Wednesday, November 28, 2012

I’m Dreaming of a Wine Christmas – Corked for the Holidays

It’s time to relax, have a little fun, and get ready for the holidays.  For the next three weeks, we’ll take a look at what you can do with the other parts of that bottle of wine.  Today, let’s start at the top with the cork.

If you recycle your corks, you are a true Eco-Wine Lover.  Kudos to you, and please disregard this.  But, if you seem to end up with a drawer full of them, here’s a few holiday ideas to help eliminate the cork clutter and, maybe, get a few gift ideas out of the way for the wine lovers on your list.

First, decide what you’d like to create.  Options include a wine cork wreath, cork bulletin board or trivet, cork wine tree, and cork bottle tags. Next, gather your corks and a hot glue gun.   Now, pour a glass of your favorite wine and follow the instructions from the options below.

Wine Cork Wreath – 
Start with a wreath form from your local craft store.  Attach the corks with the hot glue gun. Place them in a random fashion, covering the wreath. When you’re finished, attach a holiday bow and hang.

Wine Cork Bulletin Board or Trivet –

Begin by gluing the corks together. You can glue them in a parquet pattern of two up and two down, or all in a straight line, end-to-end and side-to-side.  The size of the bulletin board or trivet depends on how many corks you have.

For a trivet, instead of gluing the corks together lying side by side, you could cut them in half and glue them standing up, leaving some space between them to create a fancier pattern.  If you use this method, you can even create some matching wine coasters.

Once glued in a pattern, glue the corks to a board that will provide a sturdy backing for them.  If you’re creating a bulletin board, you might want to put a frame around the corks.  If you’ve crafted a trivet, you could consider small plastic feet so the wood does not scratch the counter surface it sets on.

Wine Cork Tree – 
Arrange various corks in the shape of a Christmas tree and glue together.  Check the ends of the corks – many red wines will have already provided a nice coloring to them.  Others, you may wish to give a light coating of green food coloring to. Glue two corks together to attach to the bottom as a trunk, or cut the top off a champagne cork and use the thick part as the trunk and the round part for the top of the tree.  Attach a festive ribbon to complete your wine cork tree.

Cork Wine Bottle Tags - 
Purchase sheets of cork from your local craft store.  Use a paper wine bottle tag or bottle necker as a guide and trace onto the sheet of cork.  Cut the tag shape out carefully and attach a ribbon to the top.  If this is a gift, include a sharpie pen for writing on the bottle tag – and a bottle of wine to get them started.

Once you’ve finished, sit back and enjoy a glass of wine as you ponder how you ended up with that many wine corks anyway… ; D


~ Joy

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving History and Wine

Thanksgiving is a traditional, and federal holiday celebrated in the United States on the fourth Thursday of November. The National Proclamation of Thanksgiving was first declared by the Continental Congress in 1777. The days of Thanksgiving varied from year to year, but were celebrated with some regularity in the mid-17th century after the harvest was in.

However, it was in 1863, when President Lincoln proclaimed it a national holiday to be celebrated the fourth Thursday of November each year that Thanksgiving began to become a treasured holiday.

The Pilgrims celebrated the first Thanksgiving in 1621 at what is now the Plymouth Plantation. The three-day feast was held after the first successful harvest in the New World.  Over fifty Pilgrims and 90 Wampanoag Indians attended the celebration.

The foods of the first Thanksgiving varied somewhat from what we have today.  The Pilgrims did have access to wild turkeys, but there was also venison, eel, cod, bass, and waterfowl available.

Vegetables that were available included corn, onions, leeks, carrots, cabbage, various squash and pumpkins; nuts, dried fruits, cranberries, and apples.

In modern times, our Thanksgiving usually includes what has come to be known as traditional foods; turkey, dressing/stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, autumn vegetables such as sweet corn, beans, squash, and, of course, pumpkin pie. The choice of beverage usually includes tea, coffee, colas, wine, and beer.

But has wine always been a Thanksgiving staple?  According to information regarding what type of cargo the Mayflower carried – wine was regularly included on its shipping roles. The ship's hold could carry 180 oak casks of wine.  The Mayflower was typically loaded with wines from Bordeaux and La Rochelle, France for the return trip to England.

Wine was also listed in the supplies that were sent to the New World from England, along with beer, aqua vita, (a drink made from distilled wine or beer,) and hard cider.  As the colonists learned how to make these drinks in America, the beverages began to disappear from the shipping supply roles. 

While native grapes, fruits, and grains would have changed the taste of the wines, beers, and hard ciders, colonists learned how to work with them to craft flavorful beverages to enjoy with their meals.  By the mid-1600’s, hard cider was the drink of choice in the colonies.

