Category Archives: Wine Education

Finding the sweet spot; A wine and cheese pairing with a love story

A washed rind beauty made with love in NY.

A washed rind beauty made with love in NY.

Jos Vulto is a bit of a legend in cheese circles. Vulto, who hails from an art background, first started dabbling in cheesemaking while a partner in a Brooklyn metalworking shop. His natural talent was soon tasted by friends and his biggest supporter, his wife Miranda. Vulto met Miranda at PS1 after securing residency to craft sculptures from found objects and metal. The couple had a love of cheese in common, their first date is said to have included a sampling of a stellar washed rind cheese, a style that Vulto is now known for. Before Jos’s went pro and moved his operation upstate he experimented with various aging methods for his cheeses. He even crafted an aging cave in a crawl space in his Williamsburg studio that was under the sidewalk. Not big enough for living space but perfect for cheese.

As the cheese got better and better a plan was made to build an aging and production facility in Walton,NY, a place to craft Jos’s cheese and raise he and Miranda’s son in the country. Sadly while in the building stage Miranda was diagnosed with cancer and passed away in the winter of 2012. After a brief shutdown production began again the following spring and Jos crafter a cheese named after his love, Miranda, a cheese with a love story. Miranda is washed with an absinthe called ‘Meadows of Love’, (also made in Walton) that doesn’t impart the herbal flavors of the spirit yet gives it a beautiful, savory, flavor that hits the sweet spot.

I recently paired Miranda with an unusual dessert wine, also made in NY, that has its own interesting story, Tony’s Jeropiga

NY gem with roots in Portugal.

NY gem with roots in Portugal.

from Clermont Vineyards. Made by Tony Trigo, Jeropigo is a fortified wine with deep roots in Portugal. Clermont may be new to the Hudson Valley wine scene but Tony is well known in local wine circles for quite a few years, attending every winemaking event for a number of years. Clermont is one of the largest and most beautiful tasting rooms in the Hudson Valley and Trigo painstakingly renovated the barns himself with help from friends and family.

All wines are made from grapes grown at Clermont and one very special style of wine is featured. Tony is of Portuguese background and wanted to create a dessert wine from his estate fruit in a unique style rarely seen outside of its native land. Using late harvest Vidal Blance a grape spirit is added to fermenting juice till it reaches 18% ABV. Next the mixture is left to settle for up to a month, and then racked. The result is an exceptional dessert wine with bright, grapey flavor and just the perfect amount of kick. Add some roasted chestnut, the traditional pairing for Jeropiga, a wedge of Miranda, and you have the perfect way to end a meal!

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Filed under cheese pairings, unusual grape varieties, Wine Education

Toast to spring with “The Ring,” a bubbly with a love story

A bubbly with a love story......

A bubbly with a love story……

At a recent bridal event I was asked to find a South African bubbly to start the party. This bubbly called “The Ring” was a huge hit. Tasty, under $25 and a bubbly with a love story behind it makes it the perfect wine to serve at any bridal event, proposal or as a wedding toast! The first vintage was also the first wine made by vintner Philip Jonker, who fell in love as it aged for three years. It was first served at his wedding and christened “The Ring” to celebrate his marriage.

South African sparkling wines made in this traditional bottled fermented method are labelled as Method Cap Classique to comply with European Union regulations protecting the term “Champagne.” This 100% Chardonnay does not disappoint and at this price can be served to brighten any day! Its flavors of golden apple, a tinge of honey and melon make it the perfect wine to toast to warm sunny days ahead. Serve with creamy, bloomy rind cheeses for the perfect pairing.

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Holiday wine and cheese events in NYC

cheese wreath

Holiday entertaining can be fun, but also stressful for a host/hostess that wants to create the perfect atmosphere for guests. Choosing wines that can not only please a number of people, don’t break the bank and are a complement to a range of flavors can be challenging. How much do you buy, are there certain regions, styles or grapes that are safe bets? Can you find delicious wines under $25 that will wow your guests? Is there a certain style of cheese that will go with not only the wines you serve but other courses or appetizers on the menu? Is there an easy way to arrange your cheeses that will be festive and impress your foodie friends? Why not join me aboard the motor yacht Manhattan for a fun and festive holiday wine and cheese event to learn the secrets behind perfect pairings?

