How To Throw A Blind Wine Tasting Party – New And Improved!

A few years back we published a step-by-step instructional on how to throw a blind wine tasting party that featured a selection of red wines. It’s been such a hit – year after year it’s our most popular blog post – we’ve decided to reprise the original with the addition of a few new themes for your tasting pleasure.

The wines in each of our new tastings are related, though distinct enough to allow you to differentiate them from one another. By tasting similar wines side-by-side, you can really learn how to focus your impressions and perfect your tasting chops. By tasting them blind, you’ll lose any preconceptions you have about particular labels and styles, and really allow yourself to understand what you like.

You can use our guided tastings, or you can just select a few bottles that you like, and use our free, downloadable WINE SCORECARD and WINE TAGS to create your own tasting.

1. To get started, pick one of the tasting themes below, make your way to Bottles, and have one of our team members help you select the wines to match the theme and your wallet.

2. Have at least 1 wine glass for each guest, with a bottle of water and dump bucket nearby so they can rise out between tastings and easily dispose of tastes they’re really not into.

3. It’s also a really good idea to have light snacks on hand. Not only will a few bites keep your pals from getting too tipsy, they’ll also provide the opportunity to taste the wines with various flavors. Cheese is the natural wine pairing partner – and it’s easy to find a good selection at most all grocery stores these days. Look for a wide variety of cheeses, such as a mix of something soft (brie), something spreadable (fresh chevre), something aged and hard (aged gouda), sharp cheese (aged cheddar) and a blue (gorgonzola).

4. Put each wine in a brown paper bag (ask for them at Bottles!), and afix our numbered WINE TAGS to identify each bottle.

5. Use our printable WINE SCORECARD so that guests can record their thoughts on each bottle. Be sure to have a few pens/pencils on hand. Share with your guests the theme of each tasting so that they have a general sense of what they’re looking for.

6. Once you and your guests have tasted each wine, take turns guessing what each bottle is before you do the big reveal.

7. Once you’ve unmasked each wine, feel free to use our guide and general descriptions to see if your guests’ impressions are in sync. BUT: It’s incredibly important to note that this is not a graded test! If what you taste doesn’t match what we’ve written – that’s ok! What’s most important is that you and your guests explore different wine styles and enjoy each other’s company.



 

A Rosé Tasting!

This is a great, fun tasting to have with friends at a summer barbecue. Just open a handful of delicious rosés and see if folks can guess which is which! Here’s a hint: with rosés, look for color as a good indicator of weight. Typically the darker the color, the heavier/more bold the wine.

Wines to Purchase
1. A light rosé from the Cotes de Provence – It’s the birthplace of rosé, and experiencing Provence is essential to getting to know good rosé. Made from a blend of grapes, Provencal rosés can range wildly in terms of style and quality, but a good mid-teen priced example should do just fine. Provence is in the South of France, and these wines will be light, dry, lean and minerally.

2. A heavier rosé from Tavel or Bandol – Now Bandol is actually sub-region within Provence, so this may seem silly to be listed in here, however the folks here make a very distinct style of rosé.  Bandol rosés tend to be fuller and more bold. They are, however, somewhat pricey. An alternative that will still deliver the heavier body would be a wine from Tavel. Both Bandol and Tavel tend to be darker in color.

3. Rosé of Pinot Noir – These can be really fun, as they tend to be light and easy drinking. They can be pricey as most pinot noir is, but in a blind tasting they can often act as a curveball.  Look for some out of Oregon or California.

4. A rosé from the Loire Valley – These delicious wines are made from cabernet franc which creates a unique rosé that should stand out from most other styles.  Look for a touch of weight with less acid than the others.

5. Your favorite – Select your ‘go to’ rosé that you already love and see if you can pick it out from the field, and see if you still love it more than the others!

 

White Wine!

Have fun with this tasting, where you and your guests will try to tell one classic white wine from another.

Wines to purchase
1. Chardonnay – This classic white can have many different faces. For this tasting, you’ll want to select one that has been oak-aged. Tasting Tip: You’ll find round, buttery flavors in this wine, all due to the oak-aging.

2. Pinot Grigio – This one may give you the most trouble to nail down. It’s a bit of a chameleon, and can have lots of the characteristics of other whites, but you should be able to place it, given its light body and restrained fruit flavors.

3. Sauvignon Blanc – These tend to have higher acid levels than most, and you will know this because they will make the back sides of your mouth water after your first taste.  New Zealand examples tend to have very pronounced grapefruit-like flavors so may be another give away.

