Buying wine for Thanksgiving? Keep it simple with easy-drinking whites and reds

There’s no need to stress about buying wine for Thanksgiving. Why? Well consider the vast array of tastes that are going to be on the table: savory turkey, salty gravy, creamy corn pudding, plump mashed potatoes, tart cranberry, sweet candied yams… the variety is endless. Trying to “pair” any kind of wine to a dish severely limits your options. Know that you’re going to be eating a lot of comfort food, and the wine that you choose should complement all of these tastes rather than clash with any of them.

My advice? Keep it simple with easy drinking reds and whites. I recommend soft wines that don’t have too much “bite” to them (avoid the spicy Syrahs and tangy Sauvignon Blancs). Blends, either red or white, are always a good option because they appeal to a wide variety of tastes. A great local red blend to try is Bedell’s 2013 First Crush, which is a fruit-forward, lightly tannic Merlot/Cab Franc blend that is aged in stainless steel to avoid any “oaky” complications.  Since it’s a popular North Fork wine, you’re likely to find it in a variety of local shops. It should be priced around $25 a bottle.

Are you more of a white wine fan? If so, I recommend Macari’s Early Wine, a slightly-fizzy chardonnay with hints of green apple and citrus flavors. Priced at around $17 a bottle, you can find Early Wine almost anywhere on Long Island.

“With all of the chardonnay grown on Long Island, it is unthinkable to me that no one else is making wines like this one,” said local wine expert Lenn Thompson last year in the New York Cork Report. “What it is, is delicious. And fun. And too many wines forget to be both of those things.”

Bedell's "First Crush" red blend

Bedell’s “First Crush” red blend

Macari's "Early Wine"

Macari’s “Early Wine”

We’ve been nominated – again!!

Thanks to our faithful friends and clients for yet another nomination for Best Bachelorette party in Bethpage’s Best of LI 2015!

We’re excited that our little word-of-mouth business is again considered among LI’s favorite wedding vendors.

We welcome our friends to see us all the way to the top! You can vote daily by visiting this link. While you’re there, don’t forget to vote for our friends at  Tran Star Executive Worldwide Chauffeured Services for best Party Bus and Elite Glamour Events of NY for best Wedding Planner.

Two of my favorite things: yoga and WINE

LaurelLakeflyer20142I recently started practicing yoga at the Always-at-Aum yoga studio in West Babylon. It is there that I met a vastly talented yogi named Sheryl, whose classes have taught me to challenge my boundaries and deepen my practice into something so much more meaningful than it has ever been before. After our Warm Vinyasa practice on Monday nights, I leave (very) sweaty, but refreshed and at peace.

So I can hardly contain my excitement now that I’ve come to learn that Sheryl and her partner Bryan are going to be teaching some yoga classes out at the wineries this coming spring, summer and fall! Classes have already been scheduled at Laurel Lake and Clovis Point. Click the links to view and download the flyers; all levels of yoga are welcome. This is a great, affordable way to get your feet wet with the restorative power of yoga AND the healing power of wine. I can’t wait to see you there!!


Have Wine, Will Travel: Tips for sending your vino souvenirs home safely (and inexpensively)

I recently spent four days in northern California with the objective of visiting some of my favorite wineries in Napa and Sonoma. Every time I go, I always end up tasting something I love and buying a bottle or two to take home. On this particular trip, my friend and I visited around 9 tasting rooms ended up with a grand total of 11 bottles to take home, not counting the two that we drank with dinner at Mustards.

When so many wineries sell bottles that aren't available anywhere else, you might be feel compelled to buy (and buy a lot).

When so many wineries sell bottles that aren’t available anywhere else, you might be feel compelled to buy (and buy a lot).

So how do you get 11 bottles of wine safely (and legally) from California to New York?

Most of the vineyards sell a re-usable PVC “bubble wrap” called a Wine Skin, which is available for around $2 online and with a 300% or more markup in vineyard gift shops. I never went this route myself, as a bottle or two wrapped in dirty laundry did the trick for me, but it does seem like a popular option for many. Almost every gift shop had these available for sale and on full display.

Now, if anyone travels like me, there’s no room in the suitcase for wine. And while I have no problem joining the wine club for one of two of my favorite spots, it’s just not realistic when I want to take a bottle or two back to NY to share with friends without having to wait for delivery (and without getting nailed on shipping for 2-3 bottles at a time).

The popular Wine Skin, available in many tasting room gift shops.

The popular Wine Skin, available in many tasting room gift shops.