The Manhattan will be decorated for the season, the beautiful glass enclosed salon is warm and cozy, and you can escape the holiday rush for a few hours as we cruise around Manhattan island sipping and sampling in style! Sassysipsnyc readers can save 10% by entering the code WINETEN online at


Saturday November 22nd & December 13th, 1:45-4:30  BUY TICKETS

Wine tasting in NYC

Wine tasting in NYC

Holiday Wine and Cheese Pairing. Have you ever wondered what wines are the most food friendly? Are there crowd pleasers in the world of wine and cheese? How to I add interest, contrasting and complementary elements to my cheese board? Can I craft a stunning cheese display without spending hours in the kitchen? How do I store my cheeses and wines and what temp should they be served at? All these questions and more will be covered in this fun and interactive pairing! Recipes Included!

Saturday December 20th, 1:45-4:30 BUY TICKETS

New Years Eve 2014, Sparkling, Cheese, Chocolate also included, 5:30-7:30 BUY TICKETS

bubbles and silk!

bubbles and silk!

Sparkling Wines and Silky, Savory Cheese for a Decadent NYE Celebrations! Learn what makes sparkling wines so fabulous and food friendly. Bubbly from around the world will be poured and served with some of the worlds most luxurious cheeses! Learn what makes each pairing special and unique, and how to recreate your experience at home!

NYE tasting will also include several specialty chocolates!

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Filed under cheese pairings, Food and Wine Porn, NYC Wine Bars and Restaurants, Wine and Cheese Pairings, Wine Education

Strange fruit; Narince, an indigenous Turkish delight


I’ve written about Vinkara Winery in the past, they happen to be my favorite producer of Turkish wines available in the US. Distribution is growing on the East coast as Fine Terroir Selections LLC, based in Ct. has taken on a number of Vinkara’s best wines. While I’ve always been a fan of Vinkara’s Kalecik Karasi (a juicy red full of sour cherry, red currant and stoney minerality), their Narince was something I’d never tried.

Narince (pronounced Nah-rin-djeh) means “delicately” in Turkish. Grown mainly in the Anatolia region with most plantings in Tokat and along Yeşilırmak (river), Narince’s large, plump, oval grapes produce highly aromatic wines, full of lush scents of apricot, orange and fruit blossom.  The best examples are capable of aging due to its high acidity and balance that can be achieved in stellar vintages.

ImageWhile both Narince’s from Vinkara are delicious wines filled with flavors of ripe fresh apricot, white peach and orange blossom I prefer the 2012 for its fresh, clean finish. Fans of Chardonnay will love the 2011 Narince Reserve,which has a fuller, heavier mouth feel with a touch of spicy flavor, due to a 14 month stint in oak followed by further aging in bottle. To pair I suggest Turkish dolmas, a dish made from the prized leaves of Narince, rolled and stuffed with a mixture of rice, flavored with olive oil, lemon and spices.

Check out Vinkara on Facebook for news and availability in US

Stuffed Dolmas

Stuffed Dolmas

Dolma recipe

Serves 8 people.
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 onions, minced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 cup fresh mushrooms, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups uncooked long-grain white rice
1/4 cup chicken stock
2 tbsp. pine nuts

1 tsp. salt

3 tbsp. fresh chopped mint leaves

2 tbsp. fresh chopped dill weed
1 tbsp. ground sumac
2 tbsp. pomegranate molasses
1 8-oz jar grape leaves
Garnish- Chopped preserved lemons, crumbled feta if desired

In a saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat and add onions & garlic. Sweat the onions & garlic until tender, then add the mushrooms and sauté until browned. Add the rice, stock and enough hot water to cover. Cover the saucepan and simmer over low heat until the rice is half-cooked, about 15 minutes.

While the rice is cooking, carefully remove the grape leaves from the jar without ripping them. Drain the liquid and rinse the leaves in warm water and set in a colander to drain. Trim off any stems.

When the rice is ready, stir in all the other ingredients and mix well. Allow the mixture to cool enough so that it can be handled with bare hands. Take one grape leaf and place it smooth side down, vein sides up. Place about 1 teaspoon or 1 tablespoon (depending on how big the leaf is) of rice mix at the bottom of the leaf. Fold the sides and then roll the leaf from bottom to top. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.

Place a steaming rack in a large pot and arrange the dolmas on the steamer. It is OK to stack them. Place enough water at the bottom of the pot to almost reach the bottom layer of dolmas. Cover and simmer over low heat for 35 to 45 minutes, or until rice is totally cooked.

Remove and place on a serving plate. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with chopped preserved lemon and feta.




Filed under Travel, unusual grape varieties, wine and food culture, Wine Education, Wine Pairing Recipes

Winter White Out; Unusual wine finds to get you through the storm

Explore the world of white  !

Explore the world of white !