4. Chenin Blanc – There are many grapes you could pick for this fifth spot, but we like to use chenin blanc, the main grape in like Vouvray in France or Steen in South Africa (or just “Chenin Blanc” in the USA). Its floral aromas and light body are delicious — this is a curveball bottle, for sure!

5. Riesling – Look for one with a medium sweetness level so as to further differentiate this wine from the others. You’ll likely find floral notes and ripe fruit flavors like peach or lychee.  

 

Old World vs New World – A Red Wine Tasting

This is a classic blind tasting that can really sharpen your skills. The idea here is to take two wines made from the same grapes, though from different regions of the world, and taste them blind, side by side, and to guess which was made where.

Here are a few clues:

Old World Wines are typically from countries that have been making wine for millennia, and adhere to strict wine-making rules (Italy, France, Spain). The wines are usually drier, earthier, with balanced fruit, acidity and tannins. Old World wines dazzle you with elegance and finesse.

New World Wines are generally from countries that discovered wine making during a more recent century and are not typically bound to traditional wine-making methods (USA, New Zealand). They tend to be bigger-bodied, and have much bolder fruit flavors. New World wines blow you away with their power.

Wines to purchase:
1. Pinot Noir from the Old World. We suggest a relatively youthful ‘Bourgogne’ style from Burgundy, France. The trick here will be price point, as Burgundy can get expensive, but you should be able to find a good bottle for around $20 – Bottles is a great place to look! Tasting Tip: In the Old World pinot, you’ll find more earthy, leathery and restrained notes.

2. Pinot Noir from the New World, either California or Oregon would be great picks, as long as the wine is made from 100% pinot noir grapes. Tasting Tip: In the New World expression, you’ll find brighter, fruiter notes.

3. Old World Red Blend. The classic to look for here would be a Bordeaux blend, ideally one from the Left Bank, which will tend to be more Cabernet Sauvignon based.  All Bordeaux wines are blends, and each sub-region has its own style, but for your tasting here that shouldn’t make a difference. Tasting Tip: This wine will be more fuller bodied than the pinot noirs, with lean fruit flavors, balanced by fresh tobacco and earthy notes.

4. New World Red Blend – California has a tremendous amount of red blends, but Australia and South Africa will have lots as well. Try to find one that has a good amount of cabernet sauvignon if you can. Tasting Tip: This wine will have more pronounced fruit flavors than the Old World red blend.

5. Old World Nebbiolo-based wine. This is a fun curveball, as it has flavor profiles similar to both Old World and New World styles. You’ll find fruit notes, as well as earthy, floral aromas.

We hope you have fun with your party – tag us with your photos!

Cheers & Enjoy!

Rosé Popsicles!

It’s mid-August and summer is nearly over (don’t shoot the messenger). We might be sick of tomato sandwiches, sick of already seeing Halloween decorations and sick of seeing school supplies (why does that still make me anxious when I’m not even a student or a teacher?!) One thing that we are definitely not sick of, however, is rosè. It’s been the star of the summer and for these last couple weeks of sweltering August heat, we recommend serving it up all icy and on a stick, or in a good ‘ole push-up bag.

Below is a recipe for our rosè popsicles. Since the batch we make yields a large amount, we should tell you to serve them at your next BBQ or picnic, but there is no reason you couldn’t scale this down and whip up a batch to keep in your freezer for any night of the week. You deserve it.

PS. Any leftover unfrozen rosè juice makes a delicious drink to sip over ice!

Alex’s Famous Rosè Popsicles

Ingredients

One 750ml bottle rosè of your choice (we recommend something dry but with a good boost of fruitiness. Ask a Bottles team member and they’ll steer you in the right direction.)

One 750ml bottle sparkling water

8 oz. simple syrup

16 oz. fruit juice (we recommend watermelon, berry or grapefruit. Take a sip of your rosè and see what flavors you think would match best.)

Tools

Mold of choice (we’ve used things from loaf pans to muffin tins to plastic cups to inexpensive plastic bags easily found on Amazon.)

Popsicle sticks, if using

Instructions

Combine all ingredients and stir vigorously. Pour your concoction into your desired molds, freeze for at least12 hours (it’ll be worth it). If you’re using the push-up bags, be sure to leave an inch or more at the top, as the popsicle will expand as it freezes.

Serve ’em up and enjoy those last licks of summer.

xoxo Alex

El Diablo – An Easy Late-Summer Cocktail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’re not entirely sure why this iconic tequila-based cocktail isn’t more popular among the general drinks-lovin’ public. After all, it’s easy to make, distinctive, delicious and a perennial bartender favorite.

