Showing posts from 2010

New Year’s Eve Options Left

The weather has dumped snow on parts of the country, leaving many to change their plans for New Year’s celebrations.  Whether you have been forced to stick close to home or you are stuck in a city you didn’t expect to be in, here are some celebrations that sound like they will make you forget Mother Nature… New York City The snow isn’t going to stop the ball from dropping in Times Square, in fact, it looks like it may be even warming up a bit down there when the Carnival Cruise sponsored confetti goes flying. A few rooms are left at a place I really enjoyed a few months ago, Hotel Elysée. Their package includes a deluxe room, a bottle of chilled Veuve Clicquot (a Spirits Traveler favorite) and a box of Leonidas Chocolates. It’s only a 15 minute walk to Times Square, or you can enjoy the quiet of the Parisian inspired hotel. In the morning, don’t skip out before enjoying their complimentary breakfast spread.  Full package information is available here , or call (212) 753-1066.

Last Minute Holiday Travel

You’ve got a few days off and suddenly the idea of letting someone else do the cooking and decorating while you lay back and relax with a few drinks sounds very appealing. It may not be too late to do that. This is the year of bargain airfares and   there are still some seats left in the plane. Whether you are going to shop for a flight or just get in your car, check out what two of my top destinations have to offer for spirited holiday celebrations… Napa Valley Yountville is a foodie’s best stop in Napa with more Michelin star restaurants (i.e. French Laundry , étoile , Bouchon ), than you can fill your palette with. If you want to forget the snow and remember the wine and spirits, they’ve got some great offerings (contact the Yountville Chamber for details unless otherwise indicated): Skate under the stars at the Vintage Winter Pavilion, where you can also enjoy a Hot Toddy & Cocktail menu and weekend wine tastings through January 2 nd ; Enjoy WinterScape Hotel Packages

A Collection of Cognac Cocktails

As I confessed when I first arrived in Cognac , it was not one of my favorite spirits when I tried to drink it neat. All that changed, though, when I started tasting some "Cognac Cocktails." I was amazed at how well cognac mixed, giving a unique flavor to even the old standards (try substitute cognac for vodka or gin the next time you're mixing tonic; or as the base of a Mojito). Here are a few of the recipes I came home with: Pink Love Pour 20 ml (approx. 3/4 oz) of VSOP Cognac in a tall glass; Add 10 ml of Raspberry Liqueur Pour 90 ml of Champagne Top with a Raspberry. Bandista Place ice cubes in a short glass; Add 30 ml of VSOP Cognac; Pour in 20 ml of Limonade; Top with a sprig of Mint. Lancer Franc Place ice cubes in a shaker; Pour in 20 ml of VS or VSOP Cognac Add 10 ml Strawberry Liqueur and 90 ml Orange Juice; Put a lid on the shaker and shake well; Strain the liquid into a tall glass; Top with a Strawberry. Cognac Summit Place lime zest an

Barefoot Travels

There's a group of people (in addition to us wine travel writers) who travel for wine.  And they welcome you to follow them around. They are called "Barefooters" and they represent a different kind of wine company. With Barefoot Wines, you don't go to a vineyard to taste wine, you travel to an event. I met with Austin Duke (also known as "Rebel Toe" to his co-workers) at the Indianapolis Tennis Championships .  He was there giving out samples of wine.  We talked between pouring about the company he works for, where the motto is "Get Barefoot and have a great time!"   That's what his job is as a Barefooter . He brings the winery selection to events for sampling. From state food and wine festivals to the Sundance Film Festival, Barefooters travel around the country bringing good cheer to events people can travel to and have a good time. But that's not all Barefoot Wines does. Barefoot Wines was purchased by E&J Gallo in 2005, but i

Wine is just the beginning at Jack Binion's Steakhouse

Great wine and great food go hand in hand, so what better way to top a trip to a wine region than with an extraordinary restaurant?   Jack Binion's Steakhouse is located at the Horseshoe Casino Hotel in Elizabeth, Indiana, just a short drive from Corydon and the wineries of HarrisonCounty, but the wine selection here goes way beyond the area. From the "Captain's List," which includes Far Niente Cabernet Sauvignon to a Beaujolais from Louis Jadot Villages in France, you can find a choice for everyone from all over the world.   We chose to just have a bit of the Folonari Pinot Grigio as we needed to save our palates for a long tour of wine tasting the following day. The wine list is the place to start at Jack Binion's , but the food will keep you going in true style.   There is a large offering of seafood, as well as pork chops, rack of lamb, chicken, prime rib and, of course, steak (Strip, Filet Mignon, Porthouse, Kobe Beef) made and served exactly as ordere

