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Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine

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Tomahawking Champagne for the Holidays

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© Lois Ellen Frank
The Basics for Tomahawking Champagne.

In Part II of my occasional series, Don’t Necessarily Try This at Home (Part I featured two-year-old vintage eggnog from Jonathon Sawyer of Greenhouse Tavern in Cleveland), I’d like to spotlight tomahawking Champagne as a potential holiday trend. I first heard about this from Holly Arnold Kinney, who owns the iconic Rocky Mountain restaurant The Fort, outside of Denver. Instead of the classic, and dramatic, French practice of “sabering” Champagne—hitting the bottle neck with a saber at just the right angle so the cork pops off—the Fort uses a tomahawk to do the same job.

In her cool new coffee-table book, Shinin’ Times at the Fort, Kinney goes into even more detail: “My dad taught his pal Julia Child how to tomahawk a bottle of Champagne, and later that week, she taught Jay Leno how to do so when she was a guest on The Tonight Show.... [but] the bottle Julia used was weak and broke all over the set! Although she grabbed a second bottle and tomahawked it perfectly, NBC decided to use the broken-bottle take to promote the show.”

Wines Under $20

Holiday Wines: Fox Business & CBS Early Show

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'Tis the season to do TV appearances on wines for the holidays, apparently! I was at the CBS Early Show last weekend offering wine & spirits gift-giving strategies, and on Fox Business News last Friday with some great wine values for holiday entertaining.

Also, if you need a last minute stocking-stuffer for the wine geek in your life, you could definitely do worse than the Twistick ($9.99), which may well be the world's smallest corkscrew. You can put it on your keychain for wine emergencies (they do happen!), and while it's not the easiest corkscrew in the world to use, it's a lot better than biting off the top of the bottle with your teeth.

Holidays

12 Days of Wine Gifts, Day 5

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cork wine bag

© Tartella

I know I said that I wasn’t going to do a ton of wine bags this year but I came across these screen-printed organic cotton ones from Tartella and had to share them. I love the happy cork print that comes in either red or teal. Tartella has also started making wine tags in the same print to slip over the neck of a bottle. They look so nice, you might not even need a gift bag!

Wine Books

12 Days of Wine Gifts, Day 4

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wine journal

© Nicole Lavelle

I wrote about these super-excellent beer journals last June because I think the idea is just so great—they fit in your pocket, and each page has a spot for all the tasting notes you could ever possibly come up with. I was elated to hear that 33 Books has come up with books for wine notes (and cheese and coffee ), too, because I’m always writing notes on gum wrappers or magazine insert cards that I dig out of the depths of my bag when I’m out. These are a smart way to keep it all in one place. Plus, the wine-colored ink on the covers actually contains some wine from the Walla Walla Valley. These little books would make excellent stocking stuffers or accompaniments to a bottle of wine.

Champagne

12 Days of Wine Gifts, Day 3

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© Christopher Klapp/Petrossian West Hollywood
Petrossian's Champagne and Caviar Coffret

Some might call me a failure at this 12 Days of Wine Gifts business, but I’ve just been holding on to some excellent things to wallop you with all at once, so I will magically turn three days in to one. So, here, the first installment.

I will not be purchasing this gift for anyone this year, but if I had $490 dollars to spend on one person, this would definitely be high up on my list. Petrossian Caviar’s West Hollywood shop has put together a pretty over-the-top set called the Caviar and Champagne Coffret that contains of 125 grams of Tsar Imperial Transmontanous Caviar, two half-bottles of Louis Roederer Brut Premier Champagne and two mother-of-pearl spoons. I might be tempted to tack on a couple of these metal straws  to encourage drinking the Champagne straight from the bottles. Unfortunately, this set isn’t available on the Petrossian website, but you can call the shop directly to place orders at 310-271-0576.

Events

Shopping for a Cause

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© Photo Courtesy Fonté Coffee Roasters

Tonight, Seattle's Fonté Coffee Roasters will gather some of the city's best food artisans for a Shop Local Holiday Happy Hour at Fonté Cafe and Wine Bar, which opened last year. The event includes a tasting with master roaster Steve Smith (who came to Fonté 20 years ago to focus on small-lot roasting after his time at Starbucks); holiday-themed chocolates (like gingerbread chocolate bars) from Theo Chocolate; and wines from the Small Lot Co-Op and Heaven's Cave Cellars. A portion of the proceeds from the event go to the Pike Market Child Care and Preschool, which helps low-income families with care and healthy meals for children. Another bonus: All proceeds from purchases of Fonté's excellent, limited-edition Holiday Blend (left), a delicious low-acid coffee with citrus notes, go to the same cause.

