Monday, May 31, 2010

Sample - Corque Itinerary

We announced the launch of our custom made Corque Itineraries last week. It's a complimentary service to help you plan your next vacation to the great Central Coast region of California.

You just give us your answers to our 5 questions, and we'll respond with some options. Go to the Corque Itineraries page for details.

Here is a sample day trip in Los Olivos/Solvang:
  • 11:00 AM - Brunch at Panino
  • 12:00 PM - Walk around the square and head into: Tensley for their Syrah and Pinot Noir
  • 2:00 PM - Cupcake and Wine pairing at Saarloos and Sons and Enjoy Cupcakes
  • 3:30 PM - Light shopping in Solvang
  • 6:00 PM - Dinner at Root 246
We'll also include details on contact info, and the highlights of each location when you request your custom itinerary from Corque.

Chris and I look forward to hearing from you soon about your next trip to Santa Barbara or Paso Robles!

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Friday, May 28, 2010

Launching - Our Services!

We are now announcing the launch of our service offering!

Please see the link for details...

Corque Itineraries

We provide free of charge, custom itineraries for your wine and food travels to the Central Coast region of the North. We are currently serving Santa Barbara County and Paso Robles.

Chris and I hope that you find this service useful for your trips to the Central Coast, CA.

Contact us for any questions or your very own Corque Itinerary!

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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Barrel Tasting - Why and What does it tell us about the wine?

Wine Barrel Tasting

I always used to wonder about the point of barrel tasting. I figured it had to do something with following the development of the wine, and understanding the wine's characteristics at the various stages. I also thought that you were continuing to modify and change the composition of the wine in barrel.

Turns out I'm partially correct.

Winemakers taste in barrels the result of all the work they put into the process during crushing, punchdowns, monitoring fermentation, and managing the PH balance of the wine. By the time the wine makes it into the barrel, the wine has basically been through the ringer, literally, and has come to rest in the barrel to let nature take its course.

There will be no more work done by humans to the wine after its made it to barrel. Its what I would consider the quiet period of the wine. Periodic tastings from the barrel gives the winemaker an idea of what the wine may be like when bottled, aged, and finally ending up on our dining tables. It's also a nice opportunity for the winemaker to appreciate all the hard work and nurturing by him/her and the entire wine making team. I figure too, that if perhaps the winemaker would be able to think about how they can make changes to their wine making process in future vintages to continually improve.

Wines that are new to the barrel will taste more fruity and less wine like due to the lack of time to age. It'll be pretty close to direct grape juice with some yeast fermentation undertones. Later on, as the months go by, the wine will begin to form its complexities and can actually taste a bit funky and stinky. I've been told that its quite normal for the wines to go through this process and come out to be the familiar wine you've served time and time again.

I think its quite interesting that winemakers have such a great memory of wine in barrel. Experienced winemakers will know their special recipe to great wines, and they've babied enough wine vintages through the years to understand all of their behaviors and personalities. You have to appreciate the finesse and passion that winemakers have for their craft.

If you happen to get a chance to barrel taste in wine country, try to compare that wine in barrel to the same wine that's been allowed to properly age in bottle. Let me know what you think about the comparison.

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Riedel Pinot Noir Flow Style Glasses

Up until now, I've used utility cabernet wine glasses for just about any and all wines that are served at home. For one, I just don't have space for every style of wine glass, and the other reason is because I never really thought about how a glass could make such a difference.

Although its definitely fine to use a typical Cabernet glass, you can really enhance your experience with a wine glass made specifically for the wine you're drinking.

For example, a Pinot Noir glass is designed to refract the floral notes of the wine. There is a distinct bulb shape, followed by a narrowing top to help gather the fragrance towards your nose. It's been said that everyone will first 'taste' their wine through your nose before you actually drink it. The small lip you see at the top of the glass is a nice little aesthetic too.

