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Apr 04

Mad Men Addendum: Advertising, Glassware & Piper-Heidsieck Whimsy

by Michelle

On Monday, I spent some time talking about Piper-Heidsieck. My thanks to Eric who sent me an image of a beautiful vintage poster of a Piper-Heidsieck bottle. It’s so appropriate considering Mad Men is set in the world of advertising. This print ad is from 1953, displaying the 1949 vintage. The bottle is appears identical to the one Pete opened in Sunday’s episode. If indeed it was a 1949 vintage, I have no doubt it cost our fictional character a fair amount of his fictional 1960s dollars. I bet it tasted pretty darned good though.

One item I’d like to point out about the above ad is that the bubbly is poured into a regular wine glass and not a champagne flute. Now, maybe the good folks at Piper-Heidsieck can shed some light on that choice for me. In fact, the classic tulip shaped champagne flute was in wide use by the 1930s. However, a lot of people were still using the champagne coupe, from the late 1800s. (A myth states the coupe was molded from the breast of Marie Antoinette.) In fact, in 2009, we found the characters of Mad Men enjoying some Veuve Clicquot in coupes.

To end on a note of utter whimsy, you’ll notice there is a miniature circus, including a rather talented giraffe, taking over the ad. Piper-Heidsieck is a Champagne House that’s always been slightly unconventional, even when everything was conventional in the 1940s and ’50s. In 2008 they embraced their inner Lewis Carroll and released an upside-down bottle designed by Viktor & Rolf. If you were feeling exravagant, you might also pick up an upside down ice bucket and flutes.

Cheers!

 

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Posted by Michelle at 6:14 am in History, Knowledge, Mad Men Monday, Pop Culture, Wine Misc | Permalink | Comments ()
Apr 02

Mad Men Mondays: Champagne, Piper-Heidsieck, and Shoes!

by Michelle

Screen capture, AMC TV’s Mad Men, 2012

In last night’s Mad Men, I was given a lot of options. I could write about cocktails, about Canadian Club, Jack Daniel’s, Stoli, or even Chivas Regal. But near the end, I was given the perfect opportunity to wax on a bit about my favorite beverage of all … champagne.

Near the 40 minute mark, Pete is announcing the Mohawk Airlines win and deftly putting down Roger, all while opening a bottle of Piper-Heidsieck champagne. I can’t zoom in far enough without going blurry, so I can’t tell you whether it’s a vintage year or not. So let’s start with a quick refresher on champagne itself.

There are a lot of tasty sparkling wines out there, including cava and just good ol’ sparkling wine. It’s not uncommon for these to be made using the age old Champenois process. However, in order to be called “champagne,” it needs to come from the Champagne region of France, no matter how many bubbles are racing to the top.

Via IntrepidDreamer.com

Champagne is divided into vintage and non-vintage (NV) wine. NV Champagnes are the most common and often include grapes from 3 or more harvests.  Every so often, a vintage is so remarkable that the winemaker will declare it a vintage year. Remember that while one House may declare a vintage, another may not. Vintage and NV wines are at the discretion of the winemaker.

Bubbly is made from any one or more of chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier grapes. It also comes in several different styles that you’ll see on the label. Blanc de blancs means that the wine was produced from all white grapes. In Champagne, this means the wine is 100% chardonnay. Blanc de noirs means the champagne is produced from pinot noir, pinot meunier, or a blend of the two.

You should also pay attention to the sweetness levels, denoted by French terms on the label. Extra Brut is usually very dry champagne, whereas Brut is dry, but may still be a bit rich on the finish. Extra-Sec and Sec are usually medium dry wines and Demi-Sec is usually the sweetest style you’ll find on the market.

To tie it all back into our episode, let’s talk a little about Piper-Heidsieck. Piper-Heidsieck is in the Reims region of Champagne and has been around since 1785. Now one of the largest Champagne Houses, it started as the house of Heidsieck with Florens-Louis Heidsieck at the helm. Florens-Louis passed away in 1828 and his nephew Christian took over, with help from his cousin, Henri Piper. The House didn’t become a hyphenate until 10 years later, when Christian died. Cousin Henri took this chance to marry the newly widowed wife of Christian (oh yes!) and the house of Piper-Heidsieck was created.

Piper-Heidsieck has had some fun over the years, but in 2009 they really attracted my attention with Le Ritual  - a collaboration with Christian Louboutin. Really, shoes and champagne … of course I noticed this.

