The Grape Vine: Beaujolais—A New Day

Don\'t stick up your nose at Beaujolais! Read this great article in the Laurel of Asheville Magazine about the \"other red Burgundy\" by our own Gina Trippi!
http://www.thelaurelofasheville.com/the-grape-vine-beaujolais-a-new-day.html
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How to order wine like a pro in a restaurant.

So I recently read a great article in Food and Wine magazine called \"20 tips for ordering wine\". Definitely check it out! But it got me thinking about my old restaurant days and the sorts of cues that used to let us know that the person on the other side of the wine list didn\'t have a clue what he was doing. Here are some tips on how to order wine in a restaurant that will help you (and your Sommelier) get the right sort of wine in your glass!

1. Learn your wine terminology. This is a big one! It\'s incredibly hard for your sommelier to recommend a wine you will like if you don\'t know how to describe what you are looking for. Learn how to describe the kind of wine you are looking for with terms like tannic, acidic, big, rich, fruity, earthy or light. To learn these terms and what they mean, check out my earlier blog entry called \"Learn your wine tasting terminology!\". One term to avoid in a restaurant, however, is \"dry\". Unless you are looking for a Riesling or another grape that is frequently made in a sweeter style, \"dry\" is really a useless descriptor, since most wines are dry.

2. Avoid sniffing the cork. It just smells like a cork. Whenever I see someone sniffing the cork before grinning and exclaiming \"Excellent!\", all I take away is, \"I\'m a little pretentious!\". Now I may get into trouble for this one, I have known some experts who claim that you can detect some faults by smelling the cork (I can\'t), but in my opinion, it is always better and easier to smell the wine itself. You\'re drinking the wine afterall, not the cork! To make sure the bottle of wine you ordered is satisfactory, smell your glass or take a sip. Look for traces of old, wet cardboard, wet dog, and all things dank. This could be TCA taint, also known as \"corked wine\", which occurs in around 7% of all wines with corks according to a 2005 study. If you have a bad wine, send it back with confidence! Although, don\'t be the guy that sends back bottle after bottle because he doesn\'t like the wine! Nobody likes that guy.

3. Be open to trying something new. A lot of the better bottles of wine that I have encountered in restaurants were not picked out by me. I love asking the sommelier for their recommendations, especially if you trust her palate. As long as you didn\'t have your heart set on a specific wine, ask your somm what they are excited about, what they recommend, or what they are drinking at home now. You might get some nerdy stuff, but they will definitely be interesting! There are too many amazing wines out there to just drink Chardonnays and Cabernets every night!

4. If getting a recommendation, let your sommelier know the price you are looking to spend that night. I always appreciated knowing my customers price range, it helps to narrow down the wine list, and I didn\'t have to worry about shocking someone by suggesting a $500 wine or insulting another by suggesting a $20 one. Don\'t let your somm bully you into spending more than you want either. I used to really enjoy the challenge of trying to find a good wine at a lower price that fit the flavor profile of what my guests were looking for!

5. Always tip 20% on your wine purchase, unless you are given bad service. I have read a number of articles concerning how much to tip on wine with some experts saying 10% and others 15%, but the fact is that odds are your server or sommelier is probably expecting 20%. I have actually received tips where the guest showed their math on the receipt, with 20% for the food and 10% for the wine. It just makes them look cheap. I\'ve also heard a lot of people asking about how much is appropriate to tip on an expensive bottle of wine. I still expect 20%. If you can afford to buy a $1000 bottle of wine, you can afford to tip on it. Keep in mind most servers tip out their support staff based on their sales, not their tips! If you tip low on a very expensive bottle, your server could potentially lose money!

Hopefully this gives you a little bit of an insider\'s view of wine service in restaurants. If you follow these steps, you will look like you know what you are doing, find a wine you will like better, maybe try something new, and everyone will be happy!

Until next time, happy drinking!
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The Mobile Unit made it to Weaverville!

Asheville School of Wine Mobile Unit held a class on Dry Riesling at a home in Weaverville this past weekend! We poured Strauss Riesling, Kung Fu Girl Riesling, and Weinbeit. All were favorites and it was a huge success! If you want the Mobile Unit to come to you to host a class, call us at 828-575-9525!
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Bring the Asheville School of Wine to your next event!

We are finally going mobile! Our team of highly trained wine consultants will come out to your next party or event and do a wine tasting, discussion, class, or even a blind tasting. We have already done a wine tasting of obscure Spanish wines at a home in Asheville, a blind tasting event at a Biltmore business, and assorted wine tastings for the board of directors of some local non-profit groups. Call or email us for ideas and pricing and set up your event today! Call us at (828) 575-9525 or email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
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Learn your wine tasting terminology!