Don't believe me? Try it for yourself. If you get an opportunity to drink from a pinot noir wine glass, notice how the opening will really enclose your nose like a mask. All you need to do is take in all the delicious scents, just breathe it all in.

I know that I've completely changed my mind about wine glasses since I started using these pinot noir glasses. I purchased these Riedel Flow Pinot Noir glasses off the internet. The Riedel Flow line is considered their casual line, with a thicker stem making it sturdier for daily use. They were relatively inexpensive, sold in a pair costing around $25 per set.

I'm now a believer of wine specific glasses.

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Monday, May 24, 2010

Study your bottle! Something to Look for on the Label

Saw something interesting while taking pictures in class the other day,

Not sure what we're looking at?

Take a closer look:

Definition: A pregnant woman should not consume alcohol (No kidding..)

How about this one?

Man carrying a wine barrel on his shoulders = Vigneron Ind├ępendant (Independent wine producers). I'm sure no one carries the barrel on their backs anymore, there are enough fork lifts out there, or at least carts with wheels.

When I inquired about these symbols, I was told that we sometimes see these symbols on labels because certain vineyards from France are too small for US importers to either create a new label, or re-label their bottles. Therefore, these cute and/ or somewhat disturbing images would appear on the side of the bottle.

Now I'm a huge advocate with these little eye catching logos, whatever the purpose may be. These drawings convey a lot in a small space, whereas words could possibly take up several lines. Just think about how easy it'd be to draw a circle head and baby bump body to convey that pregnant women should not drink.

I definitely think vineyards in the US should have them too!

Anyone else have more logos or labels to share?

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Friday, May 21, 2010

Willamette Valley's Painted Lady Restaurant

Chris wrote an entry earlier alluding to our trip to the Portland Willamette Valley wine area. This was our first trip up to another wine area on the left coast, and we were really excited about going somewhere new to us.

We've heard so many great things about our sister wine city up north in Oregon. For one thing, they grow a bounty of the pinot noir grape; which is one of my favorite varietals. I also had a chance to sample quite a few of these Oregon wines at Pinot Days in LA, so that really got me hyped up to make this trip up.

I planned the trip for us to go to Portland. It was in honor of Chris for her hen's party, so I took the reigns to find some good activities wine related.

One special activity that I wanted to find for Chris was a fine dining experience in the Willamette Valley. I scoured the internet and read reviews for hours on end to get to the star of this blog, The Painted Lady restaurant.

This restaurant is dubbed the "French Laundry of the Willamette Valley." I do not remember where I ready this, but I was open to trying it out. The owners are a husband and wife team with roots to Napa, so it was plausible that they were bringing some of their old Napa experience with them up north.

I was mostly intrigued by the quaint, small town feel from the photos on the website. The building was a restored home, where the entry is the house's original front door. How cozy to feel like you're coming over to Allen Routt and Jessica Bagley's house for dinner one night.

I made reservations a couple months in advance to ensure a seating on a prime Saturday night. The restaurant is an intimate setting with seating for maybe two dozen people in the downstairs dining room.

From the moment we walked into the restaurant, I knew we were in for a treat. The space itself gave such a warm feeling of coming over to a friend's house. We were greeted very kindly at the door, and then escorted to our table overlooking the fireplace.

We purused the wine list and menu while chatting. The menu was quite impressive in both its use of local ingredients, as well as, the variety and unique preparations; showcasing the creativity the Chef. Our server explained both the non-meat and meat pre-fixe menus to us, and gave us freedom to mix and match to create a custom tasting.

Since there were four of us at dinner, we pretty much ordered everything on the menu in some combination! In addition, a couple of us decided to add the wine pairing just to round out the meal. After that was all handled, we prepared to feast.

The first course was the amuse bouche. That first bite of potato croquette set the tone of the night. It was crunchy, yet fluffy goodness on the inside. The tomato soup was surprisingly refreshing, and the duck on the spoon delighted the mouth.

