 7 was booked solid. We settled for 8 p.m. , which turned into 8:25. It wasn’t all that tragic, really, it just gave us more time at the bar.

Proof provides a dimly lit, comfortable dining experience. Our waitress, much like the bartenders, was very friendly and happy to offer input on the dishes and suggestions for wine pairings from the sommelier. The menu opens with cheese and meat plates, which you can get in sets of three or six varieties each. In addition to your standard appetizers and main courses, Proof offers a six course tasting menu for $85 per person with optional wine pairings for $120. The plates tend to be small, emphasizing quality over quantity.

Mrs. Wine with Dinner opened with the Roasted Baby Beet & Baby Arugula Salad followed by the Grilled Leg of Lamb, and was kind enough to allow me to sample her dishes. The beet salad was excellent and had just the right amounts of goat cheese and pepper. The sommelier’s suggestion of L’Aventure‘s 2006 Rousanne from Paso Robles, California was a perfect pairing. The lamb may have been just a bit tough around the edges, but it was perfectly medium rare in the middle. It was wonderfully seasoned with a vinegary tang that Mrs. Wine with Dinner could dull with a sip of her Tres Sabores 2004 Porque No? Zinfandel to bring out the pure flavor of the meat.

I chose the Yukon Gold Potato Gnocchi with Leeks and Chanterelle Mushrooms for my appetizer and the Roasted Alaskan Halibut as my main course. The gnocchi were a little soft but tasty. What really impressed me, however, was the sommelier’s suggestion of Lafond‘s 2005 Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir to accompany it. My initial instinct was a white wine, but this light to medium bodied red complimented the texture and flavors of the gnocchi very well. The halibut was the star of the evening for me. It was perfectly cooked and the flavor of the fish was wonderful. Again, the sommelier’s suggestion was perfect. The 2004 Frederic Magnien Bourgogne Hautes Cotes de Nuits was completely different from the Santa Rita Pinot, and its earthy barnyard aromas and subdued fruit flavors were the perfect complement to the lentils, sorrel, and pommery mustard emulsion that accompanied the fish.

Try as we might to do it, we could not leave without some dessert. My wife and I shared tastes of the sticky toffee pudding cake and goat cheesecake with a red pepper-flake crust, matched with one of my local favorites, the 2006 vintage of Rockbridge Vineyard’s V d’Or. The cheesecake was presented in a short, cylindric glass and had a wonderful sweetness and texture. The red pepper gave the crust a wonderful ginger-like quality that blended well with the goat cheese. My one tip: take in a spoonful that dips all the way down into the glass — this will provide the right balance of cheesecake and the accompanying citrus flavors. But as good as the cheesecake was, it is clear that I still have never learned the lesson I recited at the end of my very first post on this blog. I should have had the sticky toffee pudding.

(Update: Mrs. Wine with Dinner and I went to dinner at proof again last night (11/26/07) and had an even better experience than our first visit.  The pork loin and venison were cooked perfectly and well complimented by their side dishes.  Monday evening is the time to go if you want a more quiet atmosphere.)

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The Best Wines I Have Sampled at Proof:

Heidi Schrock 2006 Welshriesling Blend, Rust, Austria
L’Aventure 2006 Rousanne, Paso Robles, California
Lobster Key 2006 Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand
Vinum 2006 Chenin Blanc, Stellenbosch, South Africa
Seebrich Weingut 2005 Niersteiner Rosenberg Kabinett Riesling, Rheinhessen, Germany
Tandem 2004 Peleton (Zinfandel & Pinot Noir), Sonoma, California
Tres Sabores 2004 Porque No? Zinfandel
The Black Chook 2006 Shiraz/Viognier, South Australia
Lafond 2005 Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills, California
2004 Frederic Magnien Bourgogne Hautes Cotes de Nuits, Cote de Nuits, Burgundy, France
Rockbridge Vineyard 2006 V d’Or, Shenandoah Valley, Virginia

Remember, the wines by the glass offerings change periodically.

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Wine Experience: 5 Stars
Dinner Experience: 4 Stars, Appx. $23.00 per entree.