Courvoisier - home of Napoleon's cognac

Courvoisier was my final stop on the Cognac tour and the House of Courvoisier is prepared to make all visitors feel like its most famous former guest -- the Emperor Napoleon. It was back in the 19th century.  Emmanuel Courvoisier and Louis Gallois were running a wine and spirit merchant company in Bercy, a suburb of Paris. Napoleon visited the warehouse and took several barrels of their cognac with him on a journey. And the very appreciative English officers named the product the "Cognac of Napoleon."  In 1869, Napoleon III actually presented Courvoisier with a certificate that deemed it their cognac  "Official Supplier to the Imperial Court."  Just outside the the town of Cognac, Courvoisier has a visitor's center in Jarnac, which not only displays cognac and its historical connection to Napoleon, it encourages guests to "sense" it. Courvoisier stressed the senses throughout our tour, as they do in company's description of their Napoleon cogn

Cognac Rendez-vous at Remy Martin

The visit to Remy Martin was a bit different from the others as they specialize in making trips there unusual. "Les Rendez-vous Remy Martin" is a collection of offerings to allow visitors to customize their cognac experience with tours, tastings and meals on the distillery grounds and the family estate. I was lucky enough to experience a sampling of what they had to offer (as well as some samples of their finest cognacs) as we went from blending our own cognac to a countryside picnic. We began the day in the visitors' center with croissants and muffins (carbohydrates before cognac is always a good idea). We were given an introduction and I was surprised to hear the actual numbers -- that Remy Martin, which began in 1724, produces 1.8 million cases per year. We were also told that it is the French government who sets the price of the eau de vie used to make cognac. It is exclusively Petite Champagne and Grande Champagne vineyards that are used in Remy products through 5

Cognac, cooperage -- and deer -- with Martell

Martell had quite an interesting afternoon prepared for us, beginning at their distillery. There we learned about the fine grain woods (the only type Martell uses) and how they make finer and more dense cognacs. To illustrate the point, we were taken to the company's cooperage for a fascinating barrel-making lesson. A cooperage is a place where hand-crafted barrels are made. In the case of Martell's cooperage, it is a place where 45,000 barrels per year are made -- by hand. It was amazing to watch as a worker picked the wood (left outside to be prepared naturally in the rain and sun). The wood was cut into strips and put together a piece at a time before going through the fire, sanding and sealing (for details, see "How to Make a Barrel for Wine" ). It was a great experience to see how important every detail in the barrel making is important when making a fine cognac.   After the cooperage, we were back to Martell's Distillery for a tasting of VSOP, XO and Cord

Crossing the river with Hennessy

You never forget your first, and Hennessy was my first real introduction to cognac. Through the vineyards, the river, the tasting, and even the estate, it was quite a first time. The day started bright and early with a true French breakfast of croissants, fruit, cheese and yogurt at Chateau de L’Yeuse before we packed up for our next location. It was a beautiful summer day with temperatures in the 70s as we headed through the windy roads of Cognac to the Hennessy Vineyards. There we were met by Cyrille Gautier-Auriol, Hennessy's Ambassadeur de la Maison, who showed us the vineyards and the grapes, and explained how the grapes in this region don't make great wine, but they produce outstanding brandy and can be blended for the best cognac.   The vineyards we saw were more "test" vineyards for Hennessy than producers of product. The company-owned plants take up only 200 acres in comparison to the 26,000+ acres in the region. Hennessy uses nearly 2,000 growers in the a

Checking Out Cognac -- the Town and the Drink

We were quite an entourage. Journalists specializing in spirits (and/or travel); members of DISCUS, and representatives from the major cognac manufacturers. As we sat in the lounge of British Airways, I had no idea what I was in for. But everything seemed to go according to the plan. The flight on Open Skies (an all-business class airline) was great with comfortable seats and excellent food. Though I didn't get much sleep, I finally got to see Slumdog Millionaire. We arrived at Paris' Orly airport 30 minutes ahead of schedule. Orly would have to be described as the total opposite of Charles de Gaulle. It's much smaller and therefore things went a lot quicker. We were out of there within the half hour, holding our bags and ready to board a bus to Montparnasse train station in Paris. Montparnasse could easily be (if you take away the French signs and the charges to use the toilettes) Penn Station, but it's hard to find a Pan au Chocolat that will match the true Fr