We’re proud to announce that you can now buy 15 different wines imported by First Vine at DCanter, Washington DC’s newest wine store! DCanter is located at 545 8th St. SE, on Barrack’s Row.
Shocking, right? We’ve sold wine to a couple of restaurants over the years, but not to retail wine shops. So this is a departure for us, but a good one.
The most important factor in making the decision to sell wines to DCanter is that the owners, Michael and Michelle Warner, are very cool people. They love wine, obviously, but their enthusiasm for all things wine-related is great fun. When Michael and Michelle first approached us about First Vine wines, they told us they liked the way we pick our wines and the kind of information we provide on our website. And the store very much feels like the type of place we’d have had we gone the bricks-and-mortar route. DCanter is filled with great wines and beers, and nice people to help you. It’s a beautiful, welcoming space.
The second factor is that we’ve come to realize that there are some limitations to selling exclusively online. Many people are more comfortable buying a wine they don’t know from a shop run by people they trust to help them pick wines they like. Since we’ve been the only source in this area for the wines we carry up until now, it stands to reason that people would be less familiar with them. (Not for lack of trying on our part, obviously…) And when people try our wines at tastings, they often want to buy a bottle right away, not place an order and wait for delivery. Most of the time our tastings aren’t at places where you’re allowed to buy bottles and take them home right away.
After meeting Michael and Michelle and their trusty employees, we feel sure that they’ll be able to steer you to the right wines for you, even if they (heaven forbid) aren’t First Vine selections. And not only will our wines be part of the shop’s tasting rotation, but we’ll also be leading some tasting events there too.
We’ll still be selling online, of course, and there’s lots of exciting news brewing on that front, too (how’s that for a teaser?) But go and check DCanter out — this week is their official opening. If you’re not at the beach or the mountains enjoying the cool breezes, stop in and try the tasting selections. If you like our wines, we think you’ll like pretty much whatever they’re pouring.
While it has cooled off a bit from last week’s horror-soup of heat and humidity here in DC, it’s still summer. And summer means gelato, ice cream, frozen yogurt, or sorbet for many of us, including me. I’ve been wondering if there were a way to get wine into any of those. It’s easy enough to make a granita with wine, sugar, and maybe a little lemon juice for acidity. But while granitas are fun, you pretty much have to eat it right away — it picks up off-flavors quickly and the texture changes a lot after the first day. I was looking for something that I could keep for at least a few days.
A few years ago, I tried some extraordinarily expensive wine-flavored sorbets and they were pretty good, but I realized from the ingredient list they contained grape juice concentrate in addition to wine. While it’s possible that the Chardonnay sorbet contained both wine and grape juice from that grape, I figured it’s unlikely. So I thought about full-fledged ice cream made with white wine instead. Zabaglione, the Italian dessert, is made with Marsala wine, egg yolks, and sugar. Add some cream and you’ve got an instant ice cream base. But Marsala is pretty potent (both in alcohol and flavor) and I figured it would take a lot more white wine to give the same level of flavor.
I started looking for recipes online, and found zabagliones and ice creams that used various wines (or champagne) and different proportions of ingredients. In the end, I combined a few to create a new version using nearly a full bottle of white wine. Cy and I are going to try it out over the next couple of weeks. (Cy is the chief ice cream maker in our house.) It needs a beautifully-flavored white wine, one with enough acidity to be interesting. I think Bodega Traslagares Verdejo ($13) is a good choice. And you can buy it at DCanter, too. But you could also use a Viognier (like the one from Cave la Romaine, also available at DCanter) or a fruity New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc if you have one around.
If you’ve ever wondered why classically-trained chefs have enormous forearms (both men and women), it’s because of making things like zabaglione, where you have to whisk egg yolks, sugar, and alcohol constantly over hot water to make the custard. It takes a while, but you can also use a handheld electric mixer (provided you arrange things so you keep the cord away from the heat). It can take as long as 10 minutes, so be prepared. The mixture will foam, as you mix and heat it, then the foam will get thicker. The mixture won’t really thicken much, but it will become a little more viscous. You may see a tiny bit of steam coming up. If you’ve got an instant-read thermometer, the custard should be about 150 degrees F. At this point, you can also infuse the zabaglione with an herb like tarragon or rosemary. Chill it overnight, then combine it with whipped cream and process in your ice cream machine.
It sounds like work and it is — plus you have to make the custard the day (or evening) before you want to serve the ice cream so it can chill thoroughly. But how cool would it be to have a dessert made from the wine you’ve been serving with your summer meal? You’ll seem like Ina Garten, Martha Stewart, and Jacques Pépin all rolled into one. And you’ll have your arm workout without going to the gym.
[Note: after posting this recipe, I tried making it. I don’t usually post recipes I haven’t tried before, unless I’ve made something so similar it’s just a minor variation. The Verdejo Ice Cream recipe was a compilation from a few different online recipes that seemed unimpeachable, but the ice cream turned out differently than I thought it would. The version below is now corrected with the observations from actually making it. I apologize if anyone tried it and was confused by my directions. This one works and it’s delicious. It’s not rock-hard after a stay in the freezer, so don’t let it warm up, serve it right away.]
Makes 1.5 quarts**
8 egg yolks, from large eggs
1-3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2-1/2 cups excellent Verdejo (it’s nearly a full bottle, you can drink the rest yourself while you work)
1 sprig fresh tarragon or rosemary (optional)
2 cups heavy cream, very cold
The day before you plan to serve the ice cream, whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a large heatproof bowl until well mixed. Whisk in the salt and the Verdejo. Bring an inch of water to boil in a 4-quart saucepan. Turn the heat to very low and set the bowl with the egg yolk mixture over the pot. Begin whisking the mixture.
At this point you have to keep whisking, or use the electric mixture on medium-low speed to keep everything moving. Be sure to whisk all over and keep going. You’ll see it start to foam more, creating a nice thick foam on top. At this point, you can turn off the heat under the pot. The mixture will not thicken significantly, but will take on a consistency something like Creme Anglaise. Take it’s temperature with an instant read thermometer, and don’t let it get much above 150 degrees F. Take it off the heat, and scrape it into a smaller bowl. Add the herb sprig if you want, then put a sheet of plastic wrap right on the surface of the custard, covering it completely. Refrigerate overnight, or for at least six hours.
When it’s thoroughly chilled, remove the herb sprig if you used it. Beat the heavy cream with an electric mixer until it makes soft peaks. Using a whisk, fold the whipped cream into the chilled mixture, taking care not to deflate the cream too much. Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturer’s directions.
Transfer the soft ice cream to an airtight container, and use a piece of plastic wrap to cover the surface of the ice cream, like you did with the custard. Put the lid on the container and freeze for at least two hours before serving. If you’ve got leftovers, place a new piece of plastic wrap on the surface of the ice cream before putting it back in the freezer (this is a good thing to do with any ice cream, it helps prevent freezer burn.) The ice cream won’t be rock hard, and it will still be very soft when you take it out of the ice cream maker. No need to soften it before serving.
**Note: if your ice cream maker holds only one quart, you can use 6 egg yolks, 1-1/4 cups of sugar, 1-3/4 cups of Verdejo, a big pinch of salt, and 1-1/3 cups heavy cream.