Le Rituel is a box set containing a glass stiletto, complete with signature red sole, and a bottle of Piper-Heidsieck. The collaboration was in homage to an odd period in the 1880s when there was an strange and decadent high-society “ritual” of drinking from women’s shoes.

Cheers!

 

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Posted by Michelle at 6:05 pm in History, Mad Men Monday, Pop Culture, Wine Misc | Permalink | Comments (3)
Mar 26

Mad Men Mondays: Shagadelic

by Michelle

We’re back! After more than 500 Mad Men-free days, Season 5 returned last night with a two-hour episode.

There’s so much I could talk about in our 1966 episode: Joan’s baby, Don’s marriage, the missing Betty and Henry, the fact that the wardrobe people didn’t give Peggy a new dress … But I’m here to write about the alcohol our overindulgent friends imbibe.

It’s going to be another frustrating season for me from the alcohol standpoint, unless the writers start adding in more cocktails to the mix. It looks like Mad Men retained the sponsorship of certain companies, therefore on every bar you will see any combination of Wild Turkey (Don and Peggy), Macallan (Pete) and Stoli (Roger), amongst others.

Sponsored Bar“Sponsored” Bar (lousy TV capture by Michelle)

What I really want to talk about … and what completely captured me in this episode, is Megan’s surprise party for Don. The artistic direction behind the entire party sequence just blew me away – from the cocktails and the clothing to the music and then entire set and blocking. You see, one of my all-time favorite artists is Shag. All I could think of when I watched the party scene was that it was a Shag painting brought to life.

"Predators and Prey" - Acrylic paint on canvas. 89 cm x 244 cm (35" x 96"). © Josh Agle, 2012
SHAG: “Predators and Prey” – Acrylic paint on canvas. 89 cm x 244 cm (35″ x 96″). © Josh Agle, 2012
Original Online Link 

Don’s loft alone was simply stunning. Pure 1960s Manhattan goodness … the perfect lifestyle for the 40-year old ad executive/part-time dad and his 26-yr-old secretary turned wife.

Megan, at 26, wants to party. She simply cannot comprehend how Don, at 40, has no interest. She also doesn’t seem to get that her little rendition of Zou Bisou Bisou was just slightly inappropriate, enticing every man (except Don) in the room and slightly horrifying the women.  (As an aside, I truly loved her dress.)

Per usual in this show, we can’t see what type of wine our girls (in this case, Jane) might be drinking. We know it’s red. I was happy to see it’s in a decanter though (see the above “bar” photo). I want to believe that Don has a nice cellar somewhere in that Shagadelic loft and that perhaps it’s an older bottle that Megan pulled and appropriately decanted to open up the vintage.

AMC 2012Jane’s Red Wine | image from AMC TV, 2012

The cocktails at the party were endless. I saw a Manhattan (Trudy), Roger’s vodka martini, a sidecar, and of course, a lot of bourbon on the rocks. I also glimpsed some red wine and beer, although I couldn’t read the label.

Trudy’s Manhattan | image from AMC TV, 2012

What I found fascinating is that while there was a live band, there wasn’t a bartender. Yet everyone there was adept at making cocktails. Pete easily tossed together a Manhattan and someone made Ken’s wife a sidecar without a problem. Today we have amazing people who are “mixologists,” making us cocktails. But with the exception of when I get to hang out at Julie’s place, I know of very few people who can actually toss together a sidecar, a manhattan, or even a simple martini without grabbing a recipe. The everyday art of making and consuming cocktails has been lost in exchange for two-ingredient mixers.

Next week we should get to see more of Betty, and perhaps further along a little bit of Peggy’s story. I’m holding out hope for the return of Faye, the brilliant analyst from last season who was so cruelly dumped by Don. We’ve got Roger’s baby to content with and Lane’s weird new obsession with a woman he’s never met. As far as this blog goes, I’ve already started researching the history of the martini. Season 5 is shaping up to be quite interesting!

 

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Posted by Michelle at 12:34 pm in Cocktails, Mad Men Monday, Pop Culture, Wine Misc | Permalink | Comments ()
Mar 07

Wine-Girl’s Annual Wine Festival Survival Guide

by Michelle

Welcome to Wine-Girl’s Annual Wine Festival Survival Guide. Every year I poll a large group of wine bloggers and find out if there are any outstanding tips, which I add to my own. This year, I’ve added new tips based on my experience pouring wines for the last two years. I’m sad to say that I’m missing the Wine Festival for the first time in years. It makes me sad, but it snuck up on me and I’m currently in San Francisco. I’m leaving Festival reporting to the capable hands of Kevin, Cresta, and Angela.