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Published in: on October 27, 2007 at 7:29 pm  Comments (2)  
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The Holidays Approacheth: A Brief Bow to the Consumeristic Urges in All of Us

If you are anything like me (and who isn’t), you are coming closer and closer to buying your first house. As a man, I do not need much in a dwelling. I presume it will have a roof, heat and air, and at least one bathroom. We’ll put a bed in it someplace. While I would like it to be as environmentally friendly as possible, we can work on that over time. I am sure Mrs. Wine with Dinner will have many ideas on how to lay things out, and I will likely go along with most of them. But I do have one desire, a place to entertain. Let’s call it, “The Man Basement.” I mean, it is fun to go out, but sometimes it is nice to be able to have people over in the comfort of your own home.

What would I put in The Man Basement you ask? Well, I’ll tell you. Part of it, probably one-third, would be a wine cellar. Nothing too fancy, but climate and humidity controlled, maybe with a small table and chairs for tasting. The remaining two-thirds of the basement would be an entertainment room with a large HDTV mounted on the wall opposite the wine cellar and some couches and chairs for the boys to watch the big game on, or for Mrs. Wine with Dinner and me to relax on while watching Return of the King. Depending on how much room there was maybe we’d get crazy and put in a pool table and some air hockey. In any event, there would be one last essential ingredient, a fully-stocked bar. Conveniently, Mrs. Wine with Dinner and I already owe each other a bar from Christmas last year.

Let’s face it, for many of us, even if we are not wine aficionados, alcohol is an integral part to many social gatherings. From Stanley Cup Game 7’s, to Wedding Showers, to Birthday Parties, to Christmas Eve, to Super Bowl Sunday, a well-stocked bar and a wine cellar can help to create a welcoming environment for friends and family on many occasions. Indeed, no occasion is needed for a friend to just swing by, have a drink, and watch Reservoir Dogs. While this certainly may be an expensive project up front, the enjoyment of this space (not to mentioned the money saved from less bar visits) should make the project will worth while.

With all this in mind, I have been keeping my eye out for books, magazines, etc. that might guide me as I fantasize about hosting 30 or 40 of my closest friends for the Super Bowl. I have come across a few interesting items in the last couple of weeks that may ultimately be very useful to me in this project. I list them here in the event that you share my desire for a Man Basement. For that matter, they might be useful for a “Girl’s Den,” or just for the small liquor cabinet that you keep in your apartment or condo.

Keys to the Cellar: Strategies and Secrets of Wine Collecting, by Peter D. Meltzer — a good place to start when thinking about building a wine collection.

The New York Bartender’s Guide, by Sally Ann Berk and 17 New York Bartenders and Drink Specialists — an inventory cocktail recipes along with a great list of items and ingredients necessary to start a home bar.

The Ultimate A-to-Z Bar Guide, by Sharon Tyler Herbst & Ron Herbst — similar to <u>The New York Bartender’s Guide</u>, though I would probably favor that text if you are looking for one source.

Be Wine Connected USB Flashdrive — kind of fancy for a flash drive, but this cute little bottle contains some interesting features, including a guide to the last 100 vintages of Bordeaux and Open Cellar software for managing your growing wine cellar. I just saw this online the other day, so I can’t vouch for quality, etc., but it certainly looks interesting.

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Update:  Here is another one I just found today (12/5), the Wine Collector 250.  A bit much?  Have we crossed the line yet?  You be the judge.

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Don’t forget to VOTE!

Published in: on October 17, 2007 at 5:16 pm  Comments (1)  
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Recent Tastings: $10 Wines, More or Less

Keep me in your thoughts, friends, I am on prescription drugs and can’t drink alcohol for about 2 weeks. Oh, the horror!

(oops) Wines 2005 Cheeky Little Red (Carmenere/Merlot), Central Valley, Chile, 3 Stars1/4, $10.00 per bottle.

Louis Jadot 2006 Beaujolais-Villages (Gamay), Burgundy, France, 4 Stars, appx. $10.99 per bottle.

Nobilo 2006 Regional Collection Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand, 3 Stars1/2, $10.00 per bottle.

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Don’t forget to VOTE!

Published in: on October 15, 2007 at 4:01 pm  Leave a Comment  
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