Tag Archives: wine and food pairing

“I Drink on the Job” – DONE! Off to the Printers..


Charlie Demonstrating Screwtop Sniffing Technique!

My book is done – off to the printers! I received the Author’s Proof copy in the mail yesterday of “I Drink on the Job: A Refreshing Perspective on Wine” and I went through it thoroughly – found a few typos, but I felt it was good to go – Onward!! So do I feel relieved? Well kinda, let me explain:

First of all, now that the book is done, now I have to sell it! Oh, you mean these things don’t just sell themselves, shouldn’t I just sit back and wait for the royalty checks? After talking with quite a few first time authors, this myth was quickly erased for me. Marketing, promoting and selling a book today is a jungle – you gotta go out there with your machete and cut through all the brush in order to get to your sales paradise. I’ve been talking up the book for about a year now (according to my estimate, the book was finished about 8 months ago!) and I even held a pre-launch through Adams Morgan Main Street, a non-profit that was interested in having me speak at their monthly wine tasting. My formal “Launch” is on Wine Library TV on Monday, February 15th in a few weeks, but I still have pretty wide open plans.

I’ve signed up to be one of the wine seminar speakers at various wine and food festivals in the DC area including Great Grapes, Virginia Wine Showcase, and many more in Virginia and Maryland. The DC Intl. Wine Festival no longer has wine seminars, but I will be attending (still waiting for my Trade/Press pass, what’s up with that DC Fest??). I’m talking with various local wine retailers (a few national chains too!) and wine bars for events as well. When I charged speaker’s fees for wine tastings before, I cut out so many charities who couldn’t afford my services, now all they have to do is purchase a minimum number of books and they have an event to go!

I REALLY strained my sciatic nerve really bad lifting weights this week, and I can barely walk without wincing in pain – ouch!! I think that injury is related to stress – I had too much on my mind when I hit the gym and I hit it a bit too hard. If someone says you can’t be “over” motivated, they’re flat out wrong – I’m capable of losing a limb without noticing when I’m pumped up..but I really need to take it easy at my age (40+ – that’s all you need to know!), I have to be the turtle, not the hare..

OK, back to watching the snow fall in DC and wondering how to market my first book – questions like “where should I do a book tour?”, “will wine bar events sell books?” and “did I price my book right?” are all floating happily in my brain – think I’ll relax in front of the fire tonight – Cheers!

Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler

Italian Vino for Wine Newbies


Charlie Adler Doing His Best “I Love Lucy” Grape Stomping Rendition!

I’ve been teaching and organizing wine classes at TasteDC TasteDC Website for over twelve years now, and just as soon as I think I’ve gotten it into an art form, I realize that every audience is unique – the principle that “one size fits all” just doesn’t hold water. That point plus the volunteers who pour my wine at events seem to have disappeared (you mean I need to keep in regular touch with them, shouldn’t they realize that I’m writing a wine book?!) means that tomorrow night I’ll most likely be juggling my notes, pouring wine and registering about 30 people all at the same time. Ahh, the life of a wine professional who drinks on the job, all is not fun and games!

The question is, how can I cover all of Italy in just under 2 hours? Although it’s a difficult task, I know I’m going to have to talk about food as well as wine. The whole premise of my upcoming book “I Drink on the Job” I Drink on the Job Book Website is that wine and food were meant to be together and this is based on the whole European food and wine lifestyle. Below are a few thoughts on how I’m going to introduce Italian wine to an audience that is starving to discover the pleasures of the Italian Table.

1) Break Italy down into major regions and taste and discuss wines that are representative of those areas.
Not an earth-shattering point, but it’s extremely practical. Some regions like Tuscany and specifically Chianti within that region are a given. I’ll focus on wines like regional Sangiovese, Barbera, Nero d’Avola, and Valpolicella. These wines/varietals have distinct regional variations and relate to the geography, climate and lifestyle of a given appellation.

2) Choose wines that deliver bang for the buck and represent the kind of wines that Italians would consume on a daily basis with their meals
Italy has some unbelievably fantastic show-stopping wines like Barolo, Barbaresco, and Brunello. As good as these wines are, their prices have sky-rocketed in recent years to such an extent that even your average Italian can only occasionally afford them. Piedmont has some excellent Barberas and Dolcettos that have never become fashionable in the world market, so they’re very affordable. Pinot Grigio has become popular in the U.S. but there are many whites like Vermentino and Trebbiano that are less famous in the U.S. and can be delicious at a reasonable price.