Please realize that these tips are geared for people who are heading to the Festival to try new wines, learn new things, and not get generally hammered. If insanely drunk is your goal, well … get a cab and/or a hotel.

So in no particular order, here are my tips for surviving a festival with hundreds of wines and even more people:

  1. Decide when you want to go. The Friday Grand Tasting has always seemed more manageable to me, with slightly less people. The Saturday Grand Tasting is generally the biggest event, with what seems like an unending number of people. My favorite session is Saturday afternoon, as fewer people attend and I can get more face-time with the winemakers.
  2. Eat a big meal before hand. You’ll stay sober longer. You may want to follow your festival experience with a large meal afterwards. Either way, it’s a busy weekend downtown. Whenever you decide to eat, make reservations.
  3. Consider a designated driver, cab service, or even a hotel room. Last year we decided to succumb to an afternoon and evening of alcohol and we got a hotel room. The Wine Fest web site offers several hotel packages downtown, and we often find great last minute deals at The Cincinnatian. In past years, we’ve had good luck booking through Hotwire.
  4. Make a game plan. First, download the Tasting Guide ahead of time. In the guide, you can find the list of attending wineries, the corresponding floor plan, and the list of wines in the Special Tasting Room. Plan ahead. See what looks interesting. Accept that you can’t possibly try everything. You may want to decide to divide and conquer within your group of friends.
  5. Dress comfortably. Seriously, ladies, there is no need for high heels. You can still look cute and trendy and leave the stilettos at home. You will be walking a lot, standing even more, and jostling in and out of a lot of people. Expect it to be warm in the tasting hall. Lots of people and red wine can raise the temperature in a room.
  6. Since we’re talking about clothes, wear dark colors. I know it’s almost Spring, but don’t pull out your sundresses and pastels. Even if you manage to avoid spilling red wine on yourself, someone else might very well careen into you. Lots of people + lots of alcohol = lots of wine accidents. Dark colors are your best bet. On that note, carry a small bottle of Wine Away or a Tide Stain Stick. Even if you don’t need it, someone else might.
  7. Get there early. People start filtering in late and things get really crowded really fast. Enjoy being early.
  8. Start at the end. Most people will start at the beginning. Starting at the end (or back) will allow you to fight a smaller crowd – at least until you make it to the middle.
  9. Manage your route so that you visit the sparkling wine and champagne in between big wines. Sparklers are excellent palate cleansers and you’ll last longer if you try those in between the big reds.
  10. Save those dessert wines for last. One year I succumbed to temptation and had a chocolate port early on. As tasty as it was, my next ten wines still tasted like chocolate.
  11. Hold your glass up and don’t tilt it sideways. Think about it  - the wine will spill out. Holding it up higher makes it easier for the pourer to reach over all the bottles. Guys were better at this than gals last year, most likely because guys are just taller in general. Reach out with those glasses ladies!
  12. The pourers are not bartenders. Seriously, don’t bang on a bottle with your glass expecting service. (And no, I’m not kidding.) And while we’re on the topic, say please and thank you. Just because you’re thirsty for wine, doesn’t mean that all good manners get thrown out the window. Some of the pourers are just volunteers and aren’t being paid to be there and everyone has been working hard for at least two days; in the case of winemakers, they’ve been going non-stop for nearly a week.
  13. Move out of the way. I can’t stress this enough for the evening sessions. You don’t have to leave, but get your wine and move to the side. Don’t step back two steps, you’re still blocking the three people behind you and you’ll probably spill wine in the process.
  14. Try new things. Just because you haven’t heard of them doesn’t mean they’re bad. Truly, some of the booths have the name of the distributor, but they might be featuring three or four different wineries. This is a perfect opportunity to branch out and explore a little. Who knows what you’ll find? There might be something you really like, even if it’s not Merlot and Chardonnay. The two questions I heard while pouring last year were “Do you have any Merlot? Do you have any Chardonnay?”  The answer is not always yes, and there are some really exciting grapes out there that are not merlot or chard. If you see an Alicante Bouché for example, try it – you might be surprised. Chances are, the person behind the table can tell you a little bit about the grape as well, and if you don’t like it, then dump it.
  15. Spit or dump. A winemaker commented to me a few years ago that Cincinnati is strange because hardly anyone spits. Some thoughts on spitting:
    Carry your own spit cup. Dixie cups work, as well as those Solo plastic cups. When a table is crowded, it’s hard to get to the bucket, nor do you want to be in someone else’s spit stream. Also, it’s easier to be discreet when you are quietly spitting into your own cup.
    Dump instead of spit. I don’t spit at the Wine Festival. When I’m judging a wine competition, it doesn’t bother me to spit into a personal cup. But in our weird lack-of-spitting city, I get really self-conscious. So I take a small sip or two, try to really glean something out of it, and dump the rest of the wine into the bucket. It’s expected. You’re not wasting wine or hurting anyone’s feelings.
  16. Take breaks every 30 minutes or so to have some snacks and water, as well as to regroup.
  17. Hydrate, and wine doesn’t count. Bring water if they aren’t handing it out. But you’ll definitely want some handy.
  18. Rinse strategically. You see, rinsing your glass is necessary occasionally. But when you’re switching between white and red, ask for a wine rinse. No one will complain. If you’re switching between the reds at the same table, you don’t need to rinse your glass between every one. Not only do you waste water, but no one ever gets all the water out of their glass. You know what that leads to? Watery wine, and you certainly don’t want that.
  19. Don’t try to take detailed tasting notes. Sometimes I just rate things on my happy face scale; occasionally I’ll write a sentence. There will be no time for detailed information, nor will you really have free hands or space for writing.
  20. And finally, don’t expect your friendly wine blogger to get you free tickets. Even Kevin & I pay to get in to the evening events. It’s a charity function. In fact, I believe 50% of your ticket is a tax-deduction as a charitable donation. So don’t try to get in free and skimp on those charities, okay? Instead, just go and have a fantastic time!
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Posted by Michelle at 9:01 am in Special Events, Tastings, Wine Events | Permalink | Comments (2)
Feb 29

