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Western Civ 101

by Jennifer Rosen

Jesus was not a party animal. The Last Supper was hardly the blowout of the season. So why would he waste his quota of miracles on something so frivolous as turning water into wine. We use wine to celebrate, relax, pontificate and get drunk. It’s hard to imagine that this frill on the apron of life was largely responsible for the rise of Western Civilization. I’m exaggerating, right? You decide. The first Neolithic spree was probably honey gone bad. It’s a short step from there to grapes. With their high sugar content and crushability, they practically vinify themselves. And you could always follow drunken bears into the woods to find where the grapes were fermenting. But vines you strip in the course of a bison hunt make a short and awkward vintage. There...

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When Corks Attack

by Jennifer Rosen

It was hardly an international incident, but embarrassing all the same. The highly-touted Zinfandel I ordered to impress Xavier Berger-Devieux, winemaker and proprietor of Burgundy’s Manoir de Mercey, wasn’t really terrible, just…blah. I meant to show that America had the chops, vinously speaking, to give France a run for her Euros. But I blew it. Or did I? Perhaps the wine was corked, or tainted by 2-4-6 Trichloroanisole (TCA), a bacteria you can detect in concentrations akin to one sugar cube dissolved in 100 Olympic swimming pools. Corked wines are musty, grassy, reminiscent of wet cardboard. So if my Zinfandel was corked, wouldn’t I know it? Not necessarily. TCA can also steal in, make off with all the fruit, aromas, and other goodies, and scamper out without leaving a...

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Premium Imported Vodka

by Ron Kapon

In the summer of 2002 forty members of the Greater New York Chapter of Tasters Guild International tasted and evaluated 13 premium vodkas. Our speaker for that tasting was educator and author Harriet Lembeck. Since that tasting the premium imported vodka category has exploded with growth. There are new brands appearing seemingly every week. To update this tasting I changed the rules slightly; I still had 13 vodkas but only plain, no flavors and all were imports. Eleven new ones plus two from the 2002 tasting (the winner and last place finisher). For the previous tasting the vodkas were served open so everyone knew what they were tasting. This time the tasting was done singly blind. That is, the vodkas were listed but none except me knew which was which. I did not participate in the tasting...

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Wines Of Sicily

by Ron Kapon

The largest of the Mediterranean Islands, Sicily is separated from the rest of Italy by the 2-½ mile Straits of Messina. Hot and dry on the coast, temperate and moist in the interior, 85% of Sicily is mountainous or hilly. The land’s archeological finds, slower pace (except the drivers); its vineyards, lemon, orange, almond and cherry trees and olive groves offer a proud heritage of sights and sensual experiences. The Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Arabs, Byzantines and Normans all left their archaeological wonders and influences on the Island’s early history. Sicily is one large open-air museum. The times, they are a-changing. Sicily is the second largest wine producer of Italy’s 20 regions, with almost half a million acres under vine. In the past, most of the Island’s p...

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Coffe And Wine - The Similarities

by Ron Kapon

Two of life’s most satisfying libations- a great glass of wine and a freshly brewed cup of coffee. One of my pet peeves is the poor quality, or improperly made, coffee I have endured over 45 years of eating in restaurants. I remember the quality and freshness of the food and the selection and pricing of the wine service. The last impression I have of the restaurant is the coffee service, good or bad. Coffee and wine tasting terminology are very similar. Estate coffee is sold in whole bean form as opposed to supermarket brands sold in cans or jars. Flavor, acidity and body are the three fundamental tasting terms. Flavor is the total impression of aroma (the odor or fragrance of the brewed coffee); acidity is the brisk, snappy quality that makes it refreshing; body is the weight of...

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Wine And Cheese - California Style

by Ron Kapon

Approximately 46% of all California milk goes into making California cheese. One out of every six pounds of cheese produced in the Unites States comes from California. Nearly 90% of the cheeses produced in California are Mozzarella, Cheddar or Monterey Jack. The rest are “specialty” cheeses like Brie and Camembert. California is the leading dairy state, surpassing Wisconsin in 1993 in milk production. They are also number one in ice cream production. They are number two in cheese and butter production. Per capita cheese consumption rose nationally fro 26 pounds per person to more than 29 pounds between 1993 and 2000, and is projected to reach 37 pounds by 2009. From 1970 to 1997, milk consumption was down 22%, while cheese use was up 143%. The European tradition of the “chees...

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Israeli Wines Aren't Just Kosher

by Ron Kapon

Walk into your favorite wine shop and head for the kosher section. Look for the wines labeled “Product of Israel”. But first, let us look behind and beyond labels for a bit of history. According to Genesis, as soon as Noah emerged from his ark he planted a vineyard. Wine was made in Israel (Palestine) over 2,000 years before the vine ever reached Europe. When the Romans conquered the area, the Jews were dispersed along with their wine industry. During the Arab conquest all vineyards were uprooted because of the Moslem prohibition against alcohol. From 1882-1892 Baron Edmond de Rothschild (co-owner of Chateau Lafite) sent vines from the Rhone and Midi and built two wineries, in the French style. The weather in Palestine was thought to match that of the south of France. Th...

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Tequila- Montezuma's Legacy

by Ron Kapon

Tequila comes in several varieties and may be referred to in some circles as Montezuma's Legacy, but the fact of the matter is that it was crafted and refined by the Spanish. Like Mexican culture itself, Tequila is the result of a creative encounter between two worlds although it is likely that Mexicans would not be inclined to refer to it as creative as much as confrontational, an imposition and, reluctantly, a conquering. The ancient indigenous peoples of this romantic country drank the fermented juice of the agave in the same way that Europeans drank beer or wine. In colonial times, the Spanish came, they saw, and they introduced the distillation process to obtain the liquor now known as Tequila. It may be referred to in some circles as Montezuma's Legacy, but the fact of the matter ...

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All About The Bubbles

by Jamie Foster

From the February 2004 VinSenses Newsletter All About the Bubbles Early on, when we used dish detergent instead of Mr. Bubbles for our bubble baths, I realized that not all bubbles are created equal. In the world of sparkling wine, the same holds true, all bubbles are not created equal. There is more than one way to get the bubble in the bottle. One of the by-products of winemaking is carbon dioxide. When the carbon dioxide is not released, bubbles form under pressure in the wine producing sparkling wine. The most popular sparkling wine, Champagne, is produced using the Traditional Method. Sugar and yeast are added to the base wine and the wine undergoes a second fermentation in the bottle. The wine is aged on the lees, dead yeast, and then the lees are removed thro...

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Report From The Left Coast Or California Here I Am!

by Marlene Rossman

The climate is awesome, the scenery is great and the wines cannot be beat. And the wines are plentiful and available everywhere. The local category killer "pharmacy and health/beauty aids" chain, has a better selection of wine than some upscale wine shops in New York. From the huge supermarkets to the little corner bodegas, great wine is there for your drinking pleasure. California is the state where Two Buck Chuck became a household word and drink. Long story to short: A wine marketing pro who knew that there was a surplus of grapes got together with Trader Joe’s chain of quirky supermarkets and hatched the idea of selling passable wine for TWO bucks. Now, little old ladies (from Pasadena and elsewhere) are wheeling out cases of Two Buck Chuck (real name of brand; Charle...

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