Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Dancing Buffalo Cidre

Dancing Buffalo Cidre is a line of artisan hard ciders produced by Carl Schmitter, winemaker (and co-owner with wife Suzi) of Chateau Buffalo Wine Shop & Tasting Room (Buffalo, NY). The seven or so varieties of cider offer a light and refreshing change of pace to the wine enthusiast looking for something a little bit different.

Hard ciders taste more like white wines than I had initially expected them to. However, because their flavor profiles are simpler, they are easier (and, I think, more refreshing) to drink than most fruity white wines.

My favorite Dancing Buffalo Cidre is Mambo ($10) the only semi-dry cider in the line-up. Its slightly sweet, crisp and fruity flavor make it a perfect summertime beverage. Other Dancing Buffalo Cidres include Polka (dry, $10) and Promenade (dry and sparkling, $15).

All of these ciders are made from a blend of Golden Russet, Yellow Delicious and wild apples. The Golden Russet apples are used for their aromatic character, the Yellow Delicious apples for their sweetness, and the wild apples for the slight astringency they impart to the cider. The ciders are also aged for six months in bourbon barrels to give them added depth and flavor.

Hard ciders should be served well chilled. Carl says they even go well over ice. The ciders--particularly the dry ones--can be served with many of the same foods you would eat with white wines (e.g., poultry or fish). The semi-dry Mambo would go well with a salad or other light summertime fare.

The Dancing Buffalo line-up also includes a sweet, holiday cider infused with mulling spices, a cider made from heirloom Baldwin apples, and a pear-based cider. One that I'm really looking forward to tasting several months from now when it is available is apple ice wine, a concentrated and sweet ice wine made from frozen apples. That sounds like lots of fun.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Alternative Asiagos

I recently tried two kinds of Asiago cheese that are different from the more familiar aged variety known as Asiago d'Allevo (or Asiago Vecchio). Asiago Fresca (pictured at left) is a young cow's milk cheese that is aged only a few weeks as opposed to several months. Fresca means "fresh" or "young."

Asiago Fresca is mild, creamy and slightly tangy due to a touch of acidity. While aged Asiago is made from skimmed milk, Asiago Fresca is made from whole milk. The latter melts very easily and works well on a cheese tray as a complement to more strongly flavored cheeses. Asiago Fresca is a light and easy cheese to eat by itself and pairs well with light and easy wines like Pinot Grigio, Pinot Gris or fruity red wines.

In between Asiago Fresca and Asiago d'Allevo lies medium (or mezzano) Asiago, which I've quite enjoyed eating this week. It has more personality than its younger, fresher cousin but isn't overbearing like its older counterpart. Medium Asiago is aged only a couple of months and--judging from its creaminess--must not be made from skimmed milk. I find it to be the most enjoyable of the three kinds of Asiago to eat by itself with bread or a cracker.

"Official" Asiago cheese can only be made in the village of Asiago in northern Veneto, where it has been produced for centuries. However, the 'protected designation of origin' rules are not always enforced outside of the European Union.

All forms of Asiago cheese pair well with figs, apples, pears, pistachios, almonds, and olives.

Friday, July 18, 2008

America's Grape Country Wine Festival

America's Grape Country Wine Festival, a new wine festival showcasing wineries from across New York, will be held at the Chatauqua County Fairgrounds in Dunkirk, NY, from 10am to 5pm on Aug. 9th and 10th.

The event will feature wine-tastings from two dozen wineries, food from a variety of vendors, live music, and a wine and cheese educational seminar presented by The New York Wine and Culinary Center. The cost is $15 in advance or $20 at the door. I'm glad to see NY wines being promoted by events like this and Wine Day.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Wine Day at Niagara University

Niagara University, overlooking the Niagara River gorge (and just four miles north of Niagara Falls), will be hosting Wine Day on Aug. 2nd to provide education about wine and wine appreciation and to promote the winemaking region of Niagara County.

The morning features four educational lectures on pairing wine and food, wine-tasting techniques, unique characteristics of different wine varieties (with special emphasis given to local grape varieties) and particular facts about winemaking along the Niagara Escarpment. In the afternoon, you are encouraged to put this knowledge to use at the wineries on the Niagara Wine Trail.

Preregistration for the event is required. The cost is $35. I have to admit I've given more attention to the Canadian wineries just over the border than to the wineries in my own backyard. I think I may give this event a try.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Blossom Honey Wine

At the Kenmore, NY, Farmer's Market today I encountered an absolutely fascinating dessert wine: Blossom Honey Wine. The wine is made from honey rather than grape juice and is infused with ginger root. It has a wonderfully sweet and crisp flavor. I've never tasted anything like it.

Blossom Honey Wine is produced locally by Carl and Suzi Schmitter at Chateau Buffalo, Buffalo's only boutique winery and cidery. Chateau Buffalo is located on North Buffalo's Hertel Ave., one of Buffalo's more interesting neighborhoods for shopping and dining. After the honey is diluted with water, it is fermented just like grape juice using a champagne yeast.

The Schmitters also produce the Dancing Buffalo line of artisanal hard ciders, including dry, semi-dry, spiced and sparkling varieties. They make all of their wines at the back of their store in Buffalo using locally grown fruits.

Blossom Honey Wine sells for $18/bottle. Its light, sweet and refreshing taste make it the perfect patio beverage for a warm summer evening.