wine

The Gentle Maven of Burgundy

It’s fashionable to stereotype Burgundy wines as overly complicated and too expensive. Becky Wasserman-Hone simply doesn’t buy it. She has heard it all before over her forty-year career as an expatriate-American working as an export-wine broker in Burgundy, but she refuses to let it derail her dedicated promotion of the wines and growers of her …

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World-Class Sparkling Pinot Noir from Pennsylvania? You Bet!

Discovering delicious surprises always provides a large part of the fun in drinking and sharing wines. Surprises keep you honest as a wine drinker while refreshing the senses and expanding the palate. Such is the case with the N.V. South Shore Wine Company, Sparkling Pinot Noir, Pennsylvania ($19.95; available online and at the winery). from …

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Combat Cold Weather with Époisses Cheese and Crisp Wines

Enduring cold weather at the start of a new year calls for serious measures. Time to break out the Époisses de Bourgogne cheese and tasty wines. Those already familiar with the glories of Époisses know what I mean. Once you’ve experienced Époisses, the intense sensory impressions cannot be forgotten. Passionate reactions are common. Époisses cheese …

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Days of Wine and Music

There are few things more enjoyable during beautiful weather than sitting outside with family or friends, listening to live music while sipping on wine. Fortunately, there is a charming, local, Tuscan-themed venue where one can do just that. Narcisi Winery, on route 910 in Gibsonia, is a family-owned endeavor that began in Italy generations ago. …

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The Box is Back

This was the first good sign: When I asked a group of friends to join me for a tasting of boxed wines, everyone thought it would be fun to participate. No “Ugh, boxed wines!” No questioning of my sanity. Once upon a time, these friends—wine aficionados all—would have been right to turn up their noses. …

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Judging the Best

Say “state fair” or “county fair” and most folks picture themselves under the summer sun, snacking on corn dogs and deep-fried Twinkies. It’s a summertime tradition across the country. My state fair routine is a little different. Maybe I’ll be in a conference room sorting through dozens of chardonnays or debating the merits of one merlot …

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The virtues of varietals

Good old Gallo hearty burgundy. Are you old enough to remember when that was the go-to wine for every dinner party? Lord knows what was in that jug, but it always tasted the same—red fruit, easy-drinking, probably sweeter than we’re used to these days. It was a blend of numerous grapes (including, reportedly, zinfandel and …

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For the holiday table

What do you do when someone arrives on your doorstep with a slab of homemade duck pastrami? At my house, we shout thanks and reach for a corkscrew. It’s a holiday tradition. Each winter, we set aside one evening at home when my foodie friends gather with us, bringing their special dishes to add to …

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Cool It This Summer

Some guys will always go for the blockbuster red wine: the high-alcohol zinfandel or inky shiraz. I can appreciate those big reds, too, if conditions are right (snow, cigars, a two-inch-thick porterhouse). But when summer mercifully comes to Pittsburgh, those monster reds are as out of place as a woolen overcoat worn poolside. It’s time …

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Quality Close to Home

I enjoy being a wine contrarian—advocating for delicious white wines when people are conditioned to order red, and pouring domestic for customers who wouldn’t dream of drinking anything but an import. On the question of wines from the eastern United States, however, I went along with the conventional wisdom for a long time. Wines from …

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Try a blind tasting

We ran a fun little wine-tasting experiment at the restaurant the other day, one you should try at home. It will be educational and thought-provoking. And if it goes as ours went, you may be a bit miffed by the results. With some family and colleagues, we gathered nine bottles of wine, all domestic red …

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Follow Your Palate

All right people. Can we just chill out about food and wine pairings? It seems the more we’re interested in food and the more we learn about wine, the more stressed we are about choosing wines to have with dinner. Customers agonize over the wine list in my restaurant—so afraid they’re going to make a …

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The Mighty Oak Barrel

When you think that you must have taken a wrong turn, you are almost there. The Mighty Oak Barrel sits at the end of a little twig of a road that is also the last chance for anyone who panics at the approaching Hulton Bridge and swerves to the right. And when you first lay …

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Aperitif!

It’s always been a nice break for me to get out of the hot kitchen and spend some time tending bar. And 40 years ago when I started in the restaurant business, making drinks before dinner was easy. A martini, a glass of sherry or an imported aperitif—that was all a sophisticated diner wanted before …

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Bringing the Good Cheer

While it’s my great pleasure in life to talk about wine, enjoy it with friends, pour it in my restaurant and assess it at tastings, I very rarely give wine as gifts at holiday time. People expect it from me now. I’m the wine guy, so wine’s too obvious. And that’s too bad, because this …

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What Cork?

Patrons who arrive at our restaurant after dark, or are focused on prime rib, may not notice the unusual mulch out front. It’s cork, or more specifically, corks, from the dozens of wine bottles we open every night. These souvenirs of pinot noirs and viogniers gone by rest at the base of our birches, over …

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Take a Chance on a Different Grape

There are some 400 wines on my restaurant’s wine list, and I can vouch for the deliciousness of every one. Imagine my chagrin when clients come in and order either a pinot noir or a chardonnay. Pinot noir or chardonnay. Pinot noir— How do folks get stuck in this wine rut? Why the reluctance to …

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Touring the Finger Lakes of New York

New York’s Finger Lakes region looks at first glance like a slice of Americana: small towns, white clapboard and main streets. Almost 200 years ago, however, upstate New York was a hotbed of social experimentation and religious reform. Residents grappled with the sudden transformation of their farming communities by the commercial success sparked by the …

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Reconsider the Riesling

Here’s a little test to see who’s as old as I am, and who will ’fess up to once drinking wines that might get you laughed out of a fancy restaurant today. Once upon a time, Americans loved off-dry wines. Remember Blue Nun? Black Cat? If you drank them in the 1950s, ’60s or ’70s, …

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Festive Holiday Wines

I am blessed to come from a family of wonderful Italian cooks, and growing up, our holiday traditions included my grandfather’s wine and my grandmother’s homemade pastas, which she rolled  out on the dining room table and served with Christmas dinner. Now, as a restaurateur, I’m blessed to be busy every day from Thanksgiving until …

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An Early Tasting

I had been at the wine tasing two hours when I called my wife to move back our 3 p.m. meeting. It was shaping up to be a long afternoon —300 wines were lined up in a Napa Valley hotel, each begging to be sipped, considered and critiqued. How could I walk out? Plus, it …

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Wine ‘Em Up

Plan ahead with a guide for comprehensive tasting. I used to say I hated tasting wine with the milling hordes. I am recanting. Decanting. Pouring myself right in and trying to tip you in with me. Why? The Pittsburgh Wine Festival, May 3-8, sprawling over acres in Heinz Field House lounges, offers opportunities few ordinary mortals would otherwise …

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