3 Things to Know: What is Wine?

giphy

Let’s back up this week shall we?

The previous “3 Things to Know” post touched on Old World vs. New World wines, but if you’re a novice wine drinker, you need the basics: What is wine and its common characteristics?

I got you.

1. Okay, I know what wine is. It’s a beverage that goes nicely when catching up with girlfriends or lying on my couch and watching Netflix. But, what exactly is it?

Wine is fermented grape juice. Yeast, which is present on the grapes, on grape vines and in the air, feeds on the sugar present in grape juice and converts the sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide. The grapes used to make wine aren’t what you’ll find at the local supermarket. Wine grapes have seeds, thick skins and are smaller than your standard table grapes. There are thousands of grape varieties (ex. Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon) used to make wine. Fun fact: most grape juice  – regardless of whether it came from red or green grapes – is clear. Red wine gets its tint from the skins of red grapes.

2. Are there certain wines where not all of the sugars are converted into alcohol?

Yep! Wines with sugar left over from the fermentation process – this is called residual sugar–  are typically labeled as sweet wines or dessert wines. These types of wines include Moscato (hello, Drake), ice wine, port and sweet Riesling. Most wines do not have residual sugar and are labeled as dry, even if your tastebuds are screaming “this is sweet!” from the flavors the wine imparts, specifically fruit-forward wines like Pinot Grigio.

3. The Cabernet Sauvignon I had recently was the opposite of sweet. It literally sucked the moisture from my mouth. The hell?

The dryness and bitterness you experienced was due to tannins, a common characteristic mostly found in red wines, like the Bordeaux varieties (ex. Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec), Syrah and Barolo. Tannins come from the skin, stem and seeds of a grape, and when left to mix with the grape’s juice for long periods of time, produces wines high in tannin. Aging wine in oak barrels also produces this effect. All wines have tannins, however red wines have higher levels than white wines. In order to color a wine red, grape skins must soak in the juice for extended periods of time. If you’re still recovering from cotton mouth, wines such as Pinot Noir, Zinfandel and Beaujolais (my favorite) are low in tannins.

#themoreyouknow

3 Things to Know: Old World vs. New World

Old World vs. New World wines

In March, I signed up for a four-part Wine 101 course to learn about winemaking regions, grapes and most importantly, how to taste wine. There’s a lot to learn about vino and where it comes from, most of which isn’t necessary for someone who drinks casually and not as a career, à la sommelier or winemaker. But it’s important to know the basics, which will help you when ordering a glass of wine at a restaurant or picking a bottle at your supermarket amongst dozens of options.

So I’m breaking it down for you as part of a series: 3 Things to Know About Wine. That’s it, three things, facts, tidbits, “did you know’s?” that can help you become a better consumer and purchaser. This week, we’ll dive into Old World vs. New World wines. 

Pinkies up.

1.  My server was explaining the wine list and mentioned “Old World” wines. Huh? Is there a “New World” type of wine too? 

YAS, there is such a thing as New World wine. Let me explain: this terminology is used to differentiate wines made in countries where winemaking first originated (Old World) versus countries where winemaking is still fairly “new” (New World). Here are some examples:

Old World wine regions

France

Italy

Germany

Spain

Greece

Hungary

New World wine regions 

United States

Australia

New Zealand

South Africa

Argentina

Canada

Mexico

2. Cool, so why did he just refer to my Pinot Noir pick as a red Burgundy? 

Same wine, different names.  Old World wines tend to be named by region, while New World wines are named by grape. In this example, Pinot Noir is the name of the grape, and Burgundy is the name of a wine-making region in France that grows Pinot Noir grapes. Below in bold are examples of the same wine, but labeled differently depending on what region of the world it was produced:

Sauvignon Blanc (grape) =  Sancerre or Pouilly-Fumé (regions)

Pinot Noir = red Burgundy 

Chardonnay = white Burgundy  

Cabernet Sauvignon = Bordeaux (Note: Bordeaux is usually a blend of two or more grapes from the Bordeaux region which can include: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Petite Verdot).

