Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A great time to expand your palate

I have spent the last several days in Palm Desert, CA at a junior tennis tournament with my son and with a lot of downtime between matches. I have had a chance to talk with a lot of people from this area of the country about how the economy is here and how it is affecting them. There is one word that continues to come up time and time again. Everyone is talking about the “values” that are available now. Million dollar homes here are selling for 300-$400,000. Everyone is saying how people with cash are getting incredible “buys”!

In reading about the state of the wine industry in the world I hear the exact same thing. There are great values right now. Many of the French wineries are getting ready to ship their newest vintages with stockpiles of the previous year. They are feeling the pressure to move their wines. Imports to the US from Europe, South America and Australia are down.

It has been my experience that everyone has a “threshold” of what they will pay for wines. For some it is $20 a bottle while others it may be $120. Or, your threshold may even be $300 a bottle. Over a period of time people’s buying habits revolve around their personal price point threshold. Given the economic climate we are currently in, many of those thresholds do not hold up anymore. People may be saying that they are not ready to give up the lifestyle surrounding wine and food but they are much more aware of the price they are paying. This fact opens a great door of opportunity. This situation encourages exploration. People are trying new wines and looking for great wines at lower prices. This is a great time to be a wine consumer. While many countries are experiencing drops in exports of their products, a country like Chile is experiencing an increase in export of their wines. If you are use to paying $60-$80 for a bottle of Pinot from Washington or Europe, Chile is importing some really great wines in the $40 or lower range.

It is also great time to try some lesser known varietals that do not command higher prices of the better known varietals. Some of the little lesser know grapes of Italy come at a great value with incredible taste. Varietals such as Primitivo are less popular amongst the general population and come at a lower price point and should be explored. Higher prices do not always mean better wines. There are so many cases where varietals that are in less demand command less in pricing but are not of poorer quality.

This is a great time to expand your palate. Try something new and explore. There are great values out there and incredible wines waiting to be tasted.

Glen Agritelley

Monday, May 18, 2009

An evening with James Morrison

For those of you unfamiliar with James Morrison, no I am not referring to nor is he related to the iconic whiskey drinking, chain-smoking "Door" in the sixties. The initials just seem to be a coincidence. The Morrison that I am speaking of is actually a 25 year old acclaimed singer/songwriter from the U.K. who, despite his tendencies to be a little vanilla for my taste, has an extremely soulful and powerful voice and, at times, lyrics that can wrench even the toughest of guts.

So, naturally, when the Granada Theater announced that he would be passing through on April 23rd, fellow band mates Josh Goode, Bobby Hathorn, and I jumped at the chance to see him live at such an intimate venue. One of the first things I noticed was that the crowd was absolutely elated to have him there, the place was packed and very devoted to giving their undivided attention, and that is an almost guaranteed sign that it's going to be a good show. Mr. Morrison took the stage, with his first song being "Only One Night" from his sophomore album Songs for you, Truths for Me. He came fully loaded with a fantastic backup band equipped with keys and, much to Josh and I's excitement, backup singers! James spent most of his set performing his newer tracks including "You Make it Real", "Precious Love", and "Broken Strings", but he did go ahead and throw in some of his earlier favorites such as "Undiscovered", "You Give Me Something" and "Wonderful World.". My personal favorite, and probably the crowd's as well, was his performance of "You Don't Want to Love Me", it's a tender and heartfelt ballad that Morrison performed with delicate yet raw emotion.

Overall, Mr. Morrison exceeded my expectations with his unrelenting ability to pour heart and soul into his vocal performance from the first note to the last. His recorded tracks are impressive but the best way to experience James Morrison is in a live setting. One extra perk, as a promotion to sell his most recent album, if you purchased Songs for You, Truths for Me James did a meet and greet after the show. Josh and I took advantage of the opportunity, and he was very gracious, humble, and polite. So all in all, I give Morrison two very enthusiastic thumbs up.

Liz Williams
Live Music Director

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Mercy launches a new spring & summer menu

Mercy has launched our new spring & summer menu and while many of your favorite items remain on it, I wanted to tell you about one of my favorite new items, the braised pork Osso Buco. There is a mouth-watering "bone in" flavor; a wonderfully succulent dish that you will be talking about for months!

I personally like it with French green beans as an additional side item. Tender and delicious, the meat literally falls off of the bone. We marinate the meat in a special blend of seasonings and then slowly cook it for 3 hours to bring out the intense flavor. It pairs perfectly with light body red wines. My personal choices are Pages Creek Pinot Noir from Tasmania or a nice Chenas from Beaujolais.

Bon Appetit!

Osso Buco: $18 (served with sun dried tomato risotto)
Pages Creek: $15/glass
Chenas: $60/bottle

Vincent Havard

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Get In Tune with Your Senses

Going to wine tastings can be lots of fun. This is commonly done at home with friends, in a wine class or a wine bar. The question is how do you truly take full advantage of the experience? My answer, you need to get in tune with your senses. In other words, fully understand what you see, smell, taste, and feel.

If you think about it, everything starts with your sensory memories. Growing up in the countryside, I was surrounded by farms, forests, mountains and home gardens. In fact, my best childhood memories include picking fruits and vegetables in my grandparent’s garden. When tasting wine, think back to your childhood as well as your present memories. Think of your sensory memories as a large MP3 device which constantly records and stores information. The only difference, these memories never get accidentally erased.

As a fun exercise in our monthly staff meetings, I sometimes conduct a lesson on fine tuning my staffs’ senses. I take the time to go to the local grocery store and select samples of different spices, herbs, fruits and vegetables. I lay the labeled samples on the table by category (ex. fresh fruit, dry fruit, fresh herbs, dry herbs, etc.) and ask them to come up one by one. With their eyes closed they go through each sample and try to transcribe their sensory experience. This exercise helps my staff in being fully prepared to describe and help select a suitable wine for each guest.

So the next time you experience a good bottle of wine, make sure to take full advantage of your sensory memories. Think about that bright ruby red color, the intense bouquet of summer blossoms, the taste of dark, ripe cherries and chocolate and that tangy, leathery feel of a nice Malbec.

Vincent Havard