To right that wrong we’ve teamed up with our friends at The East End to concoct an updated spicy take on the classic El Diablo. Bar Manager Kayleigh Speck swapped out tequila for mezcal, and amp’d up the spice with the addition of a habanero shrub. She shakes it with creme de cassis, and lime juice, adds ginger beer and presto: the  iconic cocktail gets the attention it deserves.

More on that mezcal: We’ve chosen the Mezcales de Leyenda given its superior taste and its commitment to quality and the environment: its business practices are responsible straight through farming to bottling. For this recipe we’re using the Oaxaca Blanco for its lemongrass aromas and flavors of lemons, herbs and cooked agave.

Head to the store to pick up your bottle — $5 off through August 2017 — for this cocktail (or just for sipping – it’s that good) then head to The East End to taste their El Diablo on tap!

The East End’s El Diablo

1½ oz Mezcales de Leyenda Oaxaca
½ oz Merlet Creme de Cassis
½ oz Fresh Lime Juice
2 Dashes Habanero Shrub (Bittermens Hellfire is a good one)
Approx. 4oz Ginger Beer
Lime wedge for garnish

Combine all ingredients, except ginger beer, to a shaker with ice and shake. Fine-strain into highball or Collins glass with fresh ice, top with ginger beer and garnish.

Cheers!

Which Rosé is Right For You?

It’s midsummer and the wine world is swimming in a sea of rosé. Let our life-raft of a chart help you pick the one that’s right for you and your palate.

Do you solely drink light whites? Stick with those in the lower left quadrant. Like reds and wines with savory notes? Make the bottles in the upper right your new BFFs.

Enjoy!

Prices subject to change

The Bottles Guide To Surviving Summer: Tip #4

We’ve saved the best for last, in this, the final installment of our “Summer Survival” series. So while you’ll want to remember to drink light (Tip #1), keep cool (Tip #2), and make it refreshing (Tip #3), the most important words of advice we can share is to have fun. ‘Tis the season, after all.

TIP #4:
HAVE FUN!
Because it’s summer!

“Tiki drinks, such as Pina Coladas, Mai Tais, Zombies and others, are pure summer fun in a glass (or coconut). Privateer Rum is my go-to mixer for this season in particular: it’s priced as a well-crafted, locally-made mixer, but delicious enough to enjoy on its own, too, up or on the rocks, at the end of a long summer day.” – Josh

“Celebrate summer sunsets by popping open a bottle of the Mirabella Franciacorta Rosé. It’s made in the same method as is Champagne but it’s a fraction of the price. And it’s pink. AND it’s great with grilled steaks.” – Michael

 

 

 

 

 

“Can their be a more fun way to enjoy wine than when it’s in a can? Take it with you to the beach, to the ball park, on the boat. Just take it easy – there’s typically more than 2 glasses of wine per can!” – Alex

 

 

 

 

 

Missed last week’s tip?

Click here

Don’t forget to wear sunscreen – and happy summer!

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Top 4 Beertails For Summer

Take your favorite beer, add a flavorful mixer and fresh or frozen fruit, and you have the beertail. We love drinking ‘em, especially in the summer: They’re super simple to make, and refreshing. Experiment with your go-to beer, or follow our easy recipes below. Just add the ingredients to a glass, stir, e voila. Your beertail is ready.

Here are 4 of our favorites, perfect for the season.


The Siesta Reviver
12oz summer ale, such as Brooklyn Summer Ale
4oz lambic, such as Lindemans Peche
Frozen peaches or berries for garnish

The Kremlin
Juice of at least 1 lime
12oz light beer, such as Narragansett Summer Citra
Splash of ginger ale


Summer Juice
4oz lemonade, such as Llanllyr Source
4oz pomegranate juice
8oz white ale, such as Two Roads’ Bergamonster
Lemon for garnish

The Sloe Greyhound
2oz Sloe Gin, such as Plymouth
4oz freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
8oz summer ale, such as Wash Ashore’s Boy Meets Girl

Cheers & enjoy!