In order to talk accurately about wine, it is important to to understand the basic flavor components that make it up. Terms like tannin, acidity and dryness can be very confusing and difficult to describe. Is that wine sweet or is it just fruity? Do you dislike this wine because it\'s too acidic, or is that bite you are feeling a result of the tannin? Here are some fantastic exercises to let you experience those wine descriptors yourself, and start accurately describing the wines that you taste. You can try all of these in your home, mostly with things that you already have laying around your kitchen. Try out these exercises which were designed by a trio of experts and prepare to start describing wines accurately and confidently!

Happy tasting!

Andy

The following from www.foodandwine.com:

Wine-Tasting Exercises: Body

What Defines Body In Wine?

“Body is the sense of weight or richness or heaviness, and even the feeling of viscosity that a wine leaves in your mouth,” says Master Sommelier Andrea Robinson, author of Great Wine Made Simple. Generally, the more alcohol in a wine, the more body it will have, which means that wines from warmer climates (which produce grapes with more sugar to be converted into alcohol) tend to have more heft. Sugar, oak and the overall concentration of flavors in a wine can also add body.
How Does Body Affect Pairing?

“A key principle for pairing is to match body with body, so that the wine’s not too heavy or light for the dish, and vice versa,” says Robinson.

“Wines have different weights and richnesses, mostly due to alcohol. Milk can vary in the same way, but of course that’s due to fat,” says Robinson.

Equipment
4 glasses
1/4 cup each of skim milk, 2% milk, whole milk and heavy cream

Taste the milk in ascending order of richness, beginning with skim and ending with heavy cream, considering the texture of each and the sensation in your mouth. The skim milk should dissipate very quickly; the cream will coat your tongue.

Wine-Tasting Exercises: Tannins

What are Tannins?

Tannins are compounds in grape skins, seeds and stems that contribute to wine’s structure, complexity, texture and ageability—especially red wine. Tannins create a drying and slightly bitter sensation in the mouth, usually toward the back of the tongue. Tannic wines pair especially well with rich foods and substantial meat dishes because they cut through fat; fat also softens the perception of tannin, making the wines more approachable.
Wine-Tasting Workout: Tannins

Equipment
3 mugs
3 black tea bags
Hot water

Pour 8 ounces of hot water into each of the mugs. Place one tea bag in each of the mugs and start a timer. After 2 minutes, remove the bag from the first mug; after 4 minutes, remove the bag from the second mug; and after 8 minutes, remove the final tea bag. Let the tea cool.

Taste the teas in increasing steep-time order, swishing the liquid around in your mouth before swallowing. Notice how the teas are perceptibly more astringent as the steeping time increases.

Wine-Tasting Exercises: Acidity

What is Acidity in Wine?

Acidity in wine comes from the natural acids (tartaric, malic, etc.) in the grapes themselves, or acids that are added during the the winemaking process. The acidity in grapes varies greatly depending on the variety, as well as sun exposure, climate and the soil in the vineyard; grapes grown in cooler areas tend to have higher acidity. When drinking a wine, you’ll feel the effects of acidity mostly on the sides of your tongue. Overly acidic wines will cause almost a stinging sensation or taste sour.
How Does Acidity Affect Pairing?

Acidity makes your mouth water, cuts through the fat in rich foods and refreshes the palate.

Equipment
Five 4 ounce glasses of water
1 orange
1 grapefruit
1 lemon
1 lime

Set aside the first glass of water.

Squeeze the juice of 1/4 orange into the second glass; into the third, squeeze the juice of 1/4 grapefruit; into the fourth, squeeze the juice of 1/2 lemon; into the fifth, squeeze the juice of 1/2 lime.

Taste in that order, starting with a sip of plain water, to experience increasing levels of acidity. Experiment by adding more juice to each glass to see how the acidity increases. Notice the point at which the juice becomes too sour.

Wine-Tasting Exercises: Sweetness

What is Sweetness in Wine, and Why Does it Matter?

Sweetness in wine is measured by the amount of residual sugar (RS) in the liquid after fermentation. “Sweetness can only come from one thing in wine, and that’s sugar content,” says Master Sommelier Shayn Bjornholm. Acidity can mask some of the sweetness in wines by balancing out the sugar, as in German or Alsatian Riesling. Sugar can also contribute to a wine’s body and texture.

Equipment
16 ounce glass with 8 ounces of water
2 lemons
1 cup of sugar

Squeeze the juice of the lemons into the water and stir.