3) Share stories and anecdotes of my various trips to Italy that are “relevant”
Here are some fun stories that accomplish two things: 1) they entertain and get people to relax and relate to the wine experience and 2) they teach a relevant point about Italians and Italian wine that can help the wine consumer make purchase decisions when they need to:

-My trip to Vinitaly in 2004, where 4,000 wineries and what seemed like 4 million Italians (slight exaggeration!) hold a week of tastings and Italians get to show off their designer shoes and belts. This is held in the town of “Romeo and Juliet’s” Verona in the Veneto region. Lots of great stories from this trip including how we shut the bar down every night in our hotel in Bussolengo (those crazy Americans!!), and the amazing number of wine varietals that Italy produces.

-My buddy Antonio whose family comes from Piedmont not too far from Turin who told me that his family often visits a local farm where they purchase wines by the gallon jug for around $1 each!

-There are no spaghetti and meatballs in Italy – there’s spaghetti and then there’s meatballs, but they don’t go together, they’re served separately! This is similar to the Italian rule that you should never allow cheese to be shaved onto seafood, this is just a well-known “no no”!

-One quote from an Italian I met at a tasting is just a jewel: “in Italy, the trick is to find a job with the least amount of hours and the most amount of pay!” If you know anything about Italians, generally work comes second; friends, family and a fun lifestyle are more important!

Ciao!

Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler

Wine: The Food Enhancer

Spice up your life! If you enjoy food, then wine will come naturally. It’s part of the seasoning of your meal. Think of wine as a way to enhance the flavors of food. As a full-time wine professional over at TasteDC and about to be released author of I Drink on the Job: A Refreshing Perspective on Wine I constantly get questions from new wine drinkers about food and wine pairing. My overall philosophy is that wine and food is a synergy: 1 + 1 should equal MORE than 2. I argue that this is the same way with spices and the cooking preparation of your dish. Chefs will often add spices and taste as they go which helps to layer flavors and adjusts the flavor of the dish. Wine has dual purposes as well: it wakes up your taste buds before you begin eating primarily with acidity, and it accentuates flavors in food. If this sounds complicated, remember – no one has ever died from a bad wine and food pairing, it’s a low-risk proposition, even if wine and food don’t pair well, you can still experience pleasure!

My suggestion is that since wine and food pairing is an art form at best, wine consumers should experiment. What works for you, may not work for me and vice-versa. Just as chefs are adding new combinations of spices and flavorings to their dishes, new wine and food pairing synergies will be discovered. I like to think of it as exploration – new adventurers are breaking out of the mold of old ways of thinking and discovering new ways to enjoy the pleasures of wine. Just like not every explorer discovered something of value or importance, not all wine and food matches will work. But why not experiment and possibly make a discovery? The world of wine and food adventures is much safer than crossing the Atlantic on a galley, the worst mutiny that could occur is wine critics and the wine “order” could ignore you or denigrate you, but with the new world of social media – who needs them anyway? Set sail my friend to a new world of Tasting Discovery – Cheers!

Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler

Debunking Terroir

I’ve heard so much about terroir in the wine press/blogging/twitter the last few years, that I’m past overwhelmed by all the statements and now into my denial phase. If you’re not familiar with “terroir”, it’s all about the “placeness” of a wine: the what, where, and how of the type of vine chosen, the varietal, the roots, the soil, the micro-climate, the wine maker, the regionality and of course all the factors that go into making the wine. For example, the “terroirists” or proponents of the idea that wine (and cheese, and beer, and pretty much anything you consume) should represent the unique characteristics of its region, are generally against much human manipulation, ie. chemical fertilizers, fungicides, herbicides, and too much use of new oak (this is a very short list, there are many more!). Their thinking is that we should taste nature’s gift the way nature intended it to be–use natural yeast, don’t filter or fine, and let the grapes ferment and express themselves the way they were meant to..enough, enough!

