Thursday, January 27, 2011

On the Lookout...for Wine?

It always amazes me how prolific the internet can be.  My article:  Beyond Napa and Sonoma, Wine Regions of California made top feed for this Switzerland-based newspaper.  Ha!

Follow me there:

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Asia Becoming a Strong Presence in Wine Sales

Grape Creek Winery, Texas

Asia has its liquors, some include Sake, Shoju, and Lao Lao.  People have enjoyed them for centuries without complaint, without a feeling of longing or need.  Asians were content.

Until now.

According to statics for 2010, the US is now exporting more wine to Asia than any other place in the world.  Things look serious.  Young, middle class professionals across Asia are looking for more variety in their libations--and are willing to spend money to get it.

In 2002, when I lived in Japan, a bottle of cheap Sutter Home table wine cost $50 and came in a 500ml bottle.  Wine was expensive and came with temple-throbbing headaches.  During my months traveling, I went without.  So much so that when I returned home after almost two years overseas, I refused to buy any wine except American.  Some people thought it was naive, resigned to beliefs that American wine was somehow inferior.   Please.  I knew what bad wine tasted like and it wasn't in any of the bottles I was getting from Mendocino County.

Now with demand on the rise, China and Hong Kong seem to be at the front of the checkout line, acquiring and consuming massive quantities.  This got me thinking about where all this wine came from.   Of course the answer is not simple.  American wine comes from a myriad of valleys, vistas, and mountain sides.  And I'm not going to lie...some surprised me.

Check out my articles about American wine regions.  

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Trappist Beer

Football and beer meld together into a season of strong safeties like Troy Polamalu and strong ales like Rochefort 10.  This fall, I've developed a curiosity over Trappist beer.  The long history and strict regulations are fascinating.  To top it off, only six breweries in the world can make Trappist Beer.

Isn't there always a magnetic draw between a consumer and a product hundreds of years old and in limited supply?

My article sums it better:  What is Trappist Beer?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Traveling in Japan on a Budget

Temple View at Miyajima Island, Hiroshima, Japan

If I asked Neil how much a bowl of kishimen soup cost us at a now-closed noodle shop in the small town of Kozoji, under the train station, in 2003, he'd know the answer.  If I asked him how many hours we spent on the slow trains from Nagoya to Nagaski, he'd have the time down to the minute.  My husband is like a crazed ninja-bookkeeper of travel.  If he can't recall a name, date, or menu price, he has it written down in one of his notebooks, stowed carefully in a box on a shelf in the basement.

His mind never ceases to amaze me.  When I'm ready to give up, he says, "Wait.  Let me find my notes."

On our computer, Neil maintains a folder called <NDF> with a subfolder <Travel> and a sub-sub folder called <Japan>.  Logically organized.  In these files, he and I have compiled our memories of Japan, our adventures, mishaps, and lessons learned--sometimes painfully.  

Some files don't mean much to anyone except the two of us.  Other files we've edited and farmed out to people who needed information on Japan.

In the quest to share, the following article accounts for some of our best lessons learned in Nippon.  Click here:  Traveling in Japan on a Budget.

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

On the Whiskey Shelf

The Whiskey Ward, New York City
Photo: Neil Friedman

“What’ll you have?”  The bartender at the Whiskey Ward takes position at the bar, hands pressed against the wood, arms flexed and his face patient.  Behind him, the wall is covered with lovely bottles of whiskey—Bourbon, rye, Scotch, Irish, Japanese.  Like little soldiers, they sit under long menus that list single barrels and malts and batch.  The bartender is probably used to it but I’m taking my time, enjoying the sheer breadth of the options.  There are over 100 bottles alongside the usual lineup of libations.

Whiskey can be a hard sell for women.  The heat and rush of this spirit can overwhelm the senses.  In 2011, people have their choice of drink.  Fruity drinks with crushed ice.  Sparkling drinks in tall flutes.  Dark beers crafted by Belgian monks.  Wines from vineyards centuries old.  So why should anyone consider this distilled delight?

Woodford Reserve, Kentucky Bourbon Trail
Photo: Neil Friedman

Let’s talk Bourbon.  Regulated by law and location, sour mash is made from corn and aged in charred oak barrels that can only be used once.

Bourbon Barrels, Kentucky Bourbon Trail
Photo: Neil Friedman

At the risk of being called vain, I also like whiskey because it's weight friendly: 40 calories. 

It mingles well with others.  Makers and ginger ale is a year round favorite.  Mint Juleps are nice too, extra mint please.  During winter, hot toddies are perfect with lemon and a shot of Blantons.  The citrus tickles my nose.  The tea feathers across my eyelashes.  And the whiskey takes all the warmth straight to my toes.

Maker's Mark, Kentucky Bourbon Trail

It’s indigenous.  Bourbon is American.  Scottish distillers immigrated to America in search of the Great Dream.  They moved to Kentucky for good water to make their libations and bad roads to keep authorities out.
Aging Process, Bourbon Distillery
Photo: Neil Friedman

Kentucky summers make Bourbon unique.  Stored in warehouses, the barrels expand and pull the liquor into its charred staves.  As winter comes, the wood contracts and squeezes the whiskey back into the cask.  The years pass and the process continues until the Bourbon is ready with its caramel spicy flavors and smooth finish. 

So when the bartender asks what I’ll have the first thought is everything.  My answer: How about a flight?