Taste the mixture; it will be very tart.

Stir in sugar 1 teaspoon at a time, tasting after each addition. You should notice when the juice achieves the right level of sweetness and balances the acidity of the lemon.

Wine-Tasting Exercises: Aromas & Flavors

What Accounts for a Wine’s Aromas and Flavors?

A wine’s flavors come from the grape variety, as well as the climate and the amount of sun exposure and type of soil in the vineyard. Different winemaking techniques will extract various flavors, too.
What’s The Best Way to Describe a Wine’s Flavors and Aromas?

The truth is, everyone smells and tastes different aromas and flavors in wine. It’s a very subjective judgement. That said, the more tasting experiences you have, the more easily you’ll be able to pick out those flavors. Having your own flavor vocabulary can come in handy when ordering wine from a sommelier or talking with a salesperson at a wine shop—and, most importantly, when pairing wines with food.

Equipment
Blindfold
Lychee
Pencil Shavings
Mushrooms
Bacon
Rock
Sage
Raspberries
Cassis
Lime Zest
Orange Blossom Water

Put on the blindfold and have someone set out the aromatic items in front of you in any order.

Smell each item. “Aroma accounts for the majority of our taste, anyway,” says Bjornholm. Not only will this exercise give you a better idea of what you like, but it will also increase your Rolodex of flavors to have on hand when tasting.

Wine-Tasting Exercises: Oak

What does it mean for a wine to be oaked?

Oak barrels used in winemaking develop their toasty, caramelly, vanilla flavors from being fire-charred. The barrels can be toasted to different levels, depending on the winemaker’s preference; those barrels can hold wine while it ferments or while it ages. Some producers favor old oak over new oak because its effect on a wine’s flavor, tannins and structure is more subtle.
Wine-Tasting Workout: Oak

Equipment
Box of Cheerios
Marshmallow
Skewer

Crush up Cheerios and smell them. According to Joshua Wesson, the toasty, wheaty notes of the cereal are very similar to those in oaked white wine.

Skewer a marshmallow and roast it over a flame on a gas stove until it’s charred. “In red wines, oak leaves the impression of campfire smoke or the smell of a burnt marshmallow,” Wesson says.
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IRS cracks down on restaurant servers.

For all of our server friends. Here is a great article by Mackensy Lunsford about new IRS rules concerning automatic gratuities. Looks like you may be paying more taxes soon, or avoiding the auto grat altogether. While I can\'t do anything about the IRS, I can help boost your sales and help you make better tips! Come to our first class \"Wine Sales and Service for the Restaurant Professional\", starting June 10th at 12:00-2:00pm and 6:00-8:00pm. I will share everything that I have learned from 10+ years in the restaurant industry as a waiter and also as a sommelier. In the meantime, good luck out there!

http://www.citizen-times.com/story/life/2014/05/23/irs-cracks-restaurant-servers/9516413/

IRS cracks down on restaurant servers

Mackensy Lunsford, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The Internal Revenue Service wants to make sure it gets a slice of the cash tips that restaurant workers pocket. To crack down on unreported tips, the IRS in January put into place new rules regulating how servers get paid. The new laws may change what you see on your bill next time you go out to eat.

New laws say that automatic gratuities — charges often added to bills of parties of 6 or more — are taxed as service charges, which is bad news for some servers. Automatic gratuities are usually added to protect servers from being under-tipped when handling large groups.

According to Joseph Henchman, vice president of legal and state projects at the Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan research think tank based in Washington, D.C., the IRS wants to make sure servers don\'t pocket tip money to earn tax-free income, something that some tipped workers admit to doing.

Carla Gilfillan, a server at Asheville\'s Outback Steakhouse, says the act of pocketing tips is not uncommon, so she\'s not surprised by the crackdown. \"The government wants their money,\" she said. \"Especially when you have a tipped employee, there\'s really no way to prove that we\'re under-claiming. I think the government sees that as a lot of money they\'re missing out on.\"

To help curtail this small-scale tax evasion, the IRS is now drawing a sharper distinction between tips and service charges (to read the new rules, see the box on Page A1). Automatic gratuities are now classified as service charges and factored into hourly wages. Now, employers have to run tips through their payroll system and factor them into hourly wage rates, delaying payment by up to two weeks and causing paperwork headaches for restaurant owners.

Most servers are accustomed to getting paid out in tips at the end of each day, so getting servers to work large parties, said Henchman, will probably be harder. Additionally, it adds to the cost of running restaurants, which were previously eligible for tax credits on tips, but not for service charges, under the new rules.