So what’s my issue with the concept of terroir? Does my skepticism towards the idea that you can (or can not) taste the soil in the final expression of the wine give me the right to throw the whole idea of nature’s expression out the window? Well, that’s not my point. I actually believe that better wine makers know and understand the locality they live in and they should use the least aggressive means of getting the vine to ripen grapes and express the full range of flavors. I believe that terroir, like character, is personal to each wine consumer. We each HAVE our own terroir (where you were born, your family history, the way you were brought up, etc.) and VIEW terroir differently – you say tomato, I say tomaato, well..you get the picture. We all express our own terroir, taste things in our own way, and we should each express our own opinions. The terroirists like many idealists are just too fanatical for my tastes, so to speak. They often condemn “manufactured wines” that have no soul, no individuality, and don’t represent a unique micro-climate. Fine–but just like the average American consumer, I want to enjoy a wine and I want it to taste good – what if 2 Buck Chuck tastes better to my palate than a $45 bottle of Burgundy, does that make me insincere? Isn’t there a place for mass market wines just like there’s a place for chain stores, or other commercially made products? Sure, I prefer handmade chocolates, but I’m not offended by the highly industrialized manufacture of Hershey Kisses, hey they taste good too!

The French say “to each his own” – so be it with wine. You only buy grass-fed organic beef from the farmer’s market, I like Prime-Aged corn-finished meat, but my mother swears by the tenderloin at Costco. Same with wine, each of us has different needs and goals in mind, so that should sincerely respected. I’d rather drink a local Virginia or Maryland wine (non-organic – it’s not possible at this point to produce organic wines in our area primarily due to humidity and rainfall during harvest issues) than an organic wine from say Chile. Both wines are great, but I can see the face of the Virginia winemaker at a local wine tasting room or at local tastings. I like the idea to keep money in the community when possible – that’s my feel good issue. For me, my sense of terroir is connected with the people I help in life – economically, spiritually, and in whatever way I can be of assistance. I don’t give money to international charities because I try to assist the homeless that live within a mile of a my home. My terroir is right here..

Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler

How to Pop


Charlie Adler, Author of I Drink on the Job” Popping the Champagne Cork Video!

I’ve probably opened more than 2,000 bottles of sparkling wine – that excludes Belgian beers and Real Ciders.
Believe it or not, the secret is in the knees – bend them just a bit..for whatever reason, whether it’s psychological or physics, this makes easing the cork out less cumbersome. I have to admit – sometimes the cork does fly out – even when you use the precautions mentioned in the video – ironically, this happened to me at the Embassy of Switzerland in Washington, D.C. when I attempted to open some VERY fizzy Swiss wines.

Enjoy the video – I think you’ll find that opening a bottle of sparkling wine is relatively easy and care-free!

Cheers!

Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler

Does America Have “Poor Wine Self-Esteem”?

gary_vaynerchuk

Does America Have Poor “Wine Self-Esteem”

I saw the awesome Gary Vay – Ner – Chuk on his #aucrush #crushit “Crush It” book tour this past Wednesday at American University’s Kogod College of Business. I wasn’t just seeing Gary to hear about his book, but frankly I had a bit of an agenda: I wanted to promote my own book “I Drink on the Job” on his fun web show Wine Library TV (I have good news at the conclusion of this Blog Post!). Since I obviously wanted to draw some attention to myself in an audience of 200+ mostly college students, I wanted to ask a relevant question about wine to get Gary’s point of view. I was so excited/thrilled when the Moderator pointed at me to ask a question, I literally jumped up in the air, I was really pumped up by the show!

My question for Gary was about American’s “confusion” with wine and what he thought the problem was. In usual Gary fashion, probably the most quotable man in the wine business as well as all of Wine 2.0, he spewed out one-liners like “We’re stuck on 16 adjectives”, “People have no wine self-esteem”, and “I’ve seen grown men sweat at a business dinner..” His key point was that there’s a lack of what he calls “wine self-esteem” in the U.S. I thought this was something to delve into further because it’s one of the main reasons that I wrote my book “I Drink on the Job”.

According to Wikipedia Definition “Self-esteem”: “Self-esteem” is a term used in psychology to reflect a person’s overall evaluation or appraisal of his or her own worth. According to Gary Vaynerchuk of Wine Library TV WineLibraryTV, his newest book “Crush It” Crush It and many other entrepreneurial ventures, this is the biggest “problem” among American wine consumers today. Here’s the UStream Video of the event Gary Vaynerchuk Video at AU Crush It (I’m at about the 36th minute, he definitely noticed me!).

