(As written by Wyatt Williams for Creative Loafing 5/2/11)
Behind the pecky cypress-paneled dining room of Empire State South, executive chef Ryan Smith is standing in the kitchen. A hog’s head brines in a pot to his side. A nearby white board is covered with notes like “SIX HAMS OFF CURE MAY 10.” He’s arranged a spread of groceries from the Sweet Auburn Curb Market on the counter in front of him, assessing how best to use the vegetables and legumes — okra, corn, butter beans, pink-eyed peas — that he casually purchased without much of a plan earlier this morning. At the center of the spread, though, are a few cuts that make Smith’s meal a truly under-twenty-dollar affair: two pig ears, a couple of smoked ham hocks, and a big, flat piece of tripe. Hugh Acheson, the pretty “Top Chef Masters” star and part owner of Empire State South, saunters over in pristine chef whites behind Smith and cracks, “Pig ears? Tripe? Yeah, like anyone is going to make that.”
F&W’s Ray Isle makes it easy to find a wonderful bottle no matter where you are—even if it’s a so-so wine shop or a chain restaurant.
Shopping for wine is great fun—unless you are trying to find a specific wine, in which case it becomes extremely frustrating. That’s because even a good shop can carry only a tiny fraction of the vast number of wines available in the United States. Look for one made in limited amounts, and you’re likely to end up thwarted. But there’s a way to improve the odds. Recently, I tasted more than 70 wines produced or imported in amounts greater than 150,000 cases per year, enough to stock store shelves nationwide. Here you’ll find my 10 picks, plus my favorite new website and wine-finding apps and my six rules for making wine simple and accessible.
5 Accessible Value Red Wines
2009 Alamos Malbec ($11) Made by Argentina’s illustrious Catena family, Alamos’s bottling shows exactly what people love about Malbec: dense, dark-berry fruit and smoky spice notes.
2008 Bogle Vineyards Petite Sirah ($12) Bogle released its first Petite Sirah back in 1978, before many people had ever heard of the variety. Petite Sirah is still less well known than it should be, especially given how appealing this boysenberry-scented wine is.
2008 Apothic Red ($14) This lush, fruity blend of Zinfandel, Merlot and Syrahwill be hard to resist for people whose taste leans toward big, supercharged reds.
2007 Rodney Strong Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon ($17) Aided by a terrific vintage, longtime winemaker Rick Sayre has created an impressively layered, cassis-inflected Cabernet.
2008 La Crema Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($24) Winemaker Melissa Stackhouse’s deft touch with Pinot Noir is especially impressive given how much she makes of this basic Sonoma Coast bottling. The wine is elegant and aromatic, with plenty of dark-cherry fruit.
5 Accessible Value White Wines
2009 Chateau Ste Michelle Columbia Valley Riesling ($9) This off-dry (i.e., lightly sweet) bottling is a good example of how a touch of sweetness can nicely set off Riesling‘s lively acidity. Anyone skeptical of off-dry whites should try the wine with a spicy Asian dish like a Thai curry: It’s an ideal match.
2009 Kris Pinot Grigio ($14) This nectariney wine is made by noted Alto Adige producer Franz Haas, in conjunction with US–based importer Leonardo Locascio. It has much more personality than many similarly priced Pinot Grigios.
2009 Chateau St Jean Sonoma County Chardonnay ($14) Winemaker Margo Van Staaveren’s basic Chardonnay has been a go-to value white for many years now, and the ’09 will only sustain the wine’s reputation. Silky, with an alluring touch of sweet oak, it’s classic California Chardonnay.
2009 Nobilo Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc ($14) A combination of grapes from Marlborough’s Awatere and Wairau subregions gives this white a good balance of crisp gooseberry and citrus fruit and the grassy, herbal notes that are the hallmarks of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.
2008 Simi Sonoma County Chardonnay ($20) Affordable Chardonnays rarely have this much poise. That’s partly a result of this wine’s blend of regions, in which grapes from the Russian River Valley, the Alexander Valley and Carneros provide succulent fruit, ripe depth and bright citrus notes in equal proportion.
Useful Wine-Finding Tech Tools
With help from the Web or a smartphone, tracking down a particular bottle is getting easier. Here, three great digital tools.
Snooth Wine Pro Snap a picture of a wine label; this clever app will search its vast database of wines to point you to a retailer and tell you the best prices. $5; itunes.apple.com.
Cor.kz Wine Info Cor.kz scans bar codes to bring up wine availability. It can also compare different vintages of the same wine. $4; cor.kz.
Vinopedia.com This intelligently designed new site finds stores that carry a particular wine and generates an interactive map.
There are different parameters for the terms “locally grown” and “locally produced.” Many consider “local” to indicate products that are grown/produced within a radius of 150 miles of the point of consumption. In some situations, the distance is extended. For example, some types of seafood, to be considered “local,” would have to extend either to the Atlantic coast or Gulf of Mexico — extending beyond 250 miles.
The term “organic” is defined and regulated by the u.S. Department of Agriculture (uSDA). Organic foods are products grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms or ionizing radiation. The uSDA also requires organic meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products to be produced from animals free of antibiotics or growth hormones. “Natural” attached to a product, on the other hand, indicates that there were no artificial flavorings, coloring or chemical preservatives and minimal processing.
The uSDA also regulates label standards for organic products. The label “100% organic,” indicates just that: 100% of the ingredients are organic. The sole word, “organic,” indicates that 95% of the ingredients are organic. Organic ingredients listed on the side label of a product indicate that less than 70% of the ingredients are organic. Companies that handle or process organic foods for public consumption are required to be certified by the uSDA through their Organic Seal designation.
Debby Cannon, Ph.D., CHE
July/August 2010 This entry was posted on Thursday, July 29th, 2010 at 5:35 pm and is filed under Chef Insights.
This one weekend, two day event is packed with interactive demonstration, health lectures, workshops, and kids activities that the whole family can enjoy! Each year over 30,000 Atlanta & Seattle consumers attend the Alive! Expo to learn how to integrate health and wellness into environmentally responsible, GREEN living and to create a positive impact on the world as a whole. Attendees get a chance to experience all the newest and best natural, organic, green and eco products for your home and their entire family, even the pets!
Each year Alive! Expo draws over 300 national and local companies representing industries such as: Natural/Organic Foods, Natural & Organic Personal Care/Natural Beauty, Vitamins & Supplements, Alternative & Herbal Medicines, Natural & Eco Pet Products, Green Home & Eco Household Products, Eco Fashion & Accessories, Books/Videos, Sportswear, Health/Fitness/Gyms and Yoga/Pilates Studios, Natural Spa Products & Services, GREEN & Recycled Products, Environmentally Friendly Products and Hybrid & Electric Cars.
Among the exhibits, the show additionally features: Healthy Cooking Demos, Healthy Organic & Local Food and Wine Tasting, Interactive Pilates and Yoga Demos, Complimentary Health & Wellness Screenings, Live Lectures by Industry Experts, Fun Kid’s Corner with an On-Site Daycare, PLUS you can Buy & Sample Your Favorite Natural Products and Receive Free Product Samples.
With something fun and exciting for every member of the family – this is a weekend event you will NOT want to miss!!!
“Outdoor Festival Season” is my favorite time of year in Atlanta. This is a great way to kick it off! Sweetwater 420, a local favorite, will be celebrated all weekend long with live music, art, vendors, and of course, street food! Oh and don’t for get all the Sweetwater 420. Don’t miss it. See you there!