Tag: mark oldman

Fright Potions for Halloween

by in Drinks, Holidays, October 26th, 2012

shrunken head strawsFor Halloween I often advise people to find one of the many wines available with scary names, such as Sin Zin, Dead Arm or Devil’s Lair. Given the festive nature of fright night, however, it can also be rewarding to whip up a big-batch wine that is sure to give your guests the creeps — in a good way.

Red Punch: The color of villainy, of course, is blood red, so the easiest way to add fright to your night is to mix up a simple Red Wine Punch from Food Network Magazine.

Sangria: With a little more work, you can make a traditional red sangria, whose name appropriately derives from sangre or blood in Spanish. I show you how in this video.

Go Green: Equally impressive would be to surprise your guests with a concoction the color of ghastly green. Obtain some green food coloring and add it to Paula Deen’s Mimosa Punch or Giada’s Apple and Mint Punch.

Accessorize with Sandra’s Shrunken Head Straws

Does a $10,000 Bottle of Wine Taste Like $10,000?

by in Drinks, January 25th, 2012

expensive wine bottle
When you write about wine, you sometimes get to taste the really expensive stuff. I’m not talking filet mignon or even white-truffle expensive. I’m talking splurging like Diddy-in-a-diamond-hoodie-on-a-yacht expensive.

When a collector shares one of these bottles with me, friends later ask, “Does it taste like [insert obscenely expensive price]?”

The honest answer: It doesn’t, at least not to the untrained palate, and probably not even to most trained palates.

The lesson here is that while the price is often reflective of a wine’s quality, it is so only up to a point. And even when a wine is of high quality — from the best grapes handled by the most talented hands — it doesn’t mean that you are going to automatically taste its full price. In fact, some of the most-prized bottles can evoke qualities — think soy sauce or pencil lead or even a barnyard in August — that are off-putting to the uninitiated.

Read more

5 Myths of Buying Wine in Supermarkets

by in Drinks, December 7th, 2011

supermarket wine
“Who is buying this stuff?” I always wonder when I pass by one of the wine aisles at a certain 24-hour supermarket in California’s Silicon Valley. Past aisles of everyday wine and not far from a display of pet flea and tick collars and a table of diapers, is a display cabinet of bottles of fine wine, some of it under locked glass. You have to wonder: Do the Mark Zuckerbergs and Larry Pages of the world really need to make 4 a.m. runs for Heitz Cabernet?

Apparently so, or else the supermarket wouldn’t stock it — or at least stock so much of it. What it also reminds us is that a great deal of the world’s wine is purchased at supermarkets and, contrary to common conception, many of these stores sell more than supermarket wine.

Five myths about supermarket wine »

Wines for a Special Occasion — Outsmarting Wine

by in Drinks, November 18th, 2011

special occasion wine
With the holidays looming, the wine mind naturally turns to occasions where we can break out the special stuff. Here are four of my favorite options:

Older Champagne: While most sparklers are meant to be drunk soon after release — when bubbles are vigorous and the taste shades to the citric and snappy — a good wine merchant can steer you to a bottle of mature Champagne (i.e., 10 years or more of bottle age). Its delicate bubbles and haunting, hazelnut flavors will make your important occasions seem that much more memorable.

Read more

5 Ways to Drink Devilishly This Halloween

by in Drinks, Holidays, October 27th, 2011

wine for halloween
When there’s a chill in the air and a jack-o’-lantern on the porch, it’s time for wine that’s spooky in every place but inside the glass. Here are five wine options that will have you laughing like Vincent Price:

1. Wine for Candy:
A sweet-seeming red like an oaky Shiraz, Zinfandel or Cabernet will pair nicely with mini-Snickers or a fist-full of Jujubes.

2. Hard Cider:
If your Halloween will include bobbing for apples or caramel apples, ask your local wine merchant for their best hard apple cider. Recently fashionable among wine hipsters, hard cider has a delicious, farm-fresh taste joined by a light sparkle and a low alcohol content.

Wine with scary names »

How to Order Wine in One Sentence — Outsmarting Wine

by in Drinks, October 18th, 2011

how to order wine in one sentence
You won’t find me wearing a bowtie or a tweedy jacket. I don’t speak with a lilting English accent or raise a pinky when I drink. In other words, I don’t look like the prototypical wine expert. This is good news for you, because I don’t get special treatment in restaurants; in fact, you might say I have a front-row seat to the nerve center of wine anxiety. The idea that we’re supposed to make the right choice from a long list of foreign names, years and prices — and do so in the stolen moments of glancing down at a wine list — is a game for Don Quixote.