For the next 4 1/2 hours after the amuse bouche, the four of us happily chatted, drank and ate to our hearts content. Course after course we were wowed with the feast for the eyes, and then of course, the feast for the stomach. I've never so enjoyed sitting for that many hours for a meal. What a treat.
I'll have to say that the highlights of the evening for me were the red meat course, and my miso custard dungeoness crab (chawan mushi, not pictured). Both dishes were very memorable because of its delicate preparation and the taste was rich without being overpowering. The meat was cooked perfectly.

I'm going to let the photos speak for themselves. The food was excellent and I am impressed by the Painted Lady in Newberg, Oregon.

You should go see for yourself the Painted Lady restaurant in the Willamette Valley, Oregon.
201 S College Road
Newberg, OR

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

2010 Joseph Phelps Insignia Event - Napa

Last Saturday, Corque made its appearance at the annual Joseph Phelps' Insignia Release Party. If you are not familiar with this event, its a members only party held every May to celebrate the next release of the Insignia label of Joseph Phelps Wines.

The Insignia is the luxury blend of the Joseph Phelps wine label. It consists mostly of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, with a blend of Petit Verdot, and sometimes a bit of Cab Franc, Merlot or Malbec. It might even be something else too, it depends on the winemaker or year. Whatever the blend, assuredly, it will be a beautifully smooth and rich wine to keep in the collection.

If you ask any member of Joseph Phelps Vineyards, they will tell you that the Insignia event is the premier event in the valley. Several hundred members will descend on the Napa Valley every Spring to be in attendance.

Why not come to this party? It's such an amazing event. You get your invite in the mail every year to RSVP to one of the three days. If you're lucky, you'll get your plus 1 ticket for the coveted Saturday afternoon party and off you go. I plan every May around this party because it's that spectacular.

You arrive in your car at the gate just before the 11am start time. There are about 8 cars ahead of you who had the same idea. We all wait patiently for the go ahead from the valet stand to proceed onto the grounds to get the party started. The shuttle vans await your boarding to take you on the short ride up to the top of the hill where you will spend the next few hours tasting to your hearts delight.

When you de-bus you are greeted by a chilled glass of Joseph Phelps Sauvignon Blanc and a small appetizer tray. The appetizer tray is best used to fill up on dim sum, fries, mini croque monsieur bites, slider burgers, cheese, dried fruits, cannoli, and then repeat. I did say the event was pretty nice.

We spotted Theresa Heredia, the winemaker for Freestone Winery. My husband actually went to speak to her because of his interest in Pinot Noir. I bumped into Bill Phelps, son of Joseph Phelps, while waiting for my pour of the 2008 Insignia barrel taste. Both people we met were very kind and cordial. Even amongst the 100s of people that pass through, both still took a moment to say hello and chat. This really gives me a bit more of the human side to these giant and well known producers of Napa Valley.

Joseph Phelps treats their members well, that's all I have to say. My husband and I have been members for a number of years and this event never disappoints. We had some amazing tastes of every available varietal of wine under the Phelps label, including the Freestone and Fogdog sister property on the Sonoma side.

Some of the tastings included 2006, 2007, and 2008 (barrel taste) Insignia, Freestone Chardonnay, Freestone Pinot, Fog Dog Pinot, Le Mistral, Cabernet Sauvignon, just to name a few. You might even find a few library wines being poured through the day, including the 2000 Insignia, or the 1993 Cabernet Sauvignon that we snagged from someone pouring out of a carafe.

Of all the many wines that were sampled, the 2007 Insignia really stood out to me that day. It just seemed so balanced and sophisticated, like a classic Insignia. Perhaps it had an ideal growing season, or the blend was just right, or the winemaker did something perfectly. Whatever the case, it was very impressive to me and I promptly had another taste right then and there. If Insignia was a bit more affordable, I would probably stock up on a bunch. I just have a couple bottles stored from buying futures, so I'll probably hang onto it for a while and wait and see how great it turns out.

Joseph Phelps Insignia Event - you have amazed me once again. See you next year!