Do-It-Yourself shipping is an option, and it’s not difficult. Most tasting rooms will sell boxes that you can use to pack up your wine to ship home. They usually come in a 6-pack or a 12-pack, but some will even sell a box for 3. They’re not as small or as pretty as a Wine Skin, so you may need to ask the gift shop personnel to fetch one for you if they are available. I got mine at the Wine Train gift shop, which happened to be a stone’s throw away from my hotel.

The biggest worry with DIY shipping, however, is cost. The hotel concierge quoted me $76 for ground shipping, not including packaging. When I balked at the price, he suggested I check with the UPS store down the road. They weren’t any better… $84 to ship 11 bottles of wine to New York, plus the cost of the packaging, and it probably wouldn’t arrive until next week.

Now, I figure we spent anywhere from $20 – $50 for each of these 11 bottles, which brings us to a rough estimate of $300 worth of grape juice available only for purchase in The Golden State. That being said, I was interested in saving a few bucks to get it home. What some people might not know is that it is often more cost-effective to take a case of wine home on the airplane.

That’s right… you can “check” your case of wine just like you check luggage, and all it will cost you is whatever your airline charges to check an additional bag.

And while it may seem a little weird to you at first, I assure you that the airline staff are pretty used to taping up boxes of wine to be checked on the plane, especially in SFO. I was actually quite surprised that mine was the only box of wine that came out of the carousel in JFK. A few people laughed at me when they found out that I “checked” a case of wine, but who cares? When all was said and done, it cost me $12 for the box, and $35 to check it. If you count the $5 it cost to rent one of those wheelie-carts to move it around the airport, you have a grand total of $52 to take my wine home… or around $4.72 a bottle.

And the best part? No waiting! In fact, I’m enjoying a glass of Pinot Gris from El Dorado as I write this article and attempt to shake the jetlag associated with flying the dreaded Redeye from SFO to JFK. But, hey… isn’t a Spring Break in wine country totally worth it?

Bottle of White often plans custom tours for out-of-town guests, and the same shipping concept works in reverse! Check with the tasting rooms of your North Fork destinations to see if they will sell you a shipping crate. If not, any package shop will do. For more travel tips, be sure to check out Bottle of White on Facebook and Twitter!

Welcome, Spring!

Visiting Kon to KOS ta winery on a chilly winter day. Kontokosta is one of our favorite new North Fork vineyards and a MUST SEE this spring!

Visiting Kon to KOS ta winery on a chilly winter day. Kontokosta is one of our favorite new North Fork vineyards and a MUST SEE this spring!

Is it just me, or was this winter unrelenting? Between the so-called Polar Vortex, the below-average temperatures, and the snowstorms, I’m about ready for some sunshine and green grass.

And apparently so are all of you!

We’ve noticed a 300% uptick in phone calls for vineyard tours just this week alone! So I’ve asked chef Reggie to update his gourmet lunch menu, I’ve taken an inventory of our new vehicles, and I’m hard at work planning signature North Fork experiences for this spring and summer! My colleagues and  I visited some great vineyards this winter, a few of which we’d like for you to experience on your next excursion. Additionally, Regina and I are visiting Sonoma and Napa next week to get an idea of how our Californian counterparts show their visitors a good time. I’m really looking forward to the trip, and I know Regina is, too (it will be her first time there).

I’d like to thank all of our clients for their positive feedback and friendly reviews. Because of you, our little word-of-mouth operation was nominated for Bethpage Best of Long Island in 2013! Cheers!

Supplying Wine for “La Vigilia”: A Guide for Shopping for an Italian Christmas Eve

Every year, usually on the day before the holiday, I get a few texts from friends at the liquor store. “Hey Mary, what kind of wine should I bring for (Italian girlfriend/boyfriend/fiancee/spouse)’s house on Christmas Eve?” Knowing that most traditional Italians eat only fish on La Vigilia, I usually try to steer them away from the popular bold red wines that we all love so much around the holidays… the ones that warm our bellies, like spicy Syrahs or jammy Merlots.  In truth, some bold red wines might overpower some of the delicate fishes that are served in a traditional Italian household, but as I learned from some research on how Italian restaurants put together their wine and food pairing dinners for La Vigilia, reds shouldn’t be kept away altogether.

My father posted this status update to Facebook last night, which will give you an idea of the typical Itailan-American menu for Christmas Eve (and an idea of what I’m dealing with):

In Italian, Christmas Eve is “La Vigilia,” the eve. Many Italians also refer to it as The Eve of the Seven Fishes. This year as always, we do the traditional Italian meatless meal, but with a twist… We’re having: Shrimp and Lime Tartlets, Marinated fresh Anchovies, Tonno and Cannellini (tuna & white bean salad), Insalata di Mare (seafood salad), Zuppa di Cozze (mussels marinara), Scungilli fra davolo, Grilled Polipetti (grilled baby octopus), Fettuccine with Shrimp & Scallop, Roasted whole Bronzino, Broiled Salmon Fillets, Southern Fried Catfish, Roasted Brussel Sprouts, and Cauliflower in cheese sauce. For dessert we have assorted Chocolates, Gelato and Sorbet.