Holidays

12 Days of Wine Gifts, Day 2

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penguin corkscrew

© Terrain
Penguin Corkscrew from Terrain

Last Friday, I kicked off my non-wine-bag-focused wine gift guide with a wine bag—so today, I present you with something more true to my word.

As an unabashed fan of Anthropologie’s dresses, cardigans and latte bowls, I’ve wanted to head to Glen Mills, Pennsylvania, to visit the company's flagship home and garden store, called Terrain, which opened a couple of years ago. I still haven’t made the trek, but in drooling over its website embarrassingly often, I recently discovered this charming penguin corkscrew. Give it as a gift with a bottle of rich red wine, like the 2007 La Spinetta Pin Monferrato Rosso (around $43, find this wine), a blend of Barbera and Nebbiolo from Piedmont. It's at once sweet, spicy and aromatic—destined for drinking in front of a fireplace.

Pairings

Weekend TODAY: Wines for the Holidays

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I got to rise very early this past Sunday morning and trundle over to the studios at Rockefeller Center to do a TODAY show spot on wines to go with classic holiday meals, with the always engaging Lester Holt. It was sort of a slow-starting morning, thanks a very unscientific tasting of multiple Champagnes the previous night, but after a large infusion of coffee my brain started zipping along in a relatively lively way. The result—you can watch it on this clip—was great fun. 

 

Holidays

12 Days of Wine Gifts, Day 1

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Reisenthel black wine bottle bag

© Reisenthel

Last year about this time, I took it upon myself to search out some lovely wine bags for gifting during the holiday season.  I confess, despite the cute bags, it might have been overkill. So this year, I've decided to bring you wine-related gifts that go beyond wine bags-with some wine bags sprinkled in. After all, the holiday wine-giving season is upon us and it's no good to just hand over naked bottles.

And so, on this first day of wine gifts, I present to you this ultra-chic black wine bag from Reisenthel that will look just as good with your sparkly holiday dresses and bowties as it will with your woolen mittens. Tie it up with a humongous bow and any party host will be delighted.

Wines $20 to $40

Thanksgiving Wine Conundrum

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Despite the fact that Thanksgiving is a mere six days away—and the fact that I’m a wine writer—it only crossed my mind yesterday that I needed to pick out some wines for Thanksgiving. My boyfriend, Michael, and I are hosting this year, and it’s just a small group—his parents, my parents and my sister. Seems easy enough to choose a wine, right? Well, once I started to think about it, not really.

See, Michael’s dad really only drinks caffeine-free diet Coke, and his mom can’t have wine. White wine gives my sister headaches; my dad’s palate tends toward Merlot and Malbec; and my mom prefers off-dry Rieslings and Gewürztraminers and (bizarrely enough) Lambrusco (she thinks she doesn’t like red wine, but we can trick her sometimes). So essentially, we’re all going in a different wine direction here.

But then there’s Michael. Michael is a cru Beaujolais fanatic, and this fanaticism will effectively solve the problem at hand (aside from, ahem, the caffeine-free diet Coke)—plus, 2009 was a knockout vintage for the region. There are ten crus or villages in Beaujolais: Brouilly, Chénas, Chiroubles, Côte de Brouilly, Fleurie, Juliénas, Morgon, Moulin à Vent, Régnié and Saint Amour. All have different flavors, aromas and balance, but each will go quite nicely with the Thanksgiving menu thanks to deep, bright fruit and terrific acidity. My sister can drink it, my dad will get the concentration that he enjoys and my mom will get the fruit-forwardness that she likes in off-dry wines (this is how we trick her into liking reds.) And Michael will be beyond happy.

I’m heading to the wine shop with hopes of finding 2009s from Marcel Lapierre, Chateau Thivin and Christophe Pacalet. Oh, and a bottle of savory Donati Lambrusco to start things off.

What’s your problem-solving wine for Thanksgiving?

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