\"In the restaurant industry, the margins are really thin,\" said Henchman. \"A lot of restaurants fail each year because it\'s a tough industry. It\'s very competitive, and it\'s hard to make money doing it. I think a lot more thought should have been put into the consequences for a rule change like this.\"

To the IRS, it\'s just a clarification in the best interest of tax administration, said Henchman. \"But one that will make life a little bit harder for both restaurants and their waitstaff.\"

A broken system?

Currently, servers mostly rely on their tips for income. In 1991, according to restaurant worker advocacy group ROC United, the minimum wage for tipped employees was $2.13. More than two decades later, this amount has not increased — even when indexed against inflation. Is there an alternative? ROC United studied the impact of raising the minimum wage for servers. (See their findings in the graphic at right).

According to ROC United, prior to 1966, tipped workers received the same minimum wage as other workers. It was not until 1966 that employers were allowed to pay tipped workers a sub-minimum wage, set at 50 percent of the full minimum wage. From 1966 on, customers were expected to foot a substantial portion of employee wages. 1991 was the last year that the sub-minimum wage saw an increase to $2.13.

Further, in 1996, the National Restaurant Association, under the leadership of Herman Cain, negotiated with Congress to permit an increase to the full minimum wage as long as the tipped minimum wage was frozen at $2.13, where it has since remained. As a result, the United States is the only nation where tipped workers must depend on those tips for most of their income.

That\'s worth noting as chain restaurants such as Outback, Olive Garden and Carrabbas report that they have discontinued the automatic gratuity, a practice that sometimes could be a point of contention for servers and diners.

Gilfillan, for her part, is no fan of automatic gratuities, which she said can sometimes put a too-low value on servers\' labor. \"Where a lot of times, if there\'s not an auto-grat, they\'ll just tip you 20 percent anyway,\" she said.

But servers say the automatic gratuity helps prevent under-tippers, and even Gilfillan admits that the new laws have caused her to miss out on a tip with a large party of middle schoolers, she said. \"Middle schoolers don\'t know how to tip,\" she said.

Raising the average

Corinne Romanowski, a server at The Lobster Trap, an independent restaurant in downtown Asheville, previously added a 20 percent gratuity to parties of six or more. But that system has been discontinued by the management of the restaurant.

\"By the time gratuities trickle through the \'new\' system, (servers) are left with 12-14 percent or less,\" explained Kim Murray, owner of The Lobster Trap. And that\'s not at all worth the paperwork, she said. \"It leaves management with the choice of losing money to take care of the server appropriately, or only give them what\'s left after being taxed twice on that gratuity (service charge). No one wins in either instance.\"

\"It\'s not worth the money,\" Romanowski agreed. \"It\'s better to just take a chance and hope that they\'re good tippers. After being taxed, what I\'m going to get back is usually less than what people would give me.\"

According to Romanowski, other staffers like hostesses need her to get big tips, too.

Romanowski tips out a portion of her sales to restaurant employees that help her out, including busboys and hostesses. \"Say a party of seven spends $300 and they tipped me a very minimal amount, I\'m still going to have to tip out the same percentage on the table, even though they didn\'t tip me,\" she said. \"If that\'s a really big table, that\'s going to hurt.\"

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, hosts and hostesses are number four among the ten lowest-paying jobs in the U.S. In fact, of those ten, six jobs are in the restaurant industry, with fast-food cooks making the least of all workers. Waiters and waitresses don\'t crack the top ten; their mean income of $20,880 puts them at number 19.

Still, Romanowski said, some days are better than others. \"I can have two nights where my sales were just about the exact same, but my money will differ hugely,\" she said. \"Our whole profession is really a gamble, and you just never know what you\'re going to make in a night.\"

Gilfillan said that, at Outback Steakhouse, printed on the checks for tables of more than eight are calculations for tips of 15, 18 and 20 percent, though it stops short of recommending that you pay any amount.

Sometimes people ignore those suggestions, she said, but getting stiffed on a tip is the reality of being a server. \"It does happen,\" she said.

Gilfillan doesn\'t agree with the law. But the fact that restaurants even need to add gratuity to checks speaks to a bigger problem, she said.

\"It\'s a problem independent of this law,\" she said. \"People not valuing our labor as restaurant workers. The bigger-picture problem is that we feel like we need to be able to add gratuity to checks, because people can\'t be trusted to take care of us.\"

NEW LAWS REGULATING GRATUITIES

VIA THE TAX FOUNDATION

Under the IRS ruling, Rev. Ruling 2012-18, a sharper distinction is drawn between tips and service charges. Both are taxable but tips are reported and cashed out that day. Under the new rules, to be a tip:

(1) the payment must be made free from compulsion;

(2) the customer must have the unrestricted right to determine the amount;

(3) the payment should not be the subject of negotiation or dictated by employer policy; and

(4) generally, the customer has the right to determine who receives the payment.