Throughout my book, I mention episodes of tension with American wine consumers in the real world. Examples include the woman who almost fainted when she found out I had purchased wines with screw top closures for her corporate event, the gentleman who almost went ballistic when I suggested that Robert Parker may not in fact be a “wine God”, and the woman who would not accept a pour of wine from me – at a wine tasting! Throughout my twelve year career in wine, I have experienced so much wine anxiety that I think Gary hit it right on the head – it’s actually American’s lack of “wine” self-esteem. Much of the proof of this is anecdotal, but when I teach TasteDC’s TasteDC Website wine course Wine Basics 101, I get the same questions over and over again: what do the “legs” of wine mean, is a more expensive wine a better wine, how long should a wine age, etc. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the questions, in fact, I think it’s very healthy to have strong curiosity about wine. I think the problem is that too many people believe there is in fact a right and a wrong answer. Too many wine professionals portray wine as something “difficult”, “complicated” and “mystical” – why else would they “de-mystify” wine? You only de-mystify, what is a mystery. What if wine professionals simply told new wine consumers to try a wine first and see if that person gains pleasure or to make wine part of daily meals? I spend over 200 pages in my book “I Drink on the Job” portraying wine as an everyday staple – drink it every day with your meals and the mystery disappears like the secrets to a magic trick. Once you get past the “illusion” of wine, it becomes an enjoyable part of your day, and a way to improve the pleasure of your meals.

As I always like to say: “Drink first, ask questions later”..but of course, I’m..

Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler

What Wine Goes with PB&J?

frenchman

They don’t stress much about drinking New Zealand wines in France – there is plenty of great wine in a French person’s backyard.  So why is it Americans stress out so much about choosing the right wine with say a French dish like Ratatouille when a French wine from say the Languedoc would work fine?  What is it as Americans that we expect from a wine and food pairing – a result of perfection where we can tell all of our compatriots how we successfully completed a veritably impossible task, matching the flavors of a dish with an unknown wine? Maybe we should study up on the world of wine, learn more about the intricacies of Gruner Veltliner from Austria and how it’s put this varietal on the map, or maybe we should read a few books on wine and food pairing to avoid that embarassing faux pas when we mistakenly ordered a Brut Champagne with our P,B &J when it should have been at least Extra-Dry or even sweeter?  Oh, why can’t this be so much easier, why can’t they just put little labels on food telling us what goes and doesn’t go, why do we have to use our feeble brains??

That’s because the French eat French food everyday, and guess what wine they drink with it?  French – their wine goes great with their dishes, eat up!  This is all part of that horrifically difficult to explain “terroir”.  Most of what you read and hear about terroir in wine circles relates to the location the vines were grown, but you rarely hear about the producer side of the equation, what I like to call “Pride in Ownership”. The tradition of drinking and eating local products created the pride in ownership that is part of terroir and what makes localities compete to make the best products.  Just like a New Yorker will bitch to no end about how bad the bagels are outside of New York (must be the water?), a Frenchman will claim that their regions chevre (goat cheese) is better than even the neighboring villages.  That cheese comes from a local goat, which was fed on local grasses and vegetation and its manure was used to fertilize the vines, or possibly it ate the weeds between the vines.  The French drink French wine most of the time as do the Italians and the Spanish not only because it’s cheaper for them and readily available, but they connect emotionally with their own produced wine and cuisine.  Being fussy about wine doesn’t make sense because it’s something consumed with everyday meals, normally lunch and dinner.  You eat local and you drink local because you know what tastes best.

Americans are still developing our pride in our own products and sometimes it embarasses us – once I was at a French Burgundy wine tasting early in my career at TasteDC in Washington, D.C. and I mentioned half-jokingly that one of the wines might taste great with a good cheeseburger and french fries – I got a look like I had just committed a sacrilege!  Wine was meant to be consumed with “real” food, not casual foods that were not worthy of their lofty reputations.  I had offended the American luxury ethic – thou shalt not enjoy any luxury without tight-lipped apprehension – how dare I, Charlie Adler, a non-wine expert at the time, attempt to create an unofficial food and wine pairing!  Call in an expert, food and wine pairing is rocket science, you need a degree in oenology even before you should be allowed to remove the cork!

OK, this seems a bit facetious, but if you had been consuming wine in the 90’s, you met quite a few people with sour puss demeanors.  Even the idea that someone would pair wine with something as mundane as a sandwich, much less a PB&J was considered to be preposterous and very uncouth.   Times have changed, wine is prevalent and available everywhere from supermarket and in some cases to the corner 7/11.  You don’t need a degree to enjoy wine with food, just do what the French do – eat and drink local.  So now that I’m serving Virginia ham with some local cheeses, I’ll choose a wine that..wait, isn’t ham salty and that will have a chemical effect on tannin?  Well then, I better not choose a wine that’s too tannic, it will..

Charlie “I Drink On the Job” Adler