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A Wine to Pair with Roasted Pork Loin, Summer Vegetables & Herbs

If you haven’t yet spent time with the summer issue of Edible Rhody, you’re missing out on coverage of some of the best seasonal eating and drinking our state has to offer. To tide you over until you do pick up a complimentary copy at Bottles, we’re happy to present a pairing of a terrific wine with a summer-style roasted pork loin dish from Metacom Kitchen’s Chef/Owner Richard Allaire.

pork

Said Chef Richard: “This recipe embraces the simplicity of summer cooking when you can let the ingredients shine through. You can adapt this using other vegetables, citrus or herbs depending on what is available at the farmers’ market.”

chinonKate Miceli, our Wine Assistant, paired this seasonal dish with the 2016 Couly-Dutheil Chinon Rosé. Said Kate: “Made from 100% cabernet franc, the Couly-Dutheil is punchy with pronounced flavors of ripe plums, mulberries, fresh thyme and lilac flowers. It has a luscious mouthfeel that is perfect with roasted pork, and the herbaceous tones mingle fantastically with the herbs and the carrot cumin sauce. Enjoy!”

 

 

 

Roasted Pork Loin, Grilled Corn, Pearl Couscous Salad with Warm Carrot Cumin Sauce.(Serves 4)

INGREDIENTS

1 pound pork tenderloin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
Kosher salt
Extra-virgin olive oil
4 ears fresh sweet corn, shucked
3 large carrots, peeled and sliced
3 shallots, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin seed
1 lime
25 snow peas (or use snap peas or green beans), blanched
4 ounces Israeli couscous
1 large heirloom tomato, seeded and diced
1⁄4 cup fresh cilantro leaves

METHOD

Preheat oven to 300°F. Preheat grill or prepare coals. Season pork with coriander and salt, then rub with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Place on grill and sear on all sides (this should take just a few minutes), then transfer to a cooking rack set over a rimmed baking sheet. Place in the oven for approximately 35 to 45 minutes. Using a thermometer, remove from oven when internal temperature is 140°F. Set aside and let rest at room temperature while you prepare the salad.

Meanwhile, coat corn with 1 tablespoon olive oil and char on the grill on all sides. Let the cobs cool, then cut corn kernels off of the cob. Reserve the kernels and place the shorn cobs in a pot with the carrots, minced shallots and ground cumin seed. Add 2 cups water. Bring to a simmer and cook until carrots are very tender, approximately 15 minutes. Remove from heat and discard corn cobs. Transfer carrots, shallots and liquid to a blender. Add juice from ½ lime and ¼ teaspoon salt. Blend until carrot purée is very smooth (add more water if needed for desired consistency). Keep warm.

Bring approximately 3 quarts of water to a boil with 3 tablespoons salt added. Add snow peas and blanch 1 minute (2 minutes for green beans) and then remove with a slotted spoon. In the same water, cook couscous for about 6 to 8 minutes until al dente, strain. Coat couscous with 1 tablespoon olive oil and set aside.

Combine cooked corn, snow peas, diced heirloom tomatoes, juice from the other 1⁄2 lime plus the chopped cilantro in a bowl, along with the couscous. Add salt to taste. Place pork back on grill for 3 to 4 minutes to warm slightly (if desired) and then slice into large 4 pieces. Spoon carrot purée on each of 4 plates, then divide couscous salad equally. Place pork on each plate and serve immediately.

Cheers & Enjoy!

The Bottles Guide To Surviving Summer: Tip #3

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One foolproof way to beat the heat is to ensure what you’re drinking is fresh, lively and invigorating. In Part Three of our “Summer Survival” series, we present a few staff favorites will help you do just that.

TIP #3:
KEEP COOL
Quench your thirst with refreshing fruit flavors…

Screen Shot 2017-07-05 at 10.52.25 AMMalfy Gin, distilled with lemons from the Italian coast, makes the ultimate summer Gin & Tonic, but I love it mixed with iced tea and lemonade for a boozy Arnold Palmer.” – Michael

berg“You know that amazing fragrance you get when slicing up honeydew melon and cantaloupe fresh from the farmer’s market? Imagine getting to drink that. That’s the Berger Gelber Muskateller, a white wine out of Austria. Enjoy it alone, or pour it in a glass with ice, and top with Campari & club soda for a super refreshing cocktail.” – Alex

 

 

 

 

yozu“And now for something completely different: The Yuzu Shuwah shandy/radler style beer, coming to us from the Kizakura Sake house. It’s your new riding-lawn-mower companion. Its zesty citrus flavors will wake you up and may make you forget it’s 7% ABV (but who doesn’t love a hammock nap on a summer afternoon?)” – Josh

 

 

 

 

Click here for our previous tip, and tune in next week for Part 4!

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The Bottles Guide To Surviving Summer: Tip #2

Heat got ‘ya down? Here’s the second installment of our Summer Survival Guide!