3. This red Burgundy tastes different from the Pinot Noir I usually drink from Oregon. What gives?  

There are plenty of factors that affect the taste of wine. Like chefs, winemakers have their own “recipes” for making wines. Some choose to leave the skins on the grapes for a longer period of time, resulting in a more “tannic” (astringent) wine, or some choose to age the juice in oak barrels versus stainless steel. But let’s back up, and start with the grapes and the environment they were grown in, commonly referred to as “terroir.” Some factors that determine terroir  include climate (temperature and rainfall), typography (the altitude of the vineyard), sunlight and soil type. While Pinot Noir grapes are grown in  Oregon and Burgundy (eastern France) due to their similar climates, they have different soil types, which result in slightly different tasting grapes.

#themoreyouknow

Image: Sex and the City / HBO

A First-Timers Guide to Rome

Don’t sleep on Rome.  

Rome_A First Timers Guide

Paris, London and Amsterdam seem to get all the love, but Rome is a treasure, bringing together the perfect travel trifecta of good eats, beautiful sites and history.

It’s also old as hell.

Nothing puts your own existence into perspective, than walking around ruins dating back to 800 BC. Rome is not a modern city. Besides the ruins, almost every building looks to be from a past time. But that’s part of its charm.

My family and I stayed at an Airbnb in the Trastevere neighborhood, which is known for a variety of restaurants and bars – it’s also near Vatican City. Rome is very walkable, albeit watch your step when on the cobblestone streets, and look out for motorists on mopeds, who have their own rules for the road.

Because this was my first visit, I spent five days playing a basic tourist. The following list is for first-timers to Rome, and includes the restaurants and sites I enjoyed while visiting.

To Explore:

The Colosseum and the Roman Forum

Rome_The Colosseum

These three sites are covered under one ticket which can be bought online. Unless you like waiting in line, you should definitely pre-purchase tickets. If you don’t, get to the Colosseum or the Roman Forum entrance – which has a shorter line –  before opening time. If a “guide” approaches to entice you with a tour and a no-wait entry for 30 euros, keep it moving. These men and women are not affiliated with the Colosseum and Roman Forum, and our wait time ( we didn’t pre-purchase tickets) was only 30 minutes. After you’re finishing touring, walk along the street, Via dei Fori Imperiali, for about 10 minutes, until you see the Altar of the Fatherland monument. Adjacent is the Campidoglio, a square designed by Michelangelo and offers additional views of the Roman Forum.

Ticket price: € 12.00 

Vatican City: St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel   

The Vatican Museums line is real. REAL. You need to buy your tickets in advance if you have any desire to see the Sistine Chapel in this lifetime. To be honest, I found the Sistine Chapel to be underwhelming. However, I  really enjoyed walking around St. Peter’s Basilica, which is free, but has it’s own separate and lengthy line.

Ticket price: € 16.00  for entry into the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel

Pantheon, Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps  

Rome_Trevi Fountain.jpg

These three sites are in walking distance, so hit them on the same day. Don’t forget to climb the Spanish Steps to see the church at the top. If you’re inclined to shop, this is the area where you’ll find high-end labels like Gucci, Salvatore Ferragamo and Dolce & Gabbana.

Ticket price: FREE 

Villa Borghese

A beautiful park that houses the Galleria Borghese, which tickets are a requirement,  a zoo and a beautiful view of the city from Pincio Terrace.

Ticket price€ 21.50  for the Galleria Borghese

Colle del Gianicolo

One of the best views in Rome. See it at sunset…or sunrise.

Ticket price: FREE

To Eat and Drink:

Roscioli 

Rome_Cacio e pepe

Roscioli is a group of dining establishments: a bakery, a pizzeria and a full-service restaurant that you could go to every day to fulfill breakfast, lunch and dinner needs.  A couple of doors down from the restaurant, is where you’ll find their pastry shop. If you’re in a morning rush, grab a standing spot at the counter and order a baked good and espresso like a local. Have a little more time? Head to the back, where you’ll find table service and a more expansive menu.