It’s no secret that every Italian American looks forward to a traditional “seven fishes” Christmas eve. It’s almost a tradition as rich as having turkey on Thanksgiving and colored eggs at Easter. But what kind of wines do Italians drink? Knowing only my own crazy family as a frame of reference, I thought it best to farm out the questions to some of my fellow Italian-Americans for their input. I got some great responses:

Boone’s Farm? (I hope he was kidding)

Carlo Rossi…it’s a staple in every true Italian household. As a kid my grandfather always had that gallon bottle on the left side of his chair, then every other house I went to had it somewhere in the kitchen. 

I’d offer up an opinion but as you know the wine we drink in our family is made in the garage. 

I have memories of the Bolla Valpolicella – and some sweet vermouth. Everything else is a blur. 

Anything with alcohol in it!

I like a good Riesling, but if you want to stick with Italian, maybe a Soave or Frascati

Most old ITALIANS make their own. Tastes like acid to me but they swear it is the best!

And my favorite:

This Jew married to an Italian believes wine isn’t strong enough, Bring Vodka! Lol!

This is what a DOCG label might look like. It typically appears on the top of the bottle.

This is what a DOCG label might look like. It typically appears on the top of the bottle.

In summary, most Italians aren’t picky, and we don’t need to drink Italian wine alone… so don’t ever feel intimidated about bringing a bottle of wine to dinner. But, if you’re trying to make an impression, here are some good things to know:

  • Some of the Italian grape varietals are unfamiliar to some American wine drinkers. While I’ve had some delicious Nebbiolo and Barbera in the El Dorado region in California, they are primarily Italian grapes. Italy is the home to many grape varietals, in fact, including  Sangiovese, Dolcetto, Corvina, Garganega, and Trebbiano among others.
  • Italian wines can either be named by their varietal or by their region. This presents a lot of confusion for the typical American wine drinker. To keep it simple, may I offer one valuable piece of advice: buy a wine that has a special label on it. Make sure it says DOC or DOCG. What does this mean? Well I could go into specifics about Denominazione D’Origine Controllata (DOC) as in wine labeled as such is subjected to rigid regional regulations on grape variety, yields per hectare, aging requirement, and vinification methods, blah blah blah… but very simply… these wines aren’t typical Italian two-buck-chuck (though we do not discriminate against those wines, because we drink everything). Yet, if you’re trying to impress your new Italian girlfriend’s dad with something of better quality, you want to go for the label.DOC is good. DOCG is better. They take an extra step in ensuring quality. A DOCG is a category for the most prestigious subregions in the DOC. They are marked by distinctive style, appellation reputation, and commercial success.  You really can’t go wrong with either of these labels.
  • Some of the delicate white fishes (like many that my father listed above) would pair best with a light white wine, and the Italian kinds are usually bone dry and neutral. A bubbly Prosecco would pair well with sea scallop. A Soave is a light, simple white wine popular in  Tre Venezia (the collective name given to the three wine regions near the city of Venice: Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Trentino-Alto Adige, and Veneto). If you’re looking for something a little more southern (where are my Sicilians?) try a Vermentino di Sardegna, a dry white wine.
  • Are you more partial to reds? That’s completely OK, because there are plenty of delicious red wines that would pair with some more of the more, er.. full-bodied fishes. I’m not a fan of octopus, but it would go well with a Toscano. A Chianti Classico from Tuscany is a full-bodied red wine with a slightly bitter twist. Barolo and Barbaresco are intense, tannic, and complex.
  • A SuperTuscan is always fun… it’s a blend of Sangiovese mixed with Cabernet Sauvignon. While they don’t meet the criteria for DOC or DOCG labels (you’ll usually find them marked as IGT for Indicazione Geografica Tipica) they’re still quite tasty and very popular.

Hopefully this article gave you a few ideas so you don’t feel quite so indifeso (helpless) when shopping for wine. As my father says… So from our house to your house, we wish you a very blessed and Buon Natale…

On behalf of Bottle of White, I'd like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! ~Mary

On behalf of Bottle of White, I’d like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! ~Mary

We've Been Nominated!

I’m excited to announce that Bottle of White has been nominated for “Best Bachelorette Party Venue” in the “Weddings” section of the 2014 Bethpage FCU/Long Island Press “Best of Long Island” awards! Thank you to our valued clients and friends for the nomination! Reggie, Justin, and I couldn’t be more thrilled for the honor!

We’ve Been Nominated!