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TIP #2:
KEEP COOL
…With icy cold drinks

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“It isn’t summer in RI without Del’s or Narragansett beer. For an extra cold treat, put a can of their combo beverage (the Narragansett Del’s Shandy) in the freezer for about 90 minutes, or until it feels thick and slushy. No spoons or straws allowed!” – Alex

koozie“The Capsule Stainless Steel Koozie is worth every. single. penny. We tested this ourselves last year (someone had to) and this puppy kept bottles and cans nice and cool in the sweltering summer heat.” – Alex

 

 

 

 

 

salvard“Forget what you’ve learned about how to serve red wine, and chill them down! Low-tannic reds in particular, such as the TK zwiegelt and Salvard Cheverny Rouge, are wonderfully refreshing while still being food-friendly when served cool. Also great chilled: wines from the Beaujolais. Put them on ice about 1 hour before you take the burgers & steaks off the grill, or before the sun sets.” – Michael

 

 

 

Click here for our previous tip, and tune in next week for Part 3!

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How To Tap A Watermelon

watermelon8If you’re looking for a way to amp up your summer get-together that requires minimal effort but delights even the most cynical New Englander, look no further. For some unknown reason, filling a non-conventional vessel with fresh juice and booze provokes giddiness and pure joy. I should know – I’ve tapped countless pumpkins and pineapples and still get excited to see fresh cocktails come out of the spout.

Below are some tips and instructions on how to tap a summer classic – the watermelon. With a couple of simple tools and about 20 minutes of effort (tops), you (and your watermelon) will be the hit of the summer.

I used our June Spirit of the Month, Square One Cucumber Vodka (on sale now!), to spike our juice, but feel free to get creative and mix it up with other spirits. Whether you want to tap a watermelon (or a cantaloupe)! you can follow these instructions. Add gin, vodka, tequila – whatever your heart desires, and feel free to garnish with fresh herbs for extra flair!

You will need:

1 watermelon (or fruit vessel of your choice)
1 keg spout (Amazon is your friend – it shouldn’t cost more than $15)
A cutting board
A chef’s knife
A paring knife
A large, sturdy spoon or ice cream scoop
A large bowl
A small bowl (to rest the melon on)
A blender
Booze of your choice (a 750ml bottle is plenty for average sized melons), such as Square One Cucumber Vodka, on sale thru July 2017!

When selecting your melon, look for one that can stand upright on its own and has somewhat of a flat-sided surface (that’s where you’ll put your tap). For a juicy watermelon, be sure to select one with a yellow base or side. It may not be pretty to look at, but it’s a sign that the melon is ripe, as the yellow spot is where it sat during the ripening process.

Using the chef’s knife, level the bottom of your melon (if it doesn’t stand totally straight on its own). Cut slowly, taking off just a little at a time. The exposed fruit should be mostly pith and rind, with little to no pink showing.
watermelon2
Next, cut 1/4 off of the top of the melon, giving yourself enough room to scoop out the flesh and plenty of space to insert the spout. Scoop out the insides, reserving them in your large bowl. Be careful not to scoop too close to the bottom. Save the top as a lid for the finished watermelon “keg.”
watermelon3Place the small bowl upside down and rest your melon on it. From there you can gauge where you’d like to insert the spout. Keep in mind that it will have to be submerged low within in the cocktail for it to work, but not so low that your guests will have a hard time pouring into their drink. I’ve always had luck cutting about two inches below the middle of the melon.

Once you have your designated spot, make an indentation by carefully putting medium pressure on the pourer, and twisting it lightly into the fruit. Once you have an outline, carefully use your paring knife to cut the hole out, starting out small and cutting away slowly, stopping now and then to test and see if your pourer fits.
watermelon6
Once your spout is inserted, assemble the washers inside the melon according to the manufacturer’s instructions. These washers will hold the spout in place.

Next, put the fruit you’ve carved out of the melon into a blender, and liquify.

Now you’re ready to assemble your cocktail. I recommend using a 3:1 ratio of juice to booze. This keeps the cocktail fairly light if you’re out soaking up the New England sun on a hot day. The ratio will change, though, based on the size of your melon. If it’s on the larger size, you’ll want to use a touch more spirit.
watermelon7Once you have your liquids measured, add them to your melon, stir, and get to drinking! If you plan on putting the top of the melon back on to cover the juice, keep it slightly ajar, as some air circulation is needed to ensure a robust cocktail stream.

Serve over ice, and garnish with fresh mint, basil or cucumber.
watermelon9I’ll be serving our Watermelon Cucumber Vodka Cooler from a watermelon in store on Saturday, July 1st, from 2-4pm. Come on by and I’d be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Cheers – have fun with this, and Happy Summer!
-Alex

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