Monthly Archives: September 2010

A better wine machine

A few months back, I posted on wine vending machines coming to Pennsylvania.  I recently spotted this on Dr. Vino’s blog:

Bring your own bottle and pick your poison - white, red or pink.

Astrid Terzian came up with the idea, installing her first machine in Dunkirk in June 2009, and has since followed up with 9 machines across France.  The wines tend to cost around $2 per liter!

I’ve had great luck filling up bottles out of casks at mom and pop joints in Spain and in Italy and I hope Dr. Vino is correct when he anticipates we’ll see something like this in the U.S. within a year.

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Filed under Alcohol in the News, Wine

K is for Kir

Canon Félix Kir (1876-1968). Photo courtesy of He looks thirsty.

Kir, alternatively referred to as vin blanc cassis, is dry white wine mixed with blackcurrant liqueur.  The drink is named after Canon Félix Kir, a priest and hero of the Burgundian resistance during WWII, who then went on to become the mayor of Dijon.  My research indicates he became a hero when he organized a gang to derail a Berlin-bound train to rescue barrels of wine stolen by German soldiers. 

During his tenure as mayor, this drink became the official aperitif of town hall receptions.  Why the combo of white wine and blackcurrant liqueur?  Both products are local – the Côte D’Or is an important grower of blackcurrants and the typical base wine is Aligoté.  It’s possible that war-time wine wasn’t the best and that a little dollop of a sweet liqueur would make it more palatable.  Perhaps Kir was an early locavore.  He may have known about the high vitamin C content of blackcurrants.  The best guess may be that he just liked to drink. 

Recipes vary – I’ve seen everything from 1/2 oz. crème de cassis to 4 oz. of wine to 1/3 cassis to 2/3 wine to 1 part cassis to 5 parts wine.  It boils down to personal preference and the quality of your starting ingredients.  There’s discrepancy when it comes to the serving vessel, too, but I think a wine glass is best.  Apparently, if you ask for white wine with cassis (as opposed to crème de cassis) in France, you may end up with some berries floating in your glass.

This aperitif has inspired others:

Kir Royal(e) – sparkling wine rather than still wine
Communard – use red Burgundy wine as the base
Cardinal – mixed messages here – some say base is Beaujolais and others say red Bordeaux
Kir-beer or Tarantino – use lager or a light ale as the base
Kir Médocain – base is rosé
Kir Normand – base is a Normandy cider.  If you add a shot of Calvados to the mix, you end up with a Cidre Royal

If blackcurrant’s not your thing:

Kir Mûre – blackberry liqueur
Kir Peche – peach liqueur
Kir Lorrain – mirabelle plum liqueur


Filed under Alphabet Soup

Friday fun – “I love Scotch”

Seems like a good morning to watch Will Ferrell doing his thing as Anchorman.

This one is also funny, though not as pertinent to this blog:

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Filed under Spirits, Videos

Fashion’s Night Out

This past Friday I attended my first Fashion Week event.  The focus was more food and drink than it was fashion.

Finger Lakes Distilling was invited as one of the artisanal whiskeys.

Before the hoards. From left to right: Gable of Tutillhown, Brian from FLD and Noah (making sure the product is safe to serve).

Nastassia, Nils and Dave doing their thing behind the bar.

The very tasty (and cleverly named) cocktail prepared by team FCI. Between the bar and our table, we went through 21 bottles of rye in 3 hours.

Jeff, one of our hosts, stopping by to chat with Brian. He really dug the rye, the Glen Thunder and the cassis. Let's hope he writes about it!

Another thirsty guest.

No cabs to be found that night. We got a few stares on the bus.


Filed under Cocktails, Spirits

Sémillon you say?

An amusing article came out this week in the Telegraph.  The title, “Sémillon is the most mispronounced wine”, belies what seems to be an opportunity to make fun of British folks – not something you’d expect from a British publication:

*Ten per cent of people have complained that the waiter hasn’t poured them enough wine, when the intention was for them to taste it.

*One in twenty Britains have asked for a slice of lemon in their wine glass according to the poll of 3000 adults.

*One in twenty have “moaned” to a waiter that the wine is corked, not realizing it came from a screw-top bottle.

*Five per cent of the nation vigorously swirls the wine around in the glass to allow it to breathe but then embarrassingly spills it on themselves.

*16% of people who completed the poll said they often just order a bottle of expensive wine just so it looks like they know their wine, when they haven’t a clue what they’re actually drinking.

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Filed under Wine

Alan Richman’s rules for ordering wine

In the current issue of GQ you’ll find Alan Richman’s 14 Tips for Ordering Wine in a Restaurant

Some highlights:

“I don’t care if the restaurant is pouring Chateau Latour into Minnie Mouse mugs, don’t walk into a restaurant carrying your own wine glasses. It’s more pretentious than wearing a monocle and spats.”

“Here’s what you do with a cork when it’s presented to you: Nothing. No sniffing, please.”

“Don’t be a big shot. Nobody can get everything right when it comes to detecting problems in wine. Can you identify sulphur, volative acidity, brettanomyces, and/or T.C.A.? That’s why sommeliers exist. If you hate the wine you’ve ordered and can’t articulate why, don’t be afraid to ask for help.”

If you’d like to learn my tips, join me for class here or here.  If you like Alan’s style, join him for class here.

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Filed under Lessons, Wine

Class with Karen MacNeil

Karen nosing a Sauvignon Blanc at the Rudd Center for Professional Wine Studies at the CIA in Napa.

I was excited that Karen was part of my Napa Valley adventure, as her book, The Wine Bible, was the first wine book I ever read.  We also use it here at The FCI in some of our wine classes.  She led us through a tasting our first day and administered our quiz on the last day. 

At one point she asked the question, “What makes great wine great?”  Her answer was “distinctiveness”, quickly adding that that doesn’t always translate to likability. 

She noted that when a wine is really good, as a teacher, it makes you a little nervous because there’s not much to say.  She elaborated on the idea and mentioned that when she finds she has few words it’s either because she’s not paying attention, the wine doesn’t have a lot to say, or the wine is so beautiful. 

She did just fine finding words for our class and it was fun to see the personality I recognized from her book standing at the front of our classroom.

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Filed under Wine

How would you like your eggs?

In this week’s The Talk of the Town in the New Yorker, Michael Schulman hosted an unofficial summit with egg experts to discuss the recent recall of more than half a billion eggs.  His guests were Dave Arnold from the FCI and Stephen Morse, an epidemiologist at Columbia.  They gathered at L’Ecole and feasted on all things eggy.  I was tickled when I saw this sentence:

He {referring to Morse} sipped his cocktail, a Johnny Apple-Fizz, made with raw egg white shaken into a foam. “Wonderful!” he said.

The fizz was a creation by Marcella, which I helped her tweak.  We were looking for some flavors that would help us ease into fall.   She stopped by my office with a tray full of cocktails (which, delightfully, is a fairly common occurence), and this is what we came up with.

*2 oz. McKenzie Rye
*1 oz. FLD Maplejack
*1 oz. fresh lemon juice
*1 tsp superfine sugar
*1 oz. egg white
*1 oz. soda
*healthy pinch salt
*3 shakes of cinnamon

Combine all ingredients except soda in a shaker and shake vigorously.  Add soda and ice; shake again.  Strain into a chilled martini glass.

The Johnny Apple-Fizz. Light and refreshing, with spiced, apple notes.

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Filed under Cocktails