Archive for April, 2015

Wine-ding down memory lane! A look at wine on billboards

April 17th, 2015

Wine on billboards

By Joseph Temple

In the era before LBJ’s Highway Beautification Act, America was a nation plastered in billboards.  Whether you were driving on a busy downtown street or on an open road, there was no escape from outdoor advertising.  With automobile tourism at its peak, you would see everything from the latest Coca-Cola ads to signs promoting your favorite brand of cigarettes.  And of course, the wine industry was no exception!  Back when most American vintages were known less for their quality and more for their high-alcohol content, wineries enthusiastically promoted their products with catchy slogans and colorful designs that were sure to catch your eyes.  So for this week’s entry, have a look below as we begin wine-ding down memory lane with some photos courtesy of Duke University Libraries. Enjoy!


1. Bon Gusto (1951) – “Taste the Difference”

2. Balboa Wine (1936) – “The Nation’s Favorite”

3. Cameo Wines (c. 1930s-1940s) – “Mellow as a Cello”

4. Roma Wines (c. 1930s-1940s) – “Don’t Drink it … sip it!”

5. Alhambra Grape wine (c. 1930s-1940s) – “The wine of the hour”

6. Madera Wines (c. 1930s-1940s) – “And i’m serving Madera wines”

7. Ambassador Wines (c. 1940s) –
“Ambassador Wines … are the better wines”

8. Rio Vista/Tiffany Wines (c. 1930s-1940s) – “Leaders in Quality”

9. Washington distilleries (c. 1930s-1940s)
– “the good Washington apple wine”

10. Taylor New York State Wines and “Champagnes”
(c. 1960s) – “… You’ll Love Them”


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Ask Sid: Greek wines?

April 15th, 2015
Ask your question here The International Wine & Food Society

What wines from Greece would you recommend?

Question: My wife and I are from NY and traveling to Greece for the first time (ages 48 and 60). We really know nothing about Greek wine and will be touring wineries on Crete and Santorini. Any advice?

Answer: You should have an interesting wine experience in Greece. Go to www.AllAboutGreekWine.com for tips and New York outlets. The wines have improved by leaps and bounds since my last visit. There is a good focus on some unique grape varieties you really must try. I am a big fan of the white Assyrtiko grown on the special volcanic soils of Santorini. Check out the website www.winesfromsantorini.com. Crete is making wonderful progress with a detailed article on “compelling wines of Crete” at www.intowine.com/compelling-wines-crete. Helpful list of wineries at www.winesofcrete.gr. Enjoy your trip!


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New Upscale Dishes for the Younger Demographics

April 13th, 2015

New Upscale dishes for the younger demographics

I recently was invited by talented Executive Chef Chris Mills and his team to judge the finals of their top rising star apprentice chef regional winners from all the outlets of the casual chain Joey Restaurants. Twelve chefs competed from many cities including Seattle, Vancouver, Burnaby, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Toronto. It was an event with a large enthusiastic young crowd attending in Vancouver with big video screens and continuous social media action. The apprentices showed first some innovative one bite often spicy dishes including these:

Purple Poutine: hollowed-out deep fried purple potatoes, chicken & beef gravy, melted cheese curds, tobacco onions and maple bacon

Crispy taste of Tuscany:  Olive tapenade on a prosciutto crisp garnished with fried parsley

The Southern Comfort: Salt crust braised pork belly on a cornbread cookie with apple brie cream & pickled vegetables

Tuna Nacho: Sesame-crusted chip sweet soy glaze, fresh avocado, tuna tartare, orange garlic & ginger dressing with tequila watermelon salsa and raw jalapeno

Beef Tataki Bites: Soy sauce, tenderloin, shimeji mushrooms, chard, ginger, wonton crisps, smoked aioli

Caribbean Crab Cakes: Burnt lime and chipotle airline, mango, papaya, & jalapeno salsa, tobiko, and daikon sprouts

Mushroom Maize: Wild mushroom ragout on crispy polenta with Asiago

The main menu entrée was prepared from identical glass box ingredients featuring pheasant. Here we could really judge their presentations for visual appeal, portion size and temperature; originality; and the interesting varied tastes from the same protein. There were no old style well-hung wild pheasants here. No Julia Child inspired Bonne Femme recipes either with ham or bacon with butter & onions and perhaps potatoes & mushrooms all very slowly cooked and basted. We all know how difficult it can be to cook pheasant perfectly so it is still remains moist. Still it was compelling to see what they thought would work best to show off this prime ingredient. Some innovative daring new upscale cuisine with an emphasis especially for the younger demographics I thought you might be interested in learning more about:

Smoky duo of pheasant spicy kale and leeks, sweet potato with carrots and fennel, wild berry gastrique, celery and apple salad

Thanksgiving dinner of fried pheasant breast served with a mushroom bread pudding, cranberry compote and pan gravy, sweet potato pie topped with sage and rosemary marshmallow

Pheasant peas prosciutto parsnips pistachios pears crumbles soy honey

Pan seared oven roasted pheasant carrot puree garlic butter dill potatoes bacon and apple chutney

The Lumber Jack with cinnamon mashed potatoes, pickled red cabbage & bacon, honey mint squash, vibrant pea puree, pan gravy

Delicious pheasant coq au vin with soft butternut squash polenta and pan seared Brussell sprouts

Bacon wrapped Roulade of pheasant with berry jus, mushroom duxelle, celeriac and apple puree, Yorkshire pudding, roasted root vegetables. This was the classy dish prepared by the overall winner Sourabh Rajwade from Joey in Toronto.