Assuming that your server or sommelier seems informed, here are three ways to stack the deck in your favor by ordering wine with just one sentence.

Three ways to order wine »

How to Taste Wine — Outsmarting Wine

by in Drinks, How-to, October 7th, 2011

how to taste wine
“I’m not good at wine,” is the sheepishly exasperated refrain I always hear. “I just don’t get all those things — the plums, the oak, the butter — that stuff experts talk about.”

My response: You’re not alone and frankly I just don’t know how some enthusiasts detect things like tomato leaves, sweaty saddle and other exotica in their fermented grape juice. There are, however, useful descriptors that many experts use, like oaky, crisp and soft, that can help you communicate to store clerks and sommeliers what kind of wine you really like. Here are three ways to build your wine-tasting vocabulary.

Three ways to build your wine-tasting vocabulary »

What to See and Say in a Wine Store — Outsmarting Wine

by in Drinks, September 21st, 2011

wine store
Every week, Mark Oldman — wine expert, acclaimed author and lead judge of the hit series The Winemakers — shares with readers the basics of wine, while making it fun and practical. In the coming weeks, he’ll tell you what to ask at a wine store, at what temperature to serve it and share his must-have wine tools.

Come clean: In a wine shop, you choose by the label. Not to worry — I, too, am seduced by alluring packaging. But what if you want to make sure that the wine also tastes good? Here’s a plan of attack that even a novice can conquer.

First, you need to maximize the chances that the store has smart, helpful clerks and not the snide, zoned-out clerks that make me head straight to an online seller. If you don’t already know the shop’s reputation, do some reconnaissance. Are the bottles cool to the touch or are they baking in the sun, on the road to ruin? Does the place use homemade shelf signs, or just plastic cards with canned advertising copy? Does it host free tastings? All are clues that the merchant takes its business and its customers seriously.

What to see and say in a wine store »

Terroir: Does Your Wine Taste Like Somewhere?

by in Drinks, September 14th, 2011

terroir
Every week, Mark Oldman — wine expert, acclaimed author and lead judge of the hit series The Winemakers — shares with readers the basics of wine, while making it fun and practical. In the coming weeks, he’ll tell you what to ask at a wine store, at what temperature to serve it and share his must-have wine tools.

My friend Carl is an apple-cider savant. If you put three different glasses of cider in front of him, after a few sips of each, he can tell you which one is from Gravenstein Apples in Sonoma, which originated in Canada and which came from the Jonagold apples of central New Jersey. This is because the taste of each cider reflects where the apples come from — their geography and growing conditions — so each possesses a distinct aroma and taste.

So the same goes with wine.  Enthusiasts often talk of a wine’s terroir (tare-WAHR), the consistently identifiable taste that reflects where the grapes came from. A terroir-driven wine expresses not only its grape type, but also all of the natural conditions in which those grapes were grown: the soil type, the angle of slope on which it was grown and the particular micro climate there. Certain wine types, like from France’s Burgundy and Alsace regions, are known to express their terroir — that is, these wines have a unique personality that conveys the natural conditions from which they came. They express a “sense of somewhere,” which is how the term “terroir” is often translated from French, though there is no precise definition in English.

Read more

How to Send Wine Back — Outsmarting Wine

by in Drinks, How-to, September 7th, 2011

how to send wine back
Every week, Mark Oldman — wine expert, acclaimed author and lead judge of the hit series The Winemakers — shares with readers the basics of wine, while making it fun and practical. In the coming weeks, he’ll tell you what to ask at a wine store, at what temperature to serve it and share his must-have wine tools.

Contrary to common conception, it isn’t easy being the “wine guy” in restaurants — your tablemates assume you always have a divining rod to the best bottle. But what happens when you don’t get a good bottle? Or when you get a spoiled one? How do you politely send it back without being a jerk?

It was with extreme caution last week that I was in this exact situation: I sent back a bottle of wine at a New York restaurant. Although the server didn’t know of my connection to wine, she had already generously offered me tastes of two other wines they had by the glass. I turned them down gently and instead went with another, a red that she swore by.

Find out how to send a bottle of wine back politely »