Sure, like most I enjoy a glass or two of red wine in the winter. Simmering stock pots of stewed beef, short ribs and coq au vin cry out for an enormous, swirling glass of red wine. Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Blaufrankisch and other red wine grapes suddenly take up residence in my cellar. But, truth be told I’m really more of a white wine gal when it comes to year round enjoyment. Also, many of my favorite dishes in winter pair better with a hearty or exotic white. Spicy chicken curry, bean or vegetable soups and piles of sauerkraut with smoked pork are better suited to white wines.

Looking at suggestions for winter white wines I was a bit bored with the recommendations for California Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris. Really? Even though these may be obvious choices why not make that night snowed in a bit more interesting. Seriously, let that freak flag fly! Nobody’s watching. Pour a glass of something you’re completely unfamiliar with. A wine you can’t even fathom how to pronounce, who cares, there’s nobody around to judge! A wine from a far away exotic land. One that just may divert your thoughts away from the zero temps and blowing winds outside.You may find a new favorite or at the very least learn a new word or two for winter scrabble. The following suggestions may not be for the faint of heart, but, since you’ve got the time why not stick your nose deep in the glass and do a little exploring.

Consider Chenin Blanc! Chenin Blanc can exhibit a number of flavors and styles from bone dry mineral driven wines to honeyed angelic beauties. Many Chenin Blancs from the Loire fall into that rare category of white wines that can age and develop for decades. Savennières (sah-veh-NYAIR) , a small AOC of around 740 acres, for example, doesn’t really start to blossom until about five years of age, after which it continues to gain complexity for ten to fifteen years or more.

savMy recent favorite, Domaine du Closel, Clos Papillon Savennieres 2007 has a long yet lean personality, think of the body of a dancer or a pilates instructor. Muscular yet elegant. Crazy aromas of beeswax, lanolin, roasted nuts, dried apricots and crushed slate intermingle  in your glass. A long, lingering, satisfying finish…….

It’s not fit for man or beast outside but a single sip can transport you to a distant land filled with gleaming white beaches,

Santorini savvy

Santorini savvy

turquoise blue water and tanned mediterranean people. Santorini, a small island in Greece, filled with indigenous white grapes, is just the ticket for your vinous daydream.  Santorini, is one of the oldest winemaking areas in the world, with evidence of viticulture dating back to 3500 BC. A volcanic eruption in 1600 BC created the unique soil conditions of volcanic ash and lava that help to give wines from Santorini their distinctive taste. My pick here is a blend from Santo Wines, Nykteri, made from a minimum of 75% Assyrtiko ( A seer’ tee ko), Athiri (A theer ee) and Aidani (Eye don ee). Traditionally the grapes for Nykteri, meaning up working all night, were harvested at night and pressed the following morning. A short stint in oak for a minimum of three months adds roundness and just a smidgen of spicy complexity. Flavors and aromas of jasmine, orange blossom and raw almond linger in a full rich finish.



Ever had a wine fermented in a  Kvevri? In the Republic of Georgia the ancient tradition of wine making in large clay vessels called kvevri lives on. Lined with beeswax and buried in the floor grapes are poured in, crushed and left to ferment. Over a period of days, the grape skins are pushed down on the hour and the kvevri is finally covered with a suitable-sized stone cap sealed with clay, and left undisturbed for up to two years. Weird, wild and unusual wines result! Pheasant Tears Rkatsiteli (R Kats a tel ee) is my pick of this rare breed of wine. Hints of black tea, smoky sandalwood, dried orange peel and savory notes waft up from your glass. Available at K&L Wines online.  La Vid in the West Village also carries a selection of this style of wine.

Simply must have a Chardonnay? Why not consider a blend from Lebanon? Made from a blend of  35% Viognier, 35% Vermentino and 30% Chardonnay this offering from Chateau Musar is fabulous and funky. Founded in 1930 Musar is now run by winemaker Serge Hochar and his brother Ronald. Serge’s approach to wine is unique with much bottle variation, but, it seems to work. At a recent tasting, featuring hundreds of varieties, I was drawn back again and again to sample a vertical tasting of his whites going back 10 years. Serge suggests serving his white wines after his red selection as they have more body and heft, I can’t disagree. Serve just slightly chilled for optimum enjoyment. Frankly Wines in NYC has a good selection of Musar wines available online.

Chateau Musar Jeune

Chateau Musar Jeune

I’ll be adding to this list throughout the winter. Stay tuned for more interesting finds! If you have a favorite off beat wine please share!




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Filed under unusual grape varieties, wine and food culture, Wine Education, Wine Pairing Recipes