Today, many wines are touted as excellent Thanksgiving wines – Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Gewurztraminer/Traminette, and sparkling wines like Moscato, just to name a few. 

Another pairing idea - Beaujolais.  Georges Duboeuf knew that this wine would go wonderfully well with the normal autumn celebration fare, but Beaujolais was traditionally not released until December 15th.  With that in mind, Duboeuf released his Beaujolais on the third Thursday of November, and called it Beaujolais Nouveau. Now the third Thursday of November is heralded by the anticipated release of Beaujolais Nouveau, well ahead of the traditional Beaujolais release date, and just in time for autumn celebrations.

If you’re feeling adventurous, or would like to add a bit of authentic autumn flavor to your celebrations, consider a cranberry wine, or one crafted from pumpkins, persimmons, or apples.  

Regardless of your choice of foods and wines for this Thanksgiving, remember to be thankful that you have a wine glass, and grateful that there’s something in it! ;)

Happy Thanksgiving, & Enjoy!

~  Joy

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Hurricane Sandy's Affects on the Eastern Wine Industry

It’s been just over two weeks since Hurricane Sandy hit land in the northeastern section of the United States.  The death toll from the storm is over 100 people, 43 in New York City alone.  Over 8.1 million people were without power, and thousands were displaced from their homes. Streets, subways and tunnels flooded.  Damage estimates have been around $33-billion dollars, just for the New York City area, with damage estimates for the eastern coast at well over $50-billion.  This makes Sandy the second most costly hurricane in the U.S., coming in just behind Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

It will be months, for some years, before life returns to what it was.  While the destruction and damage is tremendous – what effects will Sandy have on the wine industry in the region?

Before the super storm struck, store owners reported wine and alcohol sales were brisk.  It appears that the dark and brooding wines were the first to go – Malbec, Merlot, and Cabernet, followed by the sparkling wines. (Possible to celebrate if you escaped Sandy’s wrath?)

After the storm, many wine shops were unable to reopen due to damage, not having electricity, or lack of product.  Despite some stores best efforts, Sandy’s flood surges made it past the sandbags and barricades, damaging wine racks, crushing boxes and cartons, busting bottles, and washing wine out the door.

But how did wineries in the region fare?  And how were area vineyards affected?

According to reports, most damage was sustained on New Jersey’s outer banks. Fortunately, most of New Jersey’s 37 wineries are located father inland.

Wineries and vineyards on Long Island suffered little property damage.  The harvest was about two weeks early this year and almost all of the grapes were already in and processed.  Rainfall was not too heavy and minor flash flooding could be dealt with.  The main problems for Long Island wineries were wind damage and some minor flooding in the buildings.

By all reports, the winery that fared the worst from the storm was Red Hook Winery in Brooklyn.  Located on a pier on the Upper New York Bay waterfront, Red Hook took a direct hit from the hurricane. Water was reported to have surged into the building at over 5 feet, knocking out windows and doors, demolishing most of the winery’s equipment, and destroying barrels of wine.   

Without electricity, the winery had no climate or humidity controls, making mold and temperature fluxuations perilous problems.  If the temperatures in wine fermentation tanks are not controlled, bacteria can begin to grow and ruin the wines.  As of last week, Red Hook reported their wines may be a total loss. Red Hook Winery sold their first bottle of wine in 2009.  At this time, the fate of Red Hook Winery is not known.

Vineyards pose another problem for the wine industries of New York and New Jersey.  Vineyards that had completed harvest, still must deal with the loss of vines.  Realizing that it takes most grape vines three to five years to produce quality fruit, a replanting could cost the wine industry in these states a set back, depending on how many vines were lost.

The after effects of the hurricane on regional wineries and their holiday season will be tremendous.   November and December are the busiest and most profitable months of the year for small and medium sized wineries.  Without a licensed winery location, or the wines to sell, many will face some difficult financial and business decisions.  In this industry, every day a winery goes without wine sales results in a tremendous financial, and public relation losses.

Residents of Sandy-damaged areas will have to wait and see how much those insurance policies are really worth.  Unfortunately, many in New York and New Jersey are finding out that their insurance policies do not cover flooding, or they may have an “anti-concurrent causation” clause.  This means that if two events occur at the same time, like flooding and wind damage, and you do not have coverage for one of them – then damage for either event may not be covered.

Only time will tell what Hurricane Sandy's true affect was on the Eastern U.S. wineries.  For now, wineries there can only take it one day at a time, and trust the process will be fair...