Wine Festival Tickets, Dinners and Map

by Michelle

If you haven’t purchased your wine festival tickets yet, head on over to Winefestival.com. The Cincinnati Wine Festival is one of the best in the nation and draws high-end distributors and winemakers. You shouldn’t miss it.

Additionally, the Wine Festival organizers have put the wine tasting floor plan online for you to download. It’s a bit hard to find on their site, but you can download it through this link.

Dilly Cafe is having its own series of events starting this Saturday, where you can meet 3 winemakers in 9 days. For more information, visit their web site or call 513.561.5233.

Saturday, March 3, Free tasting with McNab Ridge Winery and Owner/Winemaker Rich Parducci
1:00 to 4:00 pm, $10 per person
No reservation needed

Thursday, March 8, 6:30 pm
Winery dinner with Austria’s Höpler Winery and Owner/Winemaker Christof Höpler
$40 per person, all inclusive
Reservations required

Sunday, March 11, 11 am
Winemaker’s Brunch with Graziano Family of Wines and Owner/Winemaker Gregory Graziano$50 per person, all inclusive
Reservations required

Not all of the Wine Festival sponsored winery dinners are sold out just yet, and this year five of the dinners are featuring Vintner Select, which is a local and excellent wine distributor. In attendance at each of the dinners to talk about the highlighted wines will be a special guest from the winery or specific wine portfolio (Spain or Italy), as well as a Vintner Select representative. All of the dinners start at 6:30 p.m. and will be held at different restaurants around the city. Ticket prices range from $125 to $150 per person, plus tax and gratuity. Reservations for each dinner are required. For more information on the menus and to make reservations, click here.

March 8 Winery Dinners and corresponding wine speakers include:

  • Bouquet Restaurant – President Aurelio Cabestrero of Grapes of Spain
    519 Main St., Covington, Ky. 41011
    Price: $150 per person, plus tax and gratuity
  • Daveed’s at 934 – Winemaker and Owners Erich and Joanne Russell of Russell Family Vineyards
    934 Hatch St., Cincinnati, Ohio 45202
    Price: $125 per person, plus tax and gratuity
  • Embers – Co-owner Kevin O’Connor of LIOCO
    8170 Montgomery Road, Cincinnati, Ohio 45236
    Price: $150 per person, plus tax and gratuity
  • Jag’s Steak & Seafood – National Sales Representative Mollie Lewis of Indigenous Selections of Italy
    5980 West Chester Road, West Chester, Ohio 45069
    Price: $150 per person, plus tax and gratuity
  • Stone Creek Dining Company West Chester – Co-owner Jim Varner of Varner-Neely-Foxglove
    6200 Mulhauser Road, West Chester, Ohio 45069
    Price: $125 per person, plus tax and gratuity

 

 

 

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