Salumeria Roscioli

Try the: cacio e pepe

Address: Via dei Giubbonari 21

Roscioli Caffè Pasticceria (bakery)

Try the: cornetto and an espresso

Address: Piazza Benedetto Cairoli, 16

La Fata Ignorante 

My last meal in Rome, was neither pizza or pasta, but steak, endless bread, generous pours of red wine and complimentary limoncello. It was one of the best meals I had in Rome, and the service was impeccable. It was also affordable. Make reservations for this spot.

Try the: tempura mixed vegetables, the Danish sliced beef with balsamic vinegar reduction and the cockrel (chicken)

Address: Via Giuseppe Giulietti, 5

Pizzarium Bonci 

Pizzarium Bonci

The best pizza I had in Rome. This is a tiny spot where you take a number, wait for it to be called, and then order pizza by weight, not by slice. Attendants will make scoring motions with their scissors to inquire how much you’d like, and then they snip. This is not a traditional pizzeria, you’ll find toppings you never knew could work on a pizza, but do. Also, wine is €1.50 a glass. So there’s that.

Try the: potato or the onion and sun-dried tomato slices

Address: Via Della Meloria, 43

Cantina e Cucina

A fun and lively restaurant that brings out Prosecco for guests waiting for a table. A nice mix of locals and tourists alike.

Try the: carbonara

Address: Via del Governo Vecchio, 87

Fior Di Luna   

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My go-to gelato spot near the Airbnb I was staying at.

Try the: pistachio or chocolate hazelnut gelatos

Address: Via della Lungaretta 96

Biscottificio Innocenti

Start your day with a couple of cookies. Because why not? They make great dunkers in your morning cappuccino.

Try the: everything. You can’t go wrong with cookies.

Address: Via della Luce, 21

Freni e Frizioni 

If you need a break from wine – or Rome’s craft beers, head to this trendy watering hole in Trastevere and order one of their speciality cocktails. Drink sizes are “yuuuuge” and the pours are generous.

Try the: London Collins

Address: Via del Politeama, 4/6, 00153

Roma

Have you been to Rome? What were some of your favorite spots? Comment below. 

 

All The Places I Wish to Eat & Drink in 2017

Two years ago, I crossed the border into California from Arizona, took a picture next to the “Welcome to California” sign and lost my wallet along a highway. California has given me quite the adventure since day one, and as I mark my second year in the Golden State, specificially in Los Angeles, I haven’t begun to explore a fourth of what the state or the city of L.A. has to offer.

Maybe I’m afraid of losing my identity again or maybe I’m still trying to acclimate myself to a city that still doesn’t quite feel like home. Either way, my one and only New Year’s resolution this year is to knock the following items off my bucket list. And because I’m food and beverage-obsessed, this list only contains restaurants and bars in Los Angeles County.

You gotta start somewhere.

 

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Sqirl

Breakfast/Brunch:

Bottega Louie for the macarons and Instagram photos

Love & Salt for the ricotta pancakes

Perch for the view

Toast Bakery Café for the chance to see what the line is about

Viviane Restaurant at the Avalon Hotel for the Kelly Wearstler designed interior

Winsome for the quinoa, wild rice and toasted almond horchata…yeah, that’s a mouthful.

 

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Night + Market

Lunch/Dinner:

A.O.C. for the wine list

Howlin’ Ray’s for the hot fried chicken…because what else?

LocoL for the community

Maude for the tasting menu and extravagance

Petit Trois for the omelette, Big Mec and croque monsieur

Pizzaria Mozza for the Nancy Silverton legacy

The Polo Lounge at The Beverly Hills Hotel for the people watching

Salazar for the margarita and esquites

Silverlake Ramen for the tonkotsu spicy ramen

Union for the pork ragu tagliatelle

 

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Bar Amá

Bars:

Break Room 86 for the karaoke

Clifton’s Republic (The Pacific Seas) for the kitsch

The Edison for the classy ambiance

Mama Shelter for the roof and happy hour

Tiki-Ti for all the rum, coconut and pineapple I can handle…