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Girls Night In with Beef Noodle Soup

Many, if not all, of my friends are foodies. When we are together, we are either trying out a new restaurant, revisiting some of our all time favorites, or bragging about our most recent conquest. 

A select few are not just foodies who talk about food, but they make great stuff in their kitchen. My friends Jia happens to be one of them. When Jia offered to come over and cook her famous beef noodle soup, I happily accepted and offered to be her sous chef for the evening.

Since I wasn't the preparing the dish, I thought I'd get a lot of prep-shots. I was WRONG. Jia worked so fast that I didn't even know what really hit me, and by the time I opened and poured us both a nice glass of Cava, she was D-O-N-E.

No kidding. What many considered a daunting dish to make, Jia somehow was able to make it in sonic speed and left the entire pot to simmer in under 30 minutes all by herself. Leaving me a little tipsy and in complete awe of her swiftness.

It takes about 2 hours to cook, making sure the beef is super tender, and for the stock to reach to its full potential. We ordered 500 days of Summer on TV, and polished off the rest of the Cava, opened another bottle of '06 Amarone while watching Zooey Deschanel & Joseph Gordon Levitt being their very charming selves.

Two hours later~

We boiled some frozen udon that I had bought from the market

Added some cilantro & green onions to them mix, aromatics are essential in this dish.
One should always include some veggies in each meal!

Alas, a romantic dinner for two!

A bottle of Cava was opened during the beginning of prep time, since we both weren't huge fans, I neglected to do any tasting notes. The '06 Amarone was picked up from Trader Joe's for the dinner itself. I think it would've worked better with a Chianti, but there wasn't another drop left in the end, so I guess it wasn't all that bad?

Finally, no dinner is complete without dessert, cupcakes a la Becker's in Manhattan Beach

Now, what do you feel like cooking tonight?

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Obsessive wine consumption: Inama Vin Soave 2008, Veneto, Italy

Wine, like food, is meant to be shared.

Good company >> relaxed & joyous atmosphere + good bottle of wine = A great time!

Lately I've been pretty obsessed with a bottle of Soave from Veneto, Italy. (I pronounce it Su-A-Vey, as in Rico Suave) I tasted the wine for the first time in my wine class a couple of months ago, and tasting note reads:

Inama Vin Soave, Soave Classico 2008
Region: Veneto, Italy (Verona on label)
Varietal: Garganega (white)
Alcohol: 12%

Visual: Clear, medium with straw colored hue
A moderate developing nose with hints of: green apple, honey, honeysuckle, lime flowers, and certain mineral-like feel

Palate: dry with medium acidity
Light use of oak, with a moderate intensity. Hints of chamomile, key lime, and more apparent minerals.
Soft and smooth on palate.

Now here's the best part, myself, along with the rest of the class plus instructor, all agreed that this was a pretty decent bottle of wine, what caught my attention more than anything else, was the fact that the bottle of wine was a mere $12.99!!

oh yes. $15 and under. Great bottle of wine to share !

Garganega (gar-gan-e-ga) is 1,500 year-old grape originating from Greece, it is now the most planted white grape varietal in the Northeastern part of Italy with well known cities such as Venice & Verona. The 6th most planted white grape in the country, Garganega is often recognized for its beautiful fragrant aroma.

Upon learning about its price, I went over to our local wine supplier and bought 6 bottles in a heartbeat. We've paired it with mostly fish, some chicken, and even a few pork dishes. It is extremely friendly to a beginner's palate, and thus have been such a huge hit amongst our family and friends. A few self-proclaimed winos have also enjoyed the bottle tremendously because it is lesser-known than Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay. My most converted believer actually ordered a case, proclaiming it as her entertaining drink of choice.

Remember the formula above?

Good company >> relaxed & joyous atmosphere + good bottle of wine under $15 bucks! = absolute Euphoria :)

Find one at your local wine retailer and tell us how you like it!

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