Automatic gratuities don\'t meet these criteria, so they would be classified as service charges. Employers would have to cycle these charges through their payroll system to distribute to servers, delaying payment by up to two weeks, and factor them into hourly wage rates.
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Nineteen Eighty Six

So I have a friend in Portland who used to manage a restaurant. One of his regular customers was a very nice man who loved to talk about the size of his wine cellar. He spoke of it often, and it was a point of great pride for him. So one day, he came in with a few business associates of his whom he was trying to impress. He had brought an older vintage bottle of wine from his cellar, and requested that three glasses be brought to the table. \"Bring a glass for yourself.\" he said with a sly wink.
They all sat down at a table and my friend placed the glasses around the table. From out of his bag, the man produced a bottle and proudly said \"Nineteen eighty six!\" before placing it on the table like it was a trophy. My friend was shocked when he saw the bottle. It was a 1986 vintage red, from a California house known for producing inexpensive jug wine. It was no longer red. As my friend was pouring the wine around the table, the viscous, brown liquid could hardly be referred to as wine. Don\'t forget to pour yourself some!\" the man said.
My friend did as he was asked, and left the table with his glass. It looked like varnish and smelled like paint thinner. After a rousing \"Cheers!\" from the table, the man went to work on his wine. His companions did so as well, reluctantly. Shooting glances at each other as they tasted it.
The man had made a very common mistake about aging wine. He was under the mistaken impression that ALL wine gets better with age. It turns out, he had been buying cheap grocery store wine by the case, and was then storing it for twenty years or more! Most of those are meant to be consumed relatively young, and are absolutely not suitable for aging, really at all! This is a case where a little wine knowledge could have averted a disastrous attempt to impress some new clients!
After the meal, my friend went by to ask how the evening went. The man said that the food and service had been excellent! When asked about the wine, he said \"It was good, but starting to turn a bit. Good thing I didn\'t wait any longer!\"
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Tra Vigne Restaurant

So often, it is the bad restaurant experience that stays with you over the years. The one you tell friends who howl and can’t believe you survived the meal intact or left even the smallest tip. But in every life time, there are those two or three magical meals that you never forget. You’re almost afraid to return lest the second meal not live up to and mar the memory.
One of my favorite dining experiences was 20 years ago at Tra Vigne restaurant, just south of St. Helena in the Napa Valley. It was the simplest of meals, and yet the food, wine, and service combined into something unequalled. And now that I have my own wine shop, I carry this relatively unknown wine our waiter served to me that night.
Gina and I grabbed a small table in the corner as a respite from the tourists and wine tastings. The waiter could see we had run out of gas, and suggested a couple of simple dishes. We took his suggestions, and within minutes presented me with a classic Italian apertivo. The ingredients could not have been fresher – Buffalo mozzarella still warm from today’s soaking in brine. The cheese was covered with Basel leaves and delicately sliced tomatoes which had been picked from the garden moments before serving. All were drizzled with fresh olive oil.
From the moment he came to our table, he had sized me up and knew that I was ready for a little adventure. I asked the waiter to recommend a wine to pair with this dish. As he returned to the table with our glasses of wine, he said that few knew this Napa wine but he thought it was the best for my dish – Tofanelli Charbono.
The Tofanelli Charbono was the perfect companion to my dish. Complex yet simple enough to pair with the four flavors on my plate, neither overpowering or detracting from the meal. The waiter stayed in the background yet seemed to appear by magic when we needed him. We thanked him for being the highlight of our day, and made sure that the tip was commensurate with the experience.

by: John Kerr
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Salvatore

What is good wine service? In a word: Salvatore. Put aside the fact that this night was at a restaurant in Verona and that Salvatore should have been in the movies because it could have happened anywhere but not with anybody. This was one of those restaurants where you make the deal with yourself to lunch on street food FOREVER just for one meal in this restaurant. We, because 20 years ago we did not know what we know now about pairing food and wine! asked Salvatore to select the food and the wine that, I think we said, \"goes with it.\" He did. And 20 years later, I remember the aroma the taste, the atmosphere, his gracious and perfectly timed presence, everything. Salvatore not only had extensive wine knowledge, he made us feel like we had a private plane waiting for us on some Veronese runway. That\'s good wine service. Thank you, Salvatore, wherever you are, for the memory of a lifetime and thanks for the Brunello!
by Gina Trippi
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