It has been a while since I wrote with news about First Vine and our wines. So this week I have a few items to share.
In This Case, You Can Judge a Wine by its Label
When I think about a wine competition, this is what runs through my head: Judges seated at a long table with several glasses in front of them; swirling, sniffing, sipping, and spitting, all with inscrutable looks on their faces. The judges then retire to their lair, where they hold a scholarly discussion replete with tons of wine adjectives. Then one judge looks down through the reading glasses perched at the end of his or her nose and intones (generally with a slight British accent), “I think we’ve made our decision, haven’t we…” and they all file out to address a crowd that is hushed in anticipation for this VERY SERIOUS result.
Well, they’re not all like that. Sometimes wine contests are about things other than wine. Like labels.
VinoPress, a Belgian wine magazine, held its annual two-day Drink Pink rosé wine fair in Brussels and The Hague a few weeks ago. Producers of rosés from all over the world came to exhibit. Including one of our Spanish producers, Bodega Hiriart in Cigales.
Roel Diterwich, Hiriart’s Export Manager, was showing Hiriart’s rosés at the fair. He put the wines in the central fridge on the first day of the show, and by the end of the day found that one bottle was missing. The next day in The Hague he got approached by a few people asking odd questions (and for multiple refills), and was then told that the Lágrima Rosado was a finalist in a secret label contest that none of the exhibitors was told about – that’s why the bottle had been taken on the first day.
Finally, at the end of the fair, the show management announced that the Lágrima had won the award for “Coolest Pink Wine Label!” The judges noted its originality, with its colors complimenting the wine, and its representation of the grape-growing landscape of Cigales. (I guess the judges had to decide if the wine was good, too – it wouldn’t do to have the winner be undrinkable…)
When I first posted about Bodega Hiriart, I mentioned the excellent labels – they’re what made me decide to taste the wines in the first place. It’s great to see Hiriart getting more recognition for them.
And of course, the Lágrima is a wonderful wine, too. Roel also told me it earned a silver medal at Spain’s bi-annual Bacchus competition held in Madrid in mid-March. So it’s a winner, inside and out!
Now Available in More States
First Vine has signed up with Vinoshipper, a wine shipping/fulfillment company located in California, to make our wines available in more states. They’re already available in Washington DC, Virginia, Alaska, and California. But being allied with Vinoshipper allows us to ship to 13 additional states: Florida, Idaho, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
If you live in one of those states, or want to ship First Vine wine to people who live there, go to First Vine’s Vinoshipper page. While we will pack the order here in DC and ship it out, the actual order has to be made through the Vinoshipper site. This is because Vinoshipper has acquired the permits allowing us to ship wine to each of those states – a very costly and time-consuming ordeal that would be a full-time job for us here if we were to do it ourselves. (We’re in the process of modifying our site to link with Vinoshipper, so stay tuned for that.)
Not all of our wines are available on Vinoshipper yet. Once we get new shipments (see below), we’ll be adding the rest of them. We’re excited to have a new audience of potentially millions of wine drinkers – so tell your friends!
Fresh on the Boat
We’ve got a shipment of new wines and new vintages arriving in the U.S. on April 13, and they’ll be available for sale by the end of the month.
What’s new? A 2011 Côtes du Rhône Viognier from Cave la Romaine is the big news. Viognier is the signature wine grape of many Virginia wineries. I know you’ll welcome the chance to compare this French wine with its Virginia counterpart. We’ve also got a new everyday Côtes du Ventoux white from Cave la Romaine that will – along with the Tradition red and rosé — allow us to continue to offer a trifecta of great wines for $10, just in time to enjoy in warm weather.
As for new vintages, we’re getting two 2011 rosés from the Rhône valley, and rumor has it that this is a terrific year for rosés. We’re also getting some reds from Cave la Vinsobraise, including the now-legendary 2009 vintage of the Emeraude. (Yes, legendary – and you know I’m not prone to flights of exaggerated wine ecstasy, so stay tuned).
No, Really, I Couldn’t…Oh, Maybe Just a Taste…
Just a quick word about two tastings coming up in April. You can read more about them on our events link up top, too. We’re flouting the fates and celebrating Friday the 13th at Goodwood with a tasting of wines for spring. And on Thursday the 19th we’ll be at Nana, recently voted DC’s best clothing boutique, for a fundraiser for a team participating in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. We’ll be serving different wines at the two tastings, so be sure to come to both.
Order some wine while you’re at Goodwood and we’ll love you forever. Order wine while you’re at Nana and not only will we love you, but we’ll donate 10% of the proceeds to the Avon Walk (Nana will also give 10% of purchases in the store). Who knew it was so easy to drink and do good at the same time?