How would you prepare a dish using fresh pheasant?


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Remembering “Lucy’s Italian Movie”

April 10th, 2015

Remembering Lucy's Italian Movie

By Joseph Temple

“Did you ever see the I Love Lucy episode where Lucy stomps on the grapes?”

It’s been nearly sixty years since the episode first aired on CBS, and still to this day, people are laughing about it.  The hysterical scene where Lucy does battle against a seasoned Italian grape stomper inside a vat has become so memorable that whenever you discuss the winemaking process, somebody eventually makes reference to it. But even more fascinating is the fact that this iconic television moment wasn’t the result of any brilliant script writing or carefully planned out choreography. What took place that day was instead a delightful blend of impromptu method acting mixed with the comedic genius of Lucille Ball.

Airing on the night of April 16, 1956, “Lucy’s Italian Movie” was part of a string of fifth-season episodes where the Ricardo’s and the Mertz’s trek across Europe from London to Paris to Monte Carlo.  It was a formula that proved popular in the ratings with many middle-class viewers who were experiencing an unprecedented wave of post-war prosperity which allowed them to travel abroad for the first time in their lives.

Following their stay in Florence, the two couples head south to Rome where Lucy is discovered by an Italian movie producer who wants to cast her as an American tourist in his next motion picture titled Bitter Grapes.  Mistakenly thinking her role is that of a grape stomper, she decides to learn the ropes by rolling up her pant legs at a vineyard in Turo.  But while in the vat with another stomper, a back and forth brawl ensues causing the audience to laugh uncontrollably throughout the entire ordeal.

Looking back, it’s almost hard to believe that this riotous scene that has stayed in our collective memories for over five decades was never in the original script. According to writer and producer Jess Oppenheimer, “I can’t remember exactly when or how it was added.  It might have been that they called us down to the set because they felt it needed more … or they might have just improvised on their own.”

In preparation for this ad hoc moment, real grapes were brought in from a local California vineyard.  Remembering what it was like to be in the vat for the first time filled with fruit, Ball described it as “stepping on eyeballs.  We started stomping on the grapes, and I made a dance out of it, and then I slipped.”  And for the foil, Lucy’s husband/producer Desi Arnaz found an actual grape stomper when most wineries were mechanized.  Teresa Tirelli had never acted before and spoke very little English, requiring a translator to be on set to help guide her through the scene.  However, with much of the instructions being lost in translation, what transpired between the two women, unknown to viewers at the time was mostly a legitimate fight.

According to author Bart Andrews, Ball had wanted the scene to look as real as possible—and that’s exactly what she got:

“Since we hadn’t worked with the grapes in the vat during rehearsals, I had no idea what I was in store for.  Once the fight started, the lady was bent on drowning me.  At one point, she literally held my head under water, and I had to fight to get my breath back.  A lot of that was edited out of the final print.  Looking back, of course, I’m glad it happened that way because the scene was so good.”

When Ball accidentally hit Tirelli during one take, she responded back with full force as a method actor.  “Down I went, with Teresa on top of me … She just held me down, hitting me.  I thought she was trying to kill me.  I had grapes up my nose, up my ears.”

Airing a month after filming, the episode became so famous that many viewers who watched it thought that was how wine was made in the present despite the industry’s numerous technological advances by that time. “They [I Love Lucy] set back the vision of the Italian wine industry 100 years,” wrote author Thomas Pellechia in describing the impact of that one particular episode.  And in 2015, the fact that people still talk about it it is a testament to the comedic genius of Lucille Ball who risked her well-being that day in order to create some television magic.

Sources:

Adir, Karen. The Great Clowns of American Television. Jefferson: McFarland & Company, Inc., 1988.
Kanfer, Stefan. Ball of Fire: The Tumultuous Life and Comic Art of Lucille Ball. New York: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2007.
Oppenheimer, Jess and Oppenheimer, Gregg.  Laughs, Luck– and Lucy: How I Came to Create the Most Popular Sitcom of All Time. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1996.
Pellechia, Thomas. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Starting and Running a Winery. New York: Penguin Group, 2008.
Scott, Michelle. Corked by Cabernet. New York: Penguin Group, 2009.


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Ask Sid: English Fizz?

April 8th, 2015
Ask your question here The International Wine & Food Society

Any good Engish wines?

Question: Travelling to London and the United Kingdom next month and would like your tip Sid on a local wine I should look for during my visit.

Answer: I would recommend looking for some of those Product of England much improved Sparkling wines. I have a soft spot for Nyetimber (www.nyetimber.com) as I know their winemakers Cherie Spriggs & Brad Greatrix  who studied at the Wine Research Centre  of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver before joining them in 2007. 100% Estate grown Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier from vineyards in Sussex & Hampshire result in complex fresh vintage bubbles as Classic Cuvee, Blanc de Blancs, Rose, Demi-Sec, and single vineyard Tillington – all worth trying! I admire their brave decision not to produce any English fizz at all in 2012 because they decided the quality of their fruit was not good enough. Information on other English wine producers to explore on your visit can be found on their website.


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