My husband Cy and I are fortunate to have foodie families. They love cooking and eating, and we always leave a visit to either side a little less svelte than when we arrived. We were up in New York visiting Cy’s family a few weeks ago for Nov Rooz, the Persian New Year. Cy’s brother Hormoz and his wife, Cecile, brought a wonderful appetizer to the big dinner, and I’ve got the recipe for you here.
Horm and Cecile are a League of Nations under one roof. Cecile is ethnic Chinese but was raised in Ecuador. Horm and Cy’s father is from Iran, and their mother is from Holland. Horm loves to throw ingredients together from all of these food traditions. Most of the time they’re very good. And sometimes, they’re amazing. Like this Asian-inspired recipe for pork shoulder that’s miles better than any General Tso’s/Kung Pao/Moo Shoo that you’ll get from your average (or even better-than-average) Chinese takeout place.
It couldn’t be simpler. Salt, pepper, and flour the chunks of pork shoulder and brown them in vegetable oil in an oven-safe pot. While they’re browning, heat up (in a different pot) equal parts Hoisin Sauce, Oyster Sauce, and Orange Marmalade, along with a little soy. (I also added some chili paste for a little heat). Remove the browned pork and sauté some minced garlic and fresh ginger in the same pan. Return the meat and add the heated sauce. Bring to a boil, then bake, uncovered, for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so until the sauce is thick and really clings to the pork. Sprinkle the pork with some sesame seeds.
Horm served the pieces of pork on toothpicks with some cucumber tossed in rice vinegar – he suggested adding a little red pepper too, as I’ve done in the photo. But you can serve it over rice with some stir-fried vegetables, or over a salad (including the cucumber and red pepper) dressed with a little rice vinegar and oil. You could also make the recipe with boneless, skinless chicken thighs.
And by all means serve the Hiriart Lágrima Rosado ($13) with it. Made from Tempranillo, Grenache, and Verdejo, it’s on the livelier side of the rosé spectrum, so it goes beautifully with all those flavors. And who wouldn’t want the world’s Coolest Pink Wine Label on the table, no matter what you’re eating?
2 pounds trimmed boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1” to 1-1/2” cubes (I used boneless country-style ribs, and they worked perfectly)
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 cloves garlic, minced fine
One 1-1/2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced fine
½ cup Hoisin Sauce
½ cup Oyster Sauce
½ cup Orange Marmalade
3 tablespoons soy sauce
Asian chili paste, chili/garlic sauce, or chili sauce to taste
2-3 tablespoons sesame seeds
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Dry the pork pieces with paper towels, then salt and pepper them. Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large oven-safe pot or skillet. While the oil is heating, spread the flour on a plate, then flour about half the pork pieces, shaking off the excess flour. Brown them on all sides, regulating the heat so that the pieces brown nicely but the flour doesn’t burn. Remove the pieces from the pot with a slotted spoon and put them in a bowl. Add more oil to the pot, and flour and brown the remaining pork pieces.
While you’re browning the pork, combine the Hoisin Sauce, Oyster Sauce, Orange Marmalade, soy sauce, and about a teaspoon of the chili paste (more if you’re using chili sauce) in a medium saucepan. Heat the mixture to a simmer, then turn off the heat and cover the pot to keep the sauce warm.
When all the pork is brown, add a little more oil, then sauté the garlic and ginger for about 30 seconds. Pour in the warm sauce and scrape up any browned bits stuck to the pan. Add the meat and any meat juices from the bowl into the pan and stir everything up. Using a heatproof rubber spatula, clean the inside of the pot above the liquid line – because of the sugar in the sauce it will burn easily, and this makes cleanup easier.
Put the pot in the oven, and bake uncovered for 30 to 40 minutes. Stir thoroughly every 10 minutes and clean off the pot again after each stirring. After 20 minutes, taste the sauce and add more chili paste or chili sauce if you’d like to. The sauce should be very thick and cling nicely to the pork pieces. Let the pork cool for a few minutes before serving, or cool completely if you want to serve it as an appetizer. Sprinkle the pork with the sesame seeds.
Serving suggestions. For an appetizer: Peel a cucumber and cut it in half lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds, then slice crosswise into half-inch slices. Toss the slices with a tablespoon of rice vinegar. Cut a red bell pepper into one-inch squares. Skewer a pepper square with a toothpick, then a cucumber slice, then a piece of pork. For a salad: Dress a salad (including red pepper and cucumber) with rice vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper, and serve the pork pieces on top. For an entrée: Stir fry onion, red pepper, and cabbage and combine with the pork pieces. Add roasted peanuts or cashews